A very listenable landmark from a controversial figure in Jamaican music.
Angus Taylor 2010
Buju Banton remains one of Jamaica’s best known and most controversial figures: earning the love of millions for his music and the consternation of others for his youthful lyrical content and alleged criminal misdeeds. A huge source of the former sentiment was 1995 fourth album ‘Til Shiloh, which saw the brash "rockstone" deejay turn dreadlocked throwback while retaining his ghetto pass.
Banton had begun to move from gun lyrics towards Rastafari as early as 1993 when his friends Panhead and Dirtsman were killed in their native Spanish Town. His response was the single Murderer – over Donovan "Penthouse" Germain’s relick of the Far East rhythm – one of the standouts on this disc. Yet more striking is the deeply moving rumination Untold Stories, placing Buju’s soulful chanting atop Glen Browne's acoustic guitar and Handel Tucker's faint synth-wash. Even card-carrying haters of his prior output could not help but be stirred by its sincere, gritty charms.
The Maroon-descended Banton celebrates his African lineage, but the marketing of ‘Til Shiloh as "Buju channels Bob" misleads. Dancehall had never forgotten vintage rhythms and previous album Voice of Jamaica (1993) had already featured righteous themes. After the revolutionary first act of Shiloh, much of the record (Only Man on Dave "Madhouse" Kelly’s Arab Attack riddim and the Steelie and Cleevie creation It’s All Over) is hard dancehall in character. The lyrics to Champion, offering to take a fine lady to a "promised land" over Germain’s transformed Cus Cus, perfectly match its hybrid beats.
As with later Buju albums it feels just a tad too long and the heavily-produced if still basic digital rhythms of the early 90s are a far cry from the slick yet more organic productions of today. Nonetheless, this is a very listenable landmark, which reminds us that while lyrical topics may differ, musically, reggae is one.