Jamaican dancehall singer Buju Banton, one of reggae’s most popular artists before his career was curtailed by a 10-year prison sentence, was released from a federal prison Friday after serving seven years behind bars.
The federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed that Banton had been released from Georgia’s McRae Correctional Facility, CNN reports.
In February 2011, Banton was found guilty of illegal possession of a firearm and conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute; a Drug Enforcement Administration informant provided evidence of Banton brokering a cocaine deal in Florida.
The reggae singer was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but two years later a judge threw out the gun charge and reduced the prison sentence to seven years.
Soon after his release from prison, Banton returned to Jamaica, where a throng of fans greeted him upon his arrival. Though relatively lesser known outside his native country, Banton broke the Bob Marley-held record for most Number One singles in Jamaica. However, Banton was universally condemned for his single “Boom Bye Bye,” a track that endorsed killing gay people.
Jamaica’s culture minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange told the Guardian, “There’s no getting over the fact that he was convicted, but Buju was loved long before he was convicted and he will be loved just the same, even if he comes home in handcuffs.”
According to CNN, Banton headed straight to the recording studio soon after arriving in Jamaica.
Diddy was among the artists that celebrated Banton’s release on social media, “Today is a glorious day. Buju is free. Let’s go! King shit. True greatness.”