Music Getting to the Bottom of Banton
There might have been a time when Buju Banton attempted to outwardly reform his violent attitudes toward homosexuals, but that attempt, which was back then at best weak, is now as dead as dust. In 2000, Nate Lippens, who is gay and was once a frequent Stranger contributor, penned, as far we know, the only positive review of Buju Banton. But he did so with an understanding of Banton’s reputation:
BUJU BANTON (Bohemian Backstage) It’s always fun to see how reformed bad-boy performers will handle or skirt their older, less-enlightened material live. This show should provide just such an opportunity. Buju Banton started out as a dance hall toaster with all the usual macho bragging about guns, girls, and even one infamous boast about gay-bashing. Now he’s changed his tune with songs about spirituality and ending violence. His new album, Unchained Spirit, mixes reggae, ska, and gospel harmony with his love of Jah. NATE LIPPENSWe don’t know what Lippens discovered at the show (if Banton’s reformation was for real or not), but now that Banton has made his position very clear (homosexuals must be put to death), there is no reason for us, at the Stranger, to be ambiguous (Banton must be shutdown).
The larger problem, however, remains this: Why is the black community silent on this issue? Just last week, a black DJ, DV-one, was brutalized by white police officers and the black community (and the hiphop community) rightly expressed anger and called for action. But when it comes to a man who openly sets the movement of human rights backwards—not a peep, not a word. If human rights as a project is to be something more than personal, more than one group of people, more than one moment in time, then it must be understood, and championed (to reappropriate an expression popularized in the dance hall world by Banton), as a universal project. It should not be just gays who denounce Banton’s promotion of gay-bashing, in the same way it should not be just blacks who denounce police brutality.
Lastly, and frankly, only backward people are still homophobic, still plough the earthy idea that somehow “the parts don’t fit.” But, really, this has gone on for way too long, and it’s now time for them, the backward people, to stop, grow up intellectually, and move to the city of concrete ideas. Enough of this country nonsense, these muddy country attitudes, these rural idiocies. As LKJ once toasted: “This is the age of reality/the age of science and technology.”