What’s the good word?
Truthfully, it hasn’t been leaning on the positive side lately. I’ve recently lost close friends who were family, and creatively, I’ve found myself in a stupor.
But when I find myself in these times and sullen moods, I turn to my one true blue—music. She never lets me down. Either I jump into some old mixes or albums I depend on in these times to get my mind right. Or, I grab onto a new project to see if I can find a connection. This round, I’ve latched on to an album that is reflective, thought-provoking, sensual even, and open to introspection and self-reflection.
In July, I was invited to the listening session for the album. After an introduction by the one and only, highly respected music publicist, Yvette Noel-Schure, Banton presented us with new album tracks. He spoke to us about each of the tracks’ inception, what was transpiring in the world, where his mindset lay and the evolution of dancehall from his perspective.
Now, the Grammy®-nominated 14th studio album Born For Greatness by Buju Banton (on Roc Nation) is not that new. It was released a few months ago, in September. However, I would say that I haven’t heard my peers or fans speak on it as I thought they would. Let me elaborate.
In July, I was invited to the listening session for the album. After an introduction by the one and only highly respected music publicist, Yvette Noel-Schure, Banton presented us with new album tracks. He spoke to us about each of the tracks’ inception, what was transpiring in the world, where his mindset lay and the evolution of dancehall from his perspective. Between each song preview, we were treated to Banton’s essence and fundamental nature. And we continue to find the same inherent characteristics in his albums.
Born For Greatness isn’t a fired-up, dancehall-charged piece of work. It’s the complete opposite—mid-tempo conscious reggae grooves with a dash of sensuality dispersed in between. The sensuality comes from Buju’s “Body Touching Body” track, featuring this year’s Grammy®-nominated R&B stand-out, Victoria Monét. This song takes me back to sweaty, bubblin’ dancehall vibes. It’s short, and even though I wished for it to be longer, it does the job. “Coconut Wata (Sip)” draws you in with heavy melodies and a repetitive and catchy ‘sip, sip, sip, sip, sip’ chorus. The song highlights those who behave shadily, move funny, and act out of character, eluding to those who need to take note, make the necessary shift, mind your business and get right.
During the listening party, he stated that he wanted to see the needle move in dancehall. The formula for reggae was to uplift, educate and entertain. It’s what made Jamaica and reggae music cool and deadly.
Another favourite is the first track, “Ageless Time.” Focusing on remembering how things were versus the way things are. Banton touches on relationships, political strife and economic hardship—all instances where he would instead remember a time when things were wrapped up in love. It’s pure vibes with Stephan Marley on “Feel A Way.” It’s a simple bop, nothing excessive—just sweet reggae vibes. “High Life” featuring Snoop Dogg is precisely what you’re thinking. Nonetheless, it’s a great collab with the two herbalists. The opus on the album is no doubt, “Let My People Go.” Banton himself arose from his seat to feel this one. Freely skanking in the studio, the song hit so hard that he had to run it back. If there’s a theme song for 2023, this is it. The discourse parallels the actions and developments in the world as I type. It’s a track that confidently takes world leaders and those guilty in the struggle and challenges of the world to task with every lyric chanted.
We cannot compare Born For Greatness to Banton’s previous work. He’s evolving as an artist. That’s the crucial part. During the listening session, he said he wanted to see the needle move in dancehall. The formula for reggae was to uplift, educate and entertain. It’s what made Jamaica and reggae music cool and deadly. Over the years, we’ve heard Banton’s sound evolve from dancehall bangers to a more conscious flow. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Banton’s conscious side has been on deck even during his rude bwoy era on tracks like “How The World A Run” and “Tribal War” featuring Tony Rebel and Terry Ganzie. For someone who has been influenced by a bona fide reggae enthusiast (my older brother was a soundman and is now a reggae promoter), I agree with Banton wholeheartedly. I’ve been exposed to many artists, soundclashes and events and have been writing about music for the past 20 years. I say this from the heart—listen to this album for clarity. Open your mind and spark a light if you have to, but don’t miss out just because it’s not your typical Buju dancehall album.
I don’t follow your rules, I guess I’m lawless/Still making big moves regardless
-Born For Greatness” by Buju Banton
Until next time…