Busta Rhymes Hot Holidays Review
Busta Rhymes Hot Holidays Review
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Review: Busta Rhymes' All-Star "Hot For The Holidays" Concert Was A Fitting Hip-Hop Victory Lap

Busta Rhymes is well-connected and well-respected. Last night (Dec.5), the former Leader of the New School gathered a slew of hip-hop family and friends of yesteryear and this year for his "Hot For The Holidays" concert, presented by Hot 97 and Footaction.

Legends like Mary J Blige, Jadakiss, Lil Kim, Puff Daddy, Capone N Noreaga, Naughty by Nature, Redman, Method Man, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Rah Digga, Rampage, Sean Paul, Jr. Reid, and Mariah Carey took concertgoers down memory lane with their respective hits and verses.

But it wasn’t just an affair for ‘90s R&B and hip-hop heads. Riding shotgun with the vets were a couple leaders of the new school such as French Montana, Jeremih, J. Doe, Sevyn Streeter, O.T. Genasis, and hip-hop's current favorite newborn, Fetty Wap. The new stars brought us back to the future with thier hits and sixteens of their own.

VIBE was able to peep the picturesque hip-hop mash-up from a suite at Newark, N.J.'s Prudential Arena before a packed out house of fervent fans.

A little before 9:30 p.m., Busta–along with Spliff Star–decked in a white sailor's suit, made his way to the stage to ear-splitting applause. Playing the background were a bevy of dancers draped in what appeared to be African garb, a la the rapper's “Gimme Some More” video. Along with the 1998 hit, the Native Tongue member also ran through verses from “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See,” and “Every Body Rise," a song from his E.L.E. album.

After his grand and lively entrance, Busta had some choice words for New Jersey. Apparently, the crowd of Hennessy, Ciroc and Effen chuggers lacked enthusiasm.

“I see y’all over there, sitting down. Get the f**k up. I’m not tolerating that sh** tonight,” Busta barked. “This is a proud moment. I’m a happy n***a, I’m a happy n****a, I’m a happy n****a.”

And just like that, the tone was set for a recollecting and vivacious evening filled with 25 years of hip-hop and #BustaRhymesFamilyAndFriends.

With the quickness, Busta dived in. First, he brought out M.O.P. The Brownsville duo ran through their street favorite “Ante Up.” Capone N Noreaga followed through by tearing open N.O.R.E.’s “Super Thug (What, What)." Busta even unearthed the DJ Scratch-produced Rotten Apple anthem, “New York Sh**.”

It didn't stop there, though. Classics flowed like a fusillade of shots busting from twenty-five Uzi’s. There was no chill inside the Prudential Arena. Once round two commenced, Raekwon and Method Man ran through “C.R.E.A.M.” “Incarcerated Scarface’s” and “M.E.T.H.O.D. Man.” French Montana kicked in the back door with “Ain’t Worried About Nothing,” and “Off the Rip.” Hometown legends Naughty By Nature even surprised the crowd with “Hip Hop Hooray.” And, Redman and Tical unearthed “Blackout.”

Whew.

Busta Rhymes & Friends | @methodmanofficial + @redmangilla #Hot4TheHolidays

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But before New York’s finest transformed the Prudential Arena into the infamous Tunnel Club, the stunning Mary J. Blige sashayed on stage cranking the energy up a notch, yet giving it a touch of refinement and an unclenched vibe. Dipped in blue jeans with holes at each leg and an all-black leather shirt, MJB rolled through classics “Real Love,” “Be Without You,” “Take Me As I Am,” and “Love No Limit.”

Other than seeing MJB’s signature dance moves, Mary’s triumphant and authentic story permeated her presence. In fact, she represented the streets better than some of your favorite rappers. That’s why her performance held so much prestige; she even had thugs two-stepping. Before exiting the stage, a visibly thicker Lil' Kim reunited with Blige for their collab, “I Can Love You.” And of course, the “Share My World” crooner linked with Method Man for “All I Need.” Mary was so live and into the moment that she let concertgoers bellow a good portion of her hits while she got her boogie on, which was straight eye candy. It was as if Mary wanted the moment to last forever.

