As is to be expected, the Ultimate Collection doesn't quite live up to its billing, but so prolific is Buju Banton, so many hits has he unleashed, that even the 18 tracks within don't begin to collect the "ultimate" of his material. Besides, this is only partially a greatest-hits compilation, and draws heavily from the Mr. Mention, Voice of Jamaica, 'Til Shiloh, and Inna Heights albums, with a few singles tossed in for good measure. Arranged chronologically, the early selections are the weakest of the set, pulling only two numbers from Mr. Mention, neither being the biggest hits, although you do get the entertaining "Buju Movin'" and the crucial "How Massa God World a Run" under an alternate title of "How the World a Run." Also from this period is the DJ's version of the '80s' classic "Ring the Alarm" -- a welcome inclusion.
From this point on, the collection turns into a snapshot of the island, in which Banton explores the dancehalls, bedrooms, yard life, and then-current cultural climes. Much of the set deals with heavy hitting issues, the troubles in the dancehalls of "Operation Ardent," the safe sex message of "Willy (Don't Be Silly)," the outrage of the remixed "Rampage," the ravaged cry of "Murderer," the introspective suffering of "Untold Stories," and the Wailers-esque Rastafarian message of "Hills and Valleys," a theme reiterated on "Give I Strength."
Be it telling off an irresponsible ex-pat, or glorifying ganja, Banton hits all the cultural bases, although his romantic and sexier side barely gets a nod, with only "Mama Rule" -- like "Alarm" also utilizing the "Stalag 17" riddim -- and the effervescent "Love Sponge" representing this aspect of the DJ's work. A few more of those turn up on Hip-O's Best Of set, but at a mere 11 tracks, this is a far superior set to that.