Dancehall superstar Sean Paul has not one but two albums dropping this year, and he has been busy promoting the first one out the gate, Live N Livin.
I am his first interview for the day. A father and a husband, I can sense his calm and engaging presence. His energy is up and his thoughts are clear. Other than his many international hits, his comfort in talking about any topic is one of the many qualities that separate him from being just an average rtist.
Sean Paul how you stay?
Well, we Live N Livin (laughs). The first five months I was ‘fraid, I was listening to every conspiracy and created a safety guard but then we started to go in the studio, I got a lotta studio time. Usually, I am on a plane for six months a year. But it has been good in that respect.
Why you decide to drop an album now because we are not in the clear yet.
It’s two albums inuh. You never heard about that one yet? Live N Livin is the first one. It has traditional dancehall sounds and the new sounds; Buju Banton, Mavado, Junior Gong, Suku Ward, Serani and we also have the new artists like Govi (Govana), Intence, Masicka, Skillibeng, Squash, Chi Ching Ching, Jesse Royal, Sutu Bless, Luga Man and Rassa Joy. Unity is the best community for dancehall right now, collaboration over clash lets go get the cash. I have seen other sub-genres come up under us like Reggaeton, they ain’t clashing just cashin’.
You said recently you don’t like the violence (in music) but you have some of those artists on this album. Why did you include them on your project?
To try show them a different type of light. The only person that went (makes sound of a rifle) “brrrrp” on the album was Skillibeng and when him started to record I pressed the button and said “DJ nuh badda kill Dem off, you can bad Dem up but don’t kill Dem off in the song me a beg you bro” and him still go “brrrrp” on dem. Him explained that’s what the fans want, So I used the opportunity to lead by example try to show them a different way to make an album like this where we can be going hard but not at anybody in the genre but the track.
On the last song, I had Masicka and Skillibeng who weren’t seeing eye to eye and even Demarco who hit the track. When I talked to them they said it’s not a big deal. So my problem with the clashing is we become complacent with what’s going on around us. There comes a point where you embellish and glorify certain things. So anyway, I try to get everybody together and try to do a more positive album.
I was going hard on that one but when you listen in its entirety it’s showing you a different light.
It has multiple layers?
Yes, that’s the thing we glorify too much of the negative things when we should tell the full story instead of embellishing. We only talk about how we win being the gangster and that’s not true.
Is your intention to take hardcore dancehall to mainstream?
If you look back at what dancehall has done it was always mixed. Stitchie was the first one to get signed, then Shaggy came along and did well and mixed R&B with the hip hop riddim. He did “Mista Lova Lova” (Boombastic) and that blew up big on the R&B and Hot 100 charts as well. Gimmie Di Light, Temperature, doing songs with Beyonce, Keisha Cole was straight hardcore dancehall. I found myself doing what Shabba and Shaggy were doing back then because If I don’t do that I would lose all the pop audience I had garnered.
Songs like She Doesn’t Mind and Got 2 Luv U were very poppy sound in the realm of Dancehall. Right now I just feel say people ready for some hardcore Dancehall again, presented in a way that you can listen to it. I always wanted to write songs that are very sweet but have a hardcore thing to it.
Streaming is now fully integrated in the Caribbean, you are the top man for the genre with six hundred million streams, what’s your take on streaming?
I have been throwing words at the industry for that because they keep saying Dancehall dead but I say it nah sell because it’s part of our culture to send a song to the sound man. But we come to a time now when technology develops to a point where social media is around but we are still doing the sound system thing. Given the chance, they will do more decent numbers but I also know many rural Jamaicans listen to the radio and they are not on wifi. Our numbers are still not gonna be the best they can be but we will be given a chance.
Do you own your (music) masters?
I saw Super Cat developed his own label in the late 80s and I thought that was dope. Looking at that example I always wanted to own my songs. It has taken years because VP records and Atlantic Records own all my hits. They were a big distribution link so those are owned by them but I have the right to re-record them after 15 years and I own those. I haven’t done it yet but this new relationship with Island Records allows me to record and release in Jamaica so I decided to put out singles. With them, I own my masters but I lease it to them for a few years and when they are done I get it back for ownership. It took me twenty years.
Do you encourage more artists to own their masters?
Anybody who wants to have their own label needs money to push, you need a publicist, someone to take your pictures and videos, for this album I have spent hundreds of thousands already.
So you’re dropping two albums, are you bringing some of the artists on this album to the next?
Scorcher is a more poppy approach with production from Jordan, Izzy Beats as well as my production. I have Gwen Stefani and Shenseea. Damian Marley is the only person on the two albums. I have Nicky Jam and Jada Kingdom also on this next album. The two parts of music I like, one is in the studio making music and the other is being onstage. Streaming has gone up on Netflix so I hope people will stream my music.
What’s the biggest stage you ever performed on?
The biggest show I have ever done was the Prince’s trust, Prince Charles has a show every year with one hundred thousand people. The biggest show by myself was with forty thousand people in Africa and Europe. It’s been a good look. I have done twenty-three countries in Africa.
Are you gonna be bringing this crew on the album on tour?
I would love to. Before the pandemic, I was setting up to take the Dutty Rock Crew on tour. When the place free up back I want to take some of these artists on the road. 2016 I toured with Fambo, 2017 I took Shenseea and Ching. Over the years me and Shaggy, Junior Gong and Buju Banton have conversions about doing more collabs together.
A show with Shaggy, Sean Paul and Junior Gong?
I think we have done shows like that before in Trinidad. It was a big show so we should be able to take that one the road, but what inspired me back in the day was Shocking Vibes where Beenie Man was the headliner and he would take Tanto Metro and Devonte, Silver Cat and crew. Also Monster Shack. I want to do that for my crew and whoever else on the album.
I get the feeling that you want to create legacies that will last forever?
I don’t overthink this big picture, I concentrate on making the music sound like “Mi have the agony”. I can’t forget that feeling. I want my songs to put that energy into people. Accolades and awards are not something I pre. I seek Ye first the Kingdom Of God and to me all of the things will follow if you follow what God shows you to do. I never forget that root and push the borders and expand. Whatever happens happens, if it is a Grammy or Mobo award or big shows.
Sean Live N Livin and later its Scorcher (laughs)
Because me a ‘Live N Livin Scorcher’ (laughs)
Sean Paul Big Up