Nov 25, 2012

Buju gets another date in court

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Reggae artiste Buju Banton has been granted a right to an evidentiary hearing by US magistrate James Moody.
Buju will be taken before the US Sam Gibbons Court in Tampa, Florida on December 20.

The court is to look into an admission by female juror, Terri Wright, that she violated federal regulations and researched aspects of the case over the Internet during the trial in order to have a better grasp of the issues.

Wright said she had secretly researched the Pinkerton Law, which was used by the prosecution to connect Buju to an illegal firearm that was found in the possession of a co-conspirator, James Mack, during a cocaine transaction in a police-controlled warehouse in Tampa.

Along with Wright, three other jurors will appear before the court at the December hearing.
Banton was given a 10-year sentence for drug related charges and missed being slapped with an additional five years on a gun conviction. The recommended for an additional five years by an Appellate Court came after two motions filed by his newly appointed legal team that he should be granted a new trial. The first motion was for the judge to reconsider his prior sentence and reduce it. The second motion was for a new trial based on jury misconduct.

Yesterday lead attorney Chokwe Lumumba told the Jamaica Observer that the ruling was a fillip to his client’s case. “It means we can demonstrate that the juror was guilty of misconduct and they should grant a mistrial,” Lumumba said.


Nov 20, 2012

Buju Banton Granted Evidentiary Hearing

Embattled dancehall star Buju Banton got a major break in his ongoing case last week when a judge granted him an evidentiary hearing.

The hearing comes just weeks after Buju’s lawyer, Chokwe Lumumba, and his defense support committee files an application after learning that one of the jurors violates court orders.

The hearing is scheduled to take place at the Sam M. Gibbons Federal Court in Tampa, Florida on December 20th.

Four of the jurors involved in the infamous trial will answer to the court during that hearing.

Last month, juror Terri Wright admitted in an interview that she researched aspects of the case on her computer before reaching a verdict. If that turns out to be true, the judge could rule in favour of a mistrial.

Wright said her research of the case did not influence her decision.

Buju Banton, born Mark Myrie, is currently serving a 10-year sentence in a Florida prison after being convicted in February of three counts of drug trafficking charges.

The Grammy-winning singer is also facing an additional five years on a gun charge.


Nov 18, 2012

Free Buju Press Conference

Dr. Carolyn Cooper moderates a press conference in Washington D.C. for supporters of Buju Banton including his attorney Chokwe Lumumba and Gramps Morgan. Another Boomshots exclusive.

Buju’s legal team aims new letter writing campaign at U.S. Supreme Court

The legal team for Dancehall superstar, Buju Banton continues to pull out all the stops in their fight to secure the embattled entertainer’s freedom as they have launched a new campaign targeting the United States Supreme Court.

Chokwe Lumumba, Buju’s lead lawyer, has spearheaded a new letter writing campaign set to raise awareness about the Grammy-winning singjay’s drug case. The campaign also re-affirms their stance that the entertainer should be released from federal prison.

In a letter to the U.S. Supreme Court released on Wednesday, Lumumba indicated that Buju has filed a petition for a Writ of Certiorari, seeking a review and reversal of his conviction and subsequent 10-year sentencing on drug charges, stemming from a December 2009 incident in Florida.

Part of said letter read, “The convictions of Mr. Myrie are outrageous and unjust. Mr. Myrie was the victim of a concerted U.S. government effort to entrap, conducted by a corrupt informant who was paid 3.5 million dollars by the government for his services in various cases over the years.”

It continued, “He has never been convicted of a crime prior to the present case. He has helped feed numerous hungry children in his country and otherwise contributed to worthy causes in Jamaica and elsewhere. He is supported by hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions worldwide. I ask this honorable court to review his case and grant Mark Myrie the relief he deserves.”

These moves follow a recent discussion dubbed the Free Buju Press Conference that was held a day before the U.S. presidential elections (November 5). The conference, organized by Lumumba and the Buju Banton Defense Support Committee, was moderated by University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer, Dr. Carolyn Cooper. It featured several guest speakers, including prominent entertainers, Stephen Marley and Gramps Morgan as well as NAACP Prison Committee chairman, Nkechi Taifa and Vice-Chairman of the National Black United Front, Salim Adafo, amongst other reputable figures.

Lumumba addressed conference attendees, claiming that Buju Banton is a ‘political prisoner,’ while adding, “There is a generational gap between the struggle to free political prisoners and the struggles of young people. [Buju is helping] to keep the act of freeing political prisoners a relevant one to all generations that exist right now.”

Buju Banton remains housed in the Pinellas County Jail, based in Clearwater, FL as he awaits re-sentencing on a gun charge in the drug case. The re-sentencing was postponed on October 30 as law enforcement officials review allegations that a juror in Buju’s February 2011 trial admitted to reviewing facts of the case before deliberation. If proven true, the juror violation could constitute a mistrial.

For those who wish to write a letter to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the Free Buju Campaign, send your mail to the address below.

United States Supreme Court
C/O Attorney Chokwe Lumumba
440 N. Mill St.
Jackson, Mississippi 39202


Oct 9, 2012

Buju Banton: Five More Years in Jail (?)

Early in 2009, legendary reggae performer Buju Banton stood behind a microphone at his Gargamel Studio in Kingston, Jamaica, and belted out what now seems to be a frighteningly prophetic tune: "Innocent."

"Jah knows I'm innocent. Jah knows I'm innocent," the track opens, the 39-year-old artist's gravelly sing-song style stretching the last syllable for emphasis. After the brass section kicks in, he wails, "The forces have gathered, for what I don't know, I really don't know."
Photo: Jonathan Mannion

A few months after recording the song, Buju was 600 miles away from his homeland, loafing around his Tamarac duplex in pajamas. Then there was a knock at the door. From outside, a female voice claimed to be a graduate student doing research for a dissertation on reggae. After pulling on some shorts and opening the door, the five-time Grammy-nominated singer and father of 13 was arrested on federal drug and gun charges.

