Reggae Great Buju Banton Is Locked Up on Drug Charges. Was He Entrapped?

The day after that, 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.

Buju and his legal team would argue in court that he was not a drug dealer, just a boaster, and that Junior was a conniving, mendacious man with an extensive criminal history and tremendous financial motive to see Buju arrested. Whatever the truth, the saga sheds light on how far the government will go and how much it will spend to win a battle in the war on drugs. It's now up to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether the DEA entrapped one of the most successful reggae artists in history.


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 the locals perform.

Stephen Marley, left, who put his house on the line to spring Buju from lockup between trials, along with Buju, his legal team, and performer Roy "Gramps" Morgan.
Courtesy of David Oscar Markus
Stephen Marley, left, who put his house on the line to spring Buju from lockup between trials, along with Buju, his legal team, and performer Roy "Gramps" Morgan.

"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 live 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 Buju, Cash says. His confidence and determination seemed absurd for such a young boy. Cash once lent 20 bucks to Buju, along with the suggestion that he spend some time looking for a job. But young, poor, hungry Buju just laughed. It was music or nothing.

In those days, it took months if not years for an artist to get behind a recording booth in Jamaica. Aspiring performers hung 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 by the name of 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 start singing 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 that many would emulate. Buju started 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 rereleased. 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, the 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 in my two-door Civic, 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, rising out of his chair.

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23 comments
juanitajefferson31
juanitajefferson31

I hope you get out soon to come rock concert in new orleans i love you buju im supporting you.

pheelingphine
pheelingphine

And what most of you don't understand,is that Buju is from a completely different culture then in the US,also in the Rastafarian Religion Homosexuality is the worst thing.When he wrote "Boom Boom" he was like 17 and there had been a horrific crime committed against a child,he was brutally raped and murdered by a man,and Buju was angry over that specific case when he wrote that song,and has paid dearly for it in the entertainment industry.  

Duncan 23
Duncan 23

It seems obvious to me that the government or an official in it really wanted Buju Arrested. There methods seem vindictive. It reminds me of Hoover actively seeking to find dirt on Malcom Z and Martin Luther King in attempt to nullify their influence and standing in the communities that they served.

God's Gay-lesbian Children
God's Gay-lesbian Children

This article is shameful.It's clear that the writer is a huge fan of Buju's and has a man-crush on him.  Whatever.

Buju never apologized for calling for the death, torture and mutilation of god's gay-lesbian children.  His management claims he did, because they know how shameful what he did was.  But he has not, which is why there is no link, no video, no audio of the apology. 

Nor has he apologized for the way that his song has become a global symbol of hatred and violence against innocent gay people.  If Buju were a man, he would own up to what he did, and actually apologize.

Buju is in jail because of karma--he is making amends for the hurt and pain his music has sowed, including for the song that defines his legacy, Boom ByeBye.  I believe in redemption, but he played the song as recently as 2006, so he has to repent before he can be redeemed.

Chris_SLOB_BOY
Chris_SLOB_BOY

Of course it's entrapment ! Dude's never smoked a single joint in his life, probably doesn't even know what drugs are.

Mark A. Kam Holford
Mark A. Kam Holford

Idiot should have accepted the two year deal that he was offered as a plea bargain.

Mark A. Kam Holford
Mark A. Kam Holford

You can bet this was not the first cocaine deal that BB was involved in. 

Alan
Alan

Buju Banton is a murderous homophobe. I hope he rots in prison.

FQS9000
FQS9000

A classic case of too many Feds with too much money desperately seeking an easy conviction to justify their fat paychecks.

The root cause here is too many taxes and too many bureaucrats.   

oOBlackHandOo
oOBlackHandOo

I don't know if he was and I don't care.... I can't wait to read the headline where he is dead.

1_Lovely_1
1_Lovely_1

He did clear up any misconceptions about the song and stated that it should not be taken literally. The problem here is that the groups opposing Buju wanted him to put up money and go against his beliefs. How is donating money to your cause going to help people change their beliefs on the issue? It seemed greedy and baseless to me, but I digress.

You are not a supporter of Buju, but there are many people who love and respect Buju because he's a legend and 'Boom Bye Bye' is only a brief snapshot in the career of this man. He has made countless songs uplifting the poor and ghetto people, but foreigners only want to focus on the negative and that's sad.

1_Lovely_1
1_Lovely_1

He either was innocent or really felt as though he could win (which is what almost happened in the first trial). In retrospect that would have been better for him, but everyone knows that the system throws plea bargaining at innocent people and offenders as a means of getting out of doing their job.

Magickstikk7
Magickstikk7

u must be a homo, how you hope someone rote in hell when they were not convicted yet. I think your GAY

sprecks
sprecks

So because he don't like people like you who mix their dick with shit, he should be in prison? Since when does a persons dislikes equate to a crime worthy of imprisonment? You are an idiot.

Guest
Guest

 Well, yeah, God is just, which is why she has put buju behind bars.

A_lewis2904
A_lewis2904

For the Gay ones that oppose Buju.....don't hate.  He has done you no wrong.  He is a man just as any of us and he was wronged by the Government that we follow.  Judge a man from his first breath, to his last.  One song doesn't make him an evil person.  Just to clear the air, i'm not a homophobic person.  It's your choice.  Just treat the situation like you would if he was a friend or family member.

Mark A. Kam Holford
Mark A. Kam Holford

He isn't in jail for incitement to murder. He is in jail because he was heavily involved in drugs trafficking.

oOBlackHandOo
oOBlackHandOo

 I got some bad news for you, sunshine... Hair lip hell and half of Georgia, there aint' a chance of that ghetto trash being in my family or friend...

1_Lovely_1
1_Lovely_1

There is no concrete evidence that he was 'heavily involved' in drug trafficking. The issue here is that his so-called betheren said whatever to get a lesser sentence and the government sent their paid informant to make sure Buju got locked up for drugs any way possible.

1_Lovely_1
1_Lovely_1

Be careful what you wish for others b/c it will most likely happen to you first and it will be ten times worse.

 
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