Island/UMe celebrated the birthday of Buju Banton, the Jamaican dancehall innovator and surprised him at his studio with a specially made RIAA certified Gold album for his boundary-shattering masterpiece 1995’s ‘Til Shiloh, released 25 years ago on July 18 on Loose Cannon/Island Records. Fans from around the globe tuned in, here, to offer birthday greetings and see Banton talk about the album which took inventory of his spiritual faith and shattered the boundary between reggae and dancehall.
The event started with Bruce Resnikoff, President and CEO, who kicked off the event with a few remarks. “Buju Banton’s determination and discovery led him to create one of the most seminal albums in the dancehall reggae genre. Critically acclaimed and treasured by fans, ‘Til Shiloh is a lyrically conscious and musically accessible album that is discovered by new fans each year and I am proud to be here to celebrate its 25th anniversary and achievements.”
RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier and RIAA Chief Operating Officer Michele Ballantyne joined the event and RIAA Chief Operating Officer/COO Michele Ballantyne, commented, “Congratulations to Buju Banton on achieving a Gold Album Award on ‘Til Shiloh‘s 25th anniversary! Remarkably, ‘Til Shiloh is the only RIAA certified reggae album in the past year. We are thrilled to join Loose Cannon, Island Records and UMe to celebrate Buju, whose name has become synonymous with reggae and dancehall, and welcome him to the RIAA certified family!”
Originally planned as an in-person presentation in Jamaica, Island/UMe/RIAA quickly shifted to YouTube Live that serendipity made the event accessible to his fans worldwide. As a surprise to Banton, Donovan Germain, owner of Penthouse Records (Banton’s first record label) and one of the original producers of the record, was there to hand Banton a RIAA certified Gold album for ‘Til Shiloh.
“Thank you to everyone,” said Buju Banton, who thanked his entire team who worked on the recording. “It is a great day for the album, a great day for reggae music and for us all who labored through those intense days of working on this record. ‘Til Shiloh was my introduction into the American music scene on that level.”
Described by The New York Times as “an extraordinarily intense performer, and a surprisingly versatile one” and by Pitchfork as “the quintessential dancehall artist,” there is no living artist more crucial to Jamaican music. And ‘Til Shiloh, which explored Banton’s Rastafarian faith on highlights like “‘Til I’m Laid to Rest,” “Untold Stories,” “Not An Easy Road,” and fan favorites “Murderer,” “Champion,” and “Wanna Be Loved” are the ideal gateway to his hallowed discography. Listen to ‘Til Shiloh via all streaming services, HERE.
Darcus Beese, President & CEO, Island Records, added, “Buju Banton’s message transcends his music and his impact shakes everyplace he touches. We’re honored to work alongside a visionary and look forward to continued guardianship of his legacy.”
‘Til Shiloh, named after a saying meaning “forever,” pivoted from Banton’s previous rude-boy style to introspective roots reggae. With Donovan Germain, Lisa Cortés, Bobby “Digital” Dixon, Dave Kelly, Sylvester Gorton and Steely & Clevie behind the board, Shiloh‘s introspective themes, innovative use of digital programming and prayerful vibe changed reggae and dancehall permanently.
Lisa Cortés, Founder of Loose Cannon Records, who signed Banton to her label and released this masterwork commented, “When you and Germs went into the lab to create ‘Til Shiloh, the creative process took on a special relevance as I witnessed not only the development of your voice but also the elevation in your music of culture, faith and the glory of the people of the African diaspora.”
‘Til Shiloh was acclaimed by BBC as “a very listenable landmark” which “saw the brash ‘rockstone’ deejay turn dreadlocked throwback,” by Spin, which called it the 10th best album of 1995 and his voice “an uncontrollably vibrant lickshot of adrenaline,” and by The Village Voice‘s Robert Christgau, who awarded the album an A-minus, as “the most fully accomplished reggae album since the prime of Black Uhuru.”
“My music is an embodiment. A total embodiment of who I am: my perspective, my griefs, how I feel within,” Banton told Okayplayer in 2020. “I am merely a vessel. A servant. And this is my offering. Wholeheartedly.”
Buju Banton was born Mark Anthony Myrie as the youngest of 16 children. (His nickname “Buju” came from a Jamaican breadfruit due to his childhood appetite; his chosen surname toasted his deejay hero Burro Banton.) Soon after his first song, “The Ruler,” which he recorded at 16, Banton developed a thunderous rasp that set him apart in his lane. His early underground hit, “Stamina Daddy,” became the title track of his 1992 debut album (later repackaged as Quick). Stamina Daddy‘s 1992 follow-up, Mr. Mention, contained seismic singles like “Batty Rider” and “Man Fe Dead,” “Love Me Brownin” and “Love Black Woman,” which were ground-breaking for their feminist purview when this was uncommon from a male singer.
In 2019, Banton returned to music on his “Long Walk to Freedom” tour and on June 26, he released Upside Down 2020, his 13th album and first album in a decade on Roc Nation/Island.
“Reggae music’s mission is to uplift, educate and eradicate negativity from the minds of the people globally,” Banton says. A quarter-century after ‘Til Shiloh, this living legend continues to create and remains vital, inspirational and revolutionary.