____Sean Paul, 33, has broken into the mainstream with his wriggly odes to booty-moving in a way only a select few Jamaican artists have before him. His Grammy-winning 2002 breakthrough album Dutty Rock spawned five hit singles, including Shake That Thing and the Beyonce duet Baby Boy, and has sold 6 million copies worldwide. The 2005 follow-up The Trinity, recorded entirely in Jamaica, has sold close to 2 million on the strength of Temperature and current single (When You Gonna) Give It Up to Me.
____Although Paul is best known for applying his rapid-fire flow to racy club bangers, Trinity also features a serious song about friends he has lost to violence in Kingston. Born Sean Paul Henriques, the multi-ethnic rapper - his parents are of Chinese, Portuguese, and Jamaican heritage - plans to commit more politically minded tunes to tape for his fourth album, due next spring.
____We caught up with Paul by phone from a Montreal tour stop and discovered that he gives interviews the same way he performs: rapid-fire, in a lilting mix of Jamaican patois and street slang.
____According to your bio, you're technically the most successful Jamaican artist of all time, based on Billboard chart positions. What does that statistic mean to you?
____I feel good to know that I'm representing reggae and dancehall music right now on that level. But I also must big up people who have done work before, and they're still doing work and they inspire me today, people who led the way for me such as Buju Banton, Beenie Man. I have to respect that because they did authentic hardcore dancehall music for many, many years. Plus also the elders in the music business such as Steel Pulse and Bob Marley. Bob Marley did this without any media coverage, you know what I'm saying?
____In Jamaica, it's common for artists to put out a half-dozen non-album singles in one year, whereas in the US, record companies don't want to saturate the market. Do you have singles out at home that you haven't released here yet?
____I have recorded quite a few singles since the album's been out. There's one song called Sufferer which is a bit different, and I've been writing a lot more conscious songs lately. This song talks on behalf of kids who are sufferers in Jamaica, and it tells the story of why they turn to gun violence. I'm saying kid, look at these great people who were sufferers, and they made a difference in humanity today. So when you are fighting this war over whatever it is you're fighting, just try to remember you could be killing the next Martin Luther, you could be killing the next Bob Marley, you yourself could be something different from the regular street thug.
____After working with some of the biggest producers in the business on Dutty Rock you made a point to go back to Jamaica for The Trinity and work with lesser known local guys like Lenky and Vendetta. Why?
____After the success, after the 6 million sales, after the Grammy, I was like four of my singles that hit were all produced in Jamaica. This means to me that the world is finally getting what I got in the early '80s as a kid. So when I went back what would inspire me was the kids doing it just like I did before. It was like, wow, these kids are just stepping up in the game. I have to give them a chance.
____Now other artists are working with those producers. How do you feel about the kind of influence you've had in that regard?
____As a kid, I was like this music could be represented on MTV and BET and all these big stations. I think it's great music, and so I always thought of it as a big international type music. And when I started to do it I became popular in Jamaica, and then I became more popular in the States. In about 2001 people started saying to me, 'Yo, you brought back reggae and dancehall. How do you feel?' I'm like I didn't bring it back nowhere. I'm in a great tradition that's been around from the '50s and long before that. It didn't go nowhere.