When it comes to teaming up with Jamaican Reggae and Dancehall artists, American singer Mýa is among the most prolific, probably eclipsed only by Ghanaian artist Stonebwoy, who boasts over 20 such collaborations. But her collabs are not mere one-off projects but are imbued with long-lasting professional friendships and a genuine love for the island and its culture.
Beenie Man (2000-2023)
In 2000, Mýa first teamed up with Beenie Man, not for their well-known hit Girls Dem Sugar, but for another track called Lie Detector. The collaboration was orchestrated by Wyclef Jean, who co-produced her second album, Fear of Flying.
“I’ve had over a dozen collaborations on the Jamaican-Caribbean front, but starting in Jamaica, it was the King himself, the ‘Docta’ Beenie Man, way back in 2000,” Mya said. “I traded a feature for my album, for a feature on his album, and that was Girls Dem Sugar.”
“So that’s how Beenie Man and I got together initially, through Wyclef Jean. The Neptunes (with Pharrell Williams, and Chad) produced the Girls Dem Sugar musically. Then we shot the video in New York, in Brooklyn, Flatbush Ave,” she added.
Girls Dem Sugar, which appeared on Beenie’s Grammy Award-winning seventh album, Art and Life, peaked at No. 54 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 13 on the UK Singles chart.
“A lot of people don’t know that Beenie Man and I have like 4 to 5 different songs together,” she noted. After Lie Detector and Girls Dem Sugar, they reunited for Mess Up My Hair on Mýa’s sixth album, K.I.S.S. (Keep It Sexy & Simple), which was released in 2011.
Then, in 2019, they teamed up with Trinidad & Tobago’s Sekon Sta for XRated, which Mýa described as a “Jamaica meets Trinidad, Soda-Dancehall mix.”
Fast forward to 2023, and Beenie Man slid into Mýa’s Instagram DMs for another collab, titled Docta, for his seventeenth album, Simma. “He pops up and was like ‘heyyy long time.’ I thought it was going to be about a performance (yes, please Sumfest, I wanna do it again), but it was about a record, which was even better.”
Mýa said she immediately gave Beenie her email address so he could send over the song. “I went right into the studio, from London to LA, recorded it at one of my friend’s home studios so that I could just get it done. I sent him the vocals, I wrote the bridge to it – that was missing from the record – and sent it off and I’m sure they played with production from that point on, and now it’s on his album – Congratulations Beenie!”
“I’m so happy that we are continuing our working relationship and hopefully that means touring too because I just love performing with Beenie, he’s a heck of a performer,” Mýa gushed.
Sean Paul (2002-2011)
With three songs under her belt with Sean Paul, Mýa said her most memorable was the first, Things Come And Go on her third album Moodring in 2003. “I reached out to Sean Paul in 2002 for my 2003 album..and I thought he would be [a good addition], being fresh and new at the time,” she said.
Mýa takes particular pride in being among the first US artists to collaborate with Paul, before he became a global sensation collaborating with the likes of Beyoncé and Rihanna.
“I knew who he was, my brother and I knew who he was, but the world had yet to hear this beast of a vocalist,” she said. “I was one of the first artists that reached out to him from the States and he’s been very supportive of my independent projects since. We’ve also toured Australia together and some other places in the world,” she continued. “It’s always a great experience, friendly guy, very positive guy.”
“All over the world, I’ve been asked to sing it as a special request; in Australia, in Japan, New Zealand, Africa, yeah that’s one of their favorites. All over the world, and it was never a single,” she added.
Mýa and Sean Paul worked together again in the subsequent years, locking in two other songs, Paradise (2008) from her fifth studio album Sugar & Spice and Rear View Mirror (2011) from her K.I.S.S. (Keep It Sexy & Simple) album.
Ky-Mani Marley (2007)
Ky-Mani Marley’s fifth album Radio, released in 2007, featured Mýa on the track I Got You. She recalled that the two laid down their vocals for the song in a very focused recording session in Miami.
“It was very nice working with him [Ky-Mani], his personality is very sweet, he’s very artistic, and gets the work done in the studio, you know – there’s no parties,” she laughed. On working with Marley, she noted he has a “very nice spirit, [and] very calm serene energy.”
