The infectious sounds of Sean Paul have already earned the young reggae star a permanent place in Jamaica’s musical pantheon. At this writing, Sean is now leading the influential hip-hop-flavored dancehall form fully into the American mainstream with his breakthrough single, “Gimme The Light.” With U.S. radio stations and video channels opening their doors to the charismatic artist and his music, the song is a bona fide smash on both the national R&B/Hip-Hop and Pop charts.
“Gimme The Light” is a scorcher which is blazing the way for the November 2002 release of Dutty Rock, Sean’s second albumÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬“and his first via a new long-term worldwide pact between Atlantic Records and VP Records, the largest independent label for new Jamaican music in the U.S. As a result, Sean has now joined the Atlantic roster, following a brilliant run of hit crossover singles and rapidly mounting media attention.
In 1996, Sean Paul’s release of “Baby Girl” was the first of a series of undeniable reggae smashes that rocked Jamaica, quickly establishing a solid base for Sean amongst the island’s dancehall massive. Part of the wave of mid-‘90s Jamaican deejays that brought new blood into the Jamaican music scene, he quickly pulled to the front of the pack. Hardcore dancehall fans were captured by his songwriting and rapping skills and Sean rapidly became a favorite with ladies in the audience.
As his reputation grew in Jamaica, the rest of the Caribbean quickly picked up on Sean Paul’s sound. Soon, Jamaicans in Miami, New York, and London knew the words “Dutty Yeah” were a signal to hit the dance floor. Record-breaking airplay on American hip-hop radio followed, and the success ofStage One, Sean Paul’s 2000 smash debut album, established him as VP Records’ best-selling current artist. With Dutty Rock, Sean moves from strength to greater strength, ratcheting his sound straight up to the heights.
Born Sean Paul Henriques in Kingston, Jamaica on January 8, 1975, Sean Paul’s lineage truly reflects Jamaica’s national motto, “Out Of Many, One People.” On his Portuguese father’s side there is a family legend about the shipwreck of horse-rustling ancestors during a daring escape from bounty hunters. Sean’s mother is a renowned Jamaican painter, and both his parents were noted athletesÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬“a tradition Sean continued as a youth, representing his country in many international swim and water polo meets. After graduation from UTECH, he kept body and soul together by working as a chef and later as a teller in a bank.
In his early teens, dancehall reggae became Sean’s leading passion. Such artists as Lt. Stitchie, Major Worries, and Supercat were important influences. A few years later, as Sean began writing his own lyrics, he made a link and busted some rhymes for Cat Coore, Bunny Rugs, and Carrot Jarret of Third World. “Cat said, ‘Your voice sounds great, lets do some demos,’” Sean Paul recalls.
Sean developed his skills by making dubs and playing barbecues. In 1996, after a couple of singles, he made the crucial connection with then up-and-coming producer Jeremy Harding, owner of 2 Hard Records. Jeremy had just completed the Fearless riddim, and Sean voiced it with “Baby Girl,” his first woman-oriented lyric. “Baby Girl” became a huge hit, opening doors all over Jamaica for Sean. During this time, he continued to learn the deejay trade and mature as an artist. He hooked up with the Dutty Cup Crew, a group of aspiring deejays. “We used to smoke weed, and a ‘dutty’ is a used pipe, but that’s not what we were all about,” Sean explains. “In life, if you don’t work hard and dutty, you won’t get nowhere, so our cup is full.”
In 1998, Sean recorded “Infiltrate” on Jeremy Harding’s Playground/Zim Zimma riddim. The riddim was a reggae smash, both in Jamaica and internationally, and “Infiltrate” became a top record in the juggling mix. “‘Infiltrate’ took me to enough places,” Sean recalls. Charting number one in Belize, the record rocked hip-hop mix shows in New York and Miami.
Hitting next with “Excite Me,” Sean’s name was spreading to the rest of the Caribbean, especially Trinidad and Guyana. He then recorded “Deport Them,” which became the No. 1 record in Jamaica on Tony Kelly’s Bookshelf riddim. The song received major airplay in Miami and on New York’s hip-hop mix shows, later crossing over onto regular rotation on New York’s Hot 97.
