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Boomshots: Buju Banton Escapes Lockdown For One-Off Miami Concert

After spending the entirety of 2010 in bondage, Buju Banton freed himself up this past Martin Luther King Jr. weekend when he took the stage before a jubliant crowd at Bayfront Park Amphitheater in downtown Miami. "No one can ever lock away my spirit," the embattled reggae star told Miami's New Times in a cover story titled "Free The General" that hit stands last week. "There are many people that want to see me down... By the grace of the Almighty, you can lock me up physically, but spiritually I am free."

The long-awaited "Before The Dawn" concert took its name from Buju's latest Grammy-nominated album, a CD with an all-black cover, released during some of the artist's darkest days. (He was arrested in December 2009 on drug-trafficking and weapons charges, but the problematic case resulted in a mistrial, and will be retried next month.) Although he's been out of jail and living with his family on house arrest since November 2010, Buju had not seen his fans—or vice versa—in over a year. The court rejected his first request to put on a show, but his attorneys appealed, pointing out that their client must be allowed to earn a living.

Days before the big concert, Miami’s Mix 96 FM seemed to have morphed into the BBC (Buju Broadcasting Corporation) digging deep into The Banton’s catalog, from his latest—"Jah knows I’m innocent"—all the way back through Til Shiloh days to the early '90s era of Stamina Daddy and Mr. Mention. As showtime drew near, the station was swamped with calls from fans who'd flown in from all over the world to see The Gargamel’s first live performance since late 2009, when he was first taken into custody. While his future still hangs in the balance, January 16th was all about celebrating his triumphant return of one of reggae's most powerful performers.

The crowd began filling the park from 5pm, rocking to the sounds of Everton Blender, Richie Loops, and Nadine Sutherland, who revisited some of her hot collabos with Buju. Every artist on the star-studded lineup seemed to recognize the enormity of the situation, selecting their songs carefully, delivering each lyric with heightened feeling on a night that was quite literally history in the making. Reggae legend Freddie McGregor got the crowd singing "freedom is a must" when he performed his classic "Prophecy," and Mykal Roze closed his set with a line from his latest hit, "Stronger": "Any time you knock me down I get stronger and stronger." Even Shaggy's pop confection "It Wasn't Me" packed a little extra punch.

"A good vibes—strength between artist and artist," said roots reggae singer Tarrus Riley, who blessed the crowd with "Beware" and "She's Royal" before his musical director, sax virtuoso Dean "Cannon" Fraser, played some of the Banton's gruff melodies on his golden horn. "Ever since Buju's been in his little problem, Dean and I have been doing his song 'Untold Stories' as part of our live sets, just to show support for our brother," Riley revealed. "Dem man deh inspire we a whole lot coming up."

Surprise guest Sean Paul thrilled the crowd with a high-energy set that included chart-topping hits like "Temperature" and "Get Busy." Then he brought in Spragga Benz for a sneak attack, and the turbaned DJ's fiery rhetoric stoked the crowd ever hotter. Finally DJ Khaled and Busta Rhymes—both of whom have recorded with Buju in the past—stepped up to rep for their comrade. Khaled roared "All I do is win win win," and Miami's hands went up for the man of the hour.

Buju began singing long before he took the stage, his unmistakably rough-textured vocals eliciting screams throughout the darkened arena. After touching a piece of his rousing new song "In The Air," he launched into "Destiny," a sufferer's anthem from Buju's classic album Inna Heights. By the time the tall, dreadlocked deejay finally strode into the spotlight wearing black trousers and vest and a ruffled white shirt, Bayfront Park was in an uproar. Though he showed no signs of rustiness, the deejay seemed less concerned with hyping up the crowd than with enjoying himself, bouncing and skanking to extended dubs laid down by the rock-solid Shiloh Band. [PHOTOS HERE] When they played the first strains of "Untold Stories" the audience took over, singing every word as Buju fell back, savoring the moment.