Speaking about the concept of I Got You, for which she shares writing credits, she said, “That song is about when times get hard, know that you can lean on me. I got you, I will sacrifice, I will make sure that you’re taken care of and there’s no question, and I’ll be there to the end regardless of the circumstance.”
Mýa revealed that they have another collaboration that was cut last year, although a release date is not set.
“I think I reached out to Baby Cham during the MySpace, Twitter days – Instagram wasn’t born yet,” she laughed. “It was for a remix, Lil Wayne was on the original version so I wanted, you know, a different flavor … of the sunshine … and Baby Cham brought the fire for that ofcourse.”
Back then, instead of waiting on the label to make a call, she explained that she’d actually reach out to artists herself. “I know what I hear and I know as a performer what I wanna see and sometimes it has to do with a video that I might wanna shoot or a concept or dance style and even fashion,” she said.
“So I thought he [Cham] was a really perfect fit, his tone, and you know his joy,” she said.
Elephant Man (2007)
Mýa also appeared on a song with the ‘Energy God’ in 2007, titled That La La, in which the two traded verses on an up-tempo Dancehall beat. It appeared on the Japanese version of Elephant Man‘s Let’s Get Physical album.
“Elephant Man reached out to my camp to do a collaboration,” Mya said of how the collab came to be. Before the song was given an official release, however, she revealed that the audio got leaked.
Take Him Out with Spice appeared on Mýa’s K.I.S.S. (Keep It Sexy & Simple) album, but the song had an earlier release than she planned. The Fallen singer revealed that before she was done color-correcting and editing the graphics for the music video, it got leaked!
It’s water under the bridge now, as she much preferred reminiscing on the good times spent working with the Queen of Dancehall in Jamaica, circa 2011. “We did a fun song from my project and a fun video, and I came up with the concept for that – taking out the trash you know – like a person that’s not treating you right,” she recalled.
“I loved her [Spice’s] energy, and the song actually does have a Caribbean vibe to it, and my delivery, but also the music is sort of Pop, but it bridges the worlds together,” she continued.
“I thought her delivery, her attitude, and the way she says things was perfect for this record, from another standpoint. When you’re taking out the trash in your life, whether that is other things or whether that is a person. I thought she was the perfect person to relay that in her own way. She did her thing without my input, she already got the concept of the song and she was a lot of fun to work with,” Mýa added.
Wayne Wonder (2011)
“Wayne Wonder was a joy to work with,” Mya recalled. “We recorded that record at his house with Sean Roy the producer, in Miami.” They first performed the remix at Reggae Sumfest that year, later taking it to other Caribbean locations.
The Reggae crooner, at the time, expressed his gratitude for their Sumfest debut, stating, “Mýa is a wonderful talent, a great person and she gives the single added flavor. I am really looking forward to working the Sumfest stage with her.”
Jah Cure (2019)
In 2019, Jah Cure tapped Mýa for his Royal Solider album in the song Only You, which featured a stunning music video shot on a Jamaican beach. However, it wasn’t straightforward; Mya had to make a second trip to the island to re-shoot and re-record the music video and song.
“We recorded and filmed the [original] video in 2016, July, in Jamaica,” Mya said. “Then he [Jah Cure] said, ‘I want to build this more with live instrumentation.’ So we actually re-cut the song, and I flew down to Jamaica to do that. Then we shot the video a couple of months later when he found the director that he wanted, and we re-filmed a whole different music video. We were at Stonyhill the first time and then the location changed. I think it was in 2019 that we did that.”
The song holds special meaning for Mya, as it focuses on the loyalty and commitment between partners. She emphasized that it also celebrates unconditional love and the support one receives from a true partner. “The song is about commitment and assurance, just reassuring someone that you’re the only one that I’m thinking of and there is no other that I can see in my life when I picture you,” she said.
“And then also that song is very special because it’s also talking about people being down and honoring the person that was there. The only person that was lifting you up, literally off the ground, the real love, the unconditional love,” she continued.