The highlights continued with Lil Wayne, who was as stoked as a little kid and draped in a white sweatsuit. He let off “A Milli,” and his sixteens from Chris Brown’s “Loyal” and “Look At Me. Weezy did irk the crowd however, when she stopped rapping after asking "What'a goon to a goblin?..." on "A Milli." But it was soon forgotten, and all was forgiven.

Wayne’s set was special because of the story that Busta attached to it. With his arm wrapped around Weezy’s neck in a brotherly embrace, Bussa Buss recounted the night Wayne won four Grammy awards (2009). Immediately after the Grammys, the Young Money boss went back to his tour bus where he continued recording music.

“It was me, Keri Hilson and Soulja Boy outside his bus. You know what this n***a did? He said, 'Come here Bus’, give me your sh**. Here you go. Keri, give me your sh**, here you go. Soldier, give me your sh**. Here you go. He knocked them verses out right there, and went right back to working on his sh**."

The arena erupted with cheers. This served two purposes. One, it was motivation for Weezy to keep fighting and working through his legal woes with Cash Money Records. Secondly, it’s proof that the general consumers of hip-hop want to see the Young Money shot caller walk away with a "W."

Busta Rhymes & Friends | Weezy F. Baby. @liltunechi. #Hot4TheHolidays A photo posted by VibeMagazine (@vibemagazine) on Dec 6, 2015 at 2:48pm PST

Now, Busta’s praise didn’t stop with Weezy. After Jersey native Fetty Wap–whose leg didn’t seem to bother him–ripped the stage with his ubiquitous “Trap Queen,” and “My Way,” Busta told a story of how the Zoo Crew honcho stopped what he was doing to come perform at his son’s college graduation party at Manhattan’s Space Ibiza. This just further solidified Wap’s genuine character that he’s portrayed to be his contemporaries and media.

After Busta ended his emotional salutes to the youngin’s the hits continued. Rick Ross ran through "I ‘ma Boss,” and "Pop That” with French Montana. Puff Daddy diddy-bopped through “Workin,'" where he damn near re-created the Money Making’ Mitch track’s video on stage. The Bad Boy general flowed in and out of his verse on “Victory” and “It's All About The Benjamins,” alongside Jadakiss and Lil' Kim. He also performed his verse from “Mo' Money, Mo' Problems.” The only drawback to Puff’s set was that the DJ didn’t let B.I.G.’s verse from the latter roll out.

The evening concluded with Busta Rhymes performing with his day-ones: Leaders of the New School and A Tribe Called Quest. On one stage, this set of Native Tongue members’ spazzed out to “Case of the PTA” and “Scenario (Remix),” respectively. This mash-up with LOTNS and ATCQ was a lesson in hip-hop history for some, which prevented them (us) from rapping along. As fans of the culture, it was common knowledge as to how special that moment was. And to witness LOTNA and ATCQ together on stage is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Furthermore, what made this performance a hip-hop love story was seeing Busta drop to his knees at the end of his verse on “Scenario (remix).” He looked to be in a trance, and desperately trying to hold back tears. That wasn’t animated (sorry Hov). It was nothing more than twenty-five years of raw passion and love for the culture.

Busta Rhymes and Friends | Leaders of the New School x A Tribe Called Quest #Hot4TheHolidays

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Yes, we’ve seen Busta on television showing off his humorous animation, but seeing it in person, with his demanding presence and tone of voice, one gets the sense that his supercharged vigor isn’t a put on. It’s real, which made the "Hot For The Holidays" concert all the more special. Seeing his family and friends perform some of his favorite songs, his own catalog of hits, and embracing a few of the current standout class of MCs was just as much as a treat to Busta as it was for was concertgoers, and for the culture.