The forces who had gathered against him in this scenario were a shady Colombian snitch once caught bringing 700 kilos of blow into Florida and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Now, nearly three years after Buju — real name Mark Myrie — was sent to a federal prison outside Tampa, his case continues to drag along. But that hasn't slowed his musical success. Last year, he won a Grammy for an album, Before the Dawn, that was completed behind bars. This past July, he won an International Reggae and World Music Award for "Jah Army," a song on which he collaborated with Stephen and Damian Marley. The track has amassed nearly 5 million views on YouTube.

In August, when famed reggae radio personality Clinton Lindsay published a list of the 50 most important reggae albums of all time to coincide with Jamaica's 50th year of independence, Banton's 1995 'Til Shiloh was the only contemporary record to make the cut.

"Almost every other person in Jamaica knows who Buju Banton is, so of course people miss Buju," says Markus Myrie, Banton's 18-year-old son, who has recently started producing and collaborating with well-known artists, including Bounty Killer. "His performances, his big stage shows — I think that's what people miss most."

Rather than tour and perform, Buju has recently been spending his days at the Federal Correctional Institution in South Miami-Dade, chipping away at a decadelong sentence and penning lyrics to new songs he won't be able to record for years. And it now seems inevitable that he'll be forced to spend even more time behind bars than anyone — even the trial judge and jurors — anticipated.

On October 30, he will return to a federal courtroom in Tampa, where Judge James Moody is expected to add five years to his sentence on a dubious firearm charge.

But exclusive interviews conducted by New Times with three jurors reveal that the reggae star nearly walked free after a 2011 retrial. Most alarming: All three jurors interviewed say the gun charge is without merit. "When we first got back into the room," recalls juror Brian Postlewait, an IT specialist, "it was ten to two for not guilty."

At first, Postlewait voted against conviction during deliberations, which lasted three days in February 2011. In a backroom of Tampa's courthouse, the jurors pored over the instructions, dissected the transcripts, watched and rewatched grainy surveillance video captured by the DEA, and vigorously debated the four charges — attempting to possess and distribute cocaine, conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine, using a phone to facilitate a drug-trafficking offense, and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense. They listed each count on a whiteboard accompanied by check boxes and consulted with the judge to clarify a few aspects of the case.

Slowly, momentum shifted in favor of the prosecution. Ultimately, it was the video of Buju in a warehouse dabbing his tongue with cocaine that sealed his fate. Jury instructions required them to convict on the gun charges if they believed the conspiracy claims, Postlewait says: "Once we got him on the first main charge, the gun [charge] had to go with it... which was unfortunate."

It wasn't easy on anyone in the jury room. Marie Hodge, another juror from the Tampa area, said she was sick to her stomach. "This was a wonderful person with all this great talent," she says, referring to Buju. "This guy seemed more idiot than criminal."

On the other hand, Hodge was forced to swallow the fact that Alex Johnson, the informant who has earned roughly $3.5 million for snitching on people over the past 14 years, was little more than a "credible scumbag who can make drug deals and talk the talk" on behalf of the government, she says.

The jury found Buju guilty on three of the four charges, but when sentencing came around in June 2011, Judge Moody threw out the gun allegation, which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. It seemed reasonable: Buju never met or spoke with James Mack, a man who was arrested after driving from Atlanta to Florida with $135,000 cash and a gun stashed in a hidden compartment within his car to buy five kilos of coke. In fact, Buju wasn't even at the drug bust, and it's still unclear whether he knew the deal was taking place.

After the gun count was dismissed, Buju was sentenced to ten years on the two remaining drug charges.

This summer, however, an Atlanta appeals court, at the behest of the federal prosecutor, overturned Moody's decision. The judge has few options but to add the mandatory five years to Buju's sentence later this month.

Even Susan Devlin, a bespectacled redhead and one of the two jurors who initially voted guilty, is queasy over the prospect of the reggae star's getting more time. "None of us thought that he had anything to do with [the gun]," she says. "When the judge threw it out, I thought, 'That's good,' because we really didn't want to charge him with the gun."

In light of these revelations from jurors, one can't help but wonder why the feds have gone to such extremes to lock up one of the most critically important voices to come out of Jamaica since Bob Marley. (Of course, Buju is also well-known for homophobic lyrics, which have angered almost as many people as his songs have pleased.)

Options are running out, but Chokwe Lumumba , Buju's newly appointed attorney, is already planning an appeal. "The result on the gun charge is obviously unjust. And I can see full well why the judge saw fit to throw it out," Lumumba says. "Buju wasn't even there when the gun was possessed. There's very flimsy evidence as far as we can see that he would have actually known what was going on."

-Chris Sweeney

Sep 19, 2012

Buju cannot duck sentencing

Buju Banton, real name Mark Myrie, will not be allowed to sit out his upcoming sentencing hearing.

The embattled reggae star was ordered by a federal judge to report to his sentencing hearing next month. The news has come days after Buju's lawyer, Ihmotep Alkebu-lan, filed a request for the singer's absence.

The hearing became necessary after Buju lost an appeal to overturn his 10-year prison sentence. In addition to having his request for a new trial thrown out, the judge also added a previous gun possession charge which was thrown out at the end of his trial.

The additional gun charge could put five more years on to Buju's sentence.

The sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 30.


Sep 14, 2012

Buju wants to be absent from sentencing hearing

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Incarcerated Reggae star Buju Banton, has requested that he not be present at his sentencing on a firearm charge in the US District Court in Tampa, Florida next month. A member of Banton's legal team Ihmotep Alkebu-lan told the Jamaica Observer that the artiste has made a formal request that he be absent from the hearing.