It was around then that Sean Paul joined forces with emerging sing-jay Mr. Vegas. Their first collaboration, “Hot Gal Today,” on the Street Sweeper riddim by Steely and Clevie, became a No. 1 record in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean. Sean and Mr. Vegas also collaborated on the dancehall hit, “Tiger Bone,” produced by Richard “Shams” Browne on the Intercourse riddim. In March of 2000, just as “Hot Gal Today” was heating up in Miami and New York, VP Records released Stage One, Sean Paul’s debut album. Meanwhile, Sean and Mr. Vegas joined forces with producer Tony Kelly and multi-platinum rapper DMX for “Top Shotta,” a song on the Belly soundtrack, further lifting Sean’s rep in the States.
After a wicked re-mix on the Punany riddim, “Hot Gal Today” joined “Deport Them” in rocking American hip-hop and R&B radio. Together the two tunes thrust Sean Paul’s Stateside career into orbit. He became the first reggae artist to have two singles added at the same time to a major American radio station (NYC’s Hot 97), and the first reggae artist to simultaneously chart two singles from the same album (“Hot Gal Today” at No. 66 and “Deport Them” at No. 85) on the Billboard R&B Singles chart. “Hot Gal Today” also hit No. 6 on the Billboard Top Rap Singles chart. With all the radio play in New York, Sean built up a major New York City base among tastemaker disc jockeys and true hip-hop fans.
Sean was named No. 3 Reggae Artist Of The Year by Billboard and Stage One was named Billboard’s No. 4 Reggae Album Of The Year. Meanwhile, “Hot Gal Today” was featured on the Shaft soundtrack. The sales of Stage One went through the roof. At the same time, Sean continued his string of Jamaican successes with “No Bligh” for Penthouse Records, “Check It Deeply” for In The Streetz, and “My Name” for Shocking Vibes.
Notably, Sean was the first reggae artist to perform on Hot 97’s Summer Jam, one of the most important annual American R&B/hip-hop concerts. “Suddenly, I was with artists who were my mentors,” Sean enthuses. “I met Big Daddy Kane, Snoop, Aaliyah; there I was, talking to Funkmaster Flex. It was crazy.” That summer, Sean rocked Summer Jam-type shows from Miami to Boston.
A forward-looking artist, Sean began work on his next album, continuing to record dancehall smashes with reggae music’s top producers. The team of Sean and Tony Kelly scored again with “Like Glue” on the Buyout riddim. Next, working in combination with sexy Ce’Cile, Sean voiced on the hottest riddim of 2001, the Jeremy Harding-produced Liquid, to make the hit single, “Can You Do The Work.” Both songs blaze on Dutty Rock.
Other outstanding tracks include “I’m Still In Love With You,” featuring Sean and Sasha on a romantic cover of the Alton Ellis/Marcia Akins classic, and, of course, “Gimme The Light,” the album’s lead-off single. Dutty Rock also boasts a fantastico Spanish version of “Punkie,” a huge hit around the Caribbean and in Latin hip-hop clubs in the Northeast.
With his radio success in America, Sean’s reputation in the U.S. hip-hop and R&B community exploded, leading to collaborations with Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z, DMX, The Neptunes, Clipse, Mya, Tony Touch, and Rahzel of the Roots, among others. “A lot of hip-hop artists have been linked to dancehall,” Sean told the New York Times. “It always has been, and now people can see for themselves.”
Sean was recently named Best Reggae Artist Of The Year at the MOBO Awards in London, and he also garnered a High Times magazine 2002 Doobie Award for “Gimme The Light.” Now, with the release of Dutty Rock, Sean Paul is poised to generate a mass of new followers as he crosses over to a whole new audience. “I see dancehall reggae and hip-hop as fused together,” Sean Paul explains. “When I was a kid, they were the two kinds of music that spoke to me and said ‘MOVE!’”