Banton Presses On Despite Renewed Controversy
Controversial reggae star Buju Banton has two words for the gay rights groups that have sporadically protested his concerts across the U.S.: "F*ck them."Controversial reggae star Buju Banton has two words for the gay rights groups that have sporadically protested his concerts across the U.S.: "F*ck them."
"I have never bashed any gays before, and if I bashed gays, I bashed them 16 years ago," Banton tells Billboard.com. "There's no tolerance from [the gay community]. I'm not a gay-basher. I'm not a homophobe."
The 33-year-old Jamaican star, whose controversial 1992 song "Boom Bye Bye" preached violence against homosexuals -- even calling for them to be shot in the head -- has been plagued by protests since 2004, when he was accused of taking part in an attack on gay men in Kingston, Jamaica.
Despite being cleared of all charges in January, Banton has seen several of his scheduled performances cancelled while trying to promote his new album, "Too Bad." Concerts in both Los Angeles and San Francisco were cancelled this month, and another in Boulder, Colo., was protested, but still went on. A call seeking comment from the National Black Justice Coalition, which was involved in the L.A. protest, were not returned by deadline.
Speaking from his tour bus, Banton was defiant, insisting that despite his acquittal, gay rights groups refuse to let him move on with his life. In most cities, he says, there are no protests. The media, he insists, is making too much out of a handful of protestors' actions.
Despite the controversy, Banton has pressed on with "Too Bad," which marks his return to dancehall reggae after recent roots reggae discs. "This collection of music is about reaching into the dancehall time and to a place where the music was so enjoyable. It [has] so [many] different themes; references to life and music and all that great stuff," he says. "It's 360 degrees, so to speak."
"Too Bad" is also Banton's first release on his own Gargamel label. And while he's certainly not the first reggae musician to start his own record company, Banton is hoping it's a trend that gains more traction in future years.
"It doesn't matter whatever happens for me. It's the uprising that's important to me," he says. "In Jamaica, the industry is changing from the hands of the oppressors into the hands of the artists, but the problems come because artists do not know the principles of the music business. We are emerging to be a force to be reckoned with, ruling our destiny."