Drug Enforcement Administration agents say Banton, real name Mark Anthony Myrie, has been in custody since Thursday and will soon be transferred to Tampa, where the U.S. Attorney is charging him with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilos of cocaine.
While legions of dancehall reggae enthusiasts view Banton as one of the most prolific voices of Jamaica’s poor masses, critics say he’s a gay basher whose lyrics incite violence by calling for attacking and torturing homosexuals.
His song Boom Bye Bye, a dancehall hit released in the 1990s, advocates shooting gays in the head and setting them on fire.
Such lyrics have made Banton the target of angry gay activists, who this this fall forced the cancellation of a string of concerts by the artist during a U.S. tour that included a Halloween night concert in Miami.
The L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center recently issued this statement, referring to Banton’s Grammy award nomination for the album Rasta Got Soul, “It’s an affront to LGBT people, and to all fair-minded people around the world.”