Sean Paul on Collaborations, Comebacks, and Keeping Dancehall Alive


Grammy-winning reggae icon Sean Paul is back in the spotlight, collaborating with Will Smith on the soundtrack for the blockbuster film “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” and reflecting on his legendary career. In this interview, Paul discusses his creative process, the importance of dancehall music, and his hopes for future collaborations.

Sean Paul on Collaborations
Sean Paul on Collaborations

From Bad Boys to Baby Boy: Reuniting with Will Smith

Bringing the Bad Boy Energy

Sean Paul’s signature sound is often characterized by smooth grooves and lyrics geared towards celebrating women. However, for “Bad Boys 4,” Will Smith called upon a different side of Paul.

“He sent me the song with him on it already and asked me to do a verse, and I went in,” Paul tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I usually don’t do badman lyrics, I’m more for the ladies, but the movie is called Bad Boys.”

The resulting track, “Light Em Up,” captures the old-school hip-hop energy reminiscent of Run DMC and LL Cool J. This collaboration marks a reunion for Paul and Smith, who previously crossed paths on the soundtrack for the animated film “Shark Tale.”

Respect for a Mogul

Paul expresses his admiration for Will Smith’s career trajectory, highlighting his early success as a rapper and his lasting impact on the music industry.

“I was in awe that Sir Will Smith was there,” Paul says. “He accomplished a lot at a younger age and led a lot of people down a path in terms of inspiring us, other artists and other younger producers, him and Jazzy Jeff.”

A Sign of Relevance

For Paul, receiving the call to collaborate with Smith nearly 25 years after his debut album signifies continued relevance in the ever-evolving music landscape.

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“I was very happy to know that I’m still considered someone with hot music,” Paul explains. “It’s awesome because this is a fickle business. Music is my life and I put my emotions into the music. But the business, I use my head with and you have to know that sometimes your time is a different time. And for my time to be still here, that is an awesome thing.”

A Look Back: The Iconic “Baby Boy” with Beyoncé

Early Recognition and a Mango-tactic Omen

Over two decades ago, a young Beyoncé, then at the beginning of her solo career, tapped Sean Paul to collaborate on her debut album. The resulting song, “Baby Boy,” became a chart-topping global sensation, staying at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks.

Paul reminisces about their initial meeting, which occurred when Beyoncé was still performing with Destiny’s Child. He also recalls a peculiar incident during the song’s creation that he interpreted as a positive omen.

“I was writing my part of the song in the back of my house underneath a mango tree. And while I’m writing my verse, a mango falls out the tree and falls straight through the window [of my car] into my lap. And I was like, ‘That must mean that this song is a sweet song,'” Paul recalls.

A Milestone for Dancehall

The success of “Baby Boy” transcended the realm of a hit song. For Paul, it represented a significant moment for dancehall music, gaining mainstream recognition and acceptance.

“One thing that I do recall about that time was being very proud that she used a dancehall-oriented track,” Paul says. “This was such a big artist and she was stepping out on her own. So it made me feel that dancehall style was coming into its own and that my music or my genre was being accepted by a lot of people.”

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The Future of Dancehall: Collaborations and Aspirations

A Dream Collaboration with Alicia Keys

Sean Paul has a long list of successful collaborations under his belt, working with artists like Rihanna, Dua Lipa, Nicki Minaj, and Sia. However, one name remains on his wish list: Alicia Keys.

“I’ve said this for 10,000 years, Alicia Keys, please call me,” Paul says. “I think that me and her could make a great banger.”

Keeping the Dancehall Flame Alive

Despite some industry narratives around the decline of dancehall, Paul remains a passionate advocate for the genre. His recent sold-out arena tours and continued global popularity serve as testaments to dancehall’s enduring appeal.