Buju Banton might not be a household name in the U.S., but the reggae singer is perhaps the biggest star without the last name "Marley" that the genre has produced in decades. Banton has been nominated five times in the Grammys' Best Reggae Album category, finally taking home the award four months ago for his album Before the Dawn. However, that'll probably be the last Grammy that Banton wins for the foreseeable future. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison today for his role in a massive cocaine deal. Banton was also found guilty of bad things like possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense and using a telephone to facilitate a drug trafficking offense.
This was Banton's second time facing trial for the charges; last year, a judge ruled a mistrial after the jury became deadlocked. While many figures in the hip-hop world posture themselves as drug kingpins in their music, Banton was reportedly enjoying an actual side job as a Scarface-in-the-making. Prosecutors provided evidence of Banton bragging that he could broker cocaine deals, and one video even showed him "tasting cocaine in a Sarasota warehouse," Billboard writes.
Many of the 37-year-old Banton's 15 children -- Bob Marley fathered at least 11 children before his death at age 36, get over it -- as well as actor Danny Glover and an unnamed NBA player wrote letters to the judge pleading for a lesser sentence, and the judge obliged, sort of. An extra gun charge that alone carried a five-year sentence was thrown out, leaving Banton with a decade-long prison sentence.
Banton's fans in Jamaica, and there are many of them, are obviously angered by the news that their hometown hero won't be making music for a long, long time. On the bright side, Banton's ordeal should serve as a resonating cautionary tale for other wildly successful musicians who plan on becoming amateur drug lords on the side.
[Photo: Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage.com]
- Buju Banton