On Oct. 21, dancehall superstar Sean Paul was bestowed the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Commander Class, in Kingston, Jamaica, for “his contribution to the global popularity and promotion of reggae music.” The Order of Distinction is the sixth-highest honor within Jamaica’s Orders of Societies of Honor; at 46, Sean is one of the youngest in his field to be so recognized.
Over the past two decades, Sean Paul’s success has played a pivotal role in securing a place for dancehall in the pop mainstream. His singles “Gimme The Light,” “Like Glue” and the Hot 100 chart toppers “Temperature” and “Get Busy” enjoyed widespread U.S. radio play without the remixes that are typically used to take dancehall to a larger audience. He’s collaborated with superstars like Beyonce and Sia, and nabbed the 2004 best reggae album Grammy for Dutty Rock. Despite these significant accomplishments, Sean was truly humbled, and somewhat stunned, by the acknowledgement he received from the Jamaican government. “I have watched people receive this award all my life, basically, and to know that I’ve taken certain steps that have brought me to this point now, I almost can’t believe it,” he told Billboard. “I am very proud that my country has seen my works. All I really try to do is emulate the greats that I’ve learned from. I owe this to them and to the Jamaican people for giving me the opportunity to entertain.”
In addition to his releases for Island Records, Sean has issued a steady output of music on his Dutty Rock Productions. Sean’s current single, “Buss A Bubble,” an upbeat dancehall jam, was produced by veteran Jamaican deejay and hit-making producer Delly Ranx (for Ranx’s Pure Music Productions; distributed by Johnny Wonder 21 Digital Distribution). Watch the video premiere below.
Buss means to break out, and bubble is to dance seductively – so “Buss A Bubble” is quintessential Sean Paul: playful, sexy and anchored in his impressive, signature rapid-fire flow. The song came together in the studio as Sean freestyled on the riddim called the Fire Stick. “There’s a lot of freestyling in the studio for me, I don’t like to pen down the lyrics anymore because there are so many options in my head of how to build a song,” Sean explained. “The melody of the intro came to me first; then Delly Ranx heard what I was doing, and he said, ‘yo, what about putting buss a bubble’ there, so he influenced that part of the song.”
Sean skillfully wields full creative control on his recordings, but when it comes to his videos, he typically defers to his directors’ choices. “I’m a musician, not a videographer. Being on the video set there are always sparks of creativity that come into play, so I just interject ideas when I think I need to,” he says. Something Sean has consistently chosen to highlight in his videos, however, is dancehall choreography, which was prominently featured in the 2002 video for his breakthrough international hit “Gimme The Light” and is the focus of “Buss A Bubble.” “One of the things that made me like dancehall culture as a kid was being able to dance with young ladies on the weekend,” Sean recalled. “So dancing is a big part of what dancehall is all about, most of my videos feature dancing in them and dancing is a big part of the ‘Buss A Bubble’ video.”
“It’s always an honor to collaborate with Sean; he’s a certified legend and ‘Buss a Bubble’ is an ode to dancehall, past and present. I wanted to bring back the choreography element to the music video because I feel like it has been non-existent for some time,” comments the video’s director Jonathan Poirier III, Ironshore Films, Inc., who previously directed Sean’s video for “Gyