Guess which dancehall artist loves "Hollaback Girl"?
"That's the sh-- I love!" an excited Sean Paul gushed about Gwen Stefani's single, which has been at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for weeks (and will be will be #1 on next week's as well). "That song works. I'll listen to the whole of that song to the end. She ain't saying much, but all the parts work. It's very nice to listen to."
Not that the singer's had much time for recreational listening lately: He's been in Jamaica working hard on his third solo LP, the follow-up to 2002's Dutty Rock.
"I had one show on New Year's Eve in Ethiopia, and since then I've been buried into the studio," he said. "Six million people took me in — I just got to make sure they're going to take me back."
Following up a success of that magnitude is no small endeavor, and the MC admits that he's feeling some heat. "You feel a sense of responsibility, and I'm holding up the whole dancehall thing, as everyone's waiting on my album," he said. "So there is a bit of pressure."
He's currently in the final stages of choosing songs for the LP, and since his collaborations with Beyoncé and Sasha helped broaden his mainstream audience, Paul isn't trying to break the winning pattern (which runs contrary to some of his previous statements; see "Sean Paul Spurns The Big Time, Tackles 'Deeper Social Issues' ").
Paul's not revealing who's on the team just yet. "I'm doing work with top artists from abroad and I don't want to say who yet," he teased. "A nice R&B artist, but that's all top secret."
However, he did provide a little insight into one of his album's most emotionally charged songs.
"This album has party tracks, but there's some deepness to it," he said. "I had a friend that we lost, part of my crew, and some violence happened. He got shot and there's a song that's a tribute to him and people that I've lost over the years. It's a very sad song, and songs like this on the album make it more moody than Dutty Rock was."
He's not kidding. "I ended up writing this song called 'Time Rolls On.' It's about us, in the whole world, and as time rolls on, are we ever gonna live together? Every religion is claiming that they are the right one, every politician is claiming that they are doing the right thing. It's been thousands of years ... are we ever gonna get it together?"
Turning his attention to slightly less worldly issues, Paul's already taking a look at who will be directing his next clip, which is expected to be for the album's first single, "Gimme the Jeez." And while Little X directed most of Paul's videos last time around, the MC is keeping an open mind.
"There's treatments for this first video being put out and we'll see which is the best one," he said. "Yeah, me and Little X do have a chemistry, but sometimes you have to change the format a little bit. People get tired of the same sweet drink, so they might want some fresh water this time."
Luckily for his fans, Sean has freshened up enough to be ready to start touring again. "We were touring for a long time," he said. "I been to Egypt, I went to Kenya, Uganda and crazy places that I never thought I would be. It's been a crazy long ride, so these last three months have been the best thing to balance me off."
Paul plans to release the album late in the summer and expects to hit the road in June.