Throughout his illustrious career, Mark Myrie pka Buju Banton has woven his dense patois lyrical flow, humor, skillful story telling and insightful observations into a textured musical tapestry that has inspired, thrilled and uplifted audiences in Jamaica and throughout the world. Equally heartening has been Buju's dramatic transformation from brash teenaged dancehall sensation of the early '90s to his current role as the premier heir to roots reggae's Rastafari imbued mantle, a responsibility that Buju admirably demonstrates extends far beyond the performance stage. "I see myself as the godfather of this generation of artists who Jah bless to go forth in righteousness," explains Buju, "and fill the peoples hearts with love and open their eyes to the reality in which we all live."
A descendant of the Maroons (the fierce freedom fighters who fended off attacks from the British colonial regiments) Buju was born Mark Anthony Myrie on July 15, 1973, the youngest of 15 children born to a higgler (market vendor) mother. Buju entered Jamaica's musical fraternity in the mid-'80s and his career accelerated into high gear with the 1991 release of his debut album for Penthouse records Mr. Mention; propelled by the hits "Love Mi Browning" and "Bogle," in 1992 Buju broke Bob Marley's record for the most number one singles in one year on the Jamaican charts.
At just 20 years old Buju's 1993 release Voice of Jamaica (Mercury Records) was lauded for bringing astute social commentary to the dancehall on the hits "Operation Ardent" "Deportee" and the safe sex anthem, "Willy Don't Be Silly". Buju's musical innovations continued with the Grammy nominated Til Shiloh, integrating lyrics reflecting his (then) recently cited Rastafari way of life with conventional reggae rhythms and computerized dancehall's combustible energy especially on the singles "Murderer" and his self produced "Not An Easy Road" which played major roles in redirecting dancehall lyrics away from x-rated and violent imagery and towards positive themes.
Buju displayed even greater versatility on 1997's Inna Heights his gruff sing-jay approach deftly applied to everything from African choral chants ("Afrikan Pride") to shuffling ska ("Small Axe"). His 1999 release Unchained Spirit (Anti/Epitaph) boasted an array of guest artists, including the alternative rock band Rancid, who energized the punky reggae party on "No More Misty Days." Buju's 2003 offering Friends For Life (VP Records/Atlantic) featured the African percussion dominated "Up Ye Mighty Race" inspired by the teachings of Marcus Garvey and a triumphant return to his dancehall roots with the ingenious anti-gun anthem "Mr. Nine." Despite Unchained Spirit and Friends For Life being distributed by major record companies, neither label did the work required to deliver Buju's meticulously constructed music to the masses. "There was no set up on Friends For Life," Buju explains, "the ball was literally dropped and Unchained Spirit didn't fare much better; it never even had a video, but music alone shall live."
Now firmly taking control of his musical destiny, Buju's forthcoming projects will be released on his own Gargamel Music label, which boasts a state-of-the-art recording studio and offices in Kingston and New York. After twenty years in the biz the dancehall don naturally observes, "In music one must become more entrepreneurial in understanding the foundation of the business and the engine of it."
Buju's debut album Mr. Mention generated overwhelming attention among reggae fans worldwide. Following full-length releases Voice of Jamaica recorded for Mercury Records, (he was signed to the label immediately following his show stopping performance at Reggae Sunsplash '92) and 'Til Shiloh, which demonstrated an effortless integration of his (then) recently accepted Rastafarian way of life into his lyrics earned him iconic status. Inner Heights, Unchained Spirit (for Anti/Epitaph) and Friends For Life each showcased the provocative, profound rhymes and remarkable style that has earned him the esteemed and enduring designation as the "voice of Jamaica."
Buju Banton now returns to his roots and is set to drop his first unadulterated dancehall album in 10 years Too Bad. Scheduled for a September 12th release, Too Bad is also the first full-length release on the deejay's Gargamel label; Gargamel has recently secured a North American distribution deal with Tommy Boy Distribution.
Too Bad's title track was one of the biggest dancehall tunes of 2005. Voiced on the Young Legends Throwback Jiggy riddim built on an old school Steely & Cleevie production, Buju's astonishing flow and good-natured boasting seamlessly juxtaposes the vitality of a newcomer with the precise timing and lyrical creativity of a seasoned veteran.
