Unique voice, style led to fame for Shaggy
BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
Has it really been 19 years since Shaggy became a worldwide reggae pop star? In a word, yes. Shaggy’s breakthrough single, the original version of “Boombastic,” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in May 2005. It would peak at No. 3 and stay there for two weeks.
A remix that added a hook from Marvin Gaye’s 1973 hit “Let’s Get It On” to the original became the definitive version. The remix gave Shaggy — a self-described “boombastic romantic fantastic lover” and a deep-voiced toaster with confident command of lyric phrases like “Don’t tickle my foot bottom, baby please” — a signature song to last him forever.
Shaggy has released several memorable songs since “Boombastic” — “Summer Time,” “It Wasn’t Me” and “Angel,” to name three — but “Boombastic” is certain to be a highlight Saturday when Shaggy headlines the final night of the Mayjah Rayjah 2014 Music Festival Hawaii. The two-night event is an extravaganza of talent that includes high-profile entertainers like Anuhea, Rebel Souljahz, Nesian Nine, Awa and JBoog along with rising stars and newcomers.
Shaggy was on a layover in New York, on his way home to vacation in Jamaica, when we connected by phone July 2.
MAYJAH RAYJAH 2014
» Where: Waikiki Shell
Friday’s Lineup: JBoog, Common Kings, Tenelle, Nesian Nine, Kiwini Vaitai, the Jimmy Weeks Project, Jay Keyz, Siaosi, Hot Rain, H Trey, Jasmin Idica, Hecjah, Hi Town Rockahz, Paul Brandon, Errick, I.A., Spike Boy, Osnizzle, Micah Banks
Saturday’s Lineup: Shaggy, Rebel Souljahz, Anuhea, Sammy J, Awa, Aaradhna, Shar Carillo, Mahi Crabbe, Bo Napoleon, Jasmin Lee, Osnizzle, Paul Brandon, Errick, Matt Friendly, Mass Funk, Dirty Secret, Untz
CORDIAL and gracious as ever, his voice instantly recognizable, Shaggy had some concise advice for young entertainers and people who dream of a career in music: Be yourself. Don’t be a clone of some iconic superstar.
“I’ve seen so many artists trying to clone Bob Marley, and it gets boring. I don’t want to hear these guys act like they’re Bob and sing his music with the same style of the bass line and the same feel of the music. I don’t want that. I want to hear something else. I already got that.”
“I was criticized when I started (because) I was not doing ‘authentic reggae’ and whatnot, but if I had stayed in that lane, what am I going to do? Do what Bob Marley had done? I can’t top that. How am I going to make a mark?”
Instead, Shaggy found his own voice and his own style.
His first chart hit, “Oh Carolina,” was a reworking of a 1960 ska song into a contemporary dancehall arrangement and sung in a distinct ear-catching style. “Oh Carolina” stalled at No. 59 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1993.
“Boombastic” put him over the top two years later. Both songs made use of other artists’ hits as melodic hooks. A later hit, “Angel,” did that, too.
Shaggy says he was ahead of his time.
“You take these records and we flip ‘em and we get criticized, and now that’s exactly what Pharrell (Williams) is doing. There’s nothing wrong with it — you’ve created a new feel.”
SHAGGY’S vacation in Jamaica ended last weekend. He’s been back on tour since Tuesday, with two shows in San Diego and one on Maui before Saturday’s show in Honolulu.
“There’s a lot of history with us and Hawaii,” he said. “I owe a lot of my success to Hawaii, and it has always felt like a home away from home because of the island life.”
After Mayjah Rayjah, he’s off to Europe for a month of concerts.
“One time it was a situation when you were focusing on selling records. Now we’ve shifted our focus on maintaining our fan base and touring,” he said. “My thing is to tour as much as possible. With the amount of years I’ve put in and the catalog of music I have, you want to feed the fans.”
Shaggy gave his fans a full-length album of musical nourishment in December when he released “Out Of Many, One Music,” recorded with the acclaimed Jamaican production duo of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, aka Sly & Robbie.
“That record is mainly an underground authentic, credible reggae record,” he said. “Everything is done live, played by Sly and Robbie. … I wanted to get back to the streets, get back to the roots of it, and that’s what’s about. It’s not a commercial type of an album at all.”
“We put the first single out, ‘Fight This Feeling,’ with myself and Beres Hammond (several months ago), and we had a great success with that (but) we weren’t looking to get this record and get a major record label behind it. It’s just really for the core fans.”
The core fans can count on Shaggy continuing to follow his own path in blending tradition and new ideas.
“When you’ve in a career as long as we have, you find different ways to reinvent yourself,” he said.
Shaggy welcomes new artists and new ideas. He encourages “purists” to at least listen with an open mind.
“(Purists) want to hear what they want to hear, but then you have these newer kids, they want to hear a different sound and a different style. The purists cannot be mad at the people who are coming in and the new blood that is coming in and creating a different style of music that they can feel.”