It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since long-time reggae stalwart Buju Banton released his groundbreaking album, Inna Heights. He'd released three albums before then, at least seven albums since then, but Inna Heights was the record that made Banton a household name in the global reggae community. When the album dropped in 1997, the popularity of reggae rockers was on the decline. Dancehall was all the craze, and hard-driving, barely intelligible lyrics mixed with fast-paced riddims was the most popular style of music on the scene. So it took a major dose of courage for Banton to release a significantly slower and more conscious album just as dancehall was really taking off.
I can remember buying the album at some hole-in-the-wall record store in Nassau, Bahamas, a few months after it was released and spending hours listening to it over and over on CD. Of course, part of the novelty was that it was a CD in the first place (up until then I was still holding onto my love for cassettes), but the lyrics were all hard-hitting and went straight for that invisible soul bone right between your third and fourth vertebrae and had the ability to make you dance, jump, lean, nod, or just sway with whatever track was coming out of the speakers at the time. So word that it's being re-released by VP Records and is in stores as of this week is good news. It's one of those records that long-time Banton fans either own or else they know at least half of the songs by heart, though it might not be as popular saleswise as his other albums. In typical reissue fashion, this Inna Heights 10th Anniversary Edition comes bearing gifts, like an hour long DVD featuring previously unreleased material and three tracks that didn't make the album the first time.
The DVD features a maturing yet still baby-faced Banton at the 1996 Sumfest, where he's joined by Wayne Wonder and singing a slew of songs that pre-date Inna Heights. For that alone, the new double disc edition is worth checking out. Outside of that, tracks like "Redder than Red," "Give I Strength," "Hills and Valley" and my favorites, "My Woman Now" featuring Beres Hammond and "Love Dem Bad" with Red Rat, will take you back to a time when the reggae maverick inside of Banton was flying at full-tilt.
Check out this week's featured ad for Entertainment