Jamaican dancehall star Buju Banton is set to release "Friends for Life," his first album in almost three years, March 11 on VP/WEA/Atlantic and March 3 in Europe via Anti/Epitaph. Written and co-prod

Jamaican dancehall star Buju Banton is set to release "Friends for Life," his first album in almost three years, March 11 on VP/WEA/Atlantic and March 3 in Europe via Anti/Epitaph. Written and co-produced by Banton with Donovan Germain, the album will feature guest contributions by the likes of Fat Joe, Bounty Killer, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Lyn, and Beres Hammond.

The album will be supported by an extensive, 60-city U.S. tour, kicking off March 13 at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom. Banton plans to continue touring throughout 2003, heading into Canada and culminating the stretch with a run of European dates.

"Friends for Life" -- one of the first VP releases under the label's new distribution deal with WEA/Atlantic Records -- incorporates a number of different styles, including Banton's trademark dancehall, as well as hip-hop/R&B, roots reggae, and ballads. Dancehall DJ Wayne Wonder, who also contributes to the album, will join Banton on his U.S. tour.

Banton is one of the most successful latter-day Jamaican artists. His 1992 debut, "Mr. Mention" (Penthouse) spawned a handful of No. 1 singles in his native country, while subsequent releases such as 1993's "Voice of Jamaica" (Mercury) and 1995's "Til Shiloh" (Loose Cannon) endeared him to an international audience.

His most recent album, "Unchained Spirit" (Anti/Epitaph), debuted in September 2000 at No. 128 on The Billboard 200. A compilation, "The Best of Buju Banton" (Hip-O) peaked last August at No. 9 on Billboard's Top Reggae Albums chart.

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