Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Feature

SHAGGY: GOD STORY

Shaggy
Shaggy

Not many dancehall artists can boast the ability to enjoy success both amongst core dancehall fans and the mainstream audience. Beenie Man enjoyed chart success with his 90's hit 'Who Am I', but is without a doubt still better recognized as a dancehall star.

On the other hand, while Sean Paulâs dancehall roots are still acknowledged thanks to early hits like 'Deport Them' and 'Infiltrate', his âcross-overâ into the mainstream market has earned him true pop star status. Shaggy, however, feels heâs able to cross between each market and enjoy success in both â and in fairness, he does. Following the disappointing amount of record label promotion behind his 2005 album 'Clothes Drop', the Jamaican deejay is back with one of dancehallâs current smash hits, 'Church Heathen'.

The popular tune shines an unashamedly critical light on some of the practices of those who claim to be Christians, reminding such culprits that even though they go to church every Sunday, they too are sinners. The track borders on comical, as Shaggy paints the scenario of sitting in church and having âSister Pamâ fill him in about the private lives of the entire congregationâ including married woman âSister Pauletteâ who is having an affair with âthe mini-bus manâ! But Shaggy explains that there was no real inspiration for the hitâ¦

âIâm a scenario writer,â he says. âSo a lot of my tunes are all about exploring different situationsâ not necessarily situations that Iâve been through. The aim with this tune was to re-invent myself within the dancehall market, so I wanted to come with something new. Iâve had all the mainstream accolades. But I came from the dancehall with tunes like Big Up and Mampy and thatâs where I wanted to return. But I wanted to do something different. In dancehall, you can either do gun tunes, girl tunes or dancing tunes. Iâm not into the gun tunes, I didnât wanna do a girl tune and I didnât do a dancing tune, coz you really donât wanna see me dance! So I needed to find something new to touch the core fans, and I decided that a song about the church would get people talking.â

It certainly did. Having enlisted the likes of dancehall artists Babycham and Ninja Man to appear in the video, Shaggy further earned the credibility of core fans. But heâs confident that he doesnât have to rely on gimmicks to win over the dancehall audience.

âWhen a reggae artist sells huge numbers and enjoys mainstream success, thereâs a temptation amongst core reggae fans to start disliking that artist because they donât think that he or she is dancehall enough any more. But at the end of the day, you canât deny a good tune. Iâll write massive chart tunes like 'Angel' and enjoy multi-platinum success. But before that, I had massive dancehall tunes like 'Hot Gal'. So nobody can dispute my credibility within the dancehall.â

While Shaggyâs observations in 'Church Heathen' are both relevant and comical, another of the trackâs most poignant features is the haunting, chant-style chorus. The voice behind that is none other than Shaggyâs long-time collaborating partner, Rik Rok, who sung the chorus on Shaggyâs hit It Wasnât Me. Shaggy explains the unusual technique that transformed Rik Rokâs usually nasally vocals into the deep-voiced vocals that are heard in 'Church Heathen'â¦

âSting, my producer, voiced Rik Rok by making him sing into a garbage pale and recording it from various distances. We ended up with about 32 voices that were all put together to create that sound.â

Well, the soundâ and indeed, the tune â has put Shaggy back on the core audienceâs radar. And thatâs something that his previous record deal didnât allow him to do.

âFor the past five yearsâ since the release of my album, 'Hot Shot' â Iâve had serious record company problems. MCA Records closed down so I was moved to a new record company, where there were all new people and it hadnât really got off the ground properly. My album 'Clothes Drop' was released in 2005, but the company just didnât want to get behind it with the right promotion. They were used to me releasing pop tunes like Angel and It Wasnât Me, so when I came with 'Wild 2Nite' â the first single from 'Clothes Drop' â I think it was way too dancehall for them. So when the point came for my contract to be re-negotiated, I decided to move on and I wasnât interested in signing to another major label. Now, Iâm doing things independently, through my own label, 'Big Yard', and Iâm happy to be doing things my way.â

'Church Heathen' is out on June 25 on Big Yard Music Group
Words Davina Morris

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