Reggae and Dancehall star Buju Banton is preparing to release his 12th studio album – Born For Greatness.
His last album came three years ago in the form of the intuitively named Upside Down 2020, which summed up Banton’s perception of the world at that tumultuous juncture. Born For Greatness seems to have followed that example, reflecting the star’s confidence and prevailing mindset in light of the times.
Describing the project as a musical documentation of his experiences, Banton told Reggaeville that taking a ‘personal approach’ to music has always been his not-so-secret ingredient to connect with his audiences.
“That is what music is. If you have no personal stories, it’s going to be fictitious and bubble gum music. I don’t make bubble gum music. All of my music is personal. Not An Easy Road, personal. Buried Alive, personal. I Rise, personal. Innocent, personal.”
He shared that the 17-track album was crafted over “various periods” because “music is something that flows.”
Among those featured on the album are Stephen Marley (on Feel A Way), Snoop Dogg (on High Life), DJ Khaled (on We Find A Way), and Victoria Monét on the album’s sixth track, Body Touching Body.
Banton said he was “moved” to have Monét on his album after the American singer approached him on Instagram for her Dancehall-infused R&B track Party Girls, released in May.
“Victoria Monét reached out to me via Instagram and I responded to her,” Banton said. “I didn’t know who she was or anything like that but I said to her ‘Send me your track.’ I took a listen and she was elated… we did a little fixing up here and there, and we sent it back to her and she was happy with what we did. And I said to her ‘Ok, well send me something from you for myself, for my record’, and she sent that and we did the same thing… It was total chemistry.”
He summarized that the collaboration was “something the universe wanted and when I’m moved to do something, I act. As simple as that.”
“I’m never that reachable,” he added, “but this [the collaboration with Monét] is something that the universe put together and I never question it.”
Banton, who turns 50 on July 15, said he continues to find joy in music and knows, most importantly, when it’ll be time to walk away.
“I’m excited whenever I enter the studio and go around a microphone,” he said. “The very thought of making music has always been a thrill and when that spirit leaves me, then I know it’s time for me to step away from it.”
Much has changed for the Reggae icon, who first recorded music on August 18, 1986, at Robert French’s Penthouse Records on 56 Slipe Pen Road. He was only 16 years old then. Now on the cusp of 50, he took some time to reflect on that journey.
“It’s a turning point again musically or me because I’m here and I’m seeing the direction the music is going,” he shared. “I’m seeing what’s happening in the global community geopolitically, as well as how the music from various other enclaves has somehow put ours aside. Now, it’s not any fault of those music why ours is not on the forefront like it should be. It’s more so a fault of ours because our production somehow stepped back from what it ought to be.”
“So, this record you have and you listen to, that’s what I was trying to convey to bring back those Reggae music lovers and to attract new adherence to the culture because it’s necessary,” he added.
Banton’s Upside Down 2020 peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart and later became his sixth album to be nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.
He has one win for Best Reggae Album with Before the Dawn in 2010.
His other nominations were for Rasta Got Soul in 2009; Too Bad in 2006; Friends for Life in 2003, and Inna Heights in 1998.
Banton’s first album ever was Stamina Daddy, which was released in 1992. This was followed by Mr. Mention, which was also released that same year.
The highly-acclaimed Til Shiloh, which is regarded as Buju’s best album yet, has spent 104 weeks on the Billboard Reggae chart, where it peaked at No. 2 in 1995.
It was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), on its 25th anniversary, on July 18, 2020.
His other studio albums were Voice of Jamaica in 1993; and Unchained Spirit in 2000.
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