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Buju and Friends

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Album Review

Jamaican dancehall veteran Buju Banton has featured duets with a wide array of artists on his albums right from the beginning, and this two-disc 33-track compilation from VP Records collects several of them in one convenient package. There's none of the slackness here that brought Banton his first taste of fame (and controversy), and his remarkable (and critically lauded) conversion to socially conscious material is well in evidence. Buju's gruff-voiced DJ stance has always been stronger than his singing side, and these pairings with the likes of Beres Hammond, Toots Hibbert, Garnett Silk, and Gregory Isaacs play to his strengths, as he leaves the singing to the pros and interjects his powerful raps at key junctures. Among the highlights here (and there are plenty) are the steamrolling groove of "Little More Time" with Hammond, the quirky and cautionary "Ring the Alarm" with Tenor Saw, a heartfelt "I Dare Not Be Ungrateful" with Heptones singer and bassist Leroy Sibbles, and a barn-burning version of "54-46 That's My Number" with Toots Hibbert of the Maytals, a pairing that — in hindsight — seems as obvious and natural as the sun and moon. The anthemic "No More Misty Days" with punk-pop group Rancid is surprisingly effective, as is the lovely and soothing "23rd Psalm" with Morgan Heritage. One of the most striking tracks is Banton's duet with the late Garnett Silk on the gorgeous and vital "Complaint." Banton has continually bridged the distance between hardcore dancehall and socially conscious roots reggae, even embracing hip-hop, R&B, and straight pop elements in his music, and as an emblem of positive synthesis, his position in Jamaican music (and internationally) in the 21st century is vital. Dedicated Buju fans may well already have most of the these tracks, but having these songs collected together like this in a single package makes a sprawling testament to Banton's inclusive vision.


Born: July 15, 1973 in Kingston, Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Buju Banton was one of the most popular dancehall reggae artists of the '90s. Debuting with a series of popular "slack" singles, which drew criticism for their graphic sexuality and homophobia, Banton converted to Rastafarianism and revolutionized dancehall by employing the live instrumentation and social consciousness of classic roots reggae. He first adopted the approach on his 1995 classic 'Til Shiloh, which raised hopes among his fans that he would become dancehall's great international ambassador,...
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Buju and Friends, Buju Banton
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