By the time the ‘Mr Mention’ album hit airwaves in the early 90’s, people were already heaping praise on the emergence of a new dancehall star. No one imagined though, that we would have travelled this far, this faithfully, through the passage of time itself, with the teenage sensation, who would later become legend.
In many regards, Buju Banton grew up with us, and we with him. There was no plan for this either, no formal arrangement in place. One day we were listening to the raspy voice of a newcomer on our cassette player; then the next, we were streaming the music of an icon. His music became a soundtrack to our very existence and it was easy to accept both the complexity and the talent that was one package.
The entertainer who now attracts a whole new generation of fans, possesses the gift of mesmerising lyrics and the ability to showcase various sides of his immense talent depending on his audience and mood. It is a skill honed over time, perfected to apply only in the moment that required it.
We have come to understand that his genius and flaws are in themselves so conflicting, that it seems necessary to separate the different entities.
Make no mistake, teenage Buju B—who rode high on the success of ‘Boom Bye Bye’ and ‘Batty Rider’—is very different from ‘Gargamel’ who performs ‘Too Bad’ and ‘Driver’. Buju Banton, whose litany of hit songs we learned word for word, is very different from the man, Mark Myrie, who was arrested and charged in America for drug trafficking.
Buju B, Double B, the rude boy, bad boy, lover boy, is different from the pensive rasta who delivered us the gift of two iconic albums, ‘Til Shilo’ and ‘Inner Heights’. It is a complexity that we have accepted long ago—a collection of identities that are all tied to the immortality of his status.
For many, that separation is a just convenient way to appease our bias. And it is fair for people to be critical of both us and him in that regard. But that aside, it is the only way for many of us to reconcile the haunting conflicts of someone who walks the shadowy area between man and legend.
For us, it is necessary to forgive the past transgression of a man whose music has lifted us through the vastness of mixed emotions. There was never a conscious thought to set aside the wrongdoings and give reverence to the musical genius, we just did.
For all that we should remain unapologetic.
We owe no defense to anyone for the actions of Mark Myrie, the man—an ex-convict who has paid his dues. We owe nothing to the detractors of a teenage sensation who have clearly evolved way past the mindset of the early 1990’s.
For us, our allegiance is to Buju Banton, the musician, whose talent nurtured and comforted us, just as easily as it has entertained us, for decades. And for that we are forever grateful to have lived and experienced the incredible journey of Rasta—of genius and of legend.
And for that we remain unapologetic.