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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Hundreds Dead, More Than A Million Affected After Cyclone Devastates Southern Africa

A tropical cyclone that destroyed parts of southern Africa is being called one of the deadliest natural disasters to hit the region in decades. Tens of thousands of people have been left displaced and awaiting rescue after Cyclone Idai ripped through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe last week causing catastrophic flooding, wiping out entire villages and raising concerns over the spread of malaria.

According to the Associated Press, more than 500 people have been confirmed dead, though the number is expected to rise substantially. “There is death all over,” survivor Amos Makunduwa told AP. “It is beginning to smell really bad. The whole area is like one big body of water, huge rocks and mud. There are no houses, as if no one ever stayed here.”

In Mozambique, as many as 100,000 people remain “isolated” without help, the Mozambique National Disaster Management Institute said according to the United Nations. The country’s government estimates that more than 1,000 people have died thus far.

In nearby Zimbabwe, between 8,000 and 9,600 people have been displaced and as many as 200,000 people are in desperate need of food and assistance. The situation is likely to “deteriorate even more” as the numbers increase, said Hervé Verhoosel, spokesperson for The World Food Program. The organization projects that it will cost around $121 million to feed more than a million people for the next three months.

“It is clear that the number of 600,000 will definitely go up in the coming days,” Verhoosel said. “That has of course [an] implication on cost. If we help 600,000 people for three months, that is a cost of $42 million. If we need to help up to 1.7 million people for three months, that will be a cost of $121.5 million. Obviously, we don’t have that money today.”

The WFP is seeking $5 million for Zimbabwe, to provide food, air and logistical support, and $10 million for Malawi where more than 920,000 people are affected by the storm. The country has so far confirmed 577 injuries, and 56 deaths.

Cargo planes were able to deliver food that has “not yet been fully distributed” Verhoosel said. Beira, a port city in Mozambique where the cyclone made landfall, was virtually wiped out making it challenging for people to unload food that arrived at the local airport. “In Beira, the level of water is not the same as in the countryside… inland, the problem is that you have basically water all around,” Verhoosel explained.

The storm has affected over a million people across all three countries. The World Health Organization, and UN are working with local governments to supply aid. In addition, the WHO revealed in a news release that “health experts, medicines and medical materials and equipment are also ongoing for Malawi and Zimbabwe.”

“The displacement of large numbers of people and the flooding triggered by Cyclone Idai significantly increases the risk of malaria, typhoid and cholera,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “WHO stands with the affected people and is organizing assistance to address their urgent health needs.”

Click here for info on how you can help those affected. See photos of the devastation below.

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Fordham University Drops Soulja Boy From Spring Concert Lineup Following Arrest

Soulja Boy’s latest arrest cost him an upcoming gig at Fordham University. The rapper has been booted off the 2019 Spring Weekend concert lineup, which is scheduled for April 27.

“The Campus Activities Board has watched, along with our fellow Fordham students, the headlines that have been in the news as a result of Soulja Boy’s comeback,” the group said in a statement to The Blast. “After careful consideration, the Campus Activities Board has decided to remove Soulja Boy from the Spring Weekend concert lineup.”

In January, Fordham confirmed in that the “Crank That” rapper would be headlining the concert event as part of his 2019 tour.

The 28-year-old recording artist was arrested for probation violation last Friday (March 15), after checking in with his probation officer. He was accused of possessing firearms and ammo, but was released from custody hours later.

Following his release, SB headed to a Los Angeles Clippers game to perform at the halftime show.


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Eunetta T. Boone, TV Producer, Writer And ‘One On One’ Creator, Dead At 63

Eunetta T. Boone, veteran television producer and writer, creator of sitcoms One on One and Cuts, and showrunner of Raven’s Home, died Wednesday (March 20), Deadline reports.

The details behind Boone's death have not been released. She was 63.

Boone’s long list of writing, production and story-editing credits include Living Single, My Wife and Kids, The Hughleys, The Parent ‘Hood, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Lush Life, the latter of which co-starred Fresh Prince actress Karyn Parsons. Boone also taught screenwriting at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, and wrote the film Who Is Doris Payne? about the infamous elderly jewel thief.

Last November, Boone signed on as showrunner and executive producer of the Disney Channel’s That’s So Raven spinoff, Raven’s Home. Production on the sitcom has been shut down for the rest of the week in wake of Boone's death. Series star Raven Symone posted a tribute to Boone on Instagram Thursday (March 21).

“My heart is heavy following the loss, of RH EP, Eunetta Boone,” she wrote. “Eunetta was a pioneer and an inspiration to everyone she met. She was a masterful story teller, an empathetic leader, and a beacon of light to so many. Sending love and my deepest sympathies to Eunetta’s family and friends and all who knew and loved her. She will be missed. Thanks for everything Eunetta.”

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My heart is heavy following the loss, of RH EP, Eunetta Boone. Eunetta was a pioneer and an inspiration to everyone she met. She was a masterful story teller, an empathetic leader, and a beacon of light to so many. Sending love and my deepest sympathies to Eunetta’s family and friends and all who knew and loved her. She will be missed. Thanks for everything Eunetta.

A post shared by Raven-Symoné (@ravensymone) on Mar 21, 2019 at 2:41pm PDT

The Disney Channel released a statement praising Boone for her storytelling and leadership. “She did so well what she enjoyed most — mentoring creative talent,” the network said in a statement, per The Wrap. “Eunetta will be dearly missed and fondly remembered by everyone who knew her. All of us at Disney Channel grieve her passing and send our deepest condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.”

Boone earned a journalism degree from the University of Maryland, and a Masters from Columba University. She began her career as a sports writer in Baltimore, and became the first black women to cover sports in the city, as well as one of a few black women sports writers in the nation to work for a major outlet.

See more dedications to Boone below and watch the video above for some of her writing tips.

Eunetta Boone. One of our vets. You have seen her work on television comedies from “My Wife and Kids” and “The Hughleys” to “One on One” and “Living Single.” She worked as a screenwriting instructor at UCLA Extension in between gigs. Rest well, sweet lady. Thanks for the laughs. pic.twitter.com/741tpIL4a5

— Ava DuVernay (@ava) March 21, 2019

She was a few of the black female showrunners during the 80’s & 90’s..once The UPN network shut down it was hard to get a show on the air..#RIP & thanks for your creativity.. Eunetta T. Boone Dies: ‘One On One’ Creator, ‘Raven’s Home’ Showrunner https://t.co/6zTGyEmJGR

— Loni Love (@LoniLove) March 21, 2019

Eunetta was a pioneer in the entertainment industry. https://t.co/YakqIdOkV5

— Shaun Robinson (@shaunrobinson) March 21, 2019

RIP Eunetta T. Boone. pic.twitter.com/yjo1BP3Jfh

— The Black List (@theblcklst) March 21, 2019

My cousin Eunetta T. Boone created the shows "One on One" and "Cuts" and was the first person to welcome me to LA and showed me Hollywood! She was such a good person and genuine soul. Smh. #RIPEunetta

— DJ Steph Floss (@djstephfloss) March 21, 2019

I'm very sad to learn about the passing of Eunetta Boone. When @JohnDBeckTV and I were on our very first writing staff (The Hughleys), Eunetta went out of her way to teach us how to behave in room. I don't think she would call herself a mentor, but I will.

— Ron Hart (@Scatter) March 21, 2019

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