"People take artists for granted all the time," said Marcia Griffiths as she hung out backstage in a mellow mood, waiting for her time to perform. Reggae's first lady—a major star in her own right and a former member of Bob Marley's world-famous background trio, The I Three—wore a beautiful flowing dress emblazoned with the Tuff Gong's face. When she joined Buju onstage, he embraced her warmly and they sang a song called "Live On," which Marcia recorded with Buju's musical mentor, soul reggae balladeer Beres Hammond (who was unable to attend the show). "And when we're old and gray, we'll still feel this way," Buju and Marcia sang, holding hands. "Never have to worry. Live on."

Stephen "Ragga" Marley—who anted up his own Florida home last year to secure Buju's quarter-million-dollar bail—strolled onstage to sing his father's classic song "Duppy Conqueror," which almost seemed to have been written for the occasion. "Yes me friend, me deh pon street again," Ragga and Buju sang, pumping fists in the sky. "Yes me friend, them turn me loose again. The bars could not hold me. Force could not control me. But through the powers of the Most High, they've got to turn me loose." Jr. Gong rushed onstage with dreadlocks flying, boosting up the energy on "Traffic Jam" as he asserted defiantly that "Natty dreadlocks no wear handcuff." The Marley brothers closed out with "Jah Army," a cut from Stephen's next album set to Black Uhuru's General Penitentiary riddim. The blistering verse that Buju laid down for the "Jah Army" remix is one of the first recordings he made since being released from jail. Though most of the audience had never heard the tune, Buju's passionate delivery moved the crowd.

When the Shiloh Band dropped the "Real Rock" riddim, Buju called on Wayne Wonder—the dancehall singer who catapaulted him in the limelight some 20 years ago by calling him onstage at Sting—to sing their dubplate classic "Forever Young / Test We Now." They followed that up with the smash hit "Movie Star," which Buju and his backing vocalists transformed into a dramatic set-piece about his current predicament:

"Why dem wan' see Buju Banton cry?" he asked and his harmony section replied: I don't know why.

"Is it because of 'Boom Bye Bye'?" he mused, referring to the infamous "batty boy" tune that he's never quite lived down after two decades.

I don't know why.

"Is it because they cannot fight I?"

I don't know why.

"Is it because I’m black but not shy?"

I don't know why.

"Is it because I say Selassie I?"

I don't know why.

After a few more classics—"Love Sponge" and "Murderer" and "Til I'm Laid To Rest"—the night ended with a prayer as Gramps Morgan joined Buju to sing a soaring rendition of "Psalms 23." And then it was time for the final guest stars of the night: Banton's attorneys, who took the stage in "Free Buju" T-shirts. He urged the crowd to cheer for the men working to bring him back to the stage again as soon as humanly possible. But as he exited stage right, flanked by his legal counsel, it was painfully clear that Buju Banton still has many rivers to cross. —Rob Kenner

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Nick Cannon Apologizes To The Jewish Community For His “Hurtful And Divisive Words”

Nick Cannon issued an official apology over his controversial podcast that has since been deleted. The comedian and host shared another lengthy message on social media on Wednesday (July 15) apologizing to the Jewish community for his “hurtful and divisive words.”

“First and foremost I extend my deepest and most sincere apologies to my Jewish sisters and brothers for the hurtful and divisive words that came out of my mouth during my interview with Richard Griffin, reads a message on his Facebook page. “They reinforced the worst stereotypes of a proud and magnificent people and I feel ashamed of the uninformed and naïve place that these words came from. The video of this interview has since been removed.

“While the Jewish experience encompasses more than 5,000 years and there is so much I have yet to learn, I have had at least a minor history lesson over the past few days and to say that it is eye-opening would be a vast understatement,” the statement continues.

