Buju Banton’s ‘Born for Greatness’ Sets The Gold Standard

Gargamel Still Has The Stamina

I first heard Buju Banton’s ragga-rough voice roaring in 1992, the first year the DJ really buss. Three decades later, as I laid eyes on the album art for Buju’s 12th studio album, Born For Greatness, one thing was clear: The artist who made his name with raw Dancehall Boomshots like “Stamina Daddy” and “Gold Spoon” has come a long way, over hills and valleys too—but The Gargamel still has the stamina to maintain the Gold Standard.  Review Continues After The Jump…

The youth born Mark Myrie began chanting on various sound systems and voicing tunes since the late ’80s. As a young artist he showed his skills on the final track of Robert Ffrench’s Stamina Riddim album, an energetic tune called “The Ruler,” full of observations about the eternal battle of the sexes. Then in 1991 he linked Winston Riley’s son Kurt to record his first real hit, “Stamina Daddy.” The song got so big that the pretend phone number Buju mentions in the lyrics—”Girls, here is my line: 927-7039. If you wan’ find the Banton, call anytime”—started ringing off the hook. The poor soul who had that number in real life had to change it quick.

The Techniques 45 of “Stamina Daddy” was among the 45s in the cardboard box my bredren Willi One Blood brought back with him from Kingston, Jamaica back in 1992. Other standouts included the controversial Dave Kelly production “Love Me Browning,” along with the counteraction “Love Black Woman.” Both songs were hitting on Penthouse’s warm & easy “Feeling Soul” riddim, and it was cool to see an artist having a conversation with his own listeners, bigging up all women with dark complexion who wanted to feel the same love Buju had shown for his brown-skinned fans. My favorite of all the Buju selectiosn was “Gold Spoon.” Variations of the Bogle riddim was running the dance at the time and Buju simply ripped it up. “Jus’ mek dem stay there wi dem idle argument,” he told the women of his affections, dismissing her haters. “Di whole a dem a pure non-progressive element / You a move up in life to be independent, watch me / A gyal a watch you mek she gwaan watch! Ya hear me? / A gyal a chat you mek she gwaan chat! / Cah all dem a chat yuh nuh response fi dat / You a get big inna life an dats a natural fact…” Murda!

Instead of just a gold spoon, the Born For Greatness cover image depicts Buju Banton bedecked in gold from head to toe, an image reminscient of African kings like Mansa Mūsā I, monarch of the 14th century Mali Empire, who was said to be the world’s richest man.

Life choices, true sacrifices,” Buju rhymes on the album’s second track. “So many voice except when there is crisis. The lifestyle, the struggles and the advices. The entire cake or you want the slices?” A full 30 years after the artiste’s major label debut Voice of Jamaica, Buju is staking his claim to the whole cake.

In a recent interview with Reshma B for TIDAL, Buju sates that his intention with this album is to “rebuild the music from the bottom up.” The majority of the tracks on Born for Greatness were co-produced by Buju and Jermaine J’August Reid for Gargamel Music. Jamaican producer Dunw3ll handles the riddim on “Life Choices,” a nod to contemporary Dancehall sounds paired with a top-tier lyrical flow. Haitian-American hitmaker Michael Brün steps in for “Body Touching Body,” a simmering duet with the rising R&B star Victoria Monét. DJ Khaled and Street Runners cooked up the cinematic track for “We Find A Way,” while Buju’s old friend Stephen “Ragga” Marley produces two tracks, contributing guest vocals. on “Feel A Way.”

Born For Greatness encapsulates a growth,” Buju explains to Reshma B, “a new direction and also a musical change that I wanna share with the world. Ever since I’ve been making my music, I’ve never stuck to any set formula that you can expect Buju Banton sounding this way or doing this. There’s always an expectation, but it’s never met. Because I never go in the direction that people expect me to go in. And this is just one of those cases.” Buju is counting on his longtime fans to grow with him on this one, rather than being stuck in the nostalgia of past greatness. “I hope you truly listen to the record and that you see the direction and feel the growth in the musical presentation, in the musical delivery and in the lyrical content.”

Having made his name in the 90s, Buju came up alongside the legends of Dancehall and Hip Hop. A few years ago, he shared memories of his friendship with Biggie Smalls. Among the highlights of his new album is “High Life,” Buju’s first ever collaboration with Snoop Dogg, which he says “came about miraculously.” Just don’t ask Buju to choose whether Jamaican herb is better than California Kush. Both strains of herb were born for greatness.

The album closes with “Let My People Go,” a blazing roots rock selection with a definite “Armagideon Time” feel, that serves as a fitting culmination to this masterpiece, showcasing a world-class artist at the height of his creative powers.

Stream Buju Banton’s New Album Born For Greatness

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