Equally impressive is his rapid-fire delivery on the spirited street single "Nothing." Produced by Buju and his Gargamel team, "Nothing" entered (Jamaica's) Hype TV's Top 20 Singles Chart at #18 and debuted at #7 on BBC 1Xtra's highly influential Top 10 Dancehall Chart. From the gritty ghetto tale related in "Better Day Coming" told over a military styled beat to the carefree "Me and Oonu" on Danga Zone's retro "Wipe Out" riddim Too Bad honors various dancehall archetypes but also pushes the music's boundaries. "Fast Lane" offers an avant-garde riddim steeped in jazzy keyboard riffs and free flowing flute grooves over which Buju reflects on the possible causes of derailed aspirations: "I was living life on the fast lane like a train on the track/here is a perfect example look at me and where I am at."
With the release of the landmark hits "Deportee" and "Operation Ardent" in 1992 Buju proved that tunes bearing strong social commentary can become wildly popular in the dancehall. Too Bad revisits that concept with "Who Have It" as the deejay ponders throughout this inner city expose: "Who have the money and hide it from the youth? Who have the knowledge and withhold the truth? Who give dem gun and tell dem fi shoot? Who go make the ghetto youths have to revolute?"
Uncompromising expression comes naturally to Buju Banton. Born Mark Anthony Myrie on July 15, 1973, the youngest of 15 children born to a higgler (market vendor) mother, he is a descendant of the Maroons, the fierce freedom fighters who fended off attacks from the British colonial regiments by escaping into Jamaica's dense mountainous areas. Six years after he began deejaying professionally, his career accelerated into high gear with the 1991 release of Mr. Mention; propelled by the overwhelming popularity of the hits "Big It Up" and "Batty Rider," in 1992 Buju broke Bob Marley's record for the most number one singles in one year on the Jamaican charts.
At just 20 years old Buju's 1993 release Voice of Jamaica (Mercury Records) was lauded for its topical lyrics as exemplified in the safe sex anthem "Willy Don't Be Silly." At this time, Buju also demonstrated that an artist's responsibility to his fans and wider community transcends the performance stage: in 1994 he launched Operation Willy, a nonprofit organization run in conjunction with JAS (Jamaican AIDS Support) which promotes safe sex education while assisting those afflicted with HIV/AIDS.
On the musical side he remained equally progressive releasing the Grammy nominated Til Shiloh (Loose Cannon) in 1995, which Rolling Stone magazine cited as one of the best albums of the 1990s. Shiloh delivered a well-balanced mix of conventional reggae rhythms and computerized dancehall's combustible energy, while the tracks "Murderer" and "Untold Stories" played major roles in redirecting dancehall lyrics away from x-rated and violent imagery and towards positive themes.
Buju displayed even greater versatility on 1997's "Inna Heights" his gruff sing-jay approach deftly applied to everything from African choral chants ("Afrikan Pride") to shuffling ska ("Small Axe"). His 1999 release Unchained Spirit boasted an array of guest artists including the alternative rock band Rancid who revved up the punky reggae party vibes of "No More Misty Days." The deejay's 2003 offering "Friends For Life" (Atlantic/VP Records) featured the African percussion dominated "Up Ye Mighty Race" inspired by the teachings of Marcus Garvey and a triumphant return to his dancehall origins with the ingenious anti-gun anthem "Mr. Nine."
The unbridled utterances that are synonymous with the Jamaican dancehall, and the pivotal role Buju's incomparable vocals, skillful story telling and insightful observations have played in dancehall's international renown are fully celebrated throughout "Too Bad". Sure to please his longtime fans as well as recent converts, Too Bad is particularly gratifying to Buju because it is the first full-length release on his own Gargamel label.
"In music one must become more entrepreneurial in understanding the foundation of the business and the engine of it," observes Buju who was voted Comeback Artiste of the Year in 2005 by the Jamaica Observer newspaper based on the excellence of his live performances and his succession of hardcore dancehall hits. "My company has been in inception for nine years so this is a blessing. I give thanks to the Most High God and I hope people will gravitate towards this music as they have towards my previous work."
The 100 Watt Riddim Refix Video