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Choir members perform at Sunday Service during the 2019 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival on April 21, 2019 in Indio, California.
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One Day In L.A.: Inside Kanye West's Sunday Service Sanctuary

On one weekend in Los Angeles (March 31), I got the unique opportunity to partake in an otherworldly experience: Kanye West’s Sunday Service. It was transformative, to say the least, but that weekend, something else happened in L.A., too. Nipsey Hussle was murdered in front of his Marathon clothing store. A black man’s life was taken in cold blood, and as we collectively mourn, Kanye’s Sunday Service makes so much more sense in the context of this senseless murder.

But first, how did I even wind up at Ye’s exclusive weekly praise and worship-esque Sunday Service? I really have some dope people that continue to grace my life. Through all the things that I’m passionate about—my job, music, art, motherhood—I became friends with a music producer/actor/musician who was kind enough to get me on the list for service.

I’m a true audiophile, and my love of music, especially live instrumentation, had me all into those Sunday Service videos popping up on social feeds for some time. I was that kid in church texting my best friend, the church organist, to kick off the Holy Ghost session. I’m the same person who will slide to a jam session in any city I travel to just to catch a vibe. The music really spoke to me in the videos and I felt like this is the place where Kanye was getting back to his original self. I wanted to experience that. The nature of Sunday Service was so far from any of his “slavery is a choice” statements and wild Trump rhetoric that it forced me to wash away the negative sentiments and take this experience for what it was.

 

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I approached the mountainous California ranch locale with wonder, anticipation, and some lightweight hesitation: What if they making us draw blood and we have to sacrifice a lamb? What if they’re turning water to wine in here? What happens if they have us pass a collection plate for the building fund? I didn’t bring cash. What if he’s got people in the spot saying Yeezus instead of Jesus? My co-worker friend Lena and I pulled up to the gates just before 9 a.m. We got to the entrance and were checked off on the list, then were ushered in by greeters wearing all white. Most of the people inside were white, so I made a quiet joke that maybe this was Kanye’s attempt at enslaving white people and forcing them to make a “choice.” But then I saw some black staff members which put that conspiracy theory to rest.

As we waited in the estate’s holding area, a barista offered delicately crafted matchas and lattes with frothy designs. The cool L.A. air and wispy tree leaves carried the sounds of the choir and band rehearsing. We could also hear the stories of other people who waited: a white woman in her 30s who was there to see her boyfriend in the choir and really didn’t know what to expect; older neighbors who had a standing invite to Sunday Service; a black music producer from Houston whose friend was in the band; an L.A. artist who was the plus-one of one of his homies; a Latino family with their five-year-old little girl, her brother, mom and dad outfitted in Balenciaga.

Finally, we were ushered in about seven to 10 people at a time. We ascended a hill on a dirt road that took us to a rotunda. Soft music could be heard as the choir, the band, and Ye stood around dressed in all white. It was intimate, intimate, with around 75 people in the rotunda, and about 75 as a part of the band-slash-choir. Everyone was real chill, doing the little church hellos. And just like in the videos, the whole Kardashian family was there—except I didn’t see Rob, Mama Kris, or Caitlyn. I don’t really follow the Kardashians just because I actually can’t keep up, but they do have some beautiful children. The girls (North included) were so full of life and joy, like any other kids, which was refreshing. For whatever reason, I’m always so happy to see celebrity kids having what appears to be a carefree childhood.

 

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A post shared by lemarguillary (@lemarguillary) on Apr 7, 2019 at 7:21pm PDT

OK, onto the actual service. All I can say is think of the best church choir you’ve ever heard, then swag them out, drop some 808s on that, then put this all in the mountains closer to God. It was magic. Unpretentious, unassuming, beautiful, soulful, groove-evoking and as much as it was gospel, it was the rhythm and syncopation of hip-hop. It was Milly Rock. It was shaking dreads. It was soul claps. It was a few white folks clapping off-beat. It was dope. As a music lover with a keen ear for sound, I could tell each instrument and voice was hand-selected for a reason. And even with Kanye as the mastermind, my friend mentioned that he felt tertiary. I would even go as far to say he felt like the fifth element. It was God, the nature, the people, the band and choir, then Ye. Each song had medicinal purpose. There were recordings of Kanye’s voice orating about life and purpose and all of the questions we ask as we attempt to ascend and evolve. It was all so timely. I strive to live a purpose-centered life, but some portions feel like they need further definition. This felt like a catapult, like a launching pad, like a playground for inspiration.

