Buju Set For Prison Release – Dec 8th

Image result for buju banton in concert“It’s not an easy road,” sang reggae star Buju Banton on a standout track from his classic 1995 album Til Shiloh. This may sum up the road that Buju has had to travel in the past nine years at the McRae Correctional Facility in Georgia (USA) where he was incarcerated for drug-related offences.

Buju Banton

Buju is due out on Saturday, December 8. He is being released a year earlier than scheduled.

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. He 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 have not had much in the way of new music.

Unlike Vybz Kartel, who while in prison is churning out albums, Buju’s last studio album was 10-track project Before the Dawn. It 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 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.”

Image result for buju banton in concert“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.”

Last October, Sean Paul visited Buju behind bars and posted on social media that he spent three hours talking with the artiste whose music has evolved over the years from hardcore dancehall to roots reggae. “Still very focused,” Sean Paul wrote. “Has Not Broken!!! Teaching Classes @ Times 2 Inmates!!! Keeping Fit An Eating Healthy!!! Bare Joke An Serious Discussions As well!!!”

Buju will return to a music scene that has changed dramatically since the time he was first taken into custody. On the worldwide pop charts, reggae and dancehall sounds are more prevalent than ever before, thanks to international artists like Drake and Major Lazer, both of whom released their breakthrough records in 2009, the same year Buju was arrested. Meanwhile, music in Jamaica has drifted in other directions. Despite a “reggae revival” movement led by artists like Chronixx, the core sound of the Kingston streets trends toward hardcore dancehall and “island pop” fusion more so than the conscious roots direction in which Buju was heading.

“Buju Banton’s music makes bad people wanna do good,” says Beres Hammond, who collaborated with the artist on records like, “Who Say” and “Little More Time” and has shared many stages with him. “In my estimation, he would do more good out here than being in there. Personal relationship has nothing to do with the law but I really wish that he was out here. We’re missing one of our messengers, ya know? This is me speaking from the heart. We need people like him out here.”

The most recent Buju Banton release is “Stumbling Block,” a collaboration with Freddie McGregor produced for Blacker Dread Records by the British sound system selector of the same name. “I actually had a track on Buju’s last album called ‘Innocent,’” says Blacker, a fixture in the UK reggae scene who is the subject of the recent BBC documentary Being Blacker, directed by Molly Dineen.

Blacker says Buju’s latest song, which hit iTunes in March 2017, was recorded in Florida while the artist was on house arrest and still fighting his case. “Listen to the words,” Blacker explained exclusively to Billboard. “‘Early one morning I was surprised.’ He’s actually talking about the morning when he was raided by the police.”

Image result for buju banton in concertThe track is part of a full-length project that Blacker has kept under wraps for years while awaiting Banton’s release. “I have a 13-track album with Buju Banton that we recorded just before he was incarcerated,” says Blacker Dread. “I didn’t think it would be right putting it out without Buju being around to promote it and give it the kudos that it deserves, ‘cause I know he’s gonna be coming home soon.”

The respected British reggae producer calls the project “arguably my biggest thing I’ve done in the music industry to date—although it’s not out and people have not heard it.” He says the album is as yet untitled. “I’ve given it so many names,” says the producer. “First it was Buju’s Bible, then it was Buju in Exile. My last title that I had for it was Just Believe,” which is also the name of one of the songs on the project. “Titles for the album kept changing, so I thought ‘You know what? Let me just wait till Buju comes home and we will sit down and decide. — Billboard

Source: Buju set for prison release – The Standard

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