Buju Banton

Too Bad

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The artist himself hasn't said it happened this way, but one has to wonder if the strictly dancehall- and strictly Jamaican-Too Bad is a product of the outside world's recent shunning of Buju Banton thanks to the controversy around his old homophobic track "Boom Bye Bye" rearing its head again. It's a problem he's dealt with for years, but the 2005 cancellations of overseas shows seem to have been the final straw, perhaps influencing the multifaceted singer to drop the reggae for a while and return to straight-up dancehall as a "screw you world" move. Other factors could include having his own label, Gargamel, and in turn the freedom to do this, and since Gargamel has released plenty of great roots music, Banton could have decided to save dancehall music instead, since he had recently declared the scene a "common whorehouse." His assessment seems rather harsh, but if dancehall really does need saving, these tracks could do it, although they're thrown together in such a jumble here that the album as whole works better in small bites. What makes Banton's return to Jamaica's most aggressive music so great is that he's created tracks that are equal shares nostalgic -- quoting dancehall vet Yellowman on the title track for example -- and forward-looking, with the thirty-something singer proving he can ride the most up to the time riddims as well as any young upstart. He's one of the few singers who could turn the ridiculous "Wipeout" riddim -- which is based on the surf classic by the Surfaris -- into the vicious rallying cry "Me & Oonu," and while there are more slick party and "for the ladies" tracks than usual, substantial numbers like "Driver A" tip the scales the other way, saving the album as a whole from being too lightweight. So much dancehall will probably alienate the massive fanbase Banton earned with the versatile efforts 'Til Shiloh or Unchained Spirit, but longtime fans who miss the fire of his early work are going to go ape for this one.

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