The name Buju Banton is a familiar one to any fan of reggae and dancehall music. The artist recently had the satisfaction of seeing his “Til Shiloh” album certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America – 24 years after its release.
Professionals in the music industry cite two primary factors in the album’s certification. The first was an uptick in sales upon Banton’s release from prison. The second was permanently expunging the track “Boom Bye Bye” from his catalog. Even though the single wasn’t on the album, it featured homophobic lyrics that ignited anger in the U.S. market upon its debut.
Born Mark Anthony Myrie on July 15, 1973 in Kingston, Jamaica, Banton is a singer, songwriter, musician and DJ. A direct descendant of the Maroons of Jamaica, he was the youngest of 15 children, a number that was to repeat in his lineage – he also has 15 children. His stage name is a composite of the nickname Buju bestowed by his mother and the Jamaican word Banton, which means respected storyteller.
Banton first picked up a microphone at the age of 12. In 1987, he released his first single “The Ruler.” The track led to recording sessions and opportunities with other professionals in the industry. Banton’s gruff voice and powerful delivery dominated Jamaica’s airways for over a year and found favor with fans around the world.
The reggae artist was arrested in 2009 and convicted in 2011on federal drug charges of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to deliver and sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. Charges for illegal possession of a firearm were later dropped. Banton was released from the McRae Correctional Institution in Georgia on Dec. 7, 2018.
The gold status of his album 24 years following its initial release may be a first in recording history, but Banton is no stranger to breaking records. His “Mister Mention” album in 1992 became the best-selling album in Jamaican history immediately upon its release. The same year, he broke Bob Marley’s record for No. 1 singles in Jamaica.
During his career, Banton’s album “Before the Dawn” was named Best Reggae Album at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards. In 2010, his “Rasta Got Soul” album earned him his fourth Grammy nomination for Best Reggae Album.
Considered by many to be one of the greatest reggae artists of all time, Banton has been hard at work rebuilding his career following its interruption. He returned to Jamaica after his release from prison, made several personal appearances, and launched a tour that included Europe and the Caribbean.