Grammy award-winning singer Buju Banton releases Blessed, following an exclusive listening session for his eagerly anticipated studio album, Upside Down. The single drips 90’s dancehall elements. Understandably so, since Banton managed to reassemble ‘the dream team’, by coaxing enigmatic songwriter-producer Dave Kelly out of hibernation, for the project.
The nostalgia reaches an all-time high with nuanced lyrics such as “but, ah long time wi ah fight fi ah slice of di bread, dem ah scheme, anna dream, anna wish mi fi dead” and “we ah try move out ah di shack, dem cry, anna ah spy, anna try stop wi clock, guess ah who have wi back?” and the more haughty “wi nuh bruk like dog, an wi nuh des” as well as the requisite cheek with “mek dem know mi gyal fren waan put een bres.”
The track is only missing a few decorative “rae” ad libs.
In contrast, Banton had commenced the listening session with Lamb Of God, which curated a prayerful reverence to kick off the eclectic 10-track preview set. Opening remarks for the virtual preview event were delivered by Grenadian-born US entrepreneur and public relations doyenne Yvette Noel-Schure, before the baton was handed to Banton.
“The lord gave the word and great are the company of those who publish it. My people have been fragmented and we are trying to awaken them,” the deejay warned during the stream, adding that whoever misuse music will have a “price to pay.”
Banton sporadically shared words of wisdom and expressed gratitude to his fans, throughout the hour-long session. The deejay, while taking time out to annotate each song, also reflected on the state of the local music industry.
“Why our music have not been penetrating [lately]? Especially, since we have the first million-seller, Harry Belafonte… We are to be blamed for where the music has gone.” Belafonte’s Calypso album is the first record by a solo performer to sell a million copies. US-born Belafonte spent almost a decade of his life living in Jamaica, and is a son of two Jamaican immigrants.
Banton also, poignantly, highlighted that human beings learn, grow and evolve, explaining that some of the things that are deemed points of focus are largely irrelevant and counterintuitive to the greater development of mankind.
After being asked how he came to collaborate with young British-Jamaican Stefflon Don, on Call Me, the singer-songwriter noted that it was a ‘no-brainer’, considering he has always had good relationships with artistes from the United Kingdom.
Another collaboration, Banton‘s aptly title Yes Mi Friend, features his long-time friend Stephen Marley, is a re-imagining of Bob Marley’s Duppy Conqueror. Banton was delighted by the duos interpretation of the classic and waxed poetically about his brotherly bond with the younger Marley.
A third collaboration, Memories, which features John Legend, was released early last month.
“John killed it, I would like to thank him for being a part of this project,” Banton said, adding that he contacted the R&B crooner to work on new music. “I’m back on the block, and I wanna make some tracks,” Banton revealed that he told Legend, who was very receptive to, once again, collaborate with the Jamaican icon.
Lyrics such as “when I needed just a shoulder, you showed me who you were,” from Good Time Girl, curiously simmers atop an updated, yet classic jukebox-era instrumental to convey a nostalgic disappointment of a love lost, but ends up being a winning experiment.
While, Appreciated boasts a horn section that complements a traditional 80’s/90’s reggae vibe with lyrics like “round di clock nurse, anytime me feel sick.” Banton noted that he grew up with a dozen sisters and, as a result, “from my mother, sister… all women are appreciated.”
Banton, at one point, shared that he had “emerged from a dark place of human ignorance… still feeling youthful, still being focus on giving my people the word… I am just a mere conduit” the music is a gift from God and all we need at this time is “unity.”
Perfect segue to the composition for the track which bears the title Unity that is accented with jazzy tones. “I listen to other people’s music,” Banton declared, explaining that he enjoys all styles of music which, in turn, “formulate a large spectrum of thoughts.”
The 20-track Upside Down, Banton’s 12th studio album, is currently slated for a June 26 release. The record is a Gargamel Music, Roc Nation and Island Records collaborative effort.
“Until we meet on the other side, love yourself, love your family,” Banton closed out the session, adding “my people, one love.”
The zoom set list was as follows: Lamb Of God, Buried Alive, Yes Mi Friend with Stephen Marley, Memories with John Legend, Call Me with Stefflon Don (which Banton states is produced by Jamaican Jermaine Reid), The World Is Changing, Good Time Girl, Appreciated, Blessed, and Unity.