Talk to reggae icon Shaggy for three minutes or less, and you’ll realize three things: A) he never stopped making music despite terrestrial radio in the states cutting his airplay B) his charity work will always come first, and C) he doesn’t care about “A.” You’ll also learn right off the bat he’s the chillest guy on the planet.

In a phone interview from Kingston earlier this month, the musician, who has sold 30 million records worldwide, also chatted about his new single “I Need Your Love,” a collaboration with producer Costi and featuring Afro-Pop star Mohombi and Australian singer Faydee. He also discussed a treasure trove of music he has and constantly tweaks. “I write a song each day man,” he explained. Before we get right into the interview, let’s take a look at the multi-platinum Grammy Award winner’s staggering success he’s had in the world of reggae and dancehall.

Pitbull may claim to be “Mr. Worldwide,” but it’s Shaggy who really holds that crown. He’s achieved worldwide success with mega-hits like “Boombastic” and the #1 track “It Wasn’t Me” as well as “Angel.” A true road warrior, Shaggy’s toured internationally for decades, and was recently awarded his sixth Grammy nomination for Best Reggae Album. The versatile stud also recently appeared on “Unforgettable”, a track off R&B legend Charlie Wilson’s latest album.

That barely scratches the surface, but you get it. Shaggy’s world domination is obvious, and continuing as we speak. So, let’s get to the interview where he chats about his fallout from a big label, his current smash, his noble charity work, and everything in-between. Irie.


What’s up, man? Your single “I Need Your Love” is killing it – especially on YouTube. Some people will call it a comeback, but you never left, right?
I’ve been a busy boy. I just came from Chile, and we pulled 30,000 people. People just don’t listen, man. I had this wonderful album with “Angel,” “It Wasn’t Me,” and “”Luv Me, Luv Me,” and it sold 50 million records then all of a sudden MCA shuts down and transferred it into a new company at Geffen. There were all new people…and I had to leave. It’s not like there’s a budget for the reggae format. I pretty much knew the odds were stacked against me. I never do albums. I just compile a bunch of s–t on my computer. That’s how we found the single. It wasn’t that I hadn’t had a song in years. I always have something.

What I’m doing now is compiling some stuff that I already had, while at the same time, touching up s–t or freshening things up. I’m also writing new shit. I make records every day whether I have a record out or not.

So you have sort of a treasure trove you’re keeping from us?
I wouldn’t say that. I keep making music. I did a dancehall album, I was just nominated for another Grammy…. The thing with me is I’ve always experimented. This record (“I Need Your Love”) is a feel good song with a Spanish element… even a Middle Eastern and Caribbean element. It felt like a global record. The video was just me on tour. That’s it.

…And it got you attention again here in the states I’d imagine…
All these companies were trying to sign me back, but they all wanted to own me. I’m not into that game. RCA was trying to sign me. Mercury. Motown. That was before this Sony Red deal. They just wanted my music, and I was like ‘OK, I can do that.’ It’s ironic after penning the deal with Sony Red, “I Need Your Love” was already out, and already was gaining 6 million views on YouTube.

What’s the vibe been like in Jamaica? You still live there. I’m just curious – especially how we treat celebs in the states – are you treated like royalty there?
Jamaica is small – it’s a bubble. We all know each other. Jimmy Cliff is a 15 minute walk from my house. It’s like that. But the thing about Jamaicans is any superstar can walk by them and they’d just be like ‘you, what’s up?’ They really don’t give a s–t. I was born in Kingston and as much as I love New York City, I will always maintain a home here in Jamaica. My wife and children are here. My dad is here.

I want to shift gears for a moment, you have done so much charity work since you hit it big. You donated so much equipment to the the Bustamante Hospital for Children, and established the Shaggy Make a Difference Foundation. You’re involved in many more as well. Talk to me about the obvious rewards of giving back
Charity is the first thing for me now. I don’t get as much of a reward as the music. It’s just an amazing feeling. We built homes in Haiti. We’ve done a lot for kids – bringing them medical equipment like ventilators. You just see people whose lives you’re really changing. You can’t beat that.

One day, I was driving and I was stuck in traffic, and there’s this guy on a bicycle sweating. He’s riding me down so I had to stop. I pull over, and he looks like a farmer or something, and he just goes, ‘I just want to shake your hand. My daughter was sick and at the hospital hooked up to one of the machines you bought with Shaggy and Friends for over a month. She pulled through. Here is he is looking at me, and he wouldn’t let my hang go and he’s crying. You think a f–ckin’ record could beat that? You think walking the red carpet could? No f–king way.

Getting back to the start, are you jaded at all with the music industry?
I’m excited we’re creating this wave. When I look at what’s going on with this record, people are coming back now who were like ‘why would I play a Shaggy record?’ A great song is a great song, man. If you go out there and have great songs and performances, you’re going to win.


About A-Sides with Jon Chattman:

Jon Chattman’s music series features celebrities and artists (established or not) from all genres performing a track, and discussing what it means to them. This informal series focuses on the artist making art in a low-threatening, extremely informal (sometime humorous) way. No bells, no whistles – just the music performed in a random, low-key setting followed by an unrehearsed chat. In an industry where everything often gets overblown and over manufactured, Jon strives for a refreshing change.
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