The worldwide ambassador of dancehall reggae, Sean Paul, is back with The Trinity, the highly anticipated follow-up to his six-million-selling, Grammy-winning breakthrough album, Dutty Rock.
Looking back from this moment in 2005, it's easy to forget that just a few years ago, raw uncut Jamaican dancehall was still considered "underground" music. It's hard to remember a time when hip-hop stars weren't rocking Rasta colors and R&B idols weren't jumping on reggae beats. But that's the way it was just a few years back, before Sean Paul's landmark Dutty Rock (VP/Atlantic) changed the game.
"We flip the switch and the game just change," as Sean rhymes on the new album. "Dutty Cup music drive them insane." And now it's time for him to "Change The Game" all over again.
The music scene just hasn't been the same since Kingston, Jamaica-born Sean Paul Henriques blazed a firestorm of hit tunes - from "Gimme The Light" to "Get Busy" to "Like Glue" - that went straight from the hardcore dancehall audience to the international market with no remix required. Then came Sean's massive duets, "Baby Boy" (with Beyoncé) and "I'm Still In Love With You" (with Sasha), which kept the flame burning bright and swelled the ranks of believers even more. Carrying on the work of dancehall superstars like Yellowman, Shabba Ranks, Super Cat, and Beenie Man in bringing the infectious sound of the Kingston streets to a wider audience, Sean Paul proved once and for all that authentic Jamaican dancehall reggae could be embraced as popular music on a global scale.
Besides containing five smash singles, Dutty Rock was certified RIAA double-platinum in the United States and sold nearly six million copies worldwide. In the wake of the album's groundbreaking success, Sean racked up numerous prestigious awards, including the Grammy for Best Reggae Album - redefining the category in the process - along with nominations in the Best Male Rap Solo Performance and Best New Artist categories. He won MTV Europe's Best New Artist Award, while earning MTV Video Music Award and American Music Award nominations. He gathered multiple ASCAP/PRS kudos in pop, R&B, hip-hop, rap, and reggae categories, and earned Source, MOBO, Juno, Much Music, and International Reggae and World Music awards.
Sean Paul represented Jamaica on numerous television programs around the world and became the first reggae artist to appear on the cover of VIBE magazine, dressed in the national colors. He took his explosive live show on the road, rocking stadium-sized venues from Vegas to Ethiopia, and then celebrated by visiting the pyramids of Egypt. The amazing part is that nobody saw it coming, not even Sean himself.
"Sometimes I almost have to sit down and ask myself, 'Did we really do all that?'" says Sean, posted up behind the mixing board inside the Kingston headquarters of 2 Hard Productions. "Almost six million records sold? That's crazy! Years ago that was just a dream. Well, it's time to make it happen again."
With The Trinity, Sean Paul's set to do that and then some. Working with some of the hottest young producers on the Jamaican dancehall circuit - Steven "Lenky" Marsden, Don Corleone, Renaissance Crew, and Snowcone, to name a few - Sean spent three years completing his third album. And although many of the biggest names in hip-hop wanted to work with him, Sean is proud to say that "it was all done right here in the Third World." Hence "trinity," a spiritual concept that signifies a unity of three in one. It's been said that three is a magic number, and The Trinity is definitely a blessed piece of work. Sean possesses an almost supernatural ability to create irresistible hooks that can fill up any dance floor.
Maybe that's why the ladies love them some Sean Paul. "As the world turns and as time burns, girl you know I'm gonna be there," Sean pledges on "Ever Blazin'," a track that reunites him with Lenky, producer of his number one smash, "Get Busy." Lenky's dreamy "Masterpiece" riddim provides the backdrop as Sean testifies about "a love that's never-ending." On the old-school dancehall romp "Yardie Bone," Sean joins forces with rising dancehall star Wayne Marshall, spitting game in full papi chulo mode. "Internationally speaking," as Sean puts it, "we got the girls them tweaking."
The Latin fan base has had Sean's back from day one, and he's always shown love in return, even releasing a Spanish version of "Punkie" on his last album. Since then, the Spanish-language dancehall hybrid known as reggaetón has become muy caliente on urban radio. "I see reggaetón as just another cousin to reggae music," says Sean, who teamed up with Puerto Rican sensation Daddy Yankee for a track on The Trinity. Sean got to know reggaetón artists like Tego Calderón, Ivy Queen, and Don Omar when they were all coming up in New York's Latin clubs. "I wish them all the best, and I definitely represent with them," he says. "But I'm not gonna change my style for anybody. I'm a dancehall artist all the way."
The Trinity finds Sean Paul doing what he's always done best. "You done know we got to take care of the ladies," he says," and I'm still giving you those party vibes." But this time out he's also expanding his artistic reach, with a marked growth in terms of composition and production. "'Gimme the Light' had like two verses and a chorus," Sean observes. "Most of these songs have three verses with a bridge part. So there's growth that way, and also in the deepness of some of the tunes. I can still do songs like 'Breakout' and 'Give It Up To Me' and the hype things for the ladies, but on the more serious side now, you got a song like 'I'll Take You There.' It's still a party tune, but there's a violin on the track that sounds sad to me, and I think it perfectly matches what I'm saying about how we're all tired of the killing and blood spilling. Cause we reach a place where all over the world, people are just tired of that. And we still wanna live life. We still wanna party and socialize and do we thing in a safe environment. And I remembered that Staples Singers song, so I say, 'Yo, I'll take you to that dream place where you can be as free as you wanna be. Let's party there.'"
