An icon of his generation and a spokesman of positivity through his music, Buju Banton made an art form out of making hit songs that sparked deep thought and strong emotions.
In a successful career, spanning parts of three decades, the “Gargamel” became one of Reggae music’s most conscious artistes while also excelling whilst creating more Dancehall oriented material. Though his ten year prison term on drug-related charges may tarnish his image to some, he remains an inspiration to many through his music. Despite the relatively unknown status of his career going forward, we still celebrate the joy and impactful messages of encouragement his songs brought forward.
On this, his 39th birthday, we honor this iconic artiste with a look at Buju Banton's Top 10 songs to date.
10. Psalm 23 (featuring Gramps Morgan): Rarely do artists exhibit some sort of spiritual identity in a musical world filled with sex, drugs and controversy. However, Buju and Morgan Heritage member, Gramps Morgan defied logic with their Reggae themed remix of Psalm 23. The Reggae/Gospel fusion worked to perfection as it showcased Buju Banton in a more sensual light; representing himself as a visionary with deeply rooted faith in God. That faith remains publicly evident as, despite his current predicament, he reportedly remains strong and optimistic that he will see the light of day sooner rather than later.
9. Hills and Valleys: Buju Banton also remains renowned for being a freedom fighter; showcasing a more roots-oriented vibe with his hugely popular song, Hills and Valleys in 1997. Experimenting vocally throughout his successful album that year, Inna Heights, Buju scored with his fans by documenting the struggles of his people in a world that was slowly but surely crumbling. Hills and Valleys kept Buju relevant during the 1990s as he continued to prove his deserved status as Reggae’s most influential star since Bob Marley.
8.I Don’t Know Why (featuring Wayne Wonder): This 90s classic help boost the careers of Buju Banton and Wayne Wonder as it showcased their sensual sides. The scintillating single, also known as Bonafide Love won both artistes countless female fans as it combined rough and tumble vocals with a soothing undertone which Wonder famously produced in the song’s chorus. I Don’t Know Why remains one of the most popular Reggae duets in the 90s and continues to play across events locally.
7. Love Me Browning: Before Buju became known for his social consciousness, the “Gargamel” had a more hardcore sound when he broke onto the Dancehall scene in 1991. Perhaps his first major breakthrough hit was the lady-friendly single, Love Me Browning. The single dominated locally while slowly introducing his scruffy, deep-toned voice to the world. Love Me Browning set the tone for Buju’s careeras he broke the all-time record, previously held by Bob Marley for the most chart-topping songs by a Jamaican artiste in a singular year (1992).
6. Driver: Looking to re-invent himself during the early 2000s, Buju Banton tried to incorporate foreign undertones within his music with songs like Paid Not Played and What I’m Gonna Do (featuring Nadine Sutherland) to little commercial success. However, Buju decided to return to his roots; releasing the controversial, yet successful single, Driver. The Sly and Robbie produced single featured Buju on a rejuvenated, classic Dancehall beat while acting as a drug baron during the accompanying visuals of the video.
The song earned Buju mass appeal, several number ones spots on various Reggae charts locally and overseas while firmly re-establishing himself a major force within the genre.
5. Not An Easy Road: Perhaps the song which could most be associated with his current situation, Not An Easy Road spoke strongly to the struggles of everyday life; relating to several of his fans. The 1995 track was one of several chart-topping singles from his highly popular album, Til Shiloh; motivating his fans to overcome obstacles throughout their daily lives while showing his commitment to pure, conscious Reggae music.
4. Murderer: Buju Banton sang several songs addressing violence, sex and even homophobia; making him popular and notorious simultaneously. However, Buju’s tone quickly changed following the shocking death of his close friend and Dancehall star, Pan Head in 1993. Shaken by his death, Buju dedicated a song to him, entitled Murderer; detailing the ongoing crime problems which plagued Jamaica during that time. His socially aware lyrics quickly garnered mass acclaim. Following the stunning death of another close friend and Reggae superstar, Garnett Silk in 1994, Buju maintained this more conscious vibe; beginning a three year stretch which made him the most in-demand Reggae superstar.
3. Batty Rider – One of Buju’s most raw Dancehall singles came in 1992 with the unleashing of his number one hit, Batty Rider. The song, playing up the popular Dancehall-related fashion at the time, made Buju an adored figure amongst his female fans while building his path to super stardom. The standout single from his second studio album, Mr. Mention, Batty Rider arguably remains his biggest Dancehall song to date as it continues to play across parties and club worldwide.
2. Untold Stories: Riding on horseback throughout the fields, sitting barefoot on a set of steps and a roof top; Buju won the inner city audience with the release of his 1995 single, Untold Stories. Passionately singing about the pain and suffering inner city families go through and those living with rough economic predicaments, Untold Stories made its mark as one of the biggest Reggae songs during the 90s; topping the local Reggae charts while introducing the world to an artiste who care more about being a spokesperson for the helpless that helping his own plight as a Dancehall/Reggae superstar.
1. Destiny: However, Buju’s most popular and most played song to date is a song speaking of hope and ambition. The lead single off his 1997 album, Inna Heights, Destiny spent several weeks on local and overseas Reggae charts at number one while making Buju a household name across various generations. His caring persona was forever etched in the minds of fans with the release of Destiny, which not only stands as one of the greatest Reggae singles in history but also a song of hope for Buju’s fans that one day, he will once again reach his destiny of freedom.