Sean Paul On This Year’s Grammy Nomination For “Best Reggae Album,” His Recent Collaboration With Sia & Which Artist He Wants To Work With Next

Photo Credit: Fernando Hevia

Sean Paul has collaborated with some of the biggest names in music from Beyonce to Shaggy and made a name for himself when he told the world to “Shake That Thing” in his commanding voice. Since then, the Jamaican native has taken dancehall music to the top of the charts, becoming the only Jamaican artist to have won an American Music Award for “Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist.” He has already received an American Music Award, MOBO Awards, Soul Train Awards, MTV Music Awards, ASCAP Rhythm and Soul Music Awards, a Source Award and a BET Award, and is looking forward to this year’s Grammy Awards where he is nominated for “Best Reggae Album.”

We caught up recently with the Grammy Award-winning artist to discuss why he is so proud of this year’s nomination, his second collaboration with Sia and who he wants to work with next.

Photo Credit: Fernando Hevia

Last year, you released your seventh studio album (Live N’ Livin) that celebrates your Jamaican heritage and you recently received a nomination for “Best Reggae Album” for this year’s Grammy Awards. Why does this album hold such a special place for you?

It’s an amazing feeling. I did that project with the feeling of showing that unity can happen in our genre and showing that we don’t have to clash all the time. It was my way of kind of presenting who I revere in the business in my genre to direct some of my fans who only check me out. When it was nominated, that’s an amazing feeling. It’s the cream on top of the cake where you didn’t expect that part to taste so good. Usually, we have had other producers but it was solely produced by myself. It’s feels amazing and feels like an accomplishment – part of my dreams coming true to be a good producer.

What do you think it is about your music that has given it such staying power for more than 25 years?

In dancehall music, you have to be versatile. That was the first thing I learned as a teenager. Each DJ, each performer, each artist had to be able to go on any type of radio. The reason being, our music came from breakbeats like hip hop did and whatever beat was put on, you had to be the person who could rock it, so I think that’s a factor and also Jamaica is so diverse. There are a lot of different ethnicities. I came about at the right space and the right time so I was prepared.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Island Records

You were an early proponent of the dancehall pop movement and made some impressive collaborations with artists like Beyonce early on in your career. What was it like to reunite with Sia for your recent single, “Dynamite,” and can you tell us how that collaboration came about?

My mom kind of introduced me to music such as The Beatles and Cat Stevens. By the time I was 12, I was like, ‘listen to Shabba Ranks and Super Cat, Mom.’ I was trying to school her that way ever since. A few years ago, she came to me and said ‘hey, did I ever listen to Sia?’ I really thought she meant “Gangnam Style” PSY. I was like, ‘I like that dude’s song, but haven’t thought about it,’ and she’s like, ‘What dude? It’s a lady!’ She played me “Chandelier” and I was like, ‘wow, I know this song!’ When we cleared that up, I learned about a new artist and had been schooled by my mom again. A few months later, my manager asked if I would consider doing a song with Sia and I was like sure, and it was this song called “Cheap Thrills.” I did the remix and that went to #1 and we have had a relationship since trying to find something else. This is the second installment, “Dynamite.”

Your first collaboration with her on “Cheap Thrills” has had more than 1.6 billion YouTube views since its 2016 release. Did you ever think that would be possible?

A lot of things have been happening and sometimes it still feels like a dream. People calling me a legend; I have been in the music business this long. I have to give thanks to the fans and everything that inspires me – younger producers and entertainers as well who remind me of myself. I always wanted to make a song that was good enough for Jamaican people to go ‘hey, that’s cool.’ As I said, preparedness is something I really believe in and I might not always be prepared for an interview like today [laughs], but I am prepared where the lyrical content is concerned. The inspiration of all of the other stuff that is going on in the genre really helps me out as well.

Photo Credit: Fernando Hevia

How does it feel to hold the title of the only Jamaican artist to have won an American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist?

It’s one of my dreams to produce people, whether I am in the song or not, and the song goes big and well for them, and helps them to progress. I have done work with so many people in the genre before, especially of late, since about 2017 with Chi Ching Ching. He is streaming now about 12 million, which is very good for him. It feels surreal to know that partly this dream is coming true, you know, where I am able to give someone else a step up. If I did it all myself and moved away, no matter how nice it would be in another first world country, I think there would always be something holding me down in the back of my head, ‘Why didn’t I help? Why didn’t I do something for the history of the music?’ So, it means a lot and I am glad that people are kind of recognizing that fact. I have worked with many younger artists in Jamaica and one of the most early-ons, she was not as popular as I was at the time, Sasha, was a big star with a song “I’m Still In Love With You” and she has since gone on to do Christian music. It felt good to be able to present to people a talented voice and a hit song at the time and that gave me an appetite towards doing more things, so starting a production label and working with younger artists is something I am passionate about.

You have collaborated with everyone from Pharrell Williams and Enrique Iglesias to Shaggy and Tove Lo. Is there an artist you would like to work with who you haven’t had the opportunity to yet? 

Yeah, I definitely want to work with Alicia Keys. From the first time I saw her on TV and felt her music, you feel a very big soul there. She is awesome and I think we could make a really great song together. Also, Twenty One Pilots is a group that has nothing to do with my genre, and I have nothing to do with theirs, but I just view their melodies and the music they produce and I think that would be a great out-of-the-box collab as well.

What’s up next for you?

I hope to produce for someone and help their career that way. I have seen so much great reggae musicians do it to an old age. For me, I would like to continue to produce music. Maybe I won’t tour as aggressively as I get older, but I would like to continue to put out music and have people feel a good vibe off of it. It’s one of the things I’m addicted to [laughs].

Photo Credit: Fernando Hevia