After a six-year pause since his last proper reggae record (and then the riddim driven Too Bad album in ’06), Buju Banton returns with his most roots album to date in Rasta Got Soul. The album brings a more politically fueled Banton than we’ve seen in some time, running the gamut of more traditional ragga in “Magic City” to the seventies funk of “Sense of Purpose” and the sing song real talk of “Bedtime Stories,” in which Banton talks of a child who’s father is gunned down.
In what amounts to a fifteen year stint as a dancehall tuff chatter to his present Rastafarian invocation, Banton has endured more than a fair share of controversy for the homophobic tilt of some of his songs. Rasta Got Soul maintains an optimism that is hard to align with the public's opposition to his personal beliefs. On “Lend a Hand” for instance, Banton sings “Lend a hand to da brotha, lend a hand to da sista,” asking his audience to be conscious of thy neighbors. With stalwart emphasis on being a conscious contributor to society at large, the album plays anthemic for those in need of some real upliftment.
Still Rasta Got Soul wavers on the brink of monotony and as an actual dancehall fan I can’t help but want a little more dance from the legendary Gargamel. And while the musical arrangement certainly does certify Banton’s veteran status, it’s his diversity and oddness that placed him at the pinnacle of contemporary Jamaican music. Nerdy observations aside, Rasta Got Soul is an album for lying under the Ackee tree with a smile, watching neighbors pass to and fro.—Erin Hansen