Buju Banton Friends For Life Review

Album. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

Today we find him a reflective and socially conscious artist, urging his listeners to...

Keysha Davis 2003

Having burst onto the scene in the early 90s amidst a flash of controversy (accusations of homophobia, criticism for singing about a preference for lighter skinned black women) Buju, the once cheeky and flamboyant king of the dancehall movement, has undergone something of a change in recent years. Today we find him a reflective and socially conscious artist, urging his listeners to aim for a higher level of spiritual fulfilment. After a succession of releases which echoed his affirmed beliefs (including the sublime 'Til Shiloh'), Buju is back with a new 19 track CD.

On 'Friends For Life' he demonstrates a stylistic diversity that artists seldom achieve. "Paid Not Played" is reminiscent of his younger days, boastful lyrics are laced over a contemporary beat. "Mama Africa" harnesses African romanticism with subtle dub/ percussion beats, while Damn translates as the mongrelised offspring of Brooklyn hip-hop and Kingston Dancehall.

Despite the high-energy current through much of the CD Buju still finds time to incorporate several love songs. The cheery "I'm in the Mood" is a blissful ditty heavily influenced by 1960's Ska. Buju's trademark gravel pit tone takes on a more gentle quality, a perfectly conceivable effect of love. "Pensive Mood" merges thereafter, and is equally subdued.

Not one to shy away from a trend, Buju also plays tribute to all things nostalgic by fusing old skool beats, which spearheaded the genre we now know as ragga/dancehall, with freshly whipped lyrics. Fans will enjoy the revitalised element, while happily reminiscing on the past.

The variety of tracks on this album conjures anticipation, as you never know what to expect - showing an artist happy to explore every aspect of the genre. Once again Buju has continued to raise himself artistically, a true forerunner in the field of contemporary reggae.

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