"He has asked not to be transported from prison to the court for the sentencing," Alkebu-lan said.
He is currently being housed at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Miami, a low security prison.
However Banton will have to wait on a court ruling to find out if his request will be granted.
Banton had appealed his 10-year sentence after being found guilty on cocaine related charges but the appeal was thrown out by an Appellate Court based in the state of Georgia.
The court also re-instated a firearm charge that was dismissed by judge James Moody. Moody reasoned that Banton had never spoken to or met his co-defendant James Mack, who was held with Ian Thomas in a government controlled warehouse attempting to but a large quantity of cocaine. The gun was found in a hidden compartment of a car Mack was driving.
Both men pleaded guilty and were sentenced to five years but Banton has maintained his innocence and claimed the US government entrapped him by hiring the services of convicted drug dealer turned government informant Alexander Johnson.
Banton faces an additional five years on the firearm charge.


Aug 30, 2012

Meet Buju's new lawyer

CHOKWE Lumumba, the African-American lawyer assigned to help Buju Banton appeal his drug-trafficking sentence, is best known for representing superstar rapper Tupac Shakur and members of the Black Panther Party.
On Tuesday after it was announced he would replace David Oscar Markus as the singjay's attorney, Lumumba told the Jamaica Observer that he finds himself in a "unique situation."

"This is the first time I'm representing someone from the Caribbean, but I'm also aware of the pressure authorities place on high-profile persons," he said from his Jackson, Mississippi office.
He added: "I'm not going to be making any pronouncements until I read the transcripts and talk to the brother in person."
Lumumba says he was contacted three months ago by persons close to Banton, with a possibility of taking up his case. He has spoken to him at least three times by phone from Florida where the Grammy winner is serving a 10-year sentence on drug-related charges.
Banton was found guilty last February in a Tampa, Florida Federal court. He also faced a gun possession charge but that was dismissed by Judge James Moody.
The 65-year-old Lumumba is likely to make his first appearance at Banton's side at a October 30 re-sentencing. An Atlanta, Georgia appeals court recently ruled that there is sufficient evidence to sentence the artiste to an additional five years on the gun charge.
Markus, a Miami lawyer, had represented Banton since his arrest on cocaine charges in December, 2009.
Almost 20 years ago, the Detroit-born Lumumba worked with another controversial artiste, the charismatic but mercurial Tupac Shakur who had numerous clashes with the law.
Like Johnnie Cochran of O J Simpson fame, Lumumba was a Civil Rights advocate who built an impressive resume working for embattled members of the Black Panther Party.
After graduating from Wayne State University in Michigan, Lumumba was admitted to the state Bar in 1976. He says his passion for the law was inspired by the Civil Rights and Black Power movements that exploded in the United States a decade earlier.
"That's the reason I became a lawyer, when I saw people like Martin Luther King being thrown into prison. I wanted to represent people who were wrongly persecuted," he said.
Tupac's standoffs with authorities kept Lumumba busy for much of the 1990s. His most famous case involving the rapper came in 1993 when he was charged with assault for shooting two police officers in Atlanta.
He was eventually cleared of the charges. Lumumba also successfully represented Lance Parker, a black man implicated in the beating of white truck driver Reginald Denny during the infamous 1992 Rodney King riots in Los Angeles.
Born Edwin Taliaferro, he has been known as Chokwe Lumumba for most of his life. He took his Christian name from an Angolan tribe, while his surname was inspired by Patrice Lumumba, the iconic Congolese prime minister.
Lumumba, a widower and father of three adult children, says he is a big fan of Motown music. He has visited Jamaica three times.


Jun 25, 2012

Lawyer pooh-poohs suggestions about seizing Buju's assets

BUJU Banton's failure last week to have an appellate court in the United States overturn his 2011 drug conviction and 10 year prison sentence has resurrected speculation that there may be an effort to go after the Grammy-winning reggae artiste's assets.  But yesterday, Buju's lead attorney David Oscar Markus sought to lay to rest the speculations that the US Government may try to seize the artiste's assets.

"There is absolutely no way that the Government can go after Buju's remaining assets. The Government never alleged that Buju made any money off of this drug deal," Markus told the Jamaica Observer.
"The government has never attempted to go after his assets, nor could they. This really is a non-issue," said the attorney. "Buju is a Grammy-award winning musician who has worked hard for what he has."

Last Thursday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta Georgia dismissed Buju's appeal against his cocaine, conspiracy and trafficking charges conviction. The court, in the process, said it agreed with the artiste's gun conviction that was dismissed by the trial judge last year February.

A day after the appellate court's ruling, Markus told the Observer that within 30 days he would be filing a motion seeking a new trial.

Buju, whose real name is Mark Myrie, was first tried in September of 2010 but the matter ended with a hung jury. That led to the second trial in which the reggae star was convicted.


Buju 'crushed' by appeal decision, may seek new trial

A somber mood persists within the camp of incarcerated Dancehall/Reggae megastar, Buju Banton a day after an appeal on behalf of the Grammy-winning entertainer was dismissed.

On Thursday, the United States Court of Appeal for the 11th Circuit upheld Buju Banton's conviction on drug charges in February of last year and subsequent 10 year sentence regarding said charges last June. In its ruling, the Atlanta-based Circuit Court agreed with the jury's decision to convict Buju Banton of three charges, including conspiracy to distribute cocaine and aiding and abetting a person's use of a telephone to facilitate a drug crime.

As a result, Buju's camp was left in shock and according to the artiste's lead attorney, David Oscar Markus, the Untold Stories singer is heartbroken by the decision.

“I called him (Buju) and told him about the decision. He, like me, was heartbroken. He couldn’t believe it,” Markus told the Jamaica Observer.

"He believes that we were right and would win."

