Nov 7th, 2018
“It’s not an easy road,” sang reggae star Buju Banton on a standout track from his classic 1995 album Til Shiloh. “Many see the glamour and the glitter so they think a bed of rose/ Me say, who feels it knows/ Ooh Lord, help me sustain these blows.”
It’s been nine years since the Jamaica-born recording artist was arrested at his home in Florida and eventually convicted on drug-related charges. (Banton had been targeted and pursued for over a year by an undercover federal informant, and it took two trials for the charges to stick.) Since that time his music has remained a staple within reggae and dancehall circles, but Buju’s fans haven’t had much in the way of new music.
Banton’s last studio album, the 10-track project Before the Dawn, was released in September 2010 -- one day after his first court case ended in mistrial -- and won a Grammy Award for best reggae album. A mere handful of tracks have dropped since then, most notably “Jah Army,” a collaboration with Stephen “Ragga” Marley (who put up his own Florida home to secure bail so Buju could get out of jail while he fought his case) and Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley. Other releases, including the solo cut “Set Up the Mic” and “Those Dayz,” a collaboration with Agent Sasco, were culled from older recording sessions.
Demand for Buju Banton’s music remains high despite his prolonged absence from the recording studio. A$AP Rocky recently named him “one of my favorite reggae rappers,” while DJ Khaled stated: “I love Buju so much. His music is like praying.”
With Banton scheduled for release from McRae Correctional Facility in Georgia in December, anticipation is building for new recordings by the artist. “There is a big void without Buju Banton in the music,” says veteran reggae singer Cocoa Tea. “We would like to see Buju free because Buju is one of I and I soldier. People make mistakes along the way and no man is perfect, but I and I love Buju Banton like how Jesus love little children... So we would love to see Buju Banton on the street.”
“He was always touring, always working. He started that work as a teenager, and he worked until he was decades into his career,” says Pat McKay, director of programming for reggae at Sirius XM. “In that time he built a world community fanbase.
They still miss him and they still want to hear from him. His work still has value, it’s still quotable and the aspirations of that work will always ring true. He was consistent about what his interests were, about feeling as if he represented the voiceless. He was very, very concerned with those he felt that he spoke for.”