Back in 2003, reggae crossover star Sean Paul Henriques was fined $34 for cursing on stage at a festival in his native Jamaica. The cost was insignificant, particularly in light of Sean Paul's stateside success: The Trinity, his latest disc, set a record for most copies of a reggae album sold in a single week (107,000- plus), and spawned "We Be Burnin'," a radio and MTV smash. Nevertheless, this minor penalty still rankles him.
"The law wasn't paid any attention until dancehall music got so big," he points out. "The government and high-society people didn't care about it. They used to call dancehall Œboogliaga music. And if those boogliaga guys want to say it down the road, I don't care.' But when it came up the road and started selling records, they said, ŒWe can't have them say that!'"
Of course, Sean Paul's ability to speak in street lexicon familiar to Americans has boosted his appeal among rap aficionados here, as he well knows. He notes that "Gimme the Light," a hit off his breakthrough long-player, 2002's Dutty Rock, is about "partying with the ladies, smoking weed and drinking champagne -- so I say, ŒGimme the light, pass the joe, give me another bottle of Mo'," as in Mot. He concedes, "I normally wouldn't buy a bottle of Mo', because it's very greedy. If there were a lot of friends around, I'd probably buy a crate of Guinness and give everybody one. But I get across to the hip-hop audience because of using words like that."
In the future, Sean Paul would like to complement his trademark odes to excess with weightier offerings. Unfortunately, he's faced resistance to "Time Rolls On," an anti-war composition he describes as "the most political piece I've written and recorded so far." He was "very upset, deeply upset" when his record company, Atlantic, balked at including the tune among Trinity's main roster. But he managed to place "Time" on a bonus CD included with the set at Target stores nationwide, and one of his famous pals recently gave the number a rave review. "I shot a video the other day for a song I did with Carlos Santana," he says, referencing "Cry Baby Cry," a cut from Santana's All That I Am disc that also features Joss Stone. "And I actually got to pick his guitar up and play him the song. I sang it for him, and he was amazed. He was like, ŒDude, that's a brilliant song.' And that gave me so much encouragement. I won't stop doing it now."
Not that fans of "Ever Blazin'" and Sean Paul's other ventures into sonic escapism need worry that he'll say goodbye permanently to bacchanalia. "I will definitely keep doing the rap-type songs, the shake-that-booty songs, and not just because I want to sell records," he insists. "It's because I'm like that: I'm a conscious person, but I do like to party."
He doesn't have a problem with profanity, either -- and those who object know where they can shove his $34.
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