Shaun ‘BuddahBabyWoo’ Shakespeare, son of the late legendary Reggae/Dancehall producer Robert ‘Robbie’ Shakespeare, is on his own quest to etch his mark in Jamaica’s musical landscape.
His affinity for music may seem hereditary, yet Buddah vividly recollects his earliest encounters with melodies and instruments, a sensory immersion that transcends mere genetics. The Jamaica-born artist recounted spending time around his father and observing how seriously Robbie took music. “I remember being a small kid and my dad slapping me with a rag for playing with his bass guitar,” he told DancehallMag.
His godfather Lowell ‘Sly’ Dunbar also played a great role in exposing the younger Shakespeare to sounds, rhythms and the fundamentals of music. Outside of the musical studio, “The Church of the Resurrection” made the stage for Buddah’s first musical theater. He spent every waking moment at the church with his grandmother in his formative years, and he would sing and play drums until his departure to the US.
Later moving to Florida, Buddah’s music style evolved. “Hip-hop was my surroundings, and I naturally gravitated towards it,” he mused, encapsulating the transformative power of his American sojourn.
At 29, he identifies as a genre fusion artist, not confined by musical categories. “I started out doing hip-hop but then started experimenting with other sounds,” he said. “I even experimented with Afrobeats before it became popular. I don’t see music as a box. I am playing with new international sounds; a mixture of hip-hop, African style, and reggae all mixed together, trying to make the roots stand out”.
It was during this transformative phase that he acquired his musical moniker, “Buddah,” a name bestowed upon him due to his larger-than-life presence in both physique and spirit.
With so many influences blended into one, Buddah acknowledges that many in the music industry remain split on how to categorize his unique fusion.
He recounted that when he started music in the US, many people were not aware that his father was a member of the Grammy Award-winning duo famous for producing major dancehall hits like Chaka Demus and Pliers’ Murder She Wrote. “People were judging me on the content of my music at first but as I got older people found out who my dad was and there were some detractors. But most people in the music industry were very supportive. The greatest of that support was my father,” he said.
In December 20201, Robbie Shakespeare passed away in Florida at the age of 68.
Buddah said the pair had bonded over what he describes as the language of music, and that his father believed that all styles should be welcomed. “My father never limited me once, yet; always expressed being proud and always gave me words of wisdom and the same can be said of my godfather Sly Dunbar.”
The style that Buddah’s contemporaries have been at odds trying to name may be taking shape in what he calls ‘neo-dancehall’. He likened his sonic experiments to the recently emerging front-runner, trap dancehall.
When asked whether he thinks trap dancehall is the future, Buddah was enthusiastic in his response, “yes, the music is going places and it is just picking up, give it time.” He expressed a willingness to work with the current standard-bearers of the trap dancehall, such as Skillibeng and Valiant.
However, Buddah has not departed from his hardcore dancehall and roots reggae upbringing, expressing a desire to work with dancehall acts such as Popcaan and reggae legend Beres Hammond.
“I would jump on one a dem bad dancehall riddim yah eno, and me aguh be more deliberate in coming to Jamaica to mek some connections and voice for some of those producers. Mi will duh any sound, my only limitations in the music is me naaw glorify nuh violence or disrespect against women.”
When asked about the proudest moments of his career, Buddah excitedly chronicled the story of being contacted by popular hip-hop/urban artist and producer Timberland about one of his singles, Telling Me. “Mi look up to dem man deh, suh for them to rate my music on its own merit was a big deal to me”.