Buju Banton

The Best of the Early Years: 1990-1995

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Or more accurately "Buju Banton: The Penthouse Years," for this compilation rounds up a robust crop of singles all cut at Penthouse studio. Obviously then, much of this compilation was overseen by Penthouse label head Donovan Germain himself or by his protégé, Dave Kelly, with another student, Bobby Digital, putting a hand in, while a Sly Dunbar production and a Winston Riley one complete this fulsome set. Banton's breakout year in Jamaica was 1991, and from that date on the hits flooded out nonstop. Even the uproar that followed the release of the homophobic "Boom Bye Bye" in 1992 barely stemmed the tide. The following year, the DJ inked a deal with Mercury and unleashed Voice of Jamaica in the States, but it was his switch to culture with 1995's 'Til Shiloh that opened the door to a wider public. That shift in direction was heralded by Banton's 1993 masterpiece, "Murderer," but you'd never note that change from this set, which doesn't contain a single cultural track within. This is a pure party album, filled with ragga anthems dedicated to the dance, the chase, and women's most striking attributes. The themes may be well trodden, but Banton gives them all a freshness, and whether he's romantic, admiring, overcome with desire, or just nice-ing up the dance, the DJ's quick tongue and utterly convincing delivery made him (and keep him) a dancehall hero. There are a few notable omissions -- his Penthouse debut, "Man Fi Dead," and the huge hits "Love Mi Brownie" and "Yardie" all spring immediately to mind. But you do get such smashes as "Bogle," "Good Looking Gal," the awesome "Batty Rider," and the controversial "Boom." There isn't a weak track within and the rhythms are all top-notch, sizzling dancehall raggas laid down by the likes of Steely & Clevie, the Firehouse Crew, Danny Browne, and Kelly and Digital themselves. Relive the magic of Banton at his bad-boy best.

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