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I first heard Buju Banton back in June of 1996 while in Jamaica on my honeymoon.  There was a bartender at the resort we were at, Wendell, that was playing Buju’s recently release ‘Til Shiloh album, every day, all day long, no matter which bar he was working.  I kept heading to his bar because I was LOVING what I was hearing.  To this day ‘Til Shiloh is still one of my favorite albums and after Bob Marley, Buju is my favorite music artist.  He’s has been doing this for 30 plus years and is stronger than ever.  While each of his previous 11 albums have different sounds and styles, there is a lot of similarities, but he really made a change with this latest album.  One thing that has never changed is his poetic ability, his amazing lyrics and story-telling.  He is such a strong song-writer and in this day and age when new music coming out of Jamaica is being criticized for being insulting, misogynistic and superficial, Buju does the complete opposite with great lyrics, great producing and such a beautiful feel throughout the album.  This is a mellow blend of reggae, dancehall fused with a little R&B and a little bit of hip-hop. You get a light, Tranquil, pensive mood but at times powerful beats, with live instruments like electric and acoustic guitar, sax, mixed with programmed synth sounds and beats, great vocal samples with Buju’s amazing lyrics taking total control every step of the way. Talking about the album, Buju shared: “Another milestone, Another stage. I embrace it all. I’ve accepted the change. Here is something special. From my experience and musical journey. An ode to those who acknowledge the struggles and challenges that surmount. And others who will, your eyes are not deceiving you nor are your ears, you were born for greatness. I embrace you with love melodies and music.”

Born For Greatness starts with a track produced by Stephen Marley, and you can instantly tell Ragga worked on this song,” Ageless Time.”  Perfect song to start off this journey and one of my favorites, the background vocal sample throughout is perfect, with a beautiful acoustic guitar with the beat.  “Let’s remember how things used to be.”  Track two, “Life Choices,” is a little more upbeat song on this album with the synthed beats and rhythm, I really like the way Buju changes up his flow and tempo in this song.  In life we have so many choices, and you need to think of yourself at times.  We flow into the title track, “Born For Greatness,” the most upbeat song on the album with a brisk beat and flow.  Buju was truly born for greatness, as he states:

“I don't follow your rules, I guess I'm lawless
Still making big moves regardless
It's above your pay grade, so let it go
We coming in thousands and tenfolds
I don't follow your rules, I guess I'm lawless
Still making big moves regardless
It's above your pay grade, so let it go
coming in thousands and tenfolds”

This may be my favorite track on the album, the most “buju-esque” song on the album, I think most Buju fans will agree.  We go to the previously release “Coconut Water (Sip),” a song about watching his friends while sipping coconut water, finding out which ones are true friends or fake friends.  The strings and  keyboards blend so well with Buju’s verses and hypnotic flow.  Track five is “Yard And Outta Road,” I love the hard beat and the flow from Buju, slow for the chorus and his typical banton throughout the verses.  Another simple song with the synth, beat and strings, a song about everyone having to deal with their own struggles.  This one really reaches a lot of people.  It is hard to say which are my favorites, because the more I listen to this album, the more I think they are all my favorites.  Track six is yet another fantastic song, “Body Touching Body” featuring Victoria Monét and produced by Haitian Michael Brún.  A love song with a bit of a more up-tempo beat.  Buju’s flow is so tight and then Victoria comes in with the chorus and sounds so sweet.  A beautiful beat in this song that makes you want to dance with the one you love, and a nice subtle guitar throughout makes for a fantastic sound.

The Latin-infused “Turn Up Tonight” is up next, this starts a group love songs on the album.  I really love the guitar rhythm and the sax flow in this song.  As with many Buju songs, he speaks about personal circumstances, and you can feel the emotion in this track, “Girl, the way you do your ting, you make whole head hurt me.” Track eight is another love song, “Sweeter,” a love song about making up after the fight, “After the fight, Love shall be sweeter tonight.”  This is the “love making” song from the album for Buju fans.  The hook by Buju is alluring and flows in so nicely.  We move onto another one of my favorites, “Feel A Way” featuring Stephen “Ragga” Marley.  I LOVE when they do a song together, they work so well together, Buju’s raspy flow and lyrics combined with Stephens high pitched sweet flow, wow!  Great beat and producing in this joint. Another love song, “‘Cause I can’t wait to get up with you, Girl, you bring such good energy.”  “Plains” is next up, another song for the ladies.  While musically this is a fairly simple song, what Buju does with his lyrics and flow make this hit.  Whether it is his singing or “rapping,” he changes his tempo and his pitch, up and down, fast and slow.  It makes this song wonderful. 

Track eleven is “Nuff Love For You,” sticking with the love songs. A nice, sweet hook you can’t help singing along to this song.  This is a more traditional reggae song and a nice spot in the album for it, with some more great sax play.  As we move to “Walked Out,” Buju gives us a harder beat as he is telling us about the lost love he still yearns for to this day.  I love the strings and sax in this and Buju’s singing is on point, again feeling the hurt and emotion.  Track thirteen is "We Find A Way", a slow rhythm where we can really hear Buju’s range in his singing voice.  It is more of an anthem, produced by DJ Khalid, a very positive song about perseverance, using elements of Whitney Houston’s “My Love Is Your Love.” We flow into “My Microphone,” I so love the bass line and chill feel of this song.  A nice old school R&B groove to this one, I want to hit the dancefloor with my girl!  The bass, the bass, the bass and the guitar hitting us here and there with nice string work. Another favorite.

“Excuse me lovely lady, may I have this dance?  Could not resist temptation so I took my chance. Across the room my eyes met yours, could not avert the glance. I search the world and there is none, London, Rome and France”

Next is the previously release song with Snoop Dogg, “High Life.”  Not just a song about marijuana, but how it is no longer about smoking the sacred herb, but how it is now a business. I really like the beat and rhythm of this song, and Buju hits us with a really nice flow, how he changes his cadence and tempo.  I actually do not care for Snoop’s first verse on the song, he tries too hard to be Jamaican (Snoop Lion), but his flow on his second verse is just Snoop being Snoop and it works so much better.  It is a song that would stand on its own without Snoop, but that second flow from him adds a nice piece to the song.  Track sixteen is “Trial By Fire,” and is not one of my favorites on this album.  It’s upbeat and a little too pop for me, but the message is what makes this a good song.  An uplifting song about Buju taking the lead to “unify this land of mine.”  He’s a warrior placed here to protect the people. While this may not be one of my favorites, the music composition is very solid, nice drum line and guitar.  We finish the album off with “Let My People Go,” a gospel-like song with great horns throughout about releasing the people from bondage, the chaos in the world and the tribal war created for money.  This is the perfect song to finish the album with, while most are love songs, he gives us two positive songs to finish this journey.

Born For Greatness lets fans of Jamaican reggae and dancehall know that veterans like Buju can be shining examples to bring the music back to a respectable time and feel and message. This is a fantastic album, one of the best released the last few years.  The lyrics, story-telling, change of tempo and pitch, song-writing is so good, this is a must listen for any reggae fan and any music fan.  Is this Buju’s best album, that is a hard one, he has so many great albums, but it is no doubt the album of the year so far.


One Love- Todd



Todd Judd

Photojournalist - Pennsylvania

Website: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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