Funny, we realized the other day that Buju Banton's 'Til Shiloh was the perfect album for everything ever and when we check his MySpace to see if anyone else agreed, we saw a rash of US tour dates, beginning with his show on Sunday at the Theater at Madison Square Garden with Shabba Ranks and Tony Matterhorn. It's gonna sound like a chorus of Cookie Monsters in that shit! Check the video for Buju's latest "Driver A" above (low budge, so good) and our short feature on him from Issue 40 as one of Tego Calderón's inspirations after the jump.
Photo from F40 by Liz Johnson Artur
by Eddie "Stats" Houghton
The ups and downs of Buju Banton's life are like a line-graph recounting the fortunes of dancehall music itself. As a prematurely gravel-voiced adolescent, he broke Bob Marley's record for the most Jamaican #1's off a single album with his 1992 debut Mr Mention. In that singular moment he ascended the reggae throne and spawned a new wave of deejays–harder, faster, rougher than they were before. In the mid-'90s, the muder of his runing mate Panhead forced him to question the gun talk and controversy that mde him famous; the change of heart audeible in the slower, churchical rhythms of his third LP 'Til Shiloh broke the mold a scond time, in a sense making peace with Marley's restless ghost.
After years occupying the position of conscience and elder statesman to the bashment movement, he re-entered the juggling a year or so ago and, as he puts it, "made them know that the godfather is not deceased" with a series of tunes '90s throwback riddims like "Sleepy Dog," in tribute to his early hits. "During my time when I was trying to uplift a nation, other artists come up who did not share the same ideology as I did, and it get so slack and nasty again like in the late '80s, early '90s… so now I am back."
This return to save the soundmen from themselves has culminated in the chart success of 45s like "Me & Oonu" on the "Wipeout" riddim (yes, the surf rock joint) and the imminent release of the dancehall-oriented LP Too Bad. Meanwhile, a collaboration with Tego Calderón finds him playing the same "voice of Jamaica" role for reggaeton that he once performed with hip-hop artists like Busta Rhymes. "The whole reggae sound derive from us, the sufferin people of the Caribbean," Banton says. "We are the voice of the voiceless. Reggaeton is an offshoot of that same consciousness and to see Tego Calderón comin to Buju Banton and paying homage–maximum respect goes out to him." This magnanimous attitude is in stark contrast to other dancehall artists who feel that reggaeton "raped" Jamaican music, cashing in on dollars that should rightfully go to the beat's originators, but it's at one with Banton's benevolent stance towards an entire generation of soundboys, whether Puerto rican or Kingstonian, whose style he fathered. "To see them growing up and doing their stuff is nuthin that depress me," he says. "It gives me greater joy to know that I'm able to inspire my race of people."