But at home and abroad, planet earth seems to be stuck in a state of war and fear. "We had 600 people killed here in Jamaica in the last six months," says Sean. "I can't stop talking about it, and I will keep talking about it. This is not Iraq where they're fighting about oil. Brothers have been fighting and killing each other for a few dollars. It's madness." But the message coming through The Trinity is that even in the darkest times, people have to find a way to enjoy their lives. "Life is a gift and you must treasure it," he says. "We're all here for a certain period of time, and we're definitely gonna leave one day. Butterflies have two weeks, we have sometimes 90 years, sometimes 30 - we just don't know, but we're definitely going somewhere after this. In the meantime, the important thing is to make the most of the time we have without taking away from anybody else."
Such deep meditations found their way onto The Trinity in songs like "Never Gonna Be The Same," Sean's tribute to his friend Daddigon, who was gunned down earlier this year on the streets of Kingston. "He was one of my best friends in the first three or four years of my career," says Sean. "One of the first youth we used to roll spliff with and whatnot. It's not gonna be the same without him." During one of their freestyle sessions in 1994, Daddigon came up with the name of The Dutty Cup Crew, which Sean has represented ever since.
"If that youth wasn't there, who knows what would have happened?" Sean contemplates. "Without Daddigon freestyling about 'Dutty Cup' I wouldn't have named my album Dutty Rock. I wouldn't have said 'Dutty yeah.' I don't know what would have come…" Although Sean and Daddigon parted ways in 1998, whenever the old friends crossed paths, they would make plans to get together. Somehow they never quite got around to it. Then, in early 2005, Sean got a call from his manager Jeremy Harding informing him that Daddigon had been murdered. After a period of intense mourning, he decided to pen a song in tribute to his friend.
"One day I tried to just take that sadness and all that energy and express it," Sean says. "So I took a couple weeks to sit down and write that tribute song for Daddigon. I mention some other people too, like [the slain Jamaican dancehall icon] Bogle, and I mention Peter Cargill and Shorty Malcolm, who were two of the biggest footballers on the Reggae Boys team who died. And I mention my aunt who died in a car crash, and another sister named Nicole who was one of my first girlfriends. She died from a brain tumor. That song is basically for all the people we've lost. And it's saying, 'We gonna miss your legacy - all of y'all. But we'll keep burning up the flame in your memory. Cause you weren't here for nothing. Nobody's gonna take nuttin' from you.'"
The Trinity represents the third leg of a journey that began with Sean Paul's 1999 album, Stage One, a straight-up dancehall release on VP Records that spawned the urban radio hits "Deport Them" and "Hot Gal Today" with Mr. Vegas. Sean got another chance to shine on the 2000 Belly soundtrack alongside Mr. Vegas and DMX. Then came his 2002 breakthrough hit, "Gimme The Light," which started rocking on street corners before the video directed by Lil' X got the whole world trying to learn those sexy dance steps. The next single was "Get Busy," which combined Sean Paul's energetic flow with Lenky's massive "Diwali" riddim to create the first 100% Jamaican-produced number one pop single in history.
Meanwhile, his collaborations with The Clipse on the "Grindin'" remix and Busta Rhymes on the remixes for "Make It Clap" and "Gimme The Light" generated plenty of street heat. "Baby Boy," Sean's duet with Beyoncé, shot to the top of the pop charts in November 2003. The following year, it was Sean Paul and Sasha's slow and sexy rub-a-dub classic "I'm Still In Love With You" that became a staple of urban and pop radio. Since then Sean has kept his core audience happy with juggling joints like "Get With It Girl" and "Straight Up." He recently blessed The Neptunes' new single with rap duo The Clipse, and applied his golden touch to the Tony Touch collabo "Ay Ay Ay."
With "We Be Burnin'," the first single from the new album, impacting at radio and video outlets, and with The Trinity set to drop, Sean Paul is ready to rock the world the only way he knows how to rock it - Dutty style.
"My first album was much more dancehall than anything else," Sean recalls. "No reggae on it, not even a one drop. The second album, Dutty Rock, did kinda blend those three sounds: It sound like dancehall, it sound like reggae, it sound like hip-hop. Now we come back round to this album here. We got the girls tunes, the one drop tunes, the fast kick-up stuff, and just everything… But basically The Trinity is a mixture of those three elements. I'll just stick to that. I ain't gonna try and say, 'Okay, I'm gonna have a total R&B track now, or we need to go reggaetón or whatever. In Jamaica we have the real reggae, the real dancehall, which is the roots of hip-hop. So why not just make it run and keep on doing it?"