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 Sean Paul shows he has what it takes to battle 50 Cent on the pop singles chart ...



Page 2


 Puffy, Biggie and Mary J. Blige help dancehall cross over into the mainstream ...



Page 3


 Dancehall has its own Snoop, its own Tupac, its own Jay-Z and even an R. Kelly ...



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Far from being a new phenomenon, dancehall has been bubbling under the surface of the American music mainstream for two decades. It enjoyed bursts of success in the early '90s with artists like the ones Paul listed, and more recently it's been gearing up for a comeback on the heels of Shaggy's 2000 album, Hot Shot, which sold 10 million copies in the U.S., the first dancehall record to do so. Now a salacious hybrid of reggae and rap, clearly built for the youth and a far cry from Bob Marley's '70s roots heyday, is going pop all around the globe. After 20 years, why now?

"It was an issue of timing," said Christy Barber, president of the U.S.-based Tuff Gong/Ghetto Use Records, the label home of reggae prophet Marley and his son Ziggy. Having worked with a wide range of dancehall artists over the past 11 years — Super Cat, Ini Kamoze and Mad Cobra among them — she's assisting Def Jam in putting together its groundbreaking Def Jamaica project, which will feature Method Man and Redman on a song with Stephen and Damian Marley, Capone-N-Noreaga on songs with Wayne Wonder and Lexxus, and Cam'ron with Buju Banton, among others.

  Super Cat featuring Biggie Smalls
"Dolly My Baby" remix
Don Dada
(Columbia)
"In the '90s it was hip-hop's time to cross over into popular music and become mainstream. In order to make dancehall popular [at that time], we had to use hip-hop beats. [1992's] 'Dolly My Baby' by Super Cat is a good example. For it to cross over, it became the first track ever that Puffy and Biggie rapped on, and Mary J. Blige sang the hook. Now that hip-hop has established itself [in the American mainstream], there's a good chance for dancehall to survive on its own."

But while everything's looking up for Paul in the States, back home a lot of people aren't showing dancehall's biggest international don the love he's grown accustomed to overseas. In what has become a classic side effect of any hometown boy done good, Sean Paul's been feeling a backlash — in this case over Jamaica's indigenous music being mass-marketed overseas, with some hurling the term "pop" at him like it's a curse word, making him feel what Puffy meant by "Mo' money, mo' problems."

  "No one can tell me that my sound is not the original thing."
"It don't really matter to me, you know why? Pop means popular," he said passionately. "I speak from the heart. I'm still in Jamaica and nobody can move me from there. No one can tell me that my sound is not the original thing. I go and seek out the hot riddims that are playing in the ghetto, in the dance, where people are. Dancehall is pop right now, in terms of me and Wayne Wonder. There's a lot of other stuff out there that we contribute to and that we do hold down, and there's nothing pop about that."

Shaggy concurred and said that he, like Sean Paul, has received his fair share of flack from people back home for his light-skinned, pretty boy looks and his middle- to upper-class roots, but mostly because he's a Jamaican who was raised in Brooklyn.

"There's a lack of support from labels and [a lack] of professionalism from artists in Jamaica," Shaggy said, explaining why some people choose to seek a U.S. label deal versus relying on Jamaica's limited music industry resources. "Sean is the second dancehall artist to ever go #1 with a single. I actually had the first #1 with 'It Wasn't Me.' [We're] just opening the doors so [other dancehall artists] can make it."

While this might be the true, there is a difference between the brand of dancehall that is popular in Jamaica now versus what gets the most airplay in the Londons, New Yorks and Tokyos of the world.


NEXT: Dancehall has its own Snoop, its own Tupac, its own Jay-Z and even an R. Kelly ...
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Photo: VP Records

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 Sean Paul featuring 50 Cent
"They Not Ready" remix
Dutty Rock
(VP Records)



 Sean Paul
"Get Busy"
Dutty Rock
(VP Records)



 Sean Paul
"Get Busy" live from "TRL"
Dutty Rock
(VP Records)



 Wayne Wonder
"No Letting Go"
No Holding Back
(VP Records)



 Busta Rhymes featuring Sean Paul
"Make It Clap" remix
It Ain't Safe No More
(J Records)



 Beenie Man
"Bossman"

Tropical Storm
(Virgin)



 Super Cat featuring Biggie Smalls
"Dolly My Baby" remix

Don Dada
(Columbia)



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