Markus now calls upon Buju's legions of fans worldwide to support the highly regarded Reggae superstar in this most difficult of times.

“He’s been strong for a long while, but this is a big blow for him,” he said.

The game plan for Buju Banton and his legal team could consist of an application for a new trial, which would be the artiste's third since his initial arrest in December 2009.

“I truly believe that a good man is in jail for talking a big game. I will continue to fight for him,” Markus said.

During yesterday's proceedings, the Circuit Court rejected Buju's arguments that the government had violated a constitutional right, the Speedy Trial Act as well as claims that he had been improperly entrapped by U.S. government informant, Alex Johnson. Additionally, they did not consider Buju's application for a new trial; a matter they insisted should be deal with in District Court.

Meanwhile, The panel of three judges at yesterday's hearing agreed with the jury's conviction of the entertainer on a gun possession charge; a charge that was initially thrown out by the trial judge.


Mar 10, 2012

Buju's reply brief to the US government- FULL

Myrie Final Reply Brief Filed

Singer Buju Banton questions US evidence in appeal

MIAMI — Grammy-winning reggae star Buju Banton says the U.S. government is misrepresenting the facts in his case.

Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, is appealing his 2011 conviction on cocaine conspiracy and trafficking charges. In court documents filed last month in Atlanta's federal appeals court, federal prosecutors said the evidence, including audio and video recordings of Banton's words and actions, revealed that the singer "eagerly brokered" a drug deal between a friend and undercover government agents.

In a reply filed Friday, defense attorney David O. Markus says the government's response omitted critical details from those recordings and from testimony during Banton's trial by a federal informant and other witnesses.

Markus says the informant relentlessly pursued Banton, resulting in improper entrapment.

Banton is serving a 10-year prison sentence.


Feb 13, 2012

US government responds to Buju Banton's appeal

MIAMI -- The U.S. government says plenty of evidence supports a federal jury's conviction of Jamaican reggae star Buju Banton on cocaine conspiracy and trafficking charges.

Banton is appealing the February 2011 conviction. Defense attorney David O. Markus says his client was relentlessly pursued by a government informant, resulting in improper entrapment.

Federal prosecutors filed their response Friday in Atlanta's 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The prosecutors say Banton's words and actions, in tape-recorded conversations and a videotaped meeting in a Sarasota warehouse where Banton tasted some cocaine, revealed that the singer "eagerly brokered" a drug deal between a friend and undercover government agents.

They also asked the appeals court to reverse a judge's decision to toss a related gun charge.

Banton is serving a 10-year prison sentence in Florida.


Feb 8, 2012

Buju Banton is innocent - the full story

Photo by Jonathan Mannion

On December 8, 2009, reggae singer Buju Banton slipped on his swim trunks, pulled a pair of jeans over them, and, along with two friends — a female companion and his longtime driver and pal, Ian Thomas — jumped into his silver Land Rover with a "Jah One" vanity plate. They left his modest duplex in suburban Tamarac and began the drive to the Gulf Coast for a day of fun in the sun.

As the exit sign for Naples came into view, Buju called a man they were to meet named Junior to give him a heads-up they would soon arrive. But Junior said plans had changed. They needed to drive to Sarasota and meet him at a restaurant. From there they would grab keys for a friend's boat. Buju agreed.

In Sarasota, the three men sipped margaritas at a restaurant while the lady friend sat in the car. A short while later, the trio headed for a dimly lit warehouse, where someone closed and locked the shutter door behind them. Inside, a stranger who was lurking in the corner began speaking to Junior in Spanish, leaving Buju clueless. There was no boat or keys in sight.

With his long dreadlocks pulled into a ponytail, Buju paced and swayed, his lanky frame oozing nervousness. He asked to use the bathroom but was told the toilet was broken.

"Let me go do it outside," he said.

Junior and the stranger avoided answering him. Then the stranger walked over to a parked car and opened a hidden compartment in the trunk to reveal 20 plastic-wrapped kilos of cocaine.

"I felt my stomach turn," Buju testified months later. "I tried to play it down and be calm. I keep telling myself... be cool, be cool, it's gonna be, just be cool."

Buju's friend Thomas was cool. He plucked a kilo from the pile and plopped it onto a workbench. Buju followed closely behind, peeking over his friend's shoulder as he made a small incision in the packaging. Thomas dabbed a fingertip of the powder on his tongue and proffered the blade to Buju, who followed suit.

After tasting the cocaine, Buju sank into a chair in the corner. He fiddled and tried to occupy himself while Thomas pulled out a phone and negotiated prices with an apparent buyer in Georgia.

"Yo, find out how much he wants," Buju murmured. He later claimed he had no idea who was on the line and that his remark was just an attempt to appear legitimate, to play it cool. Thomas carried on without pausing.

When the warehouse door screeched open, the men exchanged phone numbers. Buju claims he spent the long drive back to Tamarac throwing up from a combination of stress and margaritas. Later that night, Junior phoned the singer twice. Buju avoided the calls.

The next day, Thomas drove back to Sarasota alone and met Junior at an Applebee's for a round of negotiations. Junior pushed to get Buju involved in that day's antics. "He does not want to do nothing, man," Thomas responded. "That's not him, you know? Music, eat, sleep, shit every day." Junior agreed to sell five kilos to Thomas's connection in Georgia, then left the restaurant, called his supervisor at the Drug Enforcement Agency, and said it was a "miracle" that he held onto the deal.

On the morning of December 10, 2009, authorities busted Thomas and a guy from Georgia named James Mack at the Sarasota warehouse, where the two were caught with a gun and $135,000 in cash while trying to buy several kilos. Cops then pulled Buju from his Tamarac home and placed him under arrest on two charges: conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense — even though the firearm at issue was carried by Mack, not Buju.

