ON the evening of September 22, 2002, when Prime Minister P.J. Patterson announced the date for general elections at a rally in Half-Way Tree, supporters of the People's National Party welcomed the news by rocking to deejay Sean Paul's hit song, Gimme The Light.
Four years on, election fever is in the air and Sean Paul is still the toast of the party. No stranger to awards, the 33-year-old Sean Paul is one of the recipients of The Gleaner's 2006 Honour Awards, which will be handed out this month.
He is being recognised for his achievements in entertainment.
The Trinity, Sean Paul's third album, has not packed the sales punch of its predecessor, Dutty Rock, but it has certainly enhanced his reputation as one of contemporary pop music's heavyweights.
To date, the Atlantic Records album has spawned three hit songs: We Be Burnin', Give It Up To Me and Temperature. Earlier this year, he was opening act for Mariah Carey on the singer's North American tour.
According to Billboard Magazine, The Trinity has been certified platinum for sales of over one million units in the United States.
The hit-laden Dutty Rock sold over six million units, according to sales tracker, SoundScan.
A reflection of youthful creativity
Dutty Rock placed Sean Paul in a position of strength for his much anticipated follow-up. There was a bigger budget for marketing, with Atlantic going all out to duplicate Dutty Rock's success.
For all its power, Atlantic did not call all the shots. Sean Paul said he wanted the new set to reflect the creativity of Jamaican youth.
"Jamaica's musical influence is big, especially in the past five years," he told AskMen.com. "But one thing that is a dark side is that none of these people go back home to do it (record)," he explained. "On The Trinity I'm giving respect back to these kids (Jamaican producers) because they are the current vibrancy of what's doing in Jamaica."
Like Dutty Rock's hits, We Be Burnin', Give It Up To Me and Temperature were all produced locally. Their presence on the Billboard pop charts has shown that dancehall producers such as Delano Thomas of Renaissance and Don Corleone are on par with their hip hop counterparts like Scott Storch or The Neptunes.
Not since the early 1990s when hardcore acts like Shabba Ranks, Cobra, Patra and Super Cat entered American charts, has there been such a groundswell for Jamaican popular music.
Back then, almost every major label in the United States had a dancehall performer on their roster. Ranks, Cobra and Patra all produced gold (sales of 500,000 copies) records and introduced music from the underground to the U.S. mainstream.
But while those performers earned their stripes from the sound system scene of inner-city Kingston, Sean Paul Henriques jammed to Super Cat records at his home in the upscale St. Andrew community of Norbrook.
In between a course in hotel management at the former College of Arts, Science and Technology, and representing the Jamaica water polo team, he was also making a name as a deejay.
Good from the start
His first song, Baby Girl, was released in 1996. It was produced by Jeremy Harding, son of respected lawyer and former Jamaica Labour Party senator, Ossie Harding.
Harding, who is Sean Paul's manager, also produced Deport Them, a minor hit for the budding deejay. That song was recorded on the Playground beat, which also drove Who Am I, which remains one of Beenie Man's biggest hits in the U.S.
Sean Paul enteredthe U.S. charts in 1999 with Hot Gal Today,which was done with deejay Mr. Vegas. Three years later, he made the charts again, this time alone and with a bang.
Initially, Dutty Rock was released by BP Records; eventually, Atlantic entered the picture and helped make it one of the biggest records of 2002-03. Coming on the heels of Shaggy's Hot Shot, it not only kept the dancehall vibe alive in the U.S., but announced a star whose ethnicity and background was dis-similar to his predecessors of a decade earlier.
Dutty Rock was a revelation and had everyone from mall rats to NBA star Shaquille O'Neal boogeying to Top 10 hits like Gimme The Light, Get Busy and Like Glue.
Sean Paul's newfound fame caught the ear of hip hop stars like Beyoncé, with whom he recorded Baby Boy, another Top 10 hit. To complete a remarkable 18 months, Dutty Rock won the Best Reggae Album category at the 2004 Grammy Awards.
Like Shaggy, Sean Paul has shared his good fortune by donating to local causes.