Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1074

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Sean Kingston: Fired up!

Sean Kingston
Sean Kingston Sean Kingston Sean Kingston Sean Kingston

Having to date sold more than 6 million digital singles, 4.5 million ringtones and over 1 million albums, 19-year-old Sean Kingston is unquestionably one of the true international front-runners of todayâs digital-age urban pop movement.

Indeed, with his 2007 breakthrough summer anthem - the Ben E. King-sampling global smash âBeautiful Girlâ - having made history as one of the fastest-rising Number Ones in history, Kingston is currently again enjoying international Top 10 status with his catchy new single âFire Burningâ. Which - with its electronic dance groove coming courtesy of chart-topping Lady GaGa producer Red One - precedes the release of Seanâs soon-come second LP âTomorrowâ.

The follow-up to his 2007-released, Platinum-selling self-titled debut set, âTomorrowâ again showcases Kingstonâs winning trademark blend of reggae-flavoured vocals with catchy, melodic pop hooks on tracks like the acoustic guitar-laced âMagicalâ, charmingly lilting âIsland Queenâ and sensually surging âWrap U Around Meâ; with big-name production input coming from the likes of Wyclef Jean, Timbaland, plus Seanâs original mentor, J .R. Rotem.

All of which seems a far cry from Seanâs humble and troubled beginnings. Born Kisean Jamal Anderson in Miami, Florida, at six years old he moved with his family to Jamaica. Where, at the age of just 11, he was charged with breaking and entering - resulting in the youngster spending 21 days in jail. Meanwhile, with his mother later being incarcerated for identity fraud, Kingston ended up homeless and living in a car - by which time heâd begun writing lyrics based on his own life.

At which point, having moved back to Miami, Sean started taking his ability to write rhymes and hooks more seriously and began hitting the cityâs talent-competition and showcase circuit hard. Which in turn ultimately led to his demo (via MySpace) reaching the ears of aforementioned Rihanna/Britney Spears/50 Cent producer J. R. Rotem. Who, taking the then-16-year-old under his wing, quickly got Sean signed to Sonyâs Epic label. Whereupon Kingstonâs first single became âBeautiful Girlâ⦠And the rest, as they say, is history!

An ever-personable and confident Mr. Kingston reacquaints himself with Pete Lewis for a breezy 20-minute update on his career.

PETE: Letâs talk in general about your new, second LP âTomorrowâ

SEAN: âAs you know, I write all my own music. And, to be honest with you, since my first record Iâve grown SO MUCH - in terms of my writing, my melodies, my concepts⦠I mean, I have stuff on âTomorrowâ that Iâve never DONE before - like my favourite song, âWrap U Around Meâ, which is a Sean Kingston BALLAD! Then Iâve also done a record with (pop/punk hit-makers) Good Charlotte (âShoulda Let U Goâ), which is a mix of rock and reggae⦠And even the single - âFire Burningâ - is very different, in that it has techno, rock AND pop influences in there.â

PETE: So does all this tie in with your own personal tastes in music?

SEAN: âYeah, because Iâm a guy whoâs open to ALL kinds of music. So I donât just want to do urban. Like if you see whatâs on Sean Kingstonâs I-pod, thereâs pop, rock, hip hop, country... Because to me music has no boundaries and no limitations. And, with me becoming an international artist and going all over the world in the last two years, itâs definitely given me a lot more topics to WRITE about. Because itâs opened me up to so many different cultures and lifestyles.â

PETE: As well as generally reflecting your growth as a young man and your evolution as an artist, the albumâs lyrics also touch directly on more personal issuesâ¦

SEAN: âYeah, Iâm definitely being totally myself. Like I have a song on there called âWhy You Wanna Goâ, where Iâm saying itâs taken me so long to get here - to be living my dream doing music - that I canât just let it slip away. You know, I refuse to let my career go down the drain. Then âFace Dropâ - which will be the second single and was produced by Timbaland - talks of an issue Iâve personally experienced. Where Iâve had girls say to me âYouâre too chubby. I donât want to talk to you, âcause I only like skinny guys!â... And I feel that for me to actually write a SONG about that was pretty awesome!â

PETE: I understand ex-Fugee Wyclef Jean has also contributed to âTomorrowââ¦

SEAN: âYeah, Wyclef produced - and features on - âIce Cream Girlâ, which is just a fun song that uses the New Edition âCandy Girlâ sample. And working with him was AMAZING! Because weâre both from the West Indies, and heâs like this reggae/ cultural typea guy whoâs also really big on melodies. Which is dope, because a great song without a great melody is not gonna go ANYWHERE! You know, a lotta people sometimes donât even LISTEN to the words! They just wanna chill out, hum and sing along! And Wyclef is really good at just making great, singalong music that people can have fun with.â

PETE: So, having moved to Jamaica at the age of six, did the music scene there influence you?

SEAN: âYeah, the reggae definitely impacted on me as a child. Because Jamaica is HUGE with music and talent! You know, thereâs so much talent down there itâs RIDICULOUS - culture music, dancehall⦠But - in terms of its impact on me today - while I love reggae, I do feel that - while Jamaica puts out great MUSIC - lyrically some of the directions that the artists like to go in these days are not great and could be harmful to their career. Whereas I am very much a clean-cut artist. You know, I donât curse in my music and I make music for EVERYBODY, including children.â

PETE: And did your grandfather - the prominent Jamaican reggae producer Jack Ruby - make an impact on you?

SEAN: âYeah, he did. He taught me a lot about the industry - you know, to be humble, to stay productive... He told me it was all about putting great music out, keeping God first, and staying focused on your craft. I mean, he was a huge producer - him and Bob Marley were so close - and so I do feel thatâs where I get my good music genes from. Though I never got the chance to actually be in the studio with him. He passed away before I started doing this.â

PETE: So how do you now look back on your early days as a young-teen performer on the Miami talent show circuit?

SEAN: âOn a personal level, for me those times were HARD. You know, 13 years old, being away from your mom, your dad⦠But, at the end of the day, I think all that negative stuff basically HELPED me, in that it made me more determined to succeed. You know, me going to those talent shows every day in different High Schools - and often coming first-place - really did mould me as a PERFORMER! To where today I know how to work the stage, and Iâm totally comfortable up there performing. Plus it also taught me about COMPETITION! Which also prepared me for what Iâm doing now! Because, at the end of the day, thatâs what this industry IS - one massive competition!â

The single âFire Burningâ is out now. The album âTomorrowâ follows September 7, both through Epic

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