Buju Banton

Buju Banton

The Ultimate Collection

Hip-O/Universal

Listening to Banton’s distinctive deep and gravelly bellow on a couple cuts on this record made me think he is the Louis Armstrong of Jamaica. It’s not just the voice, although that’s certainly a large part. Both men were born poor and black, and probably could’ve easily drifted into a life of despair and booze/drugs or crime. Instead, through music, each found international acclaim and redefined a whole genre of music.

In Banton’s case, should you not be familiar with him, that genre was reggae, or more specifically, the reggae outgrowth dancehall, where rather than singing (as in traditional reggae), the vocalist is more akin to a combination of hip-hop rapper and DJ (in fact, they are also known as DJs). This vocal style is a natural progression from reggae, ska, and dub “toasting” that goes back at least a good 30 years, but did not wholly take over the vocals until dancehall emerged in the early ’80s.

This collection includes numerous recordings from different labels, as well as a couple purported (I’m certainly no dancehall expert, they probably are such) rarities, so it would be a good addition to the collection of people who are already dancehall enthusiasts, as well as a good introduction for novices like me. Fortunately, lyrics are included (since the combination of Jamaican patois and rapid-fire delivery make the words virtually indecipherable for most North Americans, myself included). The voice takes a bit of getting used to, but anybody who does a safe-sex anthem called “Willy (Don’t Be Silly)” is OK in my book.

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