Reggae and dancehall star Buju Banton, whose real name is Mark Anthony Myrie, was released from a United States prison on today. The Grammy-winning reggae star was arrested in December 2009 at his home in Tamarac, Florida, and charged with three counts of cocaine trafficking and one gun charge. His first trial ended in December 2010 in a hung jury. He was retried in 2011 and sentenced to ten years. The gun charge was eventually dismissed, and Banton was released under an early release program instituted by the US Justice Department in 2015. The United States Justice Department released about 6,600 inmates early in order to reduce overcrowding in prisons and provide relief to drug offenders who received long sentences. In that same year, Banton said that he would no longer appeal his convictions. At the same time, the US Attorney’s Office decided to dismiss a firearms charge against Banton.
While Banton’s official release date was today, the singer’s release was likely to include a stay at a halfway house or in the custody of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for processing before he is deported to his home in Jamaica.
Now that Banton has been released, his fans anticipate his new work. According to Blacker Dread, a reggae producer in the United Kingdom, Banton will have a new music project ready by the time he is released because he had already recorded a full album prior to his imprisonment. There have also been reports that Bandon will abandon his hardcore dancehall performances to create roots-based reggae in the future.
Banton was born in 1973 in Jamaica and became popular for his reggae and dancehall songs that often addressed socio-political issues. His “Mr. Mention,” released in 1992, was the best-selling album in Jamaican history to that date. Banton converted to the Rastafari faith in the mid-1990s, and his music became more spiritual. His 2010 album “Before the Dawn” received the Best Reggae Album Award at the 53rd annual Grammys. In 2015, Banton told his fans via Vibe Magazine that they should not be “distracted” by things going on in the contemporary music scene as these were designed “to make moral decadence even more widespread than it already is, and plunge people into a state of darkness.” Banton went on to say that the music was suffering, as are the people, with “sadness and gloom” prevailing.” He counseled his fans to be patient as “suffering may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.”