On working with Jah Cure, who is now incarcerated in the Netherlands, Mýa said: “He has a very very great live performance, and his music is so special because it’s timeless. And one of his biggest inspirations is Beres Hammond and you can feel that in the lyrics. Every time you go to one of his shows, you can feel the live aspect of the music and how it brings people together. So it was great to do a reggae song with him for that reason and capture it visually. It was good vibes.”
Ding Dong (2019)
Working with the Ravers Clavers Boss was “easy breezy,” Mýa said. “He loves to have fun, it’s a party all the time … he’s just a light that spreads his joy, spreads his love and energy.”
Handsfree appeared on the ‘Sexting Riddim’, produced by Johnny Blaze, Stadic, and DJ Perf, in 2019, just around the time Mýa linked up with Jah Cure to revamp Only You.
Video director Cinema Gods JA took to the mountainous outback of Portland, Jamaica, and filmed scenes with the R&B songbird in a bungalow overlooking the water. In other parts of the visuals, she appeared with Ding Dong at the club.
“We shot a video, our scenes were different, so we met up at the party,” Mýa recalled. “I did something (scenes) in the mountains and it took forever to get, next, to the beach. That was nice, but our scene, ofcourse, was in the club, probably around 2 am – 3 am in the morning and it was fun ofcourse.”
Mýa lamented the lack of dance in today’s club scene and was inspired to change that with her 2023 song Whine, featuring Bounty Killer.
She explained: “In 2019 I was very very adamant about, first of all, touring in the islands. I found a lot of personal healing and also a connection to my childhood every time I would go to the Caribbean or even tropical equatorial places all over the world. And the music of the sun and joy as well as dance is something that I’m big on especially when you’re not getting much of that worldwide, mainstream. Instead, “You’re feeling the heavy weight of, sometimes music, that is being pushed so I thought let’s create a record that brings joy but also brings man and woman together to be able to dance — ‘cause I’m going to the clubs and nobody is dancing, what’s going on?”
The song was composed by Jamaican producer, DJ Hardwerk, and songwriters Mavelle Gilbert, Theron Thomas, and Mathew Thompson.
A solo version of the song was actually recorded four years ago, before Bounty was added in 2021. “It just felt right to have a Jamaican artist on the record,” Mýa said. “The ‘whine’ dance comes from Jamaica so I thought that was the most authentic way to deliver it with the feature that was going to be on it.”
Heading back to Instagram, Mýa reached out to the Warlord and subsequently sent him the song. “I emailed him the record and he loved it and just within you know a couple of days it was done. I didn’t have to give him any feedback or any input, it was perfect the way it was … it is fire!” she beamed.
For her, it was important to have Bounty appear in the music video, she explained. The only hitch was that she had already shot the footage.
So Mýa told Bounty that her team would fly back to Jamaica, where the original video was done, and insert him into the production. “We try to get the lighting the same and pray that it didn’t rain you know … we went to the same exact location. We cast more dancers via Latonya Styles (of Dance Jamaica) because there were some dancehall queens in the first version of the video in 2019, and then we added more in 2021. Then we edited it together so no one would ever know that we shot that video two years apart.”
In addition, Mýa had called up her hairstylist to remake the same wig, and reordered the skirt that she wore in the original recording – “I kept the top,” she recalled, laughing at the whole process.
Latonya Styles and the Dance Jamaica team added to that authenticity by delivering a rich cultural experience in the visuals. “It was a very very freestyle video, very little choreography, no rehearsal, on the fly, guerilla-style you know,” Mýa said.
After working with Dance Jamaica, the singer decided to take things up a notch and create a ‘Whine Dance Challenge’ for which she flew back to Jamaica last month to shoot. “We wanted to make sure we had dance content so we just went back to Kingston to perform the ‘dance video’ you know to ignite a little dance challenge coming up.”
Once again, she rallied directors Josh Sikkema and Derek Brown (also a choreographer) and shot the visuals at Wickie Wackie Beach in Bull Bay. Fans can expect the ‘Whine Dance Video’ sometime this fall.
Wrapping up, Mýa promised “much more” music on the way, and has her tour dates listed on her website. “Can’t wait to see everyone on the road and I’m looking forward to the next and the next and the next – blessings,” she concluded.