Now slight pause, because I know you’re thinking, WE CANCELLED KANYE, VEJURNAÉ. He’s been too detrimental to the culture. He’s trying to trick you with these soulful beats and 808 machines, and some Jesus and matcha. Ni**a, you’re kiki-ing with Yeezy over some beats and tea. I thought about this, too. And still am. I think where I sit is a place that is all about purpose and intent. Kanye says some outrageous and outlandish things at times, some that we support and some that we go in on him for, but who doesn’t? What he is doing in this arena has greater weight than probably anything else he has ever done, in my eyes. What he’s doing will potentially change the way that millennials interact with church. It’s a needed shift. One guy we sat with said, “If church was like this, I’d never miss a Sunday.” We’ll get back to this, though.

It’s hard for me to recall the set list. Aly Us’ “Follow Me” was dope. (They need to bring this to the house picnic.) They did Richard Smallwood’s “Total Praise.” For the church folk, the choir made this song effortless, but added a syncopation with the 808s that I will never forget. Most people know how completely perfect this specific song is, but this arrangement was PERFECTER. Yes, perfecter. The harmonies with the Amens, and breaking them down almost into footwork beats. Flipping back when they get to, “You are the source of my strength,” to hit the 808s and bring it back again. It was just... Shout out to my Second Baptist Church family that knows that Dr. Hycel B. Taylor special ending.

Then there was Stevie Wonder’s “I’ll Be Loving You Always.” That song is LOVE. I actually suggested it to my producer friend in the band a few weeks before I came to L.A. I know, that’s an extra request, and who am I? But my Mom always said, “If you never ask you’ll never know.” And yo, it actually happened. The band jammed with Kanye on the drum machine. HOW IS THIS MY LIFE? Pinch. THIS IS MY LIFE. The day before I left to go out west, my sons and I did car karaoke to this song. And how special is it that Kanye is sharing these moments with his kids, his family, his friends and the world? It’s special.

In the circular space, I was seated at eye level with Ye and the 808 machine. This was wild. You know when you’re a musician and you look at the crowd and you know who’s vibing? I was in that motherf**ker VIBING. For anyone who attends parties with me, church services, karaoke, in the car, it’s a given that music and dancing is a thing. Do you think I’m going to pull up to Kanye church and not f**k it up for Jesus (no disrespect)? With the sun beating down on all of us, the music accelerated. Then, I thought about deodorant… Have you ever started sweating hard and been hot and start thinking, How many swipes did I do this morning? Mind you, they are performing all the songs that require you to put your fully extended hands in the air… The dilemma! I just had to do a side sniff for freshness and deal with the pit stains, because I took my locs down and it was just like nirvana. We’re out here on a mountain praising God with a full choir, band and Kanye is smiling, smiling, playing the beat machine. Ni**a, whet!?

They also played some Ye classics like “Power,” “Jesus Walks,” “Good Morning,” and “Otis.” “Jesus, won’t leave us/Neva leaveeee us/NA NA,NA NA, NAH NAH NAH!” All the while, the babies are in the middle of the performance area living their best lives, dancing with their daddy. It was love. The purest love. Unadulterated God-sent love. The intensity of the band never waned, the choir never diminished, and the soloists were straight from Sister Mary Clarence for real, for real. I did the, “girl, Goodbye, you sing too good” wave about four times and I needed another cup of water, but I didn’t want to miss anything.

