'Light' Propels Sean Paul Debut

Excerpted from the magazine for

It seems unlikely, but one of the most highly anticipated albums of the fourth quarter of 2002 comes from an artist who was relatively unknown last year. What's even more surprising is that said performer is a reggae artist. That's the position that newcomer Sean Paul finds himself in. Having built a solid fan base during the past seven months with lead single "Gimme the Light," Paul has just made his debut with "Dutty Rock," released issued Nov. 12 via VP/Atlantic Records.

"This is the first time, since Bob Marley, that an artist has exploded onto the scene in such a huge way without compromising or trying to co-opt the musical ingredients that have been indoctrinated into the producer sensibilities to have mainstream success," says Atlantic Records co-president Craig Kallman. "This is a pure dancehall record that has exploded in this country on its terms. This will be a phenomenal explosion both for Sean and a genre that has been bubbling under and gaining tremendous momentum from the streets year after year."

Paul owes much of his success to the growth of "Gimme the Light," which also served as the lead single for VP's "Reggae Gold 2002." The single is currently No. 5 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart and at No. 8 on The Billboard Hot 100. The single is also at No. 3 on the Hot Rap Tracks chart, while the album debuts this week at No 26 on The Billboard 200.

"I've had a few other hits -- 'Hot Gal' featuring Mr. Vegas and 'Deport Dem' -- and I noticed that people liked the songs but they couldn't always understand certain things I was saying," says Paul. "Since I wanted to cross over into the hip-hop world, I figured I should start writing songs that hip-hop heads would be able to pick up easier. That's why 'Gimme the Light' is so successful. It has a good melody, it's on a straight dancehall riddim, and people can identify with the words."

Paul has also been receiving attention from his guest appearances with Clipse and Busta Rhymes. Future collaborations include Mya, DJ Enuff, Kelis, and Mark Ronson. In the near future, he's got just two live appearances planned. The first comes Dec. 6 in Syracuse, N.Y., as part of the WWHT (Hot 107.9) Jingle Jam (with Ashanti, Primary Colorz, and Simple Plan, among others), and Jan. 16 in East Rutherford, N.J., for the WWPR (Power 105) Powerhouse concert (with Ashanti, Nas, Fat Joe, Faith Evans, Ja Rule, and more; originally scheduled for Nov. 14).

Excerpted from the Nov. 23, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the members section.

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