It's a case built upon the handiwork of a mendacious snitch — Alex Johnson, AKA Junior — with an extensive criminal history and clear financial motives to see Buju arrested. An aggressive federal prosecutor spent big in two weeklong trials in Tampa to secure a celebrity conviction. The saga sheds light on how far the government will go and how dirty it will play to win the few big battles left in the long-ago failed War on Drugs. Now, while one of the most successful and controversial Jamaican artists — a man who won a Grammy for best reggae album a year ago — sits in a Miami penitentiary, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is considering whether unconstitutional tactics were used to nail a man who had no known criminal record.

Mark Anthony Myrie, better known by his nickname Buju ("Banton" is a title applied to storytellers and DJs), was born into the blistering heat of Kingston in July 1973. The youngest of 15, he grew up immersed in the poverty and political strife of a country that had gained its independence from the British Empire only a decade earlier. His mom sold provisions at the local market; his dad was out of the picture. As a young boy, he sneaked out at night and peeked into the nearby dancehalls to watch locals perform.

"I can remember there was a particular song by a great singer from my country by the name of Mr. Dennis Brown, and this song was called 'Promised Land,'" Buju would later testify. "In those days, we lived in a — what is called a board house, and we had... like metal sheets on top of our roof. Whenever the sounds would be playing across the street, our neighboring community, it would shake the very foundations of this house. And I always admired that song and tell myself one day I want to be part of the... creation of this kind of music."

Curly Cash, a Jamaican-born musician now living in Miami, remembers when Buju didn't have a pair of shoes and owned few clothes beyond his khaki school uniform. They would hang around Kingston, Buju climbing orange trees to pluck his lunch. There was something pesky about him, Cash says. His confidence and determination seemed absurd for such a young boy. The older Cash once lent 20 bucks to Buju. He also suggested the boy spend some time looking for a job. But poor, hungry Buju just laughed. It was music or nothing.

In the '80s, it took months if not years for an artist to get into a recording booth in Jamaica. Aspiring performers waited around the gates of studios praying that a producer would give them a break. It was a rainy day when Buju's chance came. He ended up in a taxi with an older DJ named Clement Irie who was going down to Blue Mountain studio. Irie wrapped up his set and asked the producer to give the boastful teenager a shot. The producer told Buju, who was then toasting under the moniker Gargamel, to sing when the red light came on.

"I didn't stop singing until the rhythm itself stopped playing," Buju recalled during court testimony. "When I opened my eyes and looked, they were all jumping around here like they liked what I was singing. Yeah, and that is where I really got my first start."

He was pure dancehall, spitting out lascivious boasts over pummeling beats. His roaring delivery quickly became a trademark many would emulate. Buju began churning out singles, and in 1992, he broke Bob Marley's record for number one hits in a year.

But also that year, "Boom Bye Bye," a single he had recorded while still a teenager, was re-released. It is a violent antigay song that, among other things, discusses shooting homosexuals and burning them "like an old tire wheel." The song opens with this declaration: "World is in trouble/Anytime Buju Banton come/Batty bwoy get up an run/At gunshot me head back/Hear I tell him now crew/It's like, boom bye bye/Inna batty bwoy head. " Batty bwoy is a derogatory term for gay men.

Buju's old friend, silk-voiced reggae star Wayne Wonder, remembers how "Boom Bye Bye" came about. He and Buju blew up in Jamaica around the same time. In the early days, Wonder says, they would "campaign," or party, through the dancehalls to build up their following. They collaborated on numerous hits at Kingston's Penthouse Records and went on to tour Japan, Europe, and dozens of other places together.

"We were listening to Punanny Riddim [a popular reggae beat] in my two-door Civic [and] just picked up Buju," Wonder recalls while working at his home studio in Davie. "We were driving back down and pick up one of my little girlfriends. And she gives us dis story about two guys who got caught in a bathroom. 'Boom Bye Bye' wasn't intended for any animosity or to incite violence 'pon gays and lesbians. It was just a personal thing, you know. And a vibe come out in the car, and Buju just says, 'a boom bye bye in a batty bwoy head,'" Wonder recalls to the beat of the song as he rises out of his chair.

It is widely reported that the song was inspired by the rape and murder of a young boy by a gay man in Jamaica. While the song grew popular as a way for Jamaicans who were enraged by that incident to funnel their anger, it had the opposite effect in the United States and Europe. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and dozens of other groups denounced the violent lyrics as hate speech. His airplay abroad diminished. Labels took a step back. Even years after the song's release, sponsors would back out of festivals when they learned Buju was on the bill.

Carolyn Cooper, PhD, a professor of literary and cultural studies at the University of West Indies, explains, "The Jamaican language is very metaphorical. I try to make the argument that when Buju says all homosexuals must die — it sounds very literal — it's an indictment of homosexuality and not an incitement to actually kill all homosexuals."

But people like Brian Winfield, managing director for Equality Florida, contend that "Boom Bye Bye" couldn't be a clearer incitement of violence against gay people. "The lyrics talk about shooting gay people; they call on listeners to shoot gay people in the head and burn gay people with acid and fire," he says. "[Buju] has been profiting off the song for 20 years."

Buju apologized for how the song was interpreted and the angst it stirred, but he never disavowed the idea homosexuality is wrong.

In 1995, his career took off with the release of 'Til Shiloh, a deeply spiritual album that analyzes global inequity and the legacy of colonialism and contains a few dancehall classics for safe measure. Buju had begun embracing Rastafarianism.

Around that time, he met Father Abba Tekle Mariam, a priest from the Ethiopian Christian Orthodox Church in London, and invited the older man to teach for a day at his Gargamel Studio. They strolled around, and Mariam remembers seeing dozens of people waiting outside, some looking for help, some just hoping to catch a glimpse of the "Voice of Jamaica," as Buju was then known. The priest says Buju had become a one-man social service.

