Born into a family of keen water athletes, Sean Paul went on to make a big splash in the world of reggae, hip hop and dancehall music.

With millions of albums sold, countless collaborations with artists of all kinds and a string of memorable hit singles over the years, Sean Paul has become one of the most recognisable and popular mainstream artists today. Thirty years after his mother encouraged his interest in music by buying him a $30 keyboard, Sean Paul is now a worldwide sensation.

His major hit singles like, Got 2 Luv U, We Be Burnin and, Get Busy, are being listened to by millions of fans across the world. Paul has collaborated with some of the biggest artists in pop, reggae and RnB, including Beyonce, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Enrique Iglesias. His six studio albums since 2000 have seen him touring the globe, performing in over 100 countries spanning all continents from Asia and Europe to both halves of the Americas.

His trophy cabinet boasts a MOBO Award, an America Music Award and two Best Reggae Albums from the Grammys. He is one of the most recognisable reggae, hip hop and dancehall musicians anywhere in the world.

Sean Paul Performance

Sean Paul performs onstage at Zepp Fukuoka, Japan. Photo: Tristan Scholze

Polo, Hotel Management……but Music prevails

Yet he could have easily gone down a different route at an early age. Born in Kingston, Jamaica and raised in St Andrews by a family of talented athletes, Sean Paul Ryan Francis Henriques would follow in his grandfather’s and father’s footsteps and play for the national water polo team between the ages of 13 and 21. At one point, he also considered pursuing a career in hotel management, attending the College of Arts, Science and Technology to study commerce.

His love for music won through in the end, and in his early 20’s Paul began writing his own songs and DJing to his own style, inspired by Super Cat and his mentor, Don Yute. Contacts with band members in Third World helped open doors for him, and by 1996 he was beginning to make a name for himself in his home country with songs such as Baby Girl, Deport Them and Infiltrate. He even starred in a cameo of himself in a 1998 American crime drama film, Belly, while collaborating on the soundtrack with DMX and Mr Vegas.

Sean Paul

Sean Paul in the press room at the 34th Annual American Music Awards at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, CA.
Photo: s_bukley

Success and more success

With the help of his manager and producer Jeremy Harding, he made it on to the Billboard rap charts Top 10 with Hot Gal Today in 2000. His debut album, Stage One, reached number two on America’s Reggae Album chart. Increasingly gaining popularity among an American audience, later that year he played at Summer Jam 2000 in New York City. His concerts would began to sell out across the world.

Stage One set the scene for Dutty Rock two years later, his second album, which was to prove his breakthrough to mainstream pop audiences. With Get Busy reaching number one on the pop singles chart and three others making it into the top 20, it earned him his first Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album of the year. The album sold over six million copies worldwide.

His fame by this point had reached the stage where he was being invited to collaborate with major international artists. Being heard on Beyonce’s number one hit Baby Boy only helped cement his reputation in the big leagues. Also his music videos were being regularly aired on MTV and BET, music channels with global audiences.

His fans had to wait another three years for his follow-up album, grandly named, The Trinity, as a reference to the three genres that underpinned his musical style – reggae, hip hop and dancehall. We Be Burnin and Give It Up To Me became well-known reggae hits over the years that followed alongside many others. The album reached number seven on the US album chart that year.

Sean Paul

Sean Paul on location for Habitat for Humanity, NBC Today, Hurricane Katrina Benefit, Rockefeller Center, New York. Photo: Everett Collection

Nominations and awards

There continued a trend of nominations that the musician was becoming accustomed to, including four at the 2006 Billboard Music Awards for rap artist of the year, pop single of the year, male artist of the year and hot 100 single of the year. Beating the likes of Kanye West to the American Music Award with (When You Gonna) Give It Up To Me. At this point he was a critically acclaimed artist who was able to compete with anyone in his field.

Around about this time, he also secured a few more unusual accolades that symbolised how well-known he had become as an artist. This included a performance at the 2007 Cricket World Cup back home in Jamaica and an appearance in the video game Def Jam: Fight for NY, alongside Snoop Dogg and other well-known musicians.

Sean Paul at the NBA All Star Celebrity Game at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Photo: Joe Seer

Sean Paul at the NBA All Star Celebrity Game at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Photo: Joe Seer

Prolific musical production

From 2009 onwards he produced albums at a regular speed, with Imperial Blaze coming out in August 2009, Tomahawk Technique in September 2012 and Full Frequency in February 2014.

Showing that the line of family talent was still running strong, Paul’s brother Jason Henriques co-produced the first of the three alongside Don Corleone and his long-time partner Jeremy Harding. With 20 tracks overall, the album went on to spawn eight music videos, with Always On My Mind, Give It To You and Come Over among those making it on to the screen. Around this time, he also held a benefit concert alongside Shaggy and other artists to raise proceeds for new equipment and technology for the Bustamante Hospital for Children.

Well-known hit Got 2 Luv U, with American artist Alexis Jordan, and She Doesn’t Mind were among the hits on his follow-up album Tomahawk Technique. As a sign of how widespread his fame was by now, the former made its way to number one in the charts in Switzerland. The album also being nominated for the 55th Grammy Award.

With the digital world of music taking over from its CD predecessors, Full Frequency, Paul’s fifth album, saw singles being released on iTunes before the album itself was fully completed. Other Side of Love, Entertainment and the remix of the latter all made their way onto Apple’s online music store throughout 2013 before the full collection was released in February 2014.

A true musical collaborator

Paul had always been a keen collaborator throughout his career – having shared his platform and songs with many other artists, from high profile musicians to more nationally recognised artists back in his home country of Jamaica. This latest album showcased more fellow singers than usual. Iggy Azalea, Nicki Minaj and Damian Marley were among those making it onto the bill, alongside Brick & Lace, Konshens, 2 Chainz and Juicy J. The following years saw the usual collaborations, such as with British girl group The Saturdays on What About Us, Latino chart topper Enrique Iglesias on Bailando and Nigerian recording artist Timaya on Bum Bum.

During this time he was still performing back in his home region and beyond. Including being the main act at Costa Rica’s Fiestas Palmares 2014 and featuring in the opening ceremony of the Pakistan Super League in 2016.

Sudden change……….outcome?

In 2015, Paul signalled a move in a different direction by leaving Atlantic Records label. He took the momentous decision to continue as an independent artist. His next album will be seen as a sign of whether or not this was the right move, as he looks to a future with his Dutty Rock Productions label.