Buju Banton is finally free…
By Alexia McKay
We’re pretty sure it’s going to be a month-long party for the return of one of their prodigal sons. The reggae, Grammy-award winning artists, was released from Georgia’s private McRae Correctional Institute on Friday, after serving eight years for a federal drug charge. The 45-year-old reportedly boarded a plane from Miami and landed in Jamaica that night. Videos of his return went viral on Twitter with the hashtags, #BujuFree, and #BujuReturns. Jamaicans have been awaiting his return since he went away. The Guardian paints Banton’s return home as influential as the time ” Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie touched down in April 1966″.
— 🇬🇧Simone Givans Guy🇯🇲 (@SimSimmerdown) December 8, 2018
Buju Banton, also known as Mark Myrie, was living in South Florida when his legal troubles began. In 2009, he was busted for a gun and attempted cocaine-possession charges. According to the Tampa Bay Times, an informant was assigned to Banton, who federal agents paid $3.3 million over 14 years, to watch him. Banton was accused of participating in a massive cocaine smuggling ring. He was tried and convicted in 2011 in Tampa, FL. During the trial, a video was released reportedly showing Banton buying 11 pounds of cocaine from a warehouse in Sarasota, Florida. He was originally sentenced to 10 years but his time was reduced slightly.
Attempts at appealing his conviction would drag on for years, including an incident in 2011 when one of Myrie’s jurors was hit with a criminal contempt charge. Nonetheless, the criminal past is behind, and there’s no doubt Banton is ready to turn over a new leaf.
“It’s such a relief that he’s getting out,” his former lawyer, David Markus, told the Miami New Times. “This was such a really unjust prosecution and sentence. Buju is as talented as they come. Luckily, he’ll be able to get back to his music now. Everyone is looking forward to him seeing his career take off again, which we expect to happen. “You’ll probably be able to hear the party all the way from Jamaica.”
— #AddictionCo (@AddictionXCo) December 8, 2018
An Instagram video shows Banton walking through Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston in a white t-shirt and blue jeans. He stopped to take a selfie with a few airport employees before he was taken to the police post to be processed.
While he was incarnated, the singer penned a statement saying in part, “Having survived, I want to share the good news and strength of my music. I just want to continue making music, which I’ve devoted my life to. I look forward to the opportunity to say a personal thanks to my fans and everyone who supported me,” Buju said.
But as influential as Banton, he’s also one of the most controversial reggae artists. His infamous 1992 single, “Boom Bye Bye,” advocated violence towards homosexuals and launched ignited the Stop Murder Music Campaign, with Jamaican LGBT-rights group JFLAG. Ultimately the campaign led to 28 of Banton’s shows being cancelled between 2005 and 2011. In 2007, he signed the now famous, Reggae Compassionate Act, which he agreed to “not make statements or perform songs that incite hatred or violence against anyone from any community.”
Banton went to make other hits such as “Murderer,” “Deportees (Things Change),” “Heartbreak Lover,” “Wanna Be Loved,” “Good Body” and ” I Don’t Know Why” featuring the then up and coming, soca artist, Wayne Wonder. “Before The Dawn,” the last album he released before going to prison, won the Grammy for ‘Best Reggae Album’ category in 2011.
No word on whether he will make any more music but his fans are hoping. Rumor has it, according to The Guardian, that he was writing songs while in prison and has reached out to “potential collaborators.” Also, there is reportedly one rumored album ready to do.
Another report, according to Miami New Times, Banton may start working again with the nonprofit and charity organizations he funded before his incarceration, such as ones aimed towards HIV prevention and awareness.