 

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A post shared by What's Hatnin'? (@whatshatninpc) on Apr 9, 2019 at 1:04am PDT

When service ended and Ye announced that Sunday Service would be at Coachella during Weekend 2, we all then proceeded further up the hill for a full catered brunch. (Note: They had the thick bacon and at brunch, that is all anyone cares about, so thank you for that.) During the brunch, folks shared stories, networked, and simply took it all in. The West/Kardashian family mingled and embraced everyone on some regular Sunday after church service ish. I sat still in awe, thankful for the experience. I thought to go over to his table to say thank you, but I chilled because, you know, sometimes you just don’t want to be extra, so I just kept it moving recapping everything with my friend and airing out my underarms.

Post-brunch, we walked back down the hill and chatted with gospel artist Ricky Dillard about how positive the music was and how transformative the experience was. Once we got back to the original holding area, we saw Ye was just standing there talking to people as they left. Now was my time.

Me: (Gives Ye a hug) Yo, thank you. Ye: Yo, I saw you vibing girl. Me in My Head: NI**A, WHAT! I SAW YOU VIBING, TOO. THAT SH*T WAS BANANAS! Me in Real Life (Remembers this is like church): I’m from Chi-town. Man, that was just amazing! It’s really going to change how young people approach church. Me in My Head: You should let me bring Cairo and Phoenix out to Coachella. Me in Real Life: I remember booking you when you came to [The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign] back in the beginning of your career. The show was like $11. Ye: (Smiles) And look, this one cost even less. Me in Real Life: (Laughs) You’re right. You need to bring this back to the crib. Ye: Definitely, we’re on mission work!

 

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A post shared by Jammcard (@jammcard) on Apr 17, 2019 at 10:07am PDT

All of it was awesome. From the restorative power of the music to the purpose-driven message to the people out here giving their full glory to God. No additional anything. It was like, Let’s go praise God and that will be sufficient, that will be enough. Let’s put our full effort into praising the Lord and see where that gets us.

In retrospect, I think this energy is the same energy and same fervor that Nipsey used to inject into his community. Like, let’s see what it looks like when I empty the tank for my hood, for my people, for these kids. Nipsey being murdered on the same day of this experience felt like someone took a pin, popped the balloon and let all the helium out. After the Ye experience, we went to Malibu, then to Venice Beach to meet up with friends. That’s when the news that he had been shot six times and killed in front of his own store broke. Like many, I was at a loss for words. Just hours ago, I felt so inspired and hopeful, and now I sat in disbelief and anger. People in L.A. were so hurt. I was so hurt. It was essentially as if someone ever did something to Chance The Rapper—the hometown guy, the home team, the one that never left but instead building up his area, investing in his people. Slain.

The one thing that felt even more real after this day was the immediacy of now. Each and every moment is your moment. Waiting won’t get the job done. If you want to make an impact, you have to take the steps now. If you want a life of value, you have to move. I reflect back on the images of Nipsey and his partner Lauren London from their ethereal GQ shoot and I think about how striking those images are. They’re so beautiful. To have love captured on camera in that way and so close to him being murdered is unfathomable. In summation, whatever “it” is to you, do it now. Have that conversation, tell them you love them, make that move, invest in that business, repair that relationship, quit that job. Make it happen today, and know that regardless, whether His presence manifests through the pews of church or some rattling 808s or the warmth of the community that raised you, God is with you.

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Songs Of Freedom: The Lasting Effects Of Buju Banton's "Long Walk" Concert

“My destination is homeward bound,” sang Buju Banton on stage at Jamaica’s National Stadium in the heart of Kingston. “Though forces try hold I down. Breaking chains has become the norm. I know I must get through no matter what a gwaan.” As the Grammy-winning reggae icon performed his song “Destiny,” a hit single from the 1997 album Inna Heights, the words took on added resonance due to the enormity of the occasion—a homecoming celebration for a living legend who’d been gone too long.

