Sean Paul: 'Drake and Bieber do dancehall but don't credit where it came from'


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I will have some of dat green juice.” Sean Paul has barely stepped over the threshold of Westlake Recording Studios, located in the sprawl of West Hollywood, when he politely makes the request. Knowing of Paul’s life-long love affair with marijuana, his muse for many a club hit over the years, I presume this is a smoke-free way to enjoy the herb. But when Ritchie his security guard comes back moments later, it is with a cold-pressed kale concoction in hand.

That’s quite the clean-living transformation, I remark. Sean Paul grins and leans back, relaxed, against a grand piano. Gone are his signature cornrows (or, later, his not-so-signature mohawk), and he has given up smoking weed due to asthma. It turns out that I wasn’t far wrong after all. “Oh, I still like to get high, it helps with the creativity,” he says. “Except now I just have it in tea.”

Life has clearly changed since the early 2000s, when Sean Paul Henriques brought the booty-bouncing rhythms of dancehall out of the Kingston clubs and onto the world stage. The Jamaican artist was once the go-to man for dancefloor dynamite, songs that urged us all to “shake that booty non-stop, when the beat drops just keep swinging it”. Get Busy, Gimme The Light, the Beyoncé-featuring Baby Boy, Breathe with R&B singer Blu Cantrell – these songs became commonplace, at carnival, in a bougie Chelsea bar or a suburban Oceana club. Back then he was among the world’s pop elite.

But while his 2002 album Dutty Rock launched dancehall into the mainstream, musical tastes inevitably moved on. And though Paul himself has been critical of some of dancehall’s homophobic content, there was outcry over the derogatory lyrics of contemporaries like Beenie Man and Elephant Man. Soon the genre fell out of favour and out of the charts. Paul’s 2005 followup The Trinity was popular among fans but panned by critics, and he recalls his fade from global fame a little remorsefully.

“Since about 2009, I was fighting that worry that I wasn’t relevant no more,” he says, as we sit in the windowless womb of a studio. “It does stress you out at times. I was like, ‘I was up here and now I’m nothing to people.’” His last album, 2014’s Full Frequency, sold fewer than 5,000 copies in the US. In 2015, the Grammy award-winning performer left his label and became an independent artist for the first time in a decade.

Over the past year, however, dancehall has been dutty wining its way back into the worldwide consciousness. Diplo, long in debt to dancehall’s digital rhythms, brought them to an even wider audience as Major Lazer. Last year, Lazer’s track Lean On became the most streamed single of all time, albeit one that’s since been given the dubious title of “tropical pop”. Then came Justin Bieber’s mega-hit Sorry, which teamed a skeletal dancehall beat with pure pop and was a accompanied by dancehall moves in the dancing video. Never one to be left out, Drake openly drew on dancehall throughout Views From The Six. Dancehall talent Assassin, meanwhile, made his mark both on Kanye’s Yeezus and, more recently, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly.

It’s an international resurgence that Sean Paul has witnessed with both amusement and scepticism. He’s even detected dancehall influences in artists who might be considered unlikely adopters of Jamaican riddims. “You can definitely hear it in Taylor Swift,” he says. “You know that song…?” He launches into a high-pitched rendition of the chorus of Shake It Off. “See, there’s definitely dancehall in there.”

One thing was for sure, though: if dancehall was coming back, so was he. Sean Paul still lives in Jamaica, but we meet in LA because this is where he has come to work on his new album. The surprise success of Cheap Thrills, his recent chart-topper with one-woman pop hit machine Sia– which not only reacquainted the star with the top of the charts but also landed Sia her first Billboard number one – has spurred him to finish his new material quickly. As the 43-year-old says himself, no one is better placed to “bring back some authentic dancehall”.


JA Soca Ambassador
Seems like that is the ultimate compliment when they see or feel the vibes or Swag to Xerox your style..........Eddie Murphy , R Kelly, etc....all do it....

I see no issue with it, that is mad love and respect they have for #TeamJamaica and their Culture !


JA Soca Ambassador
Wait...Even Snoop Dog.....wait,...didn't the Rasta tell him, he is a Lion......then again, with Snoop, hard to tell if he is into Jamaican Culture...or he is just a weed head...I will go with the fact that he love that Good Weed !


Who feels it knows it!
Americans love Reggae/Dancehall music.....when its done by THEIR pop acts and woite bands.
I even heard a group called Twenty One Pilots doing watered-down Reggae and making hits with it. Unreal.

Let a real yardman duh di same track....crickets.