Today, Sean Paul performs alongside Major Lazer at the Notting Hill Carnival in London and on September 18, his fifth album, Tomahawk Technique, will be released in the U.S. We caught up with the mohawk-sporting dancehall star at his release party to get the scoop on his new LP and find out why he took to Twitter to tell the haters "suck yuh mudda."
What’s going on Sean?
Yeah Tomahawk Technique in the streets. The man dem ah walk and talk. The Technique ah speak. Bless them!
Indeed. I just got over here from London.
Lovin’ it. Were you over there for the Olympics?
I live there.
Did you see Usain Bolt fuck the world up?
Big up to Usain Bolt and the whole Jamaica team that did their thing over in London.
Big up to Usain Bolt and the whole Jamaica team that did their thing over in London. All the athletes who did all their things. Big up to the London team, too. They got a lot of medals this year, and projections that they wanted to accomplish all the things they wanted to achieve. Big up to all of you.
The Jamaican swimming team did really well this year, too.
Big up to Alia [Atkinson]. I love Alia. I know her big sister. When I was swimming back in the day, I used to swim for Jamaica. And when I used to swim, that girl was like this big [holds up his hand to a low height]. I’m not talking about Alia; I’m talking about her big sister. So Alia wasn’t even thought of when I was swimming. So big up to her. I’m very proud of her. Swimming is a great tradition in Jamaica, but there’s very few people that really do it and really excel at it on a competitive level. Big up to her; I know she’s gonna do better in the years to come.
So is it swimming that made you really fit?
Um I think so, yeah. I think it did. It had its part, you know.
So what happened? You could have been there at the Olympics. What made you go into dancehall?
Oh, hey, at the time when I was doing 100 meter freestyle, I was doing like 57 seconds, 56 seconds, which was very good. But Mark Biondi at the time, who was the gold medal champion. He was doing 47 seconds. And in swimming, ten seconds is way far away. So I was great for Jamaica and the Caribbean, but I wasn’t good on an Olympic level. And I just kind of figured out I was better at this music thing. That’s why I’m saying, Big up to Alia. She has really stepped up our swimming game in terms of being able to compete and almost by this much she get a medal. I’m so proud of her.
In the UK, “Got To Love You” has been going crazy—it’s everywhere. Why has it taken so long to get a release date in the States?
I have no idea. There’s been many different release dates of this album in different places. I think that a lot of people thought that I was done and I went home. And when I came out with it, they were like, “Wait a minute.” And no one knew what to make of what I was doing. I was doing dancehall on a different level. Pop level, R&B kinda thing. I was producing my own stuff too.
And I think a lot of people have taken time to get used to it. Earlier this year it got let go in different countries at different times. France first—big up to all the French people. They’ve been supporting my career no matter what.
The album came out there first and I’m on my fourth single over there now. In Germany too, I’ve got a single on the charts over there—No. 11 on the charts called “Touch The Sky,” produced by DJ Ammo. DJ Ammo big up yourself. What else going? Japan kicked off—they’re on their fourth single too. You know I mean?
It’s just been a whirlwind this year. I really don’t know why it’s taken that long. I finished the album a year ago, right here in the States. And now it’s come full circle back home and I’m ready to take it away.
No one knew what to make of what I was doing. I was doing dancehall on a different level. I was producing my own stuff too. I think a lot of people have taken time to get used to it.
When the album first came out, you dealt with a bit of a backlash from some of your Jamaican fans and you had a little rant on Twitter. Let’s talk about that.
A rant on Twitter? What is that? What is a rant on Twitter? A rant on Twitter is basically me speaking my mind. It’s 140 characters, I mean.... So I said something. I said “Yo, go suck yuh mudda if you no like me.” Nawmean? Cause I am representing my country.
When Grace Jones came and represented Jamaica, she wasn’t doing reggae. She wasn’t doing dancehall. But people said “Oh my God, look! it’s Jamaica!”
When Sheryl Lee Ralph came and had her own sitcom, and she’s representing Jamaica, nobody didn’t say “Oh she sold out.” No. But because my music has been popular over the world, some people was like Ehhhh.... So I was like “Yo, suck yuh mudda.”
As a result I got a lot of attention from it. Which is what I wanted. I wanted people to be aware I was coming out with a new album. So I don’t think I was ranting. I think what I was really doing was stating my claim. I’m here representing you. Recognize. You know I mean? Simple thing. And I think most people got over it right now. And in Jamaica right now they are like, Oh—now I get you. Now I understand. You have to take it to a different level sometimes, to let people wake up. You be like, Yo! Yo!
What was it like working with Kelly Rowland?
Kelly Rowland is a hot... uh... entertainer. A very beautiful woman. And I’m proud to be able to present her on a dancehall-sounding track. It’s people from Norway who built the track—Stargate.
Esther Dean actually wrote the hook—big up to her. It was an amazing collaborative effort from Stargate, Esther Dean, myself, and then Kelly Rowland came and topped the cake off. She’s the cherry on the top. Beautiful.
Benny Blanco is an amazing producer who produces pop music and he’s actually producing dancehall on a pop level now.
