Shaggy aka Mr. Lover Lover has still got it. Since his Billboard chart-topping and radio-heavy days of “Mr. Boombastic” and “Oh Carolina,” the Jamaican artist has continued to work at paving the way for many Caribbean artists looking to make a mark on the global music industry.
Since his multi-platinum studio album, Hot Shot, the father of five has been keeping those music wheels turning. Aside from making performances at various events and music festivals, the reggae fusion singer-songwriter has continued to maintain musical momentum by releasing new music and collaborating with dancehall artists of today. Despite the politics of today’s music business, the 48-year old veteran has managed to stay on top of what’s musically hot while adapting the consistently changing industry. This aspect alone often brings him to one vital question, “How do you create that record that is going to appeal to these young kids and appeal to the older fans that have always been there with you?”
After setting sail into the Carribean Sea for the 2nd annual Zumba Cruise,
VIBE sat down and caught up with the Kingston-born recording artist to talk about how he’s stayed relavant since his first, Grammy award-winning album, the state of dancehall today, as well as his music plans for the future.
VIBE: Is this your first Zumba Cruise or your first time working with Zumba?
Shaggy: This is my first Zumba Cruise, but it’s not my first time working with Zumba. We did, I think, the convention, like two years ago, or something like that. That was in Orlando. We had an amazing time down there, and that kind of opened me to what Zumba was all about and the excitement and everything. I think we did like two shows while we were there. Two performances, and just tons of people…
A lot of energy, I’m sure…
A lot of energy. Everybody in yoga pants running around, looking very colorful. And then one crazy part of it is nobody sleeps! I thought that was crazy, then the worse you don’t go to sleep on the cruise because then it’s just back to back a lot of energy.
Very lit. A lit-uation of sorts. Have you taken any classes since you been on the boat or have you just been keeping it cool?
Nah, I haven’t taken any classes. I got up and watched one of them. It was the one with Beto this morning. And that was pretty crazy, you know. But it becomes a little difficult for me to take part sometimes because I might have to be taking a picture [pretends to pose for a camera and laughs].
That’s true, that’s true. This cruise revolves around the importance of not only having fun but keep the body moving. What’s your favorite exercise to keep in shape, when you’re in the gym and off the stage?
Oh, keeping in shape? Y’all remember I’m Jamaican? I have five kids, and I don’t have TV. There you go. [laughs]
Fair enough. Fair enough. It’s been four years since your last studio album, Out of Many, On Music. What’s been the hold-up on dropping a new album? Is there a hold-up?
I make records every day. I make constant records, constantly putting records out, but the music business changes so many times. I’ve changed so many times [in order] to figure out what direction I’m going with it. And remember now, you’re pleasing not just yourself. You have a record company and people trying to figure the game out [too]. The game has changed so rapidly that, for me, to put out an album out that I think is right, becomes tricky.
So you might have the classic Shaggy records. Okay. And then after that, I might want to do, you know, some more newer stuff. And then I might do some dancehall stuff. The thing with the whole Shaggy brand is that it goes through so many different genres of music. I’m dancehall, yes, but it’s a global brand. It’s a world brand. So I will hit with a record that’s slow as a “Bombastic,” then come with something like “Angel,” which is totally different. All the records are always so different. Then I came back with “I Need Your Love” the other day, which was totally different from the type of stuff that I’ve done, you know what I mean? Then I have my dancehall audience to please…to try to put all these different styles of music on one body of work, gets a little difficult sometimes. And then you try and figure out your audience. I’m a more of a mature act right now. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I have mad older fans to please. But then I’ll do something like Manhattan College and you have 5,000 kids in there and they’re singing “It Wasn’t Me” and some of them were babies when it was out. So you realize you have a fan base that is from, you know, from back in the days, to these young kids now who are now saying, “Yeah, Shaggy!” How do you create that record that is going to appeal to these young kids and appeal to the older fans that have always been there with you, you know what I mean and still be cool?
How do you stay on top of the pulse of the younger generation these days?
I surround myself with a lot of young people. My studio has young producers and young artists and young writers. I’ll come up with melodies and they’ll add something to it. I’ll say, ‘Okay, that’s dope,’ but then I’ll add this to it to make it… I’ll arrange it differently. So they learn from me on certain things. Sometimes they’ll do a record and they just want to go. They make the punchline of the record comes in later. And I’m like, ‘The game moves so fast. Nobody wants to wait for that punchline. You got to hit them right on the front. The record got to start with that just to grab people and get into it.’ Sometimes it takes a little explaining, but when it’s done, they’re like, ‘Ah, yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s dope.’ So I surround myself with young people; It’s certainly a part of what keeps me going.
Your son Robb Bank$ is doing his thing in music as well.
Oh yeah. He’s part of the young people, too.
What type of business advice have you given him, especially now that he’s working with Cash Money, 300 and Republic?
You know what? I give him advice when he asks for it. Because with these kids, you’ve got let them do their thing. Let’s face it. He’s gotten where he has gotten by himself. At this point, where I’m at, he’s like, ‘Yo, what do you think of this?’ Or, ‘What do you think of that?’ And then I’ll give him my opinion. He takes it from there. I make zero decisions on what he does. He’s got to figure himself out, you know? I told him what my thoughts are on whatever move he does and then he should take that where he wants to take that. And you know, he’s still changing and learning. I just make sure there’s a good lawyer there to make sure everything else is alright.