"A lady, her son was just murdered, came asking for money to do the funeral service. And he called some of the people that worked at his studio and had them give her money to cover the expense. Then there was a lady with her baby who couldn't eat, and he just gave her dollars," Mariam says, rattling off several other examples. "I asked him how he became the social service, how he would manage. And he just said God gives to him, so he should give to the people."

Buju began leveraging his fame to improve his homeland. He helped fund a hospice for HIV-positive children — which had to be done covertly given the stigma of the disease in Jamaica — and when Puma approached him to be a brand ambassador for the Summer Olympics, he made the sportswear company hook up the local kids with new soccer gear and a field.

In spite of his generosity, it's difficult to estimate how much wealth Buju accumulated. Like many reggae artists, he traveled frequently between Jamaica and South Florida. Here, he lived in a simple condo that was appraised at only $100,450 this year. Presumably, he had plenty of expenses for the 13 children he had fathered over the course of his career.

Between 1997 and 2009, Buju put out six full-length albums and made dozens of appearances on various mixes. In 2009, he released Rasta Got Soul and began touring to promote the album.

Roy "Gramps" Morgan opened for Buju on the seven-week U.S. tour, which snaked from Philadelphia to Los Angeles to Florida. He remembers long drives between shows chatting about girls and politics, laughing till their faces hurt. Buju is a machine on the road; his energy is second to no one, Morgan says. He describes Buju's schedule thusly: wake, pray, work out, eat porridge prepared by his chef, travel, perform, and repeat. Many mornings, Buju would bound to Morgan's bus and bang on the door before anyone else was awake.

Buju, Morgan says, never drinks on tour. One glass of wine and he's gone.

On July 26, 2009, Buju boarded a first-class flight from Madrid to Miami. He had just finished the eight-and-a-half-week European leg of the Rasta Got Soul tour and decided to celebrate by watching Ben-Hur and kicking back with a mimosa. The man seated next to him told Buju to try red wine because "that's a man's drink." The two hit it off. They drank for eight and a half hours, going from wine to Scotch to beer. They got so drunk and loud the flight attendant asked them to settle down. When a tipsy Buju was stopped coming back into first class from coach, the stranger vouched he was indeed supposed to be there, a gesture that made a lasting impression.

The guy — his name, he said, was Junior — told Buju he ran a successful fishing business. He also had a passing knowledge of the reggae industry — he name-dropped Lloyd Evans, a manager whom Buju had looked up to as a young man — and said he had powerful friends in the L.A. recording industry. Those were the first of many drunken lies Alex Johnson would tell.

As the plane neared the American coast, Johnson pulled out a wad of cash and gestured to Buju that he was bringing money in from illicit ventures. This piqued the musician's curiosity. A boozed-up Buju, not wanting to be outdone by a fisherman, bragged he too had his hand in something on the side — a drug ring that moved kilos from Venezuela through St. Martin to Europe. At the end of the flight, they exchanged numbers and went their respective ways.

The next morning, Buju's phone rang.

"You want to get something to drink? You want to get something to eat?" Johnson said, asking if Buju was still jet-lagged. Buju agreed.

A few hours later, he and a friend met Johnson in Fort Lauderdale and headed to the now-defunct restaurant Bova Prime. There, they sucked back drinks and laughed, the whole conversation surreptitiously recorded on a wire worn by Johnson.

"We were drinking for eight and a half hours nonstop," Johnson bragged about the flight from Spain to a realtor who had stopped by the restaurant to show Buju some listings. "He's drinking champagne, and I'm drinking red wine. We were drinking and laughing, and everybody is looking."

For more than two hours, the men drank while talking about family, women, cars, home buying — the beginning of a blooming bromance. Then Buju's low tolerance hit him.

"Too much red wine," he slurred. "I need water."

Realizing he was bombed, Buju cut himself off. He went outside to smoke a spliff and catch a ride with his friend. Johnson rushed over before they could leave.

"Excuse me, excuse me. I hate to, I hate to bring up the cocaine," Johnson said. It was the first mention of drugs all day.

Just as he had done on the flight, Buju began rambling about his supposed drug-dealing ventures. He portrayed himself as a Bond-like villain, leading Johnson to believe he toured the world with his band by day and moved thousands upon thousands of kilos throughout the world by night. The drug talk quickly fizzled, though, and Johnson started chatting about his boat and how much fun they would have on it one day.

After that night, the calls kept coming. Johnson said he had told his wife all about Buju and asked how he could get backstage passes. Though at times Johnson sounded like a desperate hanger-on from summer camp, Buju didn't totally write him off. Hanging out with him was fun, and perhaps his music-industry contacts could put the "Boom Bye Bye" legacy to rest.

After a few days, Buju agreed to meet for some more drinks at a nearby Marriott. The day progressed as it had at Bova Prime and on the plane. Buju brought a friend, and the threesome started in on the booze. It wasn't until everyone was lubed up with liquor that Johnson steered the conversation toward the coke trade. Buju, again, bragged. Again, the conversation was taped.

Johnson said he did $30 million deals, and Buju countered he did $50 million deals. Buju claimed he would never get caught because he was only an investor. He threw out figures on the price of kilos in Panama and Suriname. Looking to really outdo everyone, Buju expressed interest in the African diamond trade because, well, "diamonds are king."

Yet at these meetings, Buju stumbled on details that might be common knowledge to an international drug trafficker. He mixed up kilos with pounds and underestimated certain costs. Johnson corrected him on several points. After the Marriott, Buju's appreciation for Johnson came to an end.

"When I leave Mr. Johnson, I am going, like, 'Idiot!'" Buju would testify later, shaking his head and rolling his eyes.

