Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1074

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Sean Paul: Gettin' Down n' Dutty

Sean Paul
Sean Paul Sean Paul Sean Paul Sean Paul

With more than 12 million albums sold worldwide and spurred by a trio of American Number One mainstream singles, Sean Paul has already become easily the most successful Jamaican artist of all time on the US charts, while simultaneously - on a wider scale - giving his homeland its highest global music profile since the heyday of the late, great Bob Marley.

Thus the release this autumn of his new, sixth album âFull Frequencyâ will inevitably mark an important event on the global music calendar. As, currently pioneered by the international Top 10 success of its hook-laden, Benny Blanco-produced lead-off single âOther Side Of Loveâ, it boasts guest appearances from such contemporary US rap superstars as Nicki Minaj and 2 Chainz in addition to featuring such stellar Jamaican talents as fellow internationally-successful reggae star Damian âJr. Gongâ Marley and 28-year-old dancehall deejay Konshens.

Born Sean Paul Ryan Francis Henriques in Kingston, Jamaica on 9 January 1973, Seanâs family lineage in itself truly reflects Jamaicaâs national motto âOut Of Many, One Peopleâ. As, with his Portuguese-Jewish fatherâs side boasting a family legend about the shipwreck of horse-hustling ancestors during an escape from bounty-hunters, his mother (a renowned Jamaican painter) on the other hand is of English and Chinese-Jamaican descent - all of which in turn resulting in his hazel eyes and mocha complexion of today reflecting a biological mix of Jamaican, English, Jewish, Hispanic, Creole and Chinese blood!

Indeed, with both his parents having also been renowned Jamaican swimmers in their teens, Sean grew up on âthe right side of the tracksâ in the Norbrook district of Kingston where he was raised a Catholic. Meanwhile, as a youth he too represented Jamaica in several international swimming and water polo competitions before graduating from the islandâs University of Technology (UTech) with a degree in Hotel Management. However, with him developing a passion for dancehall music in his early teens (he recorded his first local hit âBaby Girlâ in 1995, which was followed by a string of classic underground dancehall singles like âDeport Themâ and âHot Gal Todayâ) this eventually led to the release of his prophetically-titled debut album âStage One â in 2000.

Since which time the man dubbed in some quarters âthe shaggable, telegenic star dancehall music has always been waiting forâ (!) has unquestionably gone on to do more than any other dancehall deejay to bring the cutting-edge hardcore sound of underground Kingston to pop and urban audiences across the world; proving time-and-again that modern Jamaican reggae can be a viable genre in todayâs international music mainstream.

All of which has ultimately resulted in a string of critically-acclaimed hit albums - 2002âs Grammy-winning, six-million-plus selling âDutty Rockâ (which spawned the global smashes âGimme The Lightâ, âGet Busyâ and âLike Glueâ); 2005âs Platinum âThe Trinityâ (which featured both the Top 10 single âWe Be Burninââ and transatlantic chart-topper âTemperatureâ); 2009âs more Jamaica-centric âImperial Blazeâ; and 2012âs Grammy-winning âTomahawk Techniqueâ. The last of which - in addition to providing Sean with two further international Top Ten singles (âGot 2 Love Youâ featuring US teen songstress Alexis Jordan and the hauntingly melodic âShe Doesnât Mindâ) - also brought with it a striking image-change, as his trademark braids were unexpectedly replaced with a striking Mohican!

Meanwhile, outside of his solo stardom, Sean has additionally over the years also enjoyed considerable international chart success as a featured artist on recordings for numerous US R&B/hip hop acts, ranging from chart-topping mainstream divas like Beyonce and Blu Cantrell to bona fide rap icons like 50 Cent, Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes.

⦠Which in turn pretty much brings us back to today. As, taking time out from a hectic day of German promo in Hamburg, an ever-personable Sean (who earlier this year scored a UK Number One as guest-vocalist on pop girl-group The Saturdaysâ single âWhat About Usâ) happily reacquaints himself with âBlues & Soulâ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis to discuss his aforementioned new album.

PETE: Letâs start on obvious ground - titling your new, sixth album âFull Frequencyâ

SEAN: âBasically I decided to call it âFull Frequencyâ to signify that this time Iâm going fully hard and Iâm turning up the LEVELS! You know, itâs funny what happens in club culture when sometimes one particular area will come up with a saying and then years later it becomes popular EVERYWHERE. Like it just so happens that in Jamaica we recently came up with the phrase âturn upâ, in that when someone says something is âturn upâ they basically mean they LIKE it or itâs HOT. And so when people come up to me and say âOh, itâs turn upâ, my natural response has always been âFull frequency brother!â! Which is why instead of calling the record âTurn Upâ - which is almost being played-out right now - I came with âFull FREQUENCYâ, to let everybody know that Iâm going hard in all kindsa DIRECTIONS. Like itâs pop-oriented, itâs hip hop-oriented, thereâs dancehall music on there... You know, just a lotta different flavours where Iâm just doinâ my THING!â

PETE: So how did your collaborations with US hip hop stars Juicy J, 2 Chainz and Nicki Minaj on the track âEntertainmentâ come about?

