Ahead of the release of his highly anticipated album Upside Down 2020, Buju Banton secures the cover of Vibe Magazine in a three-part feature.
Mark Myrie, more popularly known as Buju Banton, is regarded as a musical icon. His career has spanned decades, and he has had a phenomenal impact on the lives of many. Following a seven-year bid in a US prison, Buju finally returned home in December 2018 to the welcoming arms of the Jamaican people. What was next to come? Buju’s last album, “Before the Dawn” was released on September 28, 2010, almost a decade ago. Now he quells the desires of his loving fans as he prepares to drop his new album on Friday, June 26, which is only hours away. “Upside Down 2020” will be Buju Banton’s thirteenth studio album. It features the likes of Stephen Marley, Tory Lanez, Stefflon Don, John Legend, and Pharrell Williams.
A man of the people, Buju Banton vows to continually make music that communicates with those who are not able to put their feelings into words. Instead, the music will speak for them. Taking the opportunity to sit down with the incredible dancehall and reggae artiste, Vibe Magazine interviewed Buju at length, and the end result was monumental. Speaking on his love of music, his incarceration, his friendships, his Instagram followers, and his journey to recording a new album, Buju gives Vibe an all-access pass.
Diving head-first into the new album, a compilation of 20 songs, Vibe magazine breaks the project down in its entirety. With 10 songs representing the 10 years he was unable to make music and 10 songs to take us on a new journey forward, “Upside Down 2020” is an inspirational masterpiece. Consisting of genres such as dancehall, reggae, R&B, and pop, the album will have something for everyone.
Upon breaking down Buju’s song “Yes Mi Friend,” Vibe delves into the beautiful friendship Buju shares with Stephen Marley. “Yes Mi Friend” was inspired by The Wailers 1970 hit “Duppy Conqueror”. Buju was able to perform this track with Stephen back in 2011 after his lawyer convinced a judge that he needed the proceeds from the concert to fund his trial. Given only one night out of prison, “Duppy Conqueror” conveyed the wealth of emotions running through Buju at the time. Being able to sing with his close friend made the occasion more momentous. Having first-hand experience in Buju’s legal woes, Stephen committed to posting his Florida home as collateral to secure Buju’s bail.
That truly devastating time in Buju Banton’s life is extremely difficult to acknowledge verbally. So tracks “Yes Mi Friend” and “Buried Alive” cover all that took place in that dark time. On the latter track, he sings, “I was buried alive, but I’m still breathing. Don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I’ve got a feeling.”
Starting a new chapter in his life, Buju let his voice reign for the first time in years on DJ Khaled’s “Holy Mountain.” The empowered Buju just giving fans a taste of all that he was ready to unleash. Then in February 2019, Buju took to his Instagram and declared, “86 months of chains is finally over.” He added, “I have deliberately kept my silence so I could observe with mine own eyes what is going on, not only locally but globally… I am ready for you. Are you ready for me? We have nuff things to talk ’bout.”
Buju Banton then blessed his fans with his Long Walk to Freedom tour. The event was one of the greatest the country had ever seen. Taking place at Jamaica’s National Stadium, Buju became the first solo artist to headline the venue since Bob Marley. People from all walks of life journeyed to Jamaica to behold the greatness.
A few months ago, just before the pandemic, Buju gave a few media outlets the opportunity to listen to “Upside Down 2020” at Tuff Gong Studios. Journalist and filmmaker, Reshma B, was the first to be granted an intimate chance to speak with Buju. He stated, “The music has so much to say. I’m just a messenger trying to make sure that the message gets across. We wanna make music that stimulates, educates, and eradicates negativity from the minds of people who may come in contact with it. Put aside the stereotypical notions that they may have harbored over the years about what reggae music is. Because true reggae music lovers know what reggae music is.”
Reaching the Q&A section of the interview, Vibe asks Buju about his role as a messenger, and it’s importance. Buju responded, “If there’s no message in the music, it’s just going to be a sound. If there’s message in the music then it’s going to be a song. We endeavor to make music with a message, and we see ourselves as messengers, conveying a message of peace and love and hope, and all the things that mankind is totally and slowly eradicating. Trying to remind them that these things are principles that cannot be changed.”
He continues, “We are losing our humanity vastly to a world of artificial intelligence and all these kinda things. In other words, everything is upside down. The things that you should own, own you.”
Speaking on his 1 million followers on Instagram, Buju Banton appreciates his fans’ love as it allows him to connect with them. He admits that social media is not something that he frequents, but he does try his best to keep up. He makes a point of stating, “Whenever we post something it should be salient.”
When asked why he thinks people gravitate to Reggae music, Buju Banton gives an enlightened response, “It’s real. The whole intent of reggae music came from people who wasn’t affluent. Who were faced with the challenges not of a normal existence, but of a lesser existence. No home, no water, no security, police brutality, pressure from the state. All the socio-economic things that can be mentioned affect them in such a way. No family structure. So the music became their way out, their avenue of expressing themselves. So that can’t change.”
Part two of the incredible interview will take place on June 26 at 9 AM on Vibe’s platform. The undefeated champion will divulge much more about his life and his music and hopefully go more in-depth about “Upside Down 2020,” which is dropped today on all platforms.