Buju had enough of hanging out, getting drunk, and playing Scarface. Johnson called him throughout August, September, October, and November. Buju politely made himself unavailable until the fateful day when he accepted an invitation to Sarasota, talked more about coke over margaritas, and then got locked in a warehouse with 20 kilos and two men he presumed to be armed Colombian drug dealers.

On Valentine's Day 2011, hours after winning the Grammy for best reggae album, Buju stood up from a small wooden table in a Tampa federal courtroom and bumped fists with David Oscar Markus, his Harvard-trained, Miami-based attorney. To their right, at a separate table, sat their opponents: James Preston, an archetypal federal prosecutor with thick white hair; and Dan McCaffrey, a buzzed-cut, goateed special agent with the DEA.

This was the second time the lawyers would face off over the fate of Buju. In September 2010, the government's first attempt to prosecute him ended in a hung jury stalled at 7-5 in favor of not guilty. Buju faced only two charges that time. In between the first and second trials, prosecutors tacked on two more: attempted possession with the intent to distribute cocaine and using the wires to facilitate a drug-trafficking offense. The basis for the wires charge was that Buju had said one line — "Yo, find out how much he wants" — in the warehouse.

Over the weeklong retrial, Preston teased out details trying to prove Buju was a legitimate player in the international drug trade. He showed jurors the grainy, green-tinged surveillance video of Buju dabbing his tongue with government-issued cocaine at the Sarasota warehouse and played tape recordings of his slurred drug talk. He labeled Buju a broker who expected to get a cut of the money from whatever deal Ian Thomas and Alex Johnson reached.

But Buju and his defense attorney swore the singer was just a boaster who talked a good game. Markus set out to destroy the credibility of the government's star witness, Alex Johnson. For that, the attorney had plenty of ammunition.

Johnson was born in Colombia in October 1949. "This con artist, Alexander Johnson, imported thousands of kilograms of cocaine and marijuana into this country in the '80s and '90s. Not a little here, a little there. Thousands," Markus explained to the jury in his opening statement.

At the time, Johnson operated under the street name "El Gordo" and worked as a transporter for the Colombian cartels. Then, in 1993, U.S. authorities arrested him while he was trying to import 700 kilos. Facing life in prison and overwhelming evidence of his guilt, Johnson decided to cooperate. He was able to get the sentence reduced to 20 years, but that was still too long for his liking. So he pointed a finger at others and got another ten years knocked off. Then, after serving fewer than three years, Johnson convinced the feds that he would be of greater use on the outside. He walked from prison in 1996, getting his probation waived in the process. Johnson was a free man with a new job title: confidential informant.

He has excelled as a CI, working for the DEA, the FBI, and other national and local law enforcement agencies. Johnson isn't paid a salary for this gig; rather, he gets a cut of the money seized in the busts he arranges. It's like a commission, and he has earned nearly $3.5 million in commission — enough to buy a plush home with a swimming pool for $890,000 within a secured, gated community in Davie.

"Now, you will hear when people make money and when they work, they pay taxes. Not Alex Johnson... He owes almost $200,000 to the IRS," Markus said to the jury. "Alex Johnson isn't going to pay the IRS, isn't going to pay his mortgage, isn't going to pay his credit cards. You know what Alex Johnson did? Filed for bankruptcy last year."

Markus noted that the snitch earned $50,000 for the Buju bust. He then revealed that Johnson isn't a U.S. citizen and will never be one. Immigration and Customs Enforcement permanently barred him from obtaining citizenship because of his felony conviction. But he can't go back to Colombia because of a potential bounty on his head for snitching, so he got the DEA to request that ICE not deport him. Unless he keeps bringing in cases, there's little incentive for ICE to keep good on its favor.

Markus isn't the first to uncover those flaws. About a decade ago, Johnson had set up a young man by the name of Andrew W. Smith on a cocaine deal. Smith did not fight the accusations. In a lengthy sentencing hearing, the judge on the case, Ann Aldrich, blasted the government's reliance on Johnson.

"The court found Mr. Johnson's testimony not to be entirely truthful based upon Mr. Johnson's extensive criminal history, his career of defrauding others, his financial incentives to provide testimony favorable to the government, and his demeanor during his testimony," Aldrich said. "In fact, the jury declined to believe Johnson's testimony that Mr. Smith possessed cocaine. The court, like the jury in this case, has no reason to take Mr. Johnson's word over Mr. Smith's."

In Buju's case, the judge blocked this tidbit from entering his courtroom. The jury would also never learn that the prosecutor and the informant have been working together for at least a decade and have never lost a case. (Prosecutors did not respond to interview requests for this article.)

In court, Johnson wore a tan-on-tan suit. He incessantly stroked his chin and cleared his throat, keeping his answers as short as possible.

"You made more as a confidential informant than you did as a drug trafficker, right?" Markus asked.

"Yes," Johnson said.

"You wanted [Buju] to have another glass of wine, didn't you?" Markus asked, discussing the meeting at Bova Prime.

"Yes," Johnson said.

"Why?" Markus pressed in a biting tone.

"It's part of the game I'm playing there," Johnson said.

"This isn't a game, is it? This is a man's life," Markus wailed, sparking murmurs throughout the courtroom.

When DEA Special Agent Dan McCaffrey took the stand, he acknowledged that the agency never produced a single piece of evidence to prove Buju's boasts that he had previously moved drugs from Venezuela or invested in coke deals. In fact, the government did not bother to search his home, bank accounts, computers, or text messages after arresting him. McCaffrey also explained that getting Buju into the warehouse without ever mentioning that he would be seeing kilos was a strategic move called a "flash show" that's used to mitigate the chances of snitches getting robbed.

First-year law students skipped class at Stetson University to watch the trial unfold, and prayer circles echoed through the courthouse corridor. Stephen Marley, who put his house on the line to spring Buju from lockup between trials, testified as a character witness that Buju is a born braggadocio, a toaster who would try to outtalk anyone, no matter the topic. Reporters on assignment from Jamaica sprinted out of the building during recess to file stories on their BlackBerrys.

