Dancehall superstar Sean Paul will grace the Rebel Salute stage for the first time in the 30-year history of the festival on what event promoter Tony Rebel has described as a jam-packed calendar come January 2024.
During an interview with Television Jamaica’s Anthony Miller on The Entertainment Report, Tony Rebel, who was pressed to provide “even one name” of a head act “even though it was too early to give the full line-up,” revealed that the Temperature artist would make his debut performance on the show for the first time.
When Miller asked, “Why did it take so long” for Sean Paul to perform at Rebel Salute? Rebel narrowed it down to the fact that Sean was always booked and extremely busy around the period the two-day event was held. “Availability. He is always working during that time. He is available this time,” he told Miller.
“Becaw Sean a mi bredrin, and he is willing to come and share his talent with the Rebel Saluters. They are asking for him, so he is willing now,” he added.
In January, Sean Paul will join the likes of Marion Hall, Bounty Killer, and Mavado as key hardcore Dancehall figures who have graced the Rebel Salute stage.
Sean’s appearance might raise eyebrows, as many people might query what type of songs he will have that are befitting of the Rebel Salute stage, which is centered on cultural/conscious content.
However, unknown to many, although having established himself as a “girls artist” over the course of his decades-old career, Sean really started off in the music business as a “conscious Reggae artist,” singing about social justice and the inequalities he saw around him.
In January 2022, Sean had said in an AskMen interview that he was compelled to start recording songs about ‘sexy girls’ when his Dancehall career was in its infancy, as music producers were reluctant to voice his “conscious songs” and insisted that he take the girls’ route.
At the time, the producers posited that Sean Paul’s good looks and the fact that women found him appealing, made him better suited for songs that appealed to the fairer sex.
“At first I was only doing conscious music. Everybody who heard me do it was like: ‘it’s dope, you sound like Super Cat, but bro — that’s not you. Why are you singing this conscious stuff? And I was like, “Because I am a conscious person, that’s what I want to put out,” Sean Paul had told the publication.
“But a lot of the producers didn’t see me that way. They were like, ‘you’re the dude who takes dudes’ girls away and you end up in a fight with them at parties’. That’s when I was an adolescent. The producers were like, “Sing about the ladies, sing about girls. Ladies love you, sing that’,” he had added.
Among Sean Paul’s first conscious songs was Nice Time, a remake of The Wailers 1967 classic, which he recorded in collaboration with the late Former Third World percussionist Irvin ‘Carrot’ Jarrett back in 1994. In that track, Sean had deejayed two verses in which he appealed to young men to stop violence, put down their guns and instead respect each other, party, and enjoy themselves.
Never Gonna Be Same, one of his most successful conscious songs, was released on Don Corleon‘s Seasons Riddim and later appeared on his The Trinity album in 2005.
A 2020 article in the New York Times quoted Sean Paul as saying that he did not “see any trouble” with singing conscious songs until a producer took him aside and told him flat out: “No one wanted to listen to conscious songs from a light-skinned Uptown kid”.
“He might have had a father in prison for manslaughter and a mother who, he says, did tie-dye to support the family, and he might have grown up occasionally eating callaloo picked from the backyard, but on paper he was a posh boy with a surname and family legacy that made it impossible for him to be taken seriously while singing about wealth inequality,” the article noted, adding that “crestfallen but persuaded, Paul pivoted, channeling his sensitivities into the topics producers wanted him to sing about: parties, women and weed”.
On the heels of the release of his conscious single Guns of Navarone back in December 2020, Sean Paul had paid a heartfelt tribute to veteran dub poet Mutabaruka, whom he said was influential in his rise to stardom and who was the first radio personality to ever play any of his songs, at that time his first single, the socially-conscious Ghetto Alarm.
The Infiltrate artist had recounted that this took place in 1994, whilst he was a hotel management student at the College of Arts Science and Technology (CAST), now University of Technology (UTech).
“This man was the 1st person 2 play my music on radio anywhere. In 1994 on irie fm. I was an still am a huge fan of his work. That being a dope dub poet/ philosopher/ teacher & radio show host. He had a radio show I used 2 listen 2 back then. Was very educational/ informative/ entertaining/ controversial,” the Wolmer’s High School old boy had noted on Instagram.
Noting that like Guns of Navarone, his first records comprised more conscious material, Sean had said that he approached Muta one day at his bookshop in new Kingston, to get his opinion. He said he waited at the store until the Cutting Edge host arrived and gave him the copy of Ghetto Alarm, and the rest is history.
“I walked up 2 him nervously an said “Muta. I am a young dj. This is my 1st single.” I Handed it 2 him an told him I jus wanted his opinion. He took it. looked @ me an said ‘aright mi wi check it’ an went inside. I left not really sure if he would check my likkle chune,” he explained.
On the Ghetto Alarm track, Sean said he had attempted to show the differences and inequality in Kingston and St. Andrew, which is mostly segregated into Uptown and Downtown.
“It was a subject that was on my mind an something that I felt really strongly about An had 2 say,” he had noted.
Sean, whose full name is Sean Paul Henriques, said he was at home doing his a school assignment when Muta played his song that very night on his programme, on Irie FM, an experience he described as magical.
“I heard Mutas voice say ‘yeah well this yute yah have a chune weh him gimi fi listen. So. Yeah check it out’. An played my song. I jumped up an down an had no one 2 tell. Being that late my mom was sleeping an so was my likkle brother. Didn’t have a soul 2 call no internet no fb no Twitter no IG. Nuttn. I sat in awe an listen as my general played my song an jus fulljoyed every second of it. It gave me a feeling I will never 4get,” he wrote.
“An so this is another special day 4 me. That my teacher is premiering another conscious song 4 the 1st time 4 me. This is a blessing indeed. REAL RECOGNIZE REAL RRR!!!” he noted further.