A crowd of more than 30,000 turned out to watch Buju launch his Long Walk To Freedom tour, named after Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. After much anticipation and speculation, Buju’s first performance since being released from federal prison in the U.S. could not have been held in a more fitting location. Jamaica’s National Stadium was the same place where Mandela addressed the people of Jamaica during his first visit to the island in July of 1991. Prior to Buju Banton, no other Jamaican artist headlined this prestigious venue since Bob Marley performed here at the One Love Peace Concert on April 22, 1978—when the Tuff Gong brought rival political leaders together onstage, demonstrating the power of reggae music.

“It was epic to see the amount of people that came to the stadium,” said dancehall superstar Sean Paul after the Buju show. “With Usain Bolt or with our football team, when the stadium is full we don’t see the field full as well. So to see that for one person—that was really amazing.”

 

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... AND THANK YOU ONE MORE TIME!

A post shared by Buju Banton (@bujuofficial) on Mar 17, 2019 at 2:32pm PDT

This historic performance was not the first time Buju ever appeared at the National Stadium. In December 1991 the rising dancehall star Wayne Wonder called out the tall, skinny, short-haired 18-year-old as a surprise guest during his own set on Sting, the annual Boxing Day stage show. “Nobody knew Buju,” recalls Donovan Germaine of Penthouse Records, who produced Buju’s early hits “Love Me Browning” and “Love Black Woman,” both of which were featured on his classic 1992 album Mr. Mention. “They heard the song but they had never seen him, so Wayne Wonder brought him onstage at Sting and then the world saw Buju Banton.”

That quick set back in 1991 was a mere glimpse of the greatness to come, and nearly three decades later the artist had come full circle. Witnessing Buju run through highlights of his extensive catalog backed by the 10-piece Shiloh Band left no question that one of reggae’s greatest artists was back in top form. Dressed in full white, Buju commanded the audience’s attention like no other act before him. Having given no official public appearances, interviews, and only a handful of statements on social media since his return home last December, Buju had the audience hanging on his every word. For many Buju fans, missing this once-in-a-lifetime event would be inexcusable.

Celebrities and music lovers alike snapped up all available plane tickets and flew in from all corners of the globe, creating a “Buju Boost” to the local economy. Jamaica’s ministry of tourism reported a 143 percent increase in arrivals to Kingston compared with the same day last year. All those fortunate enough to make it to the big show did so with great expectations—and they were not disappointed.

The opening acts at the Long Walk to Freedom concert were a mixture of veteran artists from Buju’s era like Ghost, Delly Ranx, and Cocoa Tea, more recent reggae stars like Etana, Romain Virgo, Christopher Martin, and Agent Sasco, and promising new talents like Buju’s son Jahaziel Myrie making his first major live appearance, rising star Koffee, who joined Cocoa Tea as a surprise guest, and Chronixx, who turned in a rousing performance with his Zinc Fence Redemption band just before Buju took the stage. Every one of the supporting acts rose to the occasion, performing as if they knew the whole world was watching. Many other top artists, from Tarrus Riley and Tony Rebel to Konshens, Govana, and Aidonia chilled backstage, soaking up the vibes.

Around 11 p.m. it was time for the main event. Emerging from his backstage tent wearing dark shades, Buju was mobbed by crowds of people straining for a glimpse as he made his way to the elevated stage. Escorted by a human chain of bodyguards, Buju strode with ease followed by longtime friend DJ Khaled and his wife Nicole Tuck. Khaled was one of Buju’s first overseas visitors and the two spent time in the recording studio in December, fueling speculation that Buju’s first new release may be included on Khaled’s forthcoming Father of Asahd album. The 100-yard walk to the stage seemed to take forever. Soon after Buju climbed the staircase a scuffle broke out at the foot of the stage. Khaled and his wife did finally make it through after some persistent efforts.

After a dramatic intro adapted from “Hate Me Now” by Nas, Buju entered the stage with words of prayer, going down on bended knee. From that moment forward, he sprinkled his performance with candid remarks that revealed his thoughts about all that he has been through, his hopes and plans for the future. “Now where we?” he remarked before launching into the first verse of his opening song, “Not an Easy Road.” Running through track after track—from “Close One Yesterday” to “Give I Strength,” and “Over Hills And Valleys”—Buju’s music spoke to the artist’s triumph over trials and tribulations.

