With his name etched into Jamaican folklore as one of the most successful Dancehall/Reggae artistes ever, Sean Paul has a legacy that many musicians within his genre could only dream of having. However, before Sean Paul was a world-renowned musician, he was already a star in a different right before realizing his true calling as a Dancehall/Reggae pioneer.
Born on January 8, 1973, Sean Paul Henriques was instantly immersed in a family full of successful athletes. His parents were talented athletes while his mother was a well-known painter. Additionally, many of his family members were swimmers while his grandfather was a part of Jamaica’s first ever national water polo team. Inspired by his grandfather’s achievements, Henriques starred on the national water polo team from the start of his high school years at Wolmers High School until the age of 21. It was at that time when Henriques decided to switch careers; desiring to pursue his dream of becoming a musician.
Following graduation from the University of Technology (UTECH), Henriques began to showcase his talents and performed at an open mic event where the brother of prominent producer, Jeremy Harding; compared his powerful vocal style to that of internationally acclaimed Dancehall superstar, Super Cat. After being dubbed with the stage name, Sean Paul, he recorded his first mainstream single in 1997, Ladies Man, alongside Reggae star, Spanner Banner. The single was well received within the industry; prompting a meeting between Harding and Sean Paul. Harding took Sean Paul under his wing and during said meeting, began the process of recording the single, Baby Girl. The two held studio sessions daily whilst formulating a friendship; collaborating on several tracks including Sean Paul’s second mainstream hit single, Infiltrate. Their ongoing chemistry led to Harding assuming the role of Sean Paul’s manager and producer.
1998 proved to be Sean Paul’s breakout year; revealing a slew of hit singles including Deport Them, Work With It and the highly-acclaimed song, Hot Gal Today, featuring fellow up-and-coming Dancehall star, Mr. Vegas. Local success led to international recognition where Sean Paul made a cameo appearance in the popular hip-hop movie, Belly. Alongside Mr. Vegas and hip-hop superstar DMX, Sean Paul recorded the hit single, Top Shotter that became the lead single for the movie’s soundtrack. Sean Paul’s hard work culminated in the unveiling of his debut album, Stage One, via VP Records in 2000. The album enjoyed some success overseas, showing Sean Paul’s prospects as a Dancehall superstar.
However, 2002 was the year Sean Paul arrived on the international Dancehall scene as a potential heir apparent for the likes of Shabba Ranks, Beenie Man and Bounty Killer before him. Sean Paul released his sophomore album, Dutty Rock; producing the chart-topping hit single, Gimme the Light that became popular locally and across North American airwaves. Many Dancehall/Reggae observers and fans still regard Dutty Rock as one of the greatest albums in history; offering classics such as I’m Still In Love featuring Sasha, Like Glue, Get Busy and Baby Boy alongside R&B superstar singer, Beyonce. The collaborative effort resulted in nine consecutive weeks at the top of the U.S Billboard Charts while Dutty Rock led to more unprecedented success for Sean Paul; copping him the Grammy award for Best Reggae Album in 2003.
Another international collaboration with R&B singer Blu Cantrell entitled Breathe followed before Sean Paul began work on his third album, The Trinity in 2005. The album produced more classic material from the chart topping singjay such as We Be Burnin’, Never Gonna Be The Same, Give It Up To Me alongside R&B superstar, Keyshia Cole and the Billboard chart-topping smash, Temperature produced by Rohan Snowcone Fuller. The latter single earned Sean Paul four Billboard Awards in 2006 and earned an American Music Award for Give It Up To Me competing against hip-hop superstar, Kanye West for the award.
Despite some criticism from fans who desired a more authentic Dancehall sound, Sean Paul’s international success set the bar for his compatriots within the industry to gain crossover appeal. That appeal continued to show as over the next three years, Sean Paul collaborated with Ruff Ryders first lady, Eve for the single, Give It To You and Break It Off with Barbadian pop songstress, Rihanna.
In 2008, Sean Paul continued to offer transcendent material with One Life, I Can Give You Pleasure and Come Over alongside British songstress, Estelle, before releasing the scintillating Reggae single, Hold My Hand on the highly-acclaimed Relationships Riddim. The single re-affirmed Sean Paul’s stronghold on the local market and sparked another strong run which also included the video for his combination single, Back It Up alongside Dancehall star, Leftside aka Dr. Evil.
2009 witnessed a fourth studio album from Sean Paul entitled, Imperial Blaze. The lead single for this effort was So Fine, produced by prominent hit maker, Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor. The album also featured tracks such as, Press It Up, Private Party, Lately and Now That I’ve Got Love amongst other singles. The album featured a plethora of prominent Dancehall/Reggae producers including the aforementioned McGregor, Jeremy Harding, Don Corleon and Sean Paul’s brother, Jason “Jigzagula” Henriques.
Between 2009 and 2010, Sean Paul collaborated with more American superstar acts such as Keri Hilson, Mya, Sean Kingston, Flo-rida, R&B legend, Toni Braxton and hip-hop superstar Nicki Minaj amongst several others; illustrating his will to become an artiste who encompassed more than just Dancehall and Reggae flavour. Nevertheless, Sean Paul continued to stick to his roots, recording local-based hits such as Beat Of My Heart on the City Life Riddim as well as Big Bad and Bold, produced by Leftside.
2011 sees Sean Paul continue his ascendancy towards legendary status; focusing his attention for the most part on the local scene with singles such as Raving, Give Me the Loving on the Don Corleon produced, Summer Scheme Riddim and Wedding Crashers alongside Fambo on the popular Matrimoney Riddim.
Di Genius produced If This Isn’t Love alongside Nicky B and two combination singles alongside Wayne Marshall, Here We Go and My Life have been well received by industry observers. Meanwhile, his most recent international hit features American teenage songstress, Alexis Jordan for the single, Got To Luv You which has already copped millions of YouTube views with regards to the accompanying video while earning Sean Paul another Billboard hit.
Sean Paul’s place amongst Dancehall’s elite is unquestionable given the road he’s paved for Dancehall superstars, past, present and future, to trek down as they aim to gain international recognition. Given Sean Paul’s crossover appeal, there may be many more opportunities for Sean Paul to build on his career and continue reigning supreme on the local and international music stages.