SEAN: âBasically I just wanted to be involved in whatâs happening in hip hop again. You know, the last time I collaborated with hip hop artists was quite a few YEARS ago - I think it was when I worked with The Clipse and The Neptunes back in about 2002. So with me being such a fan of the urban scene over there in The States, I basically just went looking for TRACKS. And when I came across this track called âEntertainmentâ that Juicy J had already been messing with, because Iâm a fan of his I was like âYo, I DEFINITELY wanna try something on this !â⦠So I did - and then from that the hook-up with 2 Chainz just kinda came through word-of-MOUTH. Basically someone had told him I was in town, he was like âOh, tell him to come over to the studio if he wantsâ⦠So I went over there, we played basketball for a minute... And then, when we got to talking about tracks and he heard the âEntertainmentâ song Iâd done with Juicy J on it, he was like âDAMN, letâs go in there NOWâ!⦠So we went in the studio straightaway and DID it!... And then once the song was out on the underground and causing a little stir, Nicki MINAJ heard it. And because she was basically trying to do the same thing I was - you know, she wanted to get back into more of a hip hop-oriented game as opposed to, in her case, the more pop kinda stuff sheâd been doing - she basically hit us up and was like âHow about us doing a REMIX together?â⦠So of course I was like âDEFINITELY! For SURE!â!... So yeah, thatâs basically how those collaborations came ABOUT.â

PETE: A particularly interesting collaboration on âFull Frequencyâ is your long-anticipated teaming up with fellow Jamaican international reggae star Damian âJr. Gongâ Marleyâ¦

SEAN: âWell, me and Jr. Gong have known each other from prep school in Jamaica when he was in my brotherâs class. And because his father for me is such a hero - I mean, Bob Marley is probably Jamaicaâs biggest-ever music icon - Iâve always felt a close RELATIONSHIP with him! You know, I think me and my brother always felt like we wanted to take care of him even though he didnât NEED taking care of! And then in terms of today, in addition to me really loving his music I also really respect and love the fact that Damian does wear the flag for Jamaican culture very STRONGLY... So yeah, he and I initially decided to start working together a couple of YEARS ago. But although we did a few demos together and he actually produced some songs for me, we never actually put any of that OUT. Because we didnât think it was STRONG enough. You know, because you have the names âDamian Marleyâ and âSean Paulâ working together we wanted to do something that would really hit hard when it was RELEASED... So anyway, we decided to go back in the studio together for like five days, I played him this track I happened to have⦠And as soon as he heard it he was like âYo, that riddim is FIRINâ - letâs DO somethinâ on that!â... So that night we worked on the riddim, everything came together perfectly - and we ended up with the song called âRIOTâ, which is on my new album and basically talks about JUSTICE. You know, the bottom-line is âYou give ME respect, I give YOU respect; You treat ME well, I treat YOU wellâ⦠So yeah, itâs a really hardcore SONG... And the track itself was actually produced by a guy called Hard Work - a really talented kid whoâs based in Atlanta but actually moved to The States from JAMAICA. So while his stuff definitely has that Southern-US/trap-oriented feel, itâs also very dancehall-oriented and REGGAE-oriented.â

PETE: Interestingly - and unusually - I understand you attribute your decision to pursue a music career partly to your middle-class upbringing...

SEAN: âYeah, I basically grew up in an uptown neighbourhood. Which meant I was well-provided-for, put through school, and I didnât have to worry about clothes, food or shelter. But, while it was a good life for me as a youngster, as a teenager I did start to become aware of the fucked-up differences AROUND me, Why some of the friends I went to school with every day lived in shacks; how five miles in one direction there were crazy mansions and five miles in the other there was GHETTO... And thatâs when, although I wasnât a ghetto kid myself, I decided I did want to do something that would enable me to express to the world what a paradise Jamaica was, and also what a hell it was at the same TIME! Which is why to this day itâs still very important to me that I do still wave the flag for my culture and for my country through my MUSIC.â

The album âFull Frequencyâ is released October 21. The single âOther Side Of Loveâ is out now, both through Atlantic/VP Records


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