Internationally known reggae star. Gay basher. Grammy nominee.
And now accused drug trafficker.
Banton was arrested at his home in Tamarac on Thursday, three days after he allegedly spoke with a confidential source about traveling to Sarasota to obtain "kilogram amounts of cocaine," according to the criminal complaint filed in federal court.
As news of the drug arrest of Jamaican artist Buju Banton rocked the reggae world and burned up U.S. urban blogs, one word described the reaction in Miami and his Caribbean homeland: Shock.
"Everybody's surprised, everybody's saying it's got to be a set-up," said dancehall reggae artist Red Rat, who collaborated with Banton on the 1997 reggae hit Love Dem Bad.
"We don't know Buju as that type of person," Rat, who splits his time between Miami and Jamaica, told The Miami Herald. "We know Buju as the revolutionary that he is, the one who sings about love and uplifting yourself as a people in the dancehall reggae world. Yeah he did Boom Bye Bye, but that was a young Buju."
Boom Bye Bye is viewed by gay-rights advocates as an anti-gay anthem because of its lyrics advocating shooting gays in the head and setting them on fire. It made and continues to make Buju Banton a target of protests by gays and lesbians who as recently as this month ratched up their protests against the artist after the Grammy announced his latest album, Rasta Got Soul, was nominated for Best Reggae Album.
Buju Banton, whose real name is Mark Anthony Myrie, remained in federal detention in Miami on Monday awaiting transfer to Tampa, where he faces a charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine.
On Monday, in South Florida and Jamaica, callers burned up radio airwaves, calling the arrest a "conspiracy" to get him after his recent controversy that included protests by local gay-rights advocates over a Halloween concert in downtown Miami.
"They are convinced it's directly connected to the concert he had recently," said Winston Barnes, a Miramar city commissioner and host of a popular Jamaican talk show on WAVS (1170-AM). "What they are saying is that he got off that time and they are fixing him now."
Barnes tried without success to reason with callers, most of whom also viewed the arrest as an attack on reggae music. "It is one big mess."
Last fall, several of Banton's concerts were canceled in U.S. cities amid protests from gays and lesbians. Even a face-to-face meeting with some gay-rights activists in San Francisco in October failed to end the protests.
But now it's his drug charges shining the spotlight on him.
Read more at MiamiHerald.com