Kate's Notes

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sean Paul

Sean Paul

Fame is nothing new for this reggae singer and dancehall artist Sean Paul Ryan Francis Henriques (born January 8, 1973), known simply as Sean Paul, who has been a star in his native Jamaica for nearly a decade. But it wasn't until his album Dutty Rock, which spawned the top ten Billboard Hot 100 singles "Get Busy" and "Gimme the Light," that Paul blew up in the United States; after which he was invited to collaborate with the likes of 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes, Beyonce and tens of other established recording artist, making him a musical sensation, seemingly overnight.

Though, in his youth, he might have been fast tracked to follow in his family’s footsteps of competitive water polo or swimming, dance and music were his first priority and passion; he dove into the recording industry instead, with extremely profitable results, spawning several hit albums and numerous top charted singles.

Early Life

Sean Paul was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and spent his early years “comfortably” in Upper Saint Andrew Parish, a few miles north of his birthplace. His parents were both talented athletes, and his mother a well-known painter. His father is Jewish (whose Portuguese family emigrated to Jamaica in the 17th century) and his mother Chinese Jamaican. In line with his Sephardic heritage, he was a pupil at the island's Hillel Academy, a non-religious school funded by the local Jewish community. He claims to be a direct descendant of Solomon through his father.

Many members of Sean Paul's family are swimmers. His grandfather was on the first Jamaican men's national water polo team. His father also played water polo for the team in the 1960s, and competed in long-distance swimming, while Sean Paul's mother was a backstroke swimmer. Sean Paul played for the national water polo team from the ages of 13 to 21. However, he gave up the sport in order to launch his musical career.

Musical Career

Dancehall music was Sean Paul's first love, and he became proficient at crafting rhythm tracks. He became a DJ after writing his own songs, basing his style largely on the works of Super Cat and Don Yute. The latter was later to become his idol and mentor. Sean Paul was closely connected to the reggae-pop band Third World. His brother, Jason "Jigzag" Henriques, and his best friend Zameer Masjedee helped him open up business connections. Paul released his debut single "Baby Girl (Don't Cry)" with producer Jeremy Harding in 1996. It proved a significant success, and led to further Jamaican hits like "Nah Get No Bly (One More Try)," "Deport Them," "Excite Me," "Infiltrate," and "Strategy."

In 1999, Sean Paul started to attract audiences in the United States. He was commissioned to collaborate with fellow dancehall hit maker Mr. Vegas on a production for rapper DMX, entitled "Top Shotter." The song went on to be included in the film Belly, directed by Hype Williams). Paul also recorded the Jamaican chart-topper "Ladies Man" with rapper Spanner Banner, through the latter's label, Sweet Angel Productions. The success of "Ladies Man" resulted in Sean Paul being approached by the then little-known Harding, who burst on the scene with his production of Beenie Man's crossover hit "Who Am I" and most famously recorded "Baby Girl (Don't Cry)" with Sean Paul.

The following single, "Infiltrate," joined the singer's combination hit in the Jamaican top charts. Also that year, Paul scored a top ten hit on the Billboard Rap chart with "Hot Gal Today," which quickly became his signature tune. Sean Paul fell out very publicly with Mr. Vegas over the packaging of Vegas' remix of "Hot Gal Today," but this did not slow Sean Paul's career momentum.

Stage One: 2000 – 2001

In March 2000, Paul released his first album, Stage One, on VP Records, which included many of his previous hit singles and compilation cuts, plus several new tracks. He played the Summer Jam 2000 in New York City, where he was held in high acclaim. Sean Paul's fan base grew tremendously with fans from all over the world. In 2001, Paul appeared on Toronto rapper Kardinal Offishall's Quest for Fire: Firestarter, Vol. 1 on a single called "Money Jane," which was released in Canada the previous year and featured Jully Black.

Critics for Rolling Stone said that “there are some enjoyable tunes here, namely the hit single, ‘Infiltrate,’ which burned up dancehalls with its pumping beat, and ‘Hot Gal Today,’ a duet with ultra-hot DJ Mr. Vegas, which displays an interesting blend of Sean Paul's hard voice with Vegas' smoother vocals. ‘Faded,’ a take on Shania Twain's ‘Looks Like We Made It,’ also illustrates clever treatment.”

Dutty Rock: 2002 - 2004

In 2002, he announced the release of his second album, Dutty Rock. Pushed by the success of the singles "Gimme the Light," which peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2002, and "Get Busy," which peaked at #1 in 2003, the album was a worldwide success, eventually selling over six million copies. Simultaneously, Sean Paul was heard on Beyoncé's single "Baby Boy" and Blu Cantrell's "Breathe," both chart hits in 2003, and helping to push his reputation further still in the United States.

Reviewers said that all “Dancehall-reggae crossover hits tend to be deliciously simple. ‘Gimme the Light,’ Sean Paul's unlikely summer smash, is no different – a sticky ode to toking, with a twinkling beat and an undeniable hook.”

The Trinity: 2005 – Present

On September 27, 2005, Sean Paul released his third album called The Trinity.

Sean Paul spent part of 2006 opening for Mariah Carey's Adventures of Mimi Tour. In September of that year he started work on his fourth album, and was featured on the single "Break It Off" (High Altitude Riddim) with Rihanna, on her A Girl Like Me album.
He was nominated for four awards at the 2006 Billboard Music Awards, including male artist of the year, rap artist of the year, hot 100 single of the year, and pop single of the year for his hit "Temperature.”

Rolling Stone reviewed the album, saying, “While Trinity is consistently engaging, it never quite achieves Dutty's immediate, overwhelming pop appeal. Sean Paul still knows how to get a party started - he just won't be setting the world on fire.”

He returned to his native Jamaica to perform at the Cricket World Cup 2007 opening ceremony.
Television Appearances

He has appeared on several television programs, including “Punk'd,” “106 & Park,” “Sean Paul Respect,” “Making the Video” (for "Get Busy," "Gimme the Light," "Like Glue," "We Be Burnin'," and "Temperature") though he always plays himself, and his music videos have been broadcast on MTV and BET.

Charity Work and Activism

Paul is actively trying to make the world more aware of, and stopping the violence in his home country of Jamaica. In January of 2007, Paul launched a one-man campaign to stop youth violence in Jamaica on his upcoming new album. In order to raise awarness of the problem plaguing the country, Paul insists his upcoming dancehall release won't be full of party anthems, but will deal with issues that concern him about his native country. Paul told MTV News, "The content is just a little different than what people expect from me. "It's not about partying, it's not about ladies; it's about the kids with the guns in the streets. It's more reality." And he hoped one new track, "Sufferer," prompts gun-wielding gangmembers to give up their arms and stop the violence. He added, "I'm talking about the younger generation that has no other option for success than to find a gun somewhere. I try to appeal to them: 'I know you a sufferer, but it doesn't mean that you can't or shouldn't expect any better.' "It's a lot different than from what I usually say, like, 'Get busy, shake that thing.'" Paul will dedicate the album to two young friends who have recently been killed in youth-related violence: "I saw potential in these two kids and many others. It really hit home. And I'm thinking of a voice, I need to say something to people."


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