Sean Paul Talks State Of Dancehall In “A Life In Riddims” Documentary On 1Xtra Radio

International dancehall legend, Sean Paul, was recently interviewed by Yasmin Evans for BBC Radio 1Xtra and the result was a truly phenomenal experience.

Sean Paul grew up in Kingston, Jamaica, with one of his favorite spots being the national stadium pool. He joked that his parents probably met and created him in that very pool. His grandfather was on the first Commonwealth team; his mom was a Backstroke champion and his aunt a breaststroke champion. He used to sit in the stands and fling lyrics, and he recalled that he used to listen to dancehall and hip hop at 10 years old with one of his favorite artists being Super Cat. He went on to explain that swimming and water polo taught him humbleness and how to set goals.

Upon visiting Tuff Gong Studios, the pair began to delve into the extensive musical catalog that is Sean Paul. The singer, whose real name is Sean Paul Francis Henriques has over 20 years of hits under his belt.

His first big UK hit song was “Gimme Di Light.” At the time he had a song “Make it clap” with Busta Rhymes that was making rounds in New York. Whenever he would visit the clubs there, he would be given bottles of liquor. The dancehall icon stated that he wasn’t living that type of lifestyle in Jamaica, where he was used to drinking Guinness. But in New York people used to approach him and say, “Yo Mr. Paul, I bought you a bottle, you da baddest” and that is what inspired him to make “Gimmie Di Light.” He sang, “Just gimme the light and pass the dro. Buss anotha bokkle a moe.” He went on to mention that it first took off in Trinidad and Miami before Jamaica.

Seani B, who is a DJ/presenter, explained the concept of juggling. There is one riddim or a backing track, and from there you have 20 cuts or 20 different songs. As a DJ, you have 5 or 6 songs that you shift through for a single riddim, and that is called juggling. On the “Playground Riddim,” there were hits from Mr. Vegas, Beenie Man(Who Am I) and then Sean Paul’s ‘Infiltrate.’

At Dutty Rock studios, Sean Paul explained that back in the day, kids didn’t have the time and means to meet and gather as a band, but they had the talent. Therefore producers used to have different artists voice their own version on the same riddim. Sean stated, “When you hear a riddim that you really like, and there are different projections on it, some talking bout girl, some talking bout party, some talking bout King Selassie and you’re getting all these meditations from this and you can ask any Jamaican DJ or rapper how they come up with those lyrics and is the riddim tell you. So it’s so interesting, it tells you how to flow on it, and it tells you what you must say on it.”

Seani B then discussed the “Filthy Riddim,” which boasts songs such as Mr. Vegas‘ “Heads High” and General Degree’s “Traffic Blocking.” “Name another genre where a producer can make one riddim track and have 10 to 15 different cuts for the audience to say that’s my favorite,” he says.

Interviewer Yasmin went on to say, “Dancehall music comes from within the dancehall. Turn up to any party in Jamaica, and you will immediately see the importance of dancing.” Dancer Pretty Pretty showcased Chi Ching Ching‘s “Rope.” The most important quote from the entire documentary is from Seani B. He said: “Jamaica is like the Disneyworld of music.” He added, “You have got Disneyworld type of characters inside an event in Kingston, 5 6 7 8 9 10 of them and Sean Paul’s crew is definitely a part of that, The Get There Squad, that Sean Paul and Chi Ching Ching has they’re out there in the streets.”

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