Too Bad
Buju Banton
Gargamel Music
October 10, 2006

Buju Banton - Too Bad Track list
  1. Your Night Tonight
  2. Try Offa Yuh
  3. Nothing
  4. Too Bad
  5. Waistline
  6. Jig
  7. Me & Oonu
  8. 'Til It Bend
  9. Hey Boy
  10. Go Slow
  11. Driver A
  12. Girl U Know
  13. Lonely Night
  14. Who Have It
  15. Better Day Coming
  16. Don & Dupes featuring Pinchers
  17. Fast Lane
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 4/5 Backing : 5 Production : 4 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 3
Over the last decade, the name Buju Banton (a.k.a. Gargamel) has become synonymous with contemporary reggae. Having emerged as a brash teenage artist into a self assured deejay and singer, Buju's fusion of traditional roots rock, R&B and dancehall DJ'ing have endeared him to many in his Jamaican homeland; as well it should have. Buju has been one of the most popular artistes in Jamaican history after invading the charts in early 1992 with a slew of hits, such as "Bogle" and "Love Black Women", both of which were massive hits in Jamaica. He later released one of his most controversial songs "Boom Bye Bye" that has since been criticized by many; perhaps leading to his premature departure from the dancehalls to the more laid back roots rock music.

So due to the fact that Buju has been making roots music for a good long while now, it was my belief that the next time the public would hear from Buju on a solo project would be on the (now 2 years delayed) "Rasta Got Soul" album. The album that is yet to materialize, (and now seems like it may never) was rumoured among many to parallel his best works, and some said it actually rivalled his seminal classic "'Til Shiloh". Buju even went as far as to release the album's first single, the excellent "Magic City". So Buju had the world waiting with bated breath to see just how much 'soul' the album had. However, somewhere between the time of the release of "Magic City" and now, Gargamel must have had a change of heart. Perhaps the continual jabs by the media or some personal conflict had adjusted his mind state; I believe it might be the former reason though, as this album almost seems like a challenge to the critics who have never let him just do what he enjoys most, make music. For a long time now, it seems that Buju has never been allowed to live down the 'Boom Bye Bye' curse; and the recent legal matters that have prevented him from travelling haven't helped any either. Buju was evidently angered by all the unwanted media attention and "Too Bad" is the result.

In terms of style, the album doesn't actually differ too much from the recent release of labelmate Assassin's "Infiltration" from last year, or Vybz Kartel's "J.M.T.", early this year. There will perhaps be a huge attraction to this release for Buju fans due to the fact that even though they were waiting for his (surely) incredible roots album to emerge, Buju hasn't provided us with a strictly dancehall album in a very long time. So now, the deejay who was once dancehall's main attraction is stepping back into the arena to reclaim his crown, and that can't be a bad thing. So it seems that Buju is dedicating this album to all those fans who sit around longing for the days of "Batty Rider" or "Stamina Daddy", and they are arguably the fans who will be the most thrilled (myself included). Gargamel's attention has been focused on roots for almost 10 years now, and that is where he excels; so with the current trend in the dancehall towards the re-lick, will Buju have us feeling like it is 1 992 all over again?

The album opens with the polished "Your Night Tonight" an incredible dancehall/hip-hop fusion over a thunderous riddim that signals Buju Banton means business. "Try Offa Yuh" slows down the pace a little and gives us classic Buju all the way. Next up, Buju offers us the wicked "Nothing" (one of my favourites) over the 'Watt'-riddim, before he unleashes the title track "Too Bad" that made waves last year on Leftside & Esco's re-lick of the 1992 Steely & Clevie 'Giggy/Mama'-riddim, "Throwback Giggy". The pulsating bass of "Waistline" sees Buju in his element as he rides the riddim without taking a single breath (or so it seems). The Spanish guitar influenced "Jig" is a 'take it or leave it' affair, and might be considered by some as filler. Buju then takes a stab at the (in my opinion) awful gimmick, that is the 'Wipe Out'-riddim with "Me & Oonu" and to my surprise he actually makes it work to some extent; this is probably the only version alongside Tony Matterhorn's "Agent 009" that I would listen to on this riddim. The best tune on this set is definitely the hard "'Til It Bend"; this is serious rudeboy dancehall. To the untrained ear this song might sound like any other badman tune, but I can guarantee you that this song will get the most 'pull ups' and 'wheels' in the dancehall, too nice! We are then treated to the excellent "Hey Boy" most commonly known to many listeners as "Talk To Me" on the "Petty Thief"-riddim. Buju, obviously a fan of Leftside & Esco, then gives us the fine weed smokers anthem "Go Slow" on the "Galore"-riddim. Once again it is time to slow things down on the nice "Driver" that has a distinct sound which reminds me of Mega Banton's "Sound Bwoy Killing (Remix)" from '94; easily one of the best tunes on the album. "Girl U Know" maintains the steady pace set by the previous tune and sees Buju in a slightly more romantic mood.

Even on a dancehall album Buju can't help treating us to some pure Rastafarian music, nyabinghi drums and all, on the relaxed "Lonely Night". However, Buju doesn't slow the pace for too long as he hits us with the wicked "Who Have It", definitely one to check for. Then comes the ultra clever "Better Day Coming", more like a short story on a riddim than just a tune. The penultimate tune on the disc "Don & Dupes" is a smooth combination between Buju and the only guest on the set, the underrated dancehall singer Pinchers of 'Bandelero' fame (who thanks in part to Dave Kelly's Madhouse has been making a strong return to the scene in recent times). Closing the set is lead off single from the album "Fast Lane" which does not justify the overall strength of this album; I would have preferred that he released any other tune from the disc before this one (he is obviously saving the best for later).

On the whole, though some listeners may still be left wondering where the roots reggae went, this disc will appeal to both groups of fans (dancehall and roots alike). While there is nothing on here that is definitive roots music, Buju attempts to cover all bases when the pace slows down, and the 'old time something' vibe the album has, will surely see that all Buju fans find something they enjoy. I would have liked to have seeen Buju have at least one deejay combination on this set (perhaps Assassin or Cham) and he should have definitely included the incredible "Beauty Queen" on the 'Twice Again'-riddim, as it would fit in perfectly. But regardless, you still get high quality dancehall from one of the genre's greats and I would rate this album above Beenie Man's "Undisputed" and Baby Cham's "Ghetto Story" as the best purely dancehall album of 2006.