Beenie Man has expressed delight at a BBC Sports’ TikTok video, in which several British sports personalities attempted the hook of his biggest international hit, Who Am I (Simma), at the recently-held BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award event in the United Kingdom.
According to the King Of The Dancehall, the song, which he said earlier this year became a success due to its “melody and groove, and not its lyrics,” was a testament that good music stands the test of time.
“This song transcends time and continues to resonate with people, evoking emotions and memories. It’s a testament to the power of music and its ability to connect us all,” Beenie shared on Instagram.
Released in 1997, Who Am I (Sim Simma) was recorded on Jeremy Harding’s Playground riddim, and later appeared on Beenie’s Many Moods Of Moses album, released that year under VP Records.
In early 1998, around the time VP debuted the upgraded, club-centric music video, the song stormed onto the Billboard Hot 100, where it spent 20 weeks, peaking at No. 40. It also peaked at No. 10 on the UK Singles Chart, becoming his first Top 40 hit in the UK, and was certified Gold in the United States last month, over 26 years after its release.
“I am grateful to have been a part of creating something that can stand the test of time and bring joy to others, even years later. This is the beauty of great music – it has the power to leave a lasting impact and create a positive vibration in the world… 😃Salute GREAT BRITAIN 🇬🇧 🎶 The👑Just a SIMMA…Rasta!” Beenie added.
In the TikTok video, only a few of the respondents were unable to complete the hook of the song, which saw most of the female respondents dancing as they recited the line. Among the respondents were sports commentator Alex Scott, retired footballer Michael Owen, cricketer Stuart Broad and female footballer Esme Morgan.
Earlier this year, on Beenie’s 51st birthday, several American celebrities, including Kim Kardashian, La La Anthony, Ciara, Kelly Rowland, Young Miami and Vanessa Bryant, had also participated in the ‘Simma Challenge’ which generated millions of views on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter.
The BBC video clip has so far received more than 260,000 likes on TikTok and has been shared more than 3600 times. The comments there have been largely favorable, with some amused persons querying why all the women began dancing after singing the first line of the hook.
Jamaicans who saw the clip have also been beaming with pride about the response to the song, which was listed in May 2018 on Billboard Magazine’s top 98 tracks of 1998, where it was described as “one of Dancehall’s few pop culture masterpieces.”
“Proud Jamaicans gather,” one wrote, while another added: “As a Jamaican, I felt so much joy watching this”.
On Beenie’s Instagram page, there have been commendations and congratulations, and reaffirmations that he was indeed the King of the Dancehall. “That shows when you put out QUALITY music people remember it for ages,” DJ Mark noted, while garnet100what added: “25 years later and the song still is a hit. Brining back core memories to the world. BOOM. King Bennie Man”.
In July this year, Beenie declared during the 2023 International Reggae Day symposium that Who Am I (Simma), while it was not his most lyrical, its other attributes had made it a global phenomenon. “Is not di most lyrical song. Mi can tell yuh dat. But yuh si di melody, di phrase an di groove: murda man,” Beenie had recounted.
Fellow artists who had heard Who Am I before its release had taken issue with the tricky lines “how could I make love to a fellow? / In a rush, pass me the keys to my truck”. However, even though he had the chance to change the lyrics, Beenie saw the controversy as a selling point.
“When me voice Sim Simma, the artist them come inna the yard and start pass remarks bout the ‘how can I’. From there so me a say controversy sell, because me and Jeremy there all morning and we no hear da part deh,” Beenie Man told The Gleaner. “All of a sudden de artiste dem come now, them start hear parts whe no fe inna de song.”
“Me say Jeremy, if we change it, it a go look obvious say we a say we make love to fellow, which we do not. So ‘how can I make love to a fellow in a rush?‘ – leave it right there. ‘Pass me the keys to my truck/who am I, the girls them luck?/And I and I will make love to Precious‘,” Beenie Man explained. “Any man whe no get dat don’t get it.”
Besides his typical defiance, the Romie deejay’s decision was likely influenced by his difficulty securing the song. Beenie Man was a fan of Harding’s Playground Riddim, which was burning up the airwaves in ‘97 with Sean Paul’s Infiltrate and Mr. Vegas‘ Nike Air leading the charge. The nascent deejay was eager to voice on the popular riddim and began readying his “based on a true story” bars for his big break.
“I came to Jamaica, have a brand new BMW and mi hear a rhythm weh mi like so mi start sing bout mi car and then things start go different,” he said. “The problem is I couldn’t find the key in the morning. My brother’s name is Simma, ‘Sim Simma, who’s got the keys to my Bimma?’… Dem couldn’t find it so mi drive the truck, ‘In a rush, pass mi di keys to my truck’,” Beenie Man said.
Beenie played around with many sources for his dream track – from latin to hip hop – and became so obsessed that he did the entire song in one take. He sampled lines from Wyclef Jean’s Guantanamera (Oh Guantanamera, you a killer!) and Luther Vandross’ Never Too Much (I tell myself I don’t want nobody else to ever love me), but a line from female lyricist Missy Elliot would lend the most steam to his storyline.
The rap queen’s latest at the time, a remake of I Can’t Stand the Rain, featured the line “beep beep, who got the keys to my jeep?”. Beenie Man said, “So me a listen to the Missy and me say “sim simma, who got the keys to my Bimmer.”
Up until then, Beenie Man had never met Harding. The Bossman deejay has never shied away from adversity, however, and though ‘opportunity knocks only once’, the Maestro took it on himself to orchestrate the introductions. He and fellow Shocking Vibes affiliate Mankind went jogging through the producer’s neighborhood to set things in motion for the grand plan.
“Me ask him if him know where Jeremy Harding live. Me know bout Jeremy Harding as Sean Paul manager, but is not someone that I knew, really. Me is a man run like five to six in the morning. Me go check him an we run go up pon the hill an him say yo, a desso Jeremy live,” Beenie Man told the Gleaner.
Noting the unseemly hours, Beenie decided to ‘circle back’, freshened up and returned at 8 a.m. ready to record, adding that his deliberate delay didn’t help matters since “him never wake up anyways”.
Harding corroborated Beenie’s story in a 2015 interview and still sounded less amused than the veteran’s version of events. “I heard a knocking one morning, and couldn’t believe when I saw Beenie Man sitting outside complaining about how long he had been banging down the door. Beenie had even written a tune already when he arrived at the studio to voice without any prior notice,” he told Whaddat.com.
The determined deejay had finally gotten his foot in the door, and Harding recalled how easily history was made that day. “I turned on the equipment, and he went straight into the booth to record a perfect version of Who Am I in what seemed like one take.”
Speaking with DancehallMag last month, Harding noted the timeless nature of the song, which launched his career as a record producer and furthered Beenie Man’s music career. “The fact that this song is still relevant to today’s youth market as well is also something which is quite fascinating, because we always hope to make timeless music as artists and as creators,” he said. “This record just proves that it’s possible to make timeless Jamaican music. I hope it continues to impact the world.”
Under his Virgin Records deal that followed the success of the song, Beenie released the album Art & Life, which earned him his Grammy Award in 2000. The project featured the hypnotic Sim Simma reprise, Girls Dem Sugar, with American songstress Mya. The Neptunes produced track featured a snippet of the original over a slick, stuttering beat and was well received internationally like its predecessor.
After the song’s 25-year milestone, Beenie Man released his nineteenth studio album titled Simma, a fitting nod to his presence in Dancehall thanks to the smash hit.
Simma is nominated for Best Reggae Album at the upcoming 66th Annual Grammy Awards.