Sean Paul Candidly Reflects on 20 Years of Chart-Topping Hits (Exclusive)

Sean Paul
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Dutty, yeah!

Hard to believe we've been moving and shaking to Sean Paul smash hits for 20 years. The Jamaican artist, born Sean Paul Francis Henriques, burst on to the scene in 1998 with his debut single, 'Deport Them.' That song marked the tip of the dancehall legend's iceberg, as he blazed his own trail into mainstream, multi-platinum, GRAMMY-winning success.

Mega-jams like 'Gimme the Light,' 'Get Busy,' 'Temperature' and 'Baby Boy'(oh hey, Beyonce!) can still be heard on the radio. Not to mention, did you really host a party if a Sean Paul classic didn't bump through the speakers and get you out of your seat?

Now, at 45, the husband and father of one proves he's still the king of making music that can move the entire party to the dance floor. In 2016, he was featured on Sia's 4X platinum single, 'Cheap Thrills,' only to follow up with a rap on Clean Bandit's infectious bop with Anne-Marie, 'Rockabye.'

Today, Sean Paul drops his sixth full-length project, an EP called Mad Love. The rapper recently opened up to ET via email to not only reflect on his career longevity, but to also look forward to the future with his evolved sound and perspective on life and music. We're keeping our fingers crossed for that Cardi B collab (more on that below)!

Island Records

ET: Congratulations on the Mad Love EP! Describe the overall vibe and tone of this record. How is it unique from your previous albums? What were your biggest inspirations?

Sean Paul: My music is pretty unique in that I’m a Dance Hall artist with a Pop and R&B perspective. I’ve gone through so many genres. This album doesn’t reflect EDM too much, although it does have a track with Major Lazer, and the songs themselves are dance oriented. I would say my album is my view of where I stand in the biz right now. Some people are like, “He’s not fully a dance artist, or he’s not fully a pop artist – well what is he? He’s just famous.” I think it’s good being this way and presenting music to people the way I do, and I’m glad people appreciate the music that I make.

At this point, just to continue touring is a big inspiration for me. I’ve been touring for about 20 years or more. Touring is always fun. It’s always exciting. It’s always giving me energy and new ideas. Still, I do like to stay at home. When building an album, especially for myself, I get to stay at home and develop ideas. Being abroad, on stage, and touring are all big motivations for me because these are things that I love in life. I’m glad to be able to keep on doing things like this, and I’m glad that people love it. My songs are usually about love, partying, and how to do things in life. The inspiration there is that I just want to keep people’s minds positive with my musical gift.

On Mad Love, you've collaborated with some of the biggest names in music. Describe what it was like working with artists like Dua Lipa and Migos?

Dua Lipa is amazing and I’m really proud to have worked with her in a time where she wasn’t as huge as she is today. I’m just happy to be able to help shine some light on her career. She’s huge right now and I’m so proud of her growth. We speak every now and then and sometimes I offer her touring advice. I’m proud of her and her whole team and I wish them the best.

With Migos, it was pretty cool to work with a young, hip-hop/rap group. When I was creating the track, it was first just sung by myself. On the second verse of the song, I thought, “I want someone else on this.” We pinpointed Migos because I really like what they’re doing. They have a lot of attention on them right now, whether it be good or bad. Some people claim they’re mumble rap and some claim that they’re brilliant and that they’re the best. I don’t think any one group or artist is the best, but I really like what they’ve been doing in the past couple of years. We actually recorded the song I did with them the summer before their hit, “Bad and Boujee.” When things started to happen with Migos and I, it was pretty cool to see the whole team come together to mix the track and put it out. Migos showed me respect, and what I mean by that is that all three of them came into the studio, within a couple minutes of each other, and they just put it in! Same with Tory Lanez, who I’m a huge fan of. I think he has three different types of Tory’s. There’s a singing, Caribbean sounding one, there’s a mumble-rap sounding one, and there’s one that free-style raps hardcore lyrics. I was proud to work with all three of those acts and I’m a fan of them all.

Now that you’ve collaborated with Migos, any plans to collaborate with Cardi B? Have you shared any parenting advice with Offset or sent them a baby gift yet?

There was a production team that I worked with years ago that I left a demo with. Someone chopped up the song and put Cardi in it. I didn’t want it to be that someone put part of her song from some other thing with part of my song from some other thing, so I stopped it from happening. So, I sent word to her saying that I want to work in the studio with her. There’s many different styles of artists and art and production and sometimes it’s great to just mix and match, but I haven’t been feeling that way lately. I like to pinpoint exactly who I want to work with and get in the studio with them. Migos and I did our song even before Cardi and Offset were dating. I did have opportunities to work with her in this way, where someone would mix and match production together, but I wasn’t down with that. It didn’t sound like what I would come up with being in studio with Cardi B or what she would come up with on the track. I’d love to work with her! People may say I only want to work with people that are on top. That’s not true. I’ve worked with an artist called Chi Ching Ching, who’s on top right now in Jamaica, and I’m kind of trying to send him to the world by taking him on tour and putting out an album for him later this year. I’m not saying that no one knows him, but a lot less people may know him compared to Cardi B.

I actually haven’t shared any parenting advice with Offset or sent them a baby gift. I’m more in relations with Takeoff. I haven’t spoken to most of them in a while, and the last time I saw them was back in December when we were coming back from Europe and happened to be on the same flight.

Island Records

This EP marks 20 years of Sean Paul records. Reflect on this milestone— how does it make you feel? What’s the secret to your career longevity?

Keep doing what you’re doing. Remember what’s going on with trends and keep your ears to the ground. Switch it up, but don’t switch it up totally. I think life is about balance, and I think my artistry should reflect life and balance.

Knowing what you know today, what advice would you give your younger, less-experienced self?

Keep doing what you’re doing, yute!

As a father, how is Levi, your 1-year-old son, inspiring your work as an artist?  

As a dad, I think Levi inspires me in so many ways, not just my work. He inspires my whole life. It’s unexplainable the love you have for your child. Lately, I have dedicated a song to Levi, but he inspires me in many ways other than just work.

You’ve worked with legends like Beyoncé, and also many newcomers in the game. Who is still on your bucket list of artists to collaborate with? 

I’d still like to work with Shakira. Also Rita Ora, there’s a song that’s sitting in someone’s closet that I’d like to get out of there.

Anything else you'd like to share?

Look out for my artist Chi Ching Ching’s album! It’s coming out after my EP. It will be coming out probably in September, and it’s under my label. To everyone that loves dancehall music, thank you for listening, thank you for enjoying, thank you for dancing, and thank you for showing love.

Mad Love is available now.

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