Shaggy (center) performs at the launch party for his Ranch Entertainment label with Beenie Man (right) and Roy "DJ Roy" Walters of Irie Jam Radio, 93.5 FM, New York City (left). (Photo: Roland Hyde)
Shaggy, (b. Orville Burrell), 43, is Jamaica's best selling living artist. His press materials say he's sold 20 million albums worldwide (Nielsen-Soundscan has him selling 8.9 million in the U.S.); yet selling records isn't the top priority at Shaggy's new label Ranch Entertainment Inc. (REI), which is based in Valley Stream, Long Island and Kingston, Jamaica and specializes in reggae fusion released primarily in digital formats.
"I didn't start the label for record sales but as a place where I can make music. Ranch Entertainment, like reggae, is more about live shows, touring and merchandising, areas where we can grow as an independent company," explained Shaggy, REI's CEO, above the din at the label's June 4th launch at lower Manhattan's Santos Party House.
Hosted by Jabba of New York City's WQHT (Hot 97), the event doubled as a five-year anniversary celebration for the New York-based reggae DJ collective Rice & Peas. The show elicited strong support from the Jamaican music fraternity. Among the artists performing alongside Shaggy were his longtime friends/collaborators Red Fox and Rayvon, who have each released singles on REI; footage from their set will be incorporated into the forthcoming video for Rayvon's "Selecta" the breakout single on REI's one-drop Kingston 13 rhythm compilation, which was released in January.
Promotional items distributed at the launch included a flash drive emblazoned with the REI logo, containing the fledgling label's current catalogue. "You have to be innovative with promotions: backpacks, tee-shirts, flash drives, it's part of our branding so people become familiar with our image and our music," commented Jeffrey "DJ Kue" Esposito, Shaggy's DJ and REI's Director of Marketing and Promotions.
Esposito also monitors the label's presence on various social media platforms. Shaggy's longstanding tour manager Paul Rossi oversees REI's management and business deals; Yoichi Imai is REI's Media Manager/Publishing Administrator and Manhattan based firm Fox Fuse handles publicity. REI's U.S. and Canadian distribution is through Sony Red/Megaforce.
REI held its Jamaica launch on July 16, 2011 to coincide with the digital release of Shaggy's tenth studio album "Summer In Kingston." Working alongside the Jamaica Tourist Board and corporate sponsors including telecommunications giant LIME, REI staged a massive block party/concert in the heart of Kingston's financial district, which attracted nearly 5,000 patrons and included the premiere of the video for the album's bawdy single "Sugar Cane" beamed on a Jumbotron screen.
At a special promotional price of $2.99, the eight-track "Summer In Kingston," debuted atop the Reggae Album chart two weeks following its release; without a major US hit, the album also debuted at No. 29 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Album Chart and was a 2012 Best Reggae Album Grammy nominee. "I couldn't do a $2.99 hard copy because of manufacturing, distribution and packaging costs, but digitally it's quite affordable," Shaggy remarked. REI rereleased Summer In Kingston (Lava Edition), on February 7, utilizing both physical and digital formats, with two new tracks and a revamped rendition of "Dame," featuring pop-singer Kat Deluna.
Born and raised in Kingston, Shaggy migrated to Brooklyn in the late 1980s. He enlisted in the U.S. Marines; stationed at North Carolina's Camp LeJeune, Shaggy often commuted to Brooklyn on weekends where he refined his toasting skills working with various reggae sound systems. Shaggy's career took flight with the 1992 single "Oh Carolina" (updating a 1960 Jamaican hit by the Folkes Brothers) released on the New York based independent Signet Records. In 1993 Shaggy's manager Robert Livingston licensed "Oh Carolina", produced by Shaun "Sting International" Pizzonia, to UK based Greensleeves Records and it topped the UK national chart; stateside "Oh Carolina" was picked up by Virgin International and peaked at no. 59 on the Hot 100 and no. 14 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.
With Livingston and Pizzonia, Shaggy founded Big Yard Records; at the trio's Long Island studio The Ranch. Shaggy recorded the biggest hits of his career, each an innovative amalgam of eclectic sonic elements over which he laid his rough-edged, Jamaican patois laden vocals.
Shaggy's 1993 debut album Pure Pleasure (Virgin), peaked at No. 9 on the Top Reggae Albums Chart and commenced his recurrent presence on various Billboard tallies. Boombastic (Virgin), winner of a Best Reggae Album Grammy, reached the Reggae Chart's pinnacle position in 1995 and was certified platinum. Shaggy topped the reggae tally again with 1997's Midnite Lover (Virgin) and 2007's Intoxication (Big Yard/VP). 2002's Lucky Day (MCA) peaked at No. 24 on the Top 200 and was eventually certified gold. But it was Hot Shot (MCA) released in 2000 that took Shaggy's success to formidable heights.
Hot Shot crowned the Top 200 and R&B/Hip-Hop charts in February 2001, driven by Pizzonia's productions "It Wasn't Me" (featuring Rik Rok) and "Angel" (featuring Rayvon), both reaching the Hot 100's pole position. Hot Shot was the best selling album of any genre between August 2000-July 2001 and has sold 6.9 million copies in the US, according to Nielsen Soundscan.
After 18 years together, Shaggy and Livingston severed ties in 2011; Shaggy is currently managed by Manhattan based Crush Management. Big Yard's dissolution brought about the formation of REI with Pizzonia as the label's chief producer. As CEO, Shaggy will utilize his vast experience to guide veteran and upcoming Jamaican acts towards greater international visibility. "We need those big summer dancehall reggae hits again," Shaggy reasoned, "brand reggae needs to be polished a bit and through REI, I want to take Jamaica's greatest talents into the mainstream."