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Interview: Shaggy

"It was so f***ing weird on paper": the reggae superstar on his unlikely collaboration

Interview from December 2019

In February 1996, Shaggy's "Boombastic" jumped to number 1, knocking George Michael's "Jesus To A Child" off the top in the process, cementing the star credentials of the Jamaican performer, who had previously scored with "Oh Carolina" and "In The Summertime". But that was really just the beginning, with even bigger smashes to come in the 2000s. In early 2020, Shaggy toured Australia alongside Sean Paul. "Him and I… there’s beers and we’re friends. We’re not very far from each other in Jamaica," he said about his co-headliner. I also spoke to Shaggy about coming down under and his unexpected collaboration with Sting (and more in the subscriber-only full version).

This isn't your first trip to Australia to perform. I last saw you at Rumba back in 2002.

Oh yeah, I’ve been back a couple of times since. But I remember the Rumba festival was really massive and great fun. I remember doing it with me and Pink and Bon Jovi and the whole nine yards. It’s always great to tour Australia because the fans are really reactive. It’s really difficult in one sense because it’s so far to get to and it becomes very expensive to tour, and in between cities is so far, but whenever you get the opportunity to do it, it’s always fun.

Between the two of you, you and Sean Paul have both collaborated with a stack of different artists individually. What has been your favourite collaboration?

My favourite collaboration to date would probably be Sting [on album 44/876]. It started off with one song. His manager heard the song and brought it to Sting and they came to the studio and said, “Hey, we love this.” And it was just on the hook first, and it sat for a year. Then Sting wanted to add some more stuff to it and go with it. Once we did it and put it out, Sting wanted to do a reggae album.

Sting and shaggy.jpg

Shaggy on Chart Beats

I told his manager, “Cool, I’ll help him with it. I’ll help him get the musicians and get that real feel to it.” They said, “He wants you to help him write it,” so I started to help him write it and next thing you know I’m on six or seven tracks. And he was like, “Why don’t we just do it together?” And that’s what ended up happening.

So it wasn't really planned.

It was all so organic – it wasn’t planned, because I was scheduled to put my album out and I had to put that on the backburner. What attracted me to it was that one, it was organic, and two, nobody expected it. Three, it was so fucking weird on paper and four, it somehow worked really goddamn well. It was just one of those things that you didn’t expect to make sense but it did. He’s kinda pop-reggae hybrid, I’m dancehall… who knows what the fuck to make of it. And then the shows did really well. I’m happy. I think the best thing out of the whole thing with Sting – this is the cherry on top – is I ended up finding a friend that I never knew I had. He is probably one of my closest friends to this day. I didn’t see that coming.

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