“I want to express my gratitude to the Rabbis, community leaders and institutions who reached out to me to help enlighten me, instead of chastising me. I want to assure my Jewish friends, new and old, that this is only the beginning of my education—I am committed to deeper connections, more profound learning and strengthening the bond between our two cultures today and every day going forward.”

Earlier in the day, Cannon posted a message stating that he’s “deeply disappointed” in ViacomCBS, and demanded that the company turn over the rights to Wild ’N Out. Now that he’s out at the network, Diddy offered to bright show to Revolt, although its unclear if that would be possible if Cannon doesn’t own the full rights.

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Megan Thee Stallion Says She Underwent Surgery After Suffering “Gun Shot Wounds”

Megan Thee Stallion is setting the record straight about a night out with Tory Lanez last Sunday (July 12) that ended with him being arrested on gun charges. The “Girls in the Hood” rapper posted a message on her Instagram account on Wednesday (July 15) revealing that she was suffered “gunshot wounds” and had to undergo surgery.

“The narrative that is being reported about Sunday’s morning events are inaccurate and I’d like to set the record straight,” wrote Meg. “On Sunday morning, I suffered gunshot wounds, as a result of a crime that was committed against me and done with the intention to physically harm me.”

Meg made it clear that she was “never arrested” and that police transported her to a local hospital where she underwent surgery to have the bullets removed. “I’m incredibly grateful to be alive and that I’m expected to make a full recovery, but it was important for me to clarify the details about this traumatic night.”

According to TMZ, a spokesperson for the LAPD said that officers had no idea that Megan was wounded. “At the time Megan Thee [Stallion] was with police she did not report that she was victim of any crime. And the LAPD has not received any additional information at this time.”

Police were responding to reports of multiple gunshots at a Hollywood Hills home where Meg was reportedly partying. Grainy footage from the incident appears to show her exiting a vehicle with her hands up. Lanez was apprehended on federal weapons possession charges and released on bond according to court records.

Megan has a visible trail of blood coming from her foot and LAPD had these niggas doing the CHA CHA SLIDE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET BEFORE HELPING HER. Police are useless! pic.twitter.com/1BCXAUW9m9

— Jalil (@dreadedgod) July 15, 2020

 

Read Meg's full statement below.

 

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I was never arrested. This whole experience was an eye opener and a blessing in disguise. I hate that it took this experience for me to learn how to protect my energy.

A post shared by Hot Girl Meg (@theestallion) on Jul 15, 2020 at 11:07am PDT

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Naya Rivera’s Cause Of Death Confirmed, Family Speaks Out

The Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office completed an autopsy on Naya Rivera confirming her cause of death was an accidental drowning. “The autopsy findings are consistent with a drowning and the condition of the body is consistent with the time that she was submerged,” the coroner said on Tuesday (July 14).

There were no traumatic injuries or disease processes found during the autopsy and “no indication that drugs or alcohol played a role” in her tragic death. Rivera, 33, drowned after taking her 4-year-old son, Josey, out on a boat last week.

According to authorities, the doting mother and her son were out for a swim at Southern California's Lake Piru, when things turned fatal. In her final moments, Rivera mustered up the strength to boost her son back onto the boat but was ultimately unable to swim to safety. At least 9 people have drowned at Lake Piru since 1994.

Rivera's grieving family released a statement thanking authorities for recovering her remains, as well as the Glee star's fans, friends and colleagues for their support. “We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and prayers for Naya, Josey and our family over the past week,” the family said.  “While we grieve the loss of our beautiful legend, we are blessed to honor her everlasting legacy and magnetic spirit. Naya was an amazing talent, but was an even greater person, mother, daughter and sister.

“Thank you to the men and women of the Ventura, Tulare, and San Louis Obispo County Sheriff’s Departments for you commitment and unwavering effort to find Naya. We extend endless gratitude and ovation to the heroine who found her. Thank you to her fiends, colleagues, and fans for your continued support.

“Heaven gained our sassy angel. We kindly request that our privacy be respected during this very difficult time.”

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