Then, on the third day of the trial, Buju waived his Fifth Amendment right and sat in front of the jury to emphatically declare his innocence.

"I had no intention of doing a drug deal, from the sincerity of my heart," Buju said. "I was just talking, drinking with this guy, talking, talking because that's what he always talks about. Now I know he was doing it with a motive in mind."

He told the jury that he had never been to Venezuela, had never seen $50 million in his life, and had no idea he was going to see cocaine when he drove to Sarasota. He said he talked the talk but did not walk the walk. He acknowledged that the transcripts and recordings looked bad, though, and apologized repeatedly.

"I'm very ashamed of myself. I'm very ashamed of myself for behaving in that manner, and I feel like I'm receiving a public flogging, and I'm readily accepting.

"It's my faith that keep me sitting here now, 'cause I'm an innocent man," Buju said.

After closing arguments, Buju, with his manager and legal team, gathered in an empty dining room at a Courtyard Marriott. Everyone looked worn. Buju, knowing he could be sentenced to life in prison the next morning, sneaked a stiff drink from a plastic juice bottle. He told Markus he'd better visit when all of this is over — in Jamaica or jail — and reiterated his innocence. The few sips of whatever was in that bottle made his tongue loose. He started mixing metaphors, rambling about gods coming down from a mountain for a day of judgment. It was a firsthand demonstration of how little the man could drink.

"I'll take anything but guilty," Markus said, his head cocked toward Buju.

"Will you charge for a third trial?" Buju asked, cracking a smile and prompting everyone at the table to explode with laughter.

The next morning, a Friday, the jurors marched into deliberation. Their debate stretched over President's Day weekend and into late Tuesday afternoon.

Markus had been acutely aware of the risks Buju faced when they passed on a plea and decided to fight the government. Wrangling with federal prosecutors before a jury is a dangerous and dying art form. Markus once testified before the U.S. Sentencing Commission that in 1984, when the Sentencing Reform Act was passed, about 18 percent of cases went to trial. In 2007, a mere 3.7 percent went to trial. A possible cause, he noted, was that those who argued in court and lost received sentences that were 500 percent longer than those who copped a plea.

The jury found Buju guilty on three of the four charges, including using the wires to facilitate a drug-trafficking offense. Ian Thomas and James Mack, the two who were on the phones and caught trying to buy kilos at the Sarasota warehouse, never faced that charge. They got four and six years, respectively, through plea deals. Buju was sentenced to ten years.

Anyone watching the trial would have had questions. Buju never gave a dollar to anyone for cocaine, nor did he take a dollar. No one offered him the drug, and he didn't offer it to anyone. There wasn't even hard evidence that Buju expected to earn a dime. The government simply bombarded the jury, which included three African-Americans, with the video footage from the warehouse and audio recordings of a drunken Buju boasting about drugs — something many dancehall artists get paid to do. Perhaps most important, the second trial's judge prohibited the introduction of evidence that the key informant is a hired liar who has been deemed untrustworthy in the past.

The "Voice of Jamaica" is now silenced, confined to a cell in the Federal Correctional Institution in South Miami-Dade, where he is one year into his sentence. His Tamarac duplex has been foreclosed on, and his community in Jamaica no longer has its one-man social service. His last-ditch hope is that an appeals court in Atlanta throws out his case because of one of the nearly ten issues raised in his appeal, ranging from entrapment to prosecutorial vindictiveness. But that could take another year at least.

Meanwhile, Alex Johnson is free to wander the world in pursuit of his next target. His life goes on in his gated community. He is dragging out his fight with the IRS so he'll never have to pay a cent in taxes on the millions he earned by urging other people to commit crimes.

By Chris Sweeney Thursday, Feb 9 2012

Feb 6, 2012

Buju Banton's Attorney: "We Had Ten Really Good Issues for the Appeal"

​The Department of Justice should have filed a response to Buju Banton's appeal on Friday, but as has been the government's style throughout the more than two-year-long saga, it's dragging its heels.

Now federal prosecutors have until February 10 to counter arguments made in the hulking, 17,000-word appeal.
"We had ten really good issues for the appeal, literally ten," Markus said in a recent interview with New Times. "If you raise ten issues, I think it takes away from the central issues in the case. So we decided to keep it to our three best."

Among the core issues of the appeal, which Markus filed at the end of December, are whether a shady confidential informant entrapped the reggae artist and whether Banton was denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial.

Buju's appeal raises several other concerns, including that the government has been vindictive in its pursuit of a conviction.

A Tampa jury found Buju guilty of three counts in February 2010, including possession of a gun.

The gun in question was hidden in the car of James Mack, a man Buju had never met or spoken with. But, as previously discussed on this blog, Judge James Moody tossed the gun charge because Buju was hundreds of miles away from the drug deal and had no way of knowing that Mack decided to pack heat for his drive from Georgia to a Sarasota warehouse, where he attempted to buy several kilos.

The government, however, filed a cross-notice of appeal, which allows it to challenge Moody's decision to toss out the gun charge.

It has not yet been determined if the governemnt will actually challenge Moody's decision, but doing so would only seem to bolster Markus' argument of vindictiveness.

Markus and his team will get one last chance to respond after the DOJ submits its response in February.

The United States Court of Appeals Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta will be tasked with reviewing and ruling on the appeal.


Jan 28, 2012

Top 10: The Best of Buju Banton

Buju Banton has captured the masses with his many songs offering hope towards a better future Credit:

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, given his pending appeal, Buju’s career produced several impactful songs; ten of which still have much significance.

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.

Jodee Brown, Jamaican Pop Culture Examiner