The person who makes you the happiest can hurt you the most—just ask 17-year-old Sean Kingston. "I was going out with this girl for two years—the most beautiful girl in school—but
The person who makes you the happiest can hurt you the most—just ask 17-year-old Sean Kingston. "I was going out with this girl for two years—the most beautiful girl in school—but she cheated on me with my best friend," the Miami-born, Jamaica-bred rapper/songwriter says about his first heartbreak.
The experience, though, served as inspiration for the record-setting, J.R. Rotem-produced "Beautiful Girls," from his self-titled debut, due July 31 via Beluga Heights/Epic Records. The single, which samples Ben E. King's 1961 classic "Stand by Me," entered the Hot 100 Airplay chart in June at No. 58, and in just four weeks jumped to No. 5, the quickest climb by a new male artist since Lou Bega in 1999.
DJ Felli Fel, who first aired the record in May at KPWR (Power 106) Los Angeles, says he knew the song was going to be huge at first listen. "When I received the record through J.R., I immediately called him and said, 'Do you guys know you have a hit in your hands?' It had a familiar sound and the concept, mixed with Sean's vocals, fit the track perfectly. That same night, I blasted the record off."
Kingston, who is the first artist signed to Rotem's Beluga Heights label, was so eager to work with the producer that he "wrote a message asking him to check out my music and sent it via MySpace. I kept going back and copying and pasting the e-mail and resending it to J.R. three times a day for weeks," he says. "I knew eventually he would have to reply."
Rotem's younger brother Tommy, who manages his page, weeded out Kingston from the many requests and started to correspond with him. "[Tommy] saw the promise in Sean when he first heard him, so he started to work with him, giving him beats and direction so he could present him to me in the best possible light," says Rotem, who produced and executive-produced the entire project. "When I heard him, I knew it felt right."
Kingston, whose grandfather is Bob Marley & the Wailers producer Jack Ruby, discovered his affinity for music at the age of 10, when he wrote his first song over an Alicia Keys beat. His mother was so impressed that she started to invest in studio time for Kingston. With her support, Kingston spent the next few years penning tracks and recording music, hoping to catch his big break. 'I used to go to different studios, barbershops, skating rinks, flea markets . . . you name it. I was always ready to show talent and hand out my CDs."
But at 14, Kingston experienced the second heartbreak of his young life when his mother was arrested for tax evasion. "I was really close to my mom, and so when she went away it took a big chunk out of me," Kingston says. "My sister stayed with me, but then she also went away for her involvement in my mother's crime." His sister was released after four months, but his mother is still serving time.
Instead of allowing the ordeal to deter him, Kingston, who chooses not to curse in his music ("If a pastor's daughter wants to buy my CD, she'll be able to because I make clean music," he says), used the events to inspire "Prosecutor" in which he accounts his family's court trials.
Other tracks on the album include the Paula DeAnda-assisted "There's Nothing" and the second single, "Me Love," which samples Led Zeppelin's "D'Yer Mak'er." There's also the reggae version of "Colors 2007," with guest turns by Vybez Cartel and Kardinal Offishal. The original, featuring Rick Ross and the Game, was released last year as a promotional single but will not appear on the album.
Today Kingston is, well, happy. "Some artists are a vehicle for their songs, but the thing about Sean is that he is truly a hybrid artist," Rotem says. "He's not just a rapper, he's not just an R&B singer, he's something beyond that. His style and voice are so unique and he's got this pure heart that comes through the music."