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Hip-Hop Fridays: Reggae Music Is Not All One Love - My Love For Music Does Not Mean That I Will Turn A Deaf Ear To Its Homophobic And Misogynistic Lyrics by Jasmyne Cannick

Earlier this year, a group of black lesbian and gay bloggers got together to create awareness around the homophobic and anti-gay lyrics found in dancehall reggae. Realizing that reggae wasn’t as entrenched in American pop culture the way that hip-hop and misogynistic lyrics are, we embarked on a very deliberate campaign aimed at reggae artists like Buju Banton and Beenie Man, who had recorded songs calling for the murder of lesbians and gays.

Admittedly, it was never our goal to have their concerts cancelled. In fact, we asked that the artists be replaced with friendlier performers, preferably artists that had never called for the murder of lesbians and gays through their lyrics or that these artists publicly separate themselves from their previous song lyrics. If all else failed, we asked various club venues to rescind their invitation to perform.

Following the launched protest, in an interview with Buju Banton said that he has two words for the gays, “F*** them.” He then goes on to say that, “I have never bashed any gays before, and if I bashed gays, I bashed them 16 years ago. There’s no tolerance from [the gay community]. I’m not a gay-basher. I’m not a homophobe.”

So which is it? You never bashed gays, or you did it 16 years ago?

I’m confused.

Speaking from his tour bus, Banton was defiant, insisting that despite his acquittal, gay rights groups refuse to let him move on with his life. In most cities, he says, there are no protests. The media, he insists, are making too much out of a handful of protesters’ actions.

Buju Banton’s spokeswoman said, “Buju Banton is being unfairly savaged for lyrical statements made years ago and long before he stepped up to his current role as a humanistic artist.”

Unfairly savaged, no, being held accountable, yes.

And incidentally, I dropped into a music store in Hollywood during all of this and while I was perusing the reggae section, I came across several used copies of Buju Banton’s “The Early Years” album, which has the song “Boom Bye Bye” on it. So it may have been recorded a long time ago, but it still lives on in many record stores around the nation.

To add injury to insult, Buju Banton’s management released a statement that Banton was no longer performing the controversial “Boom Bye Bye” in the United States. However, that defense was quickly shattered when video footage of a concert this year in Miami quickly surfaced of the reggae artist leading a sing along to the very song in question.

The response from Banton’s management, “It was a song fragment that was followed by a free-style commentary on Banton’s public life as protest target.”

So let me get this straight. In order to talk about his life as the subject of numerous international protests, he has to actually lead a sing along of the offensive lyrics that started the protests to begin with.

Buju Banton and other homophobic reggae artists are not the victims. No, that title goes to Brian Williamson, the Jamaican gay rights activist who was chopped into pieces with a machete for being gay. And it goes to Steve Harvey who was murdered in 2005 in Jamaica also for being gay. Victim is also the title used to describe 20-year-old Candice Williams and Phoebe Myrie, 22, who were found dumped in a pit with a burnt mattress and lesbian DVDs this year, allegedly for being lesbian.

What this is, is a community holding accountable artists who influence society through their music.

In all of the years that Buju Banton, Beenie Man, and other popular reggae artists have been protested for their anti-gay lyrics, they have never themselves apologized publicly. It has been through a spokesperson or a released statement. My guess is that they are not sorry for their lyrics, which is a direct reflection of the culture of Jamaica where being gay is still unacceptable.

I’ll be the first to admit that I love reggae and hip-hop. However, my love for reggae and hip-hop does not mean that I turn a deaf ear to its homophobic and misogynistic lyrics like so many of us often do with the disclaimer, “I like the beat not the words.”

That’s a cop out, plain and simple.

We cannot continue to complain about our sexist, racist, and homophobic community while engaging in the very activities that promote it.

Jasmyne Cannick is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and a board member of the National Black Justice Coalition. She can be reached via her website at or via email at This article appeared in The Washington Blade.

Jasmyne Cannick

Friday, November 3, 2006

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