With just months to go before his release from prison in the United States, there is a public countdown to incarcerated dancehall-reggae artiste Buju Banton being a free man.
There have been a slew of posts on the veteran entertainer's Instagram account with a hashtag of his prison sentence's remaining days. "356...," one post read which was followed by, "Who Jah bless no man curse. #355" and "Fools swear they're wise, men know they're foolish. #351."
Buju Banton, whose given name, Mark Myrie, is currently being held at McRae Correctional Facility in Georgia. He was arrested in 2009 on cocaine charges, given a mandatory 10-year sentence in 2011, and previously scheduled to be released in 2019.
In 2015, the United States Justice Department announced it would be releasing about 6,600 inmates from prison early, in an effort to reduce overcrowding and provide relief to drug offenders who received harsh sentences. In that same year, Banton said he would be halting any further appeals, while the US Attorney's Office announced it would be dismissing firearms charge against him.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
When Banton began his sentence in 2011, the dancehall space was being contested by then rival lyrical camps the Alliance and Portmore Empire, led by Bounty Killer and Vybz Kartel, respectively. Although Kartel holds his spot as a leading dancehall act, even behind bars, there are others who have risen to prominence while Buju is locked up. Among them are Popcaan, Alkaline, Masicka and Tommy Lee Sparta.
Reggae also has 'new faces' such as Protoje, Chronixx, Romain Virgo and Iba Mahr. On the female side, Lady Saw has turned over a new leaf and is now singing for the Lord as Minister Marion Hall, while Spice is dominant. With these changes, the question of the 'Gargamel' being in for a culture shock when he returns to Jamaica arises. According to veteran producer Bobby Digital, when Buju went behind bars he was ahead in his musical career and will be out with a bang.
"Other than Chronixx and that other artiste, none a them can put pen to paper like Mark Myrie, man. He will be on top of his game. I am sure Mark will be like a musical encyclopedia when he gets out. Jamaica is just one little dot, and it's the entire world that awaits him," Digital told The STAR. Bobby Digital has worked on several projects with Buju and is the producer of hits like Till I'm Laid to Rest and Good Looking Gal.
"He will bring back joy to the people. Since Mark is not in the picture, you can see an empty space in the industry, one that only he can fill. He is a true entertainer who sounds the same on record and on stage. A no one a dem man deh who inna the bag a pull up ting. Is a musical legend dat, and I do hope they have something big planned for his homecoming," Bobby said.
Buju Banton is one of several Jamaican entertainers serving prison time. Among the most recent is Ninja Man, who was last month sentenced to at least 25 years in prison for murder. Kartel is also serving a life sentence and his expected to begin his appeal later this year.