As singer Buju Banton awaits his fate in jail in Tampa, Florida, he won’t have to worry that his recent Grammy nomination is under threat.
Banton, born Mark Myrie, was nominated this year for ‘Best Reggae Album’ for his ninth studio album, Rasta Got Soul; alongside acts such as Sean Paul, Gregory Isaccs, Stephen and Julian Marley. Since his arrest earlier this month on federal drug charges in the United States, persons have been speculating that Banton’s Grammy nomination may be withdrawn.
When THE WEEKEND STAR contacted Roger Steffens, reggae archivist, lecturer, editor, producer and co-chairman of the Reggae Grammy Committee, he confirmed that Banton’s nomination will not be rescinded. He said, “no they wouldn’t do that, it’s strictly based on music and not personal characteristics.”
According to Steffens the Grammys has had a history of musicians who have been nominated and have won, that have been at one point or another convicted of a crime. Rappers such as Lil Wayne and TI, among others, have been nominated while facing felony charges and arrests.
history of the Grammys
Steffens elaborated, “if you look at the history of the Grammys, murderers, thieves, rapists have all made Grammy categories. Some blues singers spent half their lives in jail and still made it. We try to be above it.”
Banton is not the only Grammy-nominated singer facing drug charges. Earlier this month Grammy Award-winning singer Ramon Ayala was taken into police custody in the Mexico City suburb of Tepoztlan.
According to reports, Ayala had been performing at a party where alleged drug traffickers were in attendance. Ayala and his associates with the Bravos del Norte band were rounded up and asked about their involvement. The federal attorney general’s office said “contradictions” in Ayala and his colleagues’ testimonies led to a decision to deepen the inquiry. The artiste was ordered held for up to 40 days pending further investigation. His lawyer denied any wrongdoing or connection to organised crime.
As to how Banton’s chances for a win at the 52nd Grammy Awards stand, Steffens says it depends on the “consciences” of the persons voting. The Grammy Awards are presented annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States (NARAS) and consists of musicians, producers, recording engineers and other recording professionals.
Currently, over 6,000 professionals comprise the Producers & Engineers Wing, a membership division of NARAS which was established for producers, engineers, remixers, technologists, and other related creative and technical professionals. The members of this division vote on the Grammy Awards each year.
Earlier in the month, members of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) urged musicians to sign a petition protesting Banton’s Grammy Award nomination. A release from the Recording Academy later stated, however, that they would not remove Banton’s nomination.
Banton was arrested on December 8, after law-enforcement agents received information from an inside source alleging that the deejay and other persons were in Sarasotta seeking to purchase several kilograms of cocaine. It is further alleged that the singer agreed to meet with the unnamed inside source to conduct the deal and the incident was recorded. Reports continued that on December 10, Banton’s co-defendants, Ian Thomas and James Mark, were arrested after they travelled to a facility where they allegedly presented a large quantity of money and were given a bag containing seven kilograms of cocaine. If convicted, Banton faces 20 years’ imprisonment.