Is there any chance of you two working on a song together?
No, I don’t think so. He’s in a totally different genre of music than I am. But it was fun to watch his recent show, though. I totally felt like the parent in that showcase, in that concert that night. I need to jump on it!
Of course, Pops has to get turnt for his boy.
[nods his head in agreement]
Dancehall has pretty much infiltrated the genre of hip-hop. What are your thoughts on its influence so far?
I think that dancehall music has become the most popular that it has ever been in years. There was a peak at the time of me, Sean Paul, Wayne Wonder and Elephant Man – the whole era. And then it just kind of went. Now, it’s back, but what I fought for years and years — which was bringing dancehall music to the mainstream — has finally happened. And it is now the norm. Dancehall is now the sound of mainstream radio. That’s good, except for you have a lack of Jamaican artists who are on the mainstream on these beats. We can’t blame anybody else but ourselves for that, to be honest with you.
The only two other artists that you’re seeing on the charts are myself and Sean. I be running the jokes. I make jokes with Alkaline or Popcaan. I say, ‘Y’all can’t let the old man be up here. Y’all need to step it up.’ [smiles] But I think it will happen.
What do you think is the reason behind the lack of Jamaican artists on mainstream radio?
The big problem that has happened to these dancehall artists, is the same thing that happened to me when I started. I was not the guy that the record company put millions of dollars into to blow up. I was not the guy that got budgets. They were like, ‘Shaggy. Oh, well we’re not going to put $5 million behind this guy.’ Coca-Cola ain’t going to take me and put a campaign behind me. ‘He’s dancehall, the music of homophobia and guns and violence. We’re Coca-Cola. We’re a family brand.’ That’s how they think. And that’s how these board of, you know, these record executives, they’re going to think. ‘We’re not going to throw this money into dancehall.’ But they’ll throw the money in if the pop people do this dancehall.
So you’re finding the artists that are coming out of Jamaica, that are a little bit more rough around the edges, a little bit more controversial, a little bit more real, are the ones that they’re scared of putting that money on because they think that they’re firecrackers. They think that these guys are not going to go the full way. It’s all about companies investing money in a horse that’s actually going to run the race or a horse that is not even going to jump out the gate. The history of a lot of dancehall artists in Jamaica is that people put money on them and they’ll probably not work. You know, a guy might not want to go do interviews and sit down and do a line of interviews from early in the morning from the radio show to all the way down and then go and do the club a 9. Then he jumps on a plane and do it all over again.
Guys be like, ‘Yo, yo, yo, tell him say, come check him.’ So you’re going to find record executives looking at it from that perspective, saying, ‘Hey, am I going to invest in these artists?’ But the [Jamaican artists are] true stars…these guys are true stars because there’s a realness. When your artist is born out of the ghettos, comes from the hood, that comes up through the music, the music becomes real and starts to catch fire and catch a real audience. Especially today, you can’t package things [or artists] today because the internet is there. Kids are going to find it. You have radio stations that think they are the power. They have power of certain… Because these kids aren’t really listening to radio. They’re listening to their phones. They’re on YouTube. And they’re discovering these artists and how you could have songs like a Rob Banks or any of these other guys that have great followers and never been played on the radio ever, that shows you that these kids are looking elsewhere to get this kind of information and see their artists.
Who would you say are some of the real dancehall artists right now?
Popcaan is one of those guys that was an Internet sensation. The guy was making records and blew up, but the kids found out about him and were vibing to his music. And Drake, of course, co-signed it, which gave him a platform. Alkaline is one of the biggest successes out of Jamaica. He’s like the Bieber of Jamaica. This guy can’t even walk on the streets of… And you’re seeing this happen. He’s in Dubai right now. And he’s blowing up based on him just putting records out that service on the Internet. Mainstream radio isn’t playing any of this, but this guy will pack in a venue right now.
This young lady, Shenseea, has a big controversy right now in Jamaica. That controversy is blowing up to this big thing. Why? She’s got one song. Because there’s a realness that comes from her, from being in the streets and having this x-factor so to speak. This thing that lures your interest into this person. It will make it’s way up.
Konshens is another person that I think is promising. They will make their way up. It’s just their journey will be a little longer because they’ve got to convince the gatekeepers to say, ‘Oh shit, let’s go with this. Oh shit, this is hot.’
Definitely, and invest in them. Speaking of Drake, what are your thoughts on the dancehall vibes on More Life?
Oh, Drake has been doing that. He embraced the whole culture. He sits there and he talks it. He lives it. The guy’s from Canada. It’s Toronto. It’s all Jamaicans around there, so I get the influences. I embrace the fact that he embraces it. I think that it’s great. He’s the cool guy. He’s saying these things and he’s making these kids go get into it.
Agreed. What’s next for you in terms of music? Are you planning on dropping anything soon? Are you going on tour?
We dropped a record called “Seasons” with myself and Omi probably about two months ago or something like that. We’re currently at about 6 million on YouTube and something over 3 million on Spotify. We’re continually growing. There’s another record I just dropped, or I kind of just served to a couple of DJs called, “Promises” with me and Romaine Virgo. That’s just to serve my core market, but it’s also a Shaggy record that has potential to be a big cross record. And then I’m doing little collabs here and there around the place. DJ Frost has dropped his rhythm, big joint on that. I just gave Romi another record. I’m doing little things here and there just to keep the relevancy.