Having had a long time to plan this concert, Buju’s care and preparation shone through in every detail. As he delved into harder-edged dancehall cuts like “Big It Up,” “Champion” and “Batty Rider,” he made a point of reaching out to a new generation of listeners. “Some of you might be pretty young—much too young to have been introduced to Buju Banton,” he said with a smile. “Hi, this is Mark Myrie aka Buju Banton. I’m sorry I didn’t met you earlier, due to unforeseen circumstances. However I’m here now. And I’m gonna take you back a little, to just educate you about the early ’90s, and how we dedicated ourselves to change the culture of our music, the direction of our music, and the quality of our music.”

After touching a few more dancehall classics, and giving props to some of those who helped him along the way, Buju applied a little pressure to Jamaica’s current wave of artists. “You guys are playing around today,” said the veteran hitmaker, sounding intent on restoring some order to the music. “We old folks ain’t gonna stand for it.”

One vintage cut that he did not perform was the infamous “Boom Bye Bye,” which Buju cut from his setlist well over a decade ago. Soon after his return from prison Buju voluntarily removed the song from all streaming platforms as well, a decisive move to make a fresh start and leave behind years of protests over the song. “After all the adversity we’ve been through,” Buju declared in a statement, “I am determined to put this song in the past and continue moving forward as an artist and as a man.”

As the evening built to a crescendo, Buju invited out a few special guests, the first of whom used to sing with Bob Marley as he performed his songs of freedom all over the world. “This is mother apart from my mother,” Buju said as he welcomed Marcia Griffiths, noting that she had been sending him words of encouragement since he was 17 years old. They shared a warm embrace and two powerful duets, “Closer To You” and “Stepping Out of Babylon.” Then Marcia made way for another icon of Jamaican music, the beloved soul man Beres Hammond.

Beres had been looking forward to this moment for years. Having recorded many great collaborations at Penthouse, the smooth singer and the rough-and-rugged DJ have a tradition of trading parts when they perform together live. Even during the years when Buju wasn’t able to join him in person, Beres would do his best to recreate his young friend’s gravelly roar.

“It’s been too long,” Beres said as he greeted Buju with a joyful hug. Buju replied that he had tried to visit, driving himself to the singer’s home, but got turned away. “I was asleep,” Beres replied with a smile, and soon they got down to business, trading parts on “Who Say” just like they used to do, and making the crowd fall in love all over again. As Beres declared, “This is a welcome party!”

The next guest artist on stage was Wayne Wonder, the very same singer who helped launch Buju’s career here in the National Stadium almost three decades earlier. “Dancehall massive we don't forget you,” Buju roared as the band launched into the “Real Rock” riddim and Wayne began singing “Forever Young,” a collaboration made famous on a dubplate for the Stone Love sound system. When Buju started his verse, “Tell them fi test wi now, if them feel them bad like we,” he drove his hardcore fans into a frenzy.

Wayne’s presence seemed to take Buju back to the essence, tapping into the magic that made the early ’90s such a special era in Jamaican music. Standing next to his old friend, Buju shared one of his most candid remarks of the night. “Even though Buju Banton lock up mi still rough,” he stated with a serious expression. “Eight years, six months, 27 days, 13 hours, five minutes, and 26 seconds.” Buju then proceeded to address rumors that he’d been sexually abused during his incarceration—refuting the notion with a fiery freestyle.

The “Long Walk to Freedom” concert will go down as a milestone for a mighty musical genre that was recently honored by UNESCO as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, highlighting its "contribution to international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love and humanity.” While Buju’s place in history is assured, many are hopeful that his triumphant homecoming may signal a new way forward for the future of the music. He returns to a reggae scene that’s experienced profound changes during his absence. Although the dancehall sound is obviously a powerful influence on international artists like Drake, Major Lazer, and Rihanna, the rise of “tropical house,” “island pop,” and Afrobeats has left reggae music’s mission at a crossroads.