Kelly has always showed me a great vibe from back in the day when we were touring. I did a few shows with Destiny’s Child and Beyonce. She was always there in the background, and I was always thinking, Wow.
Beyonce’s an amazing talent so sometimes that can overshine the rest of the group. So it’s amazing that Kelly’s still doing her thing, and I thank her for blessing me on this track.
On your last album you worked so much with Stephen McGregor, and on all your past albums you had mostly Jamaican producers. How was the experience for you on this album, working with so many international producers like Stargate and Benny Blanco?
It wasn’t much different for me in terms of working with international producers. When I did “Breathe” with Blue Cantrell, it wasn’t somebody in Jamaica who produced the track. It was actually a Dr. Dre track that reached to her and she sent it on to me. The song with me and Beyonce wasn’t a dancehall producer—although it was dancehall—it was Scott Storch. Big up to Scott Storch and Beyonce who took the chance and loved the whole movement that was going on at the time.
So it wasn’t really an unfamiliar thing working with other people. I’ve worked with Pharrell before. I’ve been in studios doing demos with people like Timbaland. So what was different was that not many people from Jamaica’s production actually ended up on the album. I did many works. So big up to everyone that sees what I’m doing.
The first album was called Stage One. Next thing was Dutty Rock. Stage One sold 75,000; Dutty Rock sold 6 mil. You know, after that I went to albums like The Trinity and to Imperial Blaze. Those albums, Trinity sold about 2 mil; Imperial Blaze didn’t sell very much. But it was all Jamaican production and I’m very proud of it. I’ve been able to tour the world with this production. I’ve been able to present these young producers to the rest of the world.
Now I’m now on my fifth album. That’s quite a way in my career. I just wanted to work with who I could at this point in time. And I think it turned out great. It’s an amazing sound. Most people from my country who have worked with foreign-based producers, they’ve worked with their own sound.
Like I’ve heard artists do songs with The Neptunes and it turned out to sound much more hip-hop than dancehall. Benny Blanco is an amazing producer who produces pop music and he’s actually producing dancehall on a pop level now.
And that’s what I am. I mean, I’ve won a fucking American Music Award for the most popular artist in the United States. I’ve won Grammys, I’ve won MoBos, I’ve won Source Awards. I’ve topped the list. And so right now it’s time to expand. It’s time to spread out and do that. That’s what I’m feeling. So if you’re with me you’re with me. If you’re not, suck yuh mudda and g’way.
You did a song tonight called “Hold On To Your Dreams.” Tell us about that one.
That was a song that I wrote when I saw Usain Bolt false start at the World Games last year. And it pissed me off because I know this dude is a champion. There’s nobodythat could beat this dude. And to see him and his natural talent get messed up on his quest, it kinda hurt me, and it made people be like, “Oh yeah, he’s nothing.”
I was like, “Naw—Fuck y’all.” Because when he won in the Olympics and became the Olympic champion and world champion after that, a lot of people didn’t come and endorse him and take him to the level that he should be. He’s one of the number-one athletes in the world.
So I just wrote it for him to say “Hold on to the dream.” If you listen to the lyrics it says, “Although we already won, we still hold on.” And it’s not only for him. This year was Jamaica’s 50th anniversary. We’re 50 years independent. I think that we’re still a young country. So this song is kinda like for anyone who’s ever had a dream.
I didn’t really want an American Music Award. I mean, I’m thankful—it’s an amazing thing. But I didn’t want a Grammy. That’s not what was on my mind at first. It was just like, 'Yo, let me do this.' Let me make people accept the words from my mouth.
You’re a massive international artis. Did you ever dream that this was would happen for you?
You know, I just wanted to do music. I didn’t really consider getting an American Music Award. Now that I have it I can boast it. But before that—before the Grammys and all of that—in the first instance, it was just wanting to do music. I went to the real studios in Jamaica and sought out the real production.
And so it really comes full circle for me to say, “Yo, hold on to your dreams.” For real. I can actually say this to people: “Hold on to your dream.” That’s all I wanted. I just wanted to do music for people to accept. I didn’t really want an American Music Award.
I mean, I’m thankful—it’s an amazing thing. But I didn’t want a Grammy. It’s an amazing thing, but that’s not what was on my mind at first. It wasn’t on my mind for the bling at first. It was just like, 'Yo, let me do this.' Let me make people accept the words from my mouth. You know I mean? Word, sound, power man.
You’re going to be performing at Notting Hill Carnival today. Have you ever considered working with some of the British grime artists like Wiley or Stylo G?
Me like couple of the artists that’s going on over there right now. I mean, I’m not familiar with everybody in the whole fraternity. There’s so much things happening in the UK right now. Big up to Wretch. I think he’s a great dude, and he dabbled a little bit with the sound of dancehall in the first single that he came out with.
Tinie Tempeh doing his thing, and the producer Labyrinth. I think it’s a great thing that’s happening right now. There’s always been a lot of pop acts coming from England but the street element is coming out now, the grime and the hip-hop and the garage and the drum & bass—all these things are really stepping up and I love it. Notting HIll, look out mate. I’m coming!