Over the last decade, Buju Banton has reemerged as one of the most blatantly homophobic celebrities in the world--especially after 2006 when a judge dropped all charges against him for storming the residence of six suspected gay men and severely beating them to the point of permanent injury. He has repeatedly been caught singing his 1992 pro-murder hit "Boom, Bye Bye" after pledging not to sing it anymore. In 2007 he was the last signer of the "Reggae Compassion Act" pledging to refuse to sing homophobic lyrics anymore, only to immediately after deny ever signing it.
In October 2009, after agreeing to meet with members of the San Francisco gay and lesbian center about the homophobic content in his music, Buju Banton refused their requests to stop promoting the murder of gays and lesbians, and to make an anti-violence statement. days later he proceeded to pronounce, "This is a fight, and as I said in one of my songs 'there is no end to the war between me and faggot' and it's clear."
His song "Boom Bye Bye," doesn't just make homophobic statements. The entire song is an anthem about viciously, aggressively and violently murdering gays. One of the first lyrics in the song describes shooting a gay man in the back of the head as he runs away. Later in the same verse, Banton describes charging into the private home of a gay couple with an uzi. Later, he describes murdering, skinning and burning gays and lesbians. Then there is his song "Batty Rider" which spends describes chasing and gunning down gay men for the fun of it, during the course of which he repeats the word "murder" over a dozen times.
So the Recording Academy nominated him for a GRAMMY.
To be fair, they didn't nominate "Boom Bye Bye" for a GRAMMY, however, the battle over Banton's statements and music has been especially hyped up this year with his North American tour, and the cancellation of dozens of his shows. The Recording Academy, which puts the GRAMMYs on annually ignores the extremely sensitive nature of promoting such an artist with a nomination in such a heightened atmosphere.
When responding, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) the LGBT community's major media watchdog, swiftly began circulating a petition to urge the Recording Academy to consider the consequences of "nominating Banton for a prestigious Grammy Award the Recording Academy is turning a blind eye to Banton's support of deadly violence against gay people." GLAAD is hoping their petition will help convince academy members not to support this nomination.
Which the Recording Academy followed up with:
"The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Awards have a long history of supporting freedom of speech and creative expression, and of supporting artists and the music they create. Artists of a variety of political or cultural perspectives have been nominated or featured on the telecast, despite protests and backlash. The Academy acknowledges that there are very strong and diverse opinions on many issues and in many instances, we have helped initiate dialogue on matters that require education and further discussion. It takes tolerance to teach tolerance, and it is through dialogue and debate that social discovery may occur. The GRAMMY Awards is a celebration and recognition of outstanding musical achievement by music makers, regardless of politics, and that will continue to be our mission."
Freedom of speech is wonderful, but the problem with this is--not only has Buju's own fans put his aggressive lyrics into action, Buju himself has in that 1994 incident that left one man blind.
GLAAD returned with a powerful response of their own:
"While we appreciate the Recording Academy issuing a response, we firmly disagree with their justification for nominating Buju Banton for a Grammy Award," said Jarrett Barrios, President of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). "Advocating the murder of gay people is not a 'political or cultural perspective.' We urge Recording Academy members NOT to support Buju Banton's nomination. Ignoring his continued promotion of brutality against gay people sends a message that violence against our community is OK."
Where would the GRAMMYs be without the gays? If Buju Banton had his way, every producer, writer, half of the performers and presenters and almost the entire male television audience would take a bullet to the head. Perhaps this year the night of the GRAMMYs, we should all find something else to watch instead. I mean, we can always YouTube the good performances in the morning, and--even better--we don't have to see the bad sketches and filler, nor the performances that get buzzed about as the real stinkers. We can always find out if Buju won his award for being such a great guy the next day. We'd miss none of the good stuff, and could potentially skip all of the bad stuff.
However, if none of the gays were watching the GRAMMYs this year, the Recording Academy would have a serious problem on their hand. Maybe next time instead of shooting out a flippant and patronizing response, they take some time to consider the consequences of this nomination a little harder. If there is a next time. I don't think networks run award shows with no audience.