While Buju did not hesitate to offer a critique of modern dancehall music, he did extend an invitation to UK dancehall artist Stefflon Don, hailing her as “very instrumental in taking our culture international.” Later in his set, he offered words of encouragement to the new generation. “I wanna say nuff respect to all the younger generation of youths who kept the music,” Buju stated. “We don’t kill champions, we raise them. We want you to know that Buju Banton love what you’re doing. We just want you to find your way, and change it up a bit, and make it… wholesome.”

Returning home to the biggest stage on the island, Buju not only silenced his critics and reasserted his place as one of Jamaica’s foremost artists, he also underscored what UNESCO described as “the basic social functions of the music — as a vehicle for social commentary, a cathartic practice, and a means of praising God." As he closed his set with a medley that included anthems like “Murderer,” “Driver A,” and “Psalms 23” with Gramps Morgan, Buju demonstrated the full potential of reggae music, leading by example.

Staring out at a stadium filled with bright lights, his shirt dripping with sweat, Buju used his platform to issue a powerful warning. “We are a nation that’s built on some spiritual foundation,” Buju told the massive audience. “The day we lose that is the day we are over, and we are edging closer and closer to the edge.” As he continues his Long Walk to Freedom tour—with stops planned in the Bahamas, Trinidad, Barbados, Tortola, and St. Kitts—Buju seems perfectly positioned to lead the music forward to higher heights.

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Anderson .Paak's Grammy Glow Lights Up New York's Hammerstein Ballroom

"I told y'all I would come back but I had to come back with a motherf***in Grammy yo!" Anderson .Paak belted to the crowd inside of New York's Hammerstein Ballroom. On Friday (Feb. 22), the musician was elated to return to New York for his Andy's Beach Club World Tour with opening act Tayla Parx and his band, the Free Nationals. His energy has unsurprisingly remained on a thrilling high since taking home his first Grammy just three weeks ago.

The Cali native was a breath of fresh air for the crowd in attendance, who after a long work week was ready to hear some tunes from his stellar albums Venice, Malibu and his recent musical offering, Oxnard.

.Paak was that jukebox for the crowd, with select bubbly tunes from Parx, who just like her main act, has a funky vibe to herself. Parx, an artist who most recently wrote on Ariana Grande's "Thank U, Next" as she told the crowd got the energy bubbling with known covers and performances of her songs like, "Mama Aint Raise No B****." Parx set up the funky vibes that .Paak would go on to later execute and perfect.

The musician jumped out on stage an hour and a half later and started his heading set with the song, "Bubblin" that earned him a Best Rap Performance Grammy.

From the jump, his megawatt smile peaked under his red bucket hat as he performed more deserving tunes like "Tints," "Trippy" and "Come Down."

 

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His bliss of just being in the moment was abundantly clear as well as his chemistry with the Free Nationals. He danced along to their song "Beauty & Essex" featuring Daniel Caesar, grooving to the smooth beat while transitioning to "Saviers Road."

There was not a moment in the night that skilled drummer wasn't in tune with the crowd. At one point, he even crowd surfed, calling out New Jersey natives to catch him. Because of his old soul, the musician easily crafted his flavor of soul and funk to keep body rolls going throughout the evening with cuts like "Smile/Petty" and "The Heart Don't Stand a Chance."

Although his drum solos showed off his musical talent and capabilities, .Paak's tribute to late rapper, Mac Miller with a performance of their song "Dang!" towards the end of the concert is what really sealed the deal.

"If you miss Mac Miller like we miss Mac Miller make some f***ing noise! Say we love you Mac, say we miss you Mac," the Oxnard musician urged the crowd to yell, and the crowd obediently obliged.

Seeing the crowd and .Paak arrived in sync one last time for Miller was the finishing touch for the concert. Although .Paak's crowd demo was young working adults, they won't forget the moment they shed their corporate garb to be a little weird and carefree again.

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