Shaggy Talks ‘I Need Your Love,’ Passing the Torch to New Writers, Why Black Lives Matter & More [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
With more than two decades in the music industry, Grammy Award-winning reggae artist Shaggy has mastered the art of reinvention in the face of the ever-evolving music industry.
After serving in the Gulf War as a member of the U.S. Marines, Shaggy kicked off his music career in the early '90s with the catchy single "Oh Carolina," which caught a buzz in the U.K. However, it wasn't until 1995, with his third album, Boombastic, that he garnered global success. The LP, lead by the title track, went on to sell more than 1 million copies and earned him a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.
Since then, Shaggy has released more than 11 albums and refocused, recreated and reclaimed his spot in the music business. Every artist has their ups and downs and the dancehall singer is no different. Relentless and hopeful, not every entertainer lays claim to an album that has gone six times platinum, Hot Shot, so Shaggy definitely understands the recipe for success.
Almost a decade later, he is attempting to do the inevitable once again. Mr. Lover Lover is putting his efforts into his latest single, “I Need Your Love,” which features strong Spanish percussion elements splashed with a reggae twist. The 2015 Grammy Award nominee -- Out of Many, One Music was nominated for Best Reggae Album -- proves that his reggae-infused projects continue to get the recognition they deserve as the song is climbing up the Billboard charts.
Shaggy is currently in the studio working on his 13th studio album and collaborating with new producers and writers. The process is a bit new to him, since he usually pens his own tracks but he's looking to cultivate a fresh sound and expand his audience. The "It Wasn't Me" creator stopped by The Boombox headquarters to talk about his unapologetic new song "Go F--- Yourself," the new artists he's digging right now, why black lives matter and more. Check out the conversation below.
The Boombox: Who are you working with for the new album in terms of producers and featured artists?
Shaggy: I haven’t even decided what I am going to do as far as the album. I have really been focused on the single, “I Need Your Love.” I have a couple of records like “Go F--- Yourself” and “Picture,” which are crowd favorites whenever we perform.
“Go F--- Yourself,” we wonder what that song is about.
Well, it’s a song, you know, if you have a boss that you can’t stand or friends you just hate, you want to do these types of songs that really just bring it home. Songs that people can relate to in everyday life. “Go F--- Yourself” is that kind of song that really just brings it home when you have the straw that breaks the camel's back.
What other songs are you excited for fans to hear off the album?
I am not really sure what the next song will be actually; we like to do things organically. I feel like that’s when you know you have a surefire hit. We all know those songs that people shove down your throat and we don’t want that.
What angle are you going for with this album? “I Need Your Love” has a Spanish percussion feel and you always find a new way to create a reggae-infused sound in your songs.
The greatest thing about me is I have always been able to reinvent. We have done that about three or four times with my sound. But it’s not just about reinventing the sound, it’s the music and brand at the same time. We did a lot of songs where we sampled a lot of old sounds. Now I am excited to work with new producers and people with great vibes. This is actually my first time ever collaborating with writers. Before I used to write everything myself.
Watch Shaggy's "I Need Your Love" Video Feat. Mohombi, Faydee & Costi
How is that going? From doing everything yourself and now sharing the creative writing process?
It’s hard. That’s not an easy thing to let go of. But you realize, I ain’t on the block no more, I am not in the streets, I am all around the world. But it’s nice to have the young kids to come in the studio and add that new flavor. I guide them on other things. Some of them do not know how to count bars. They think 22 bars are the same as lyrics. Nobody wants to break out the encyclopedia in the club.
Speaking of young, new artists, is there anyone you are feeling right now? Maybe someone you would like to collaborate with?
First off, the collaboration should be dictated by the song not by which artist is hot right now. As far as artists that I like, I like what Drake and Big Sean are putting out right now. In regards to reggae artists, I am feeling what Chronixx is doing right now. I worked with Chronixx in the past too, but I like to do my songs based on the music.
You’ve been in the industry for more than a decade, but a lot of people don’t know how your experience in the U.S. Army and the Gulf War have influenced you career in the music industry. Tell us about that.
The biggest thing I take away from the Army is that work ethic and being able to focus and put your eyes on a goal. I would never be about waking up early and do morning radio and TV back to back had I not been in the military, where they are throwing a garbage can in the middle of my squad bed at 5 o’clock in the morning for four years straight. Even with running, when we used to run a lot, what keeps me going is I used to run for four miles with boots. I still run to this day because I need it for my stage performance.
Also, in the military you didn’t get promoted unless your checks are balanced and your bills are paid. These are things that I still stay on still to this day. I took a lot from my experience. You know I am a kid from Kingston, Jamaica and I grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn and nobody was teaching me that. I was selling weed.
Watch Shaggy's "Boombastic" Video
With Black History Month just ending and the #BlackLivesMatter movement still going strong, why do you feel like black lives matter in America?
I just think as a people in general we should always look at ourselves as the underdog so we should always go harder than the next person. We are stereotyped no matter how you look at it. So why not break these stereotypes. I think it also depends on your personality. I get that in Jamaica a lot because it’s a country based more on class than racism. I would rather deal with that because I can change my class but not my color.
What other hobbies or business ventures do you have going on outside of the music?
Well, we have the Coco Yak deal. It is the first coconut cognac. We partnered with the guys who created Grey Goose and Jagermeister. So, I am invested in that. Then I have another business venture in Jamaica that I can’t talk about right now. But it’s a big telecommunications venture. Of course we still have the joint venture with Brooklyn Knights. Everything is about building the brand. I also have the charity, the Shaggy Make a Difference Foundation. We raise money for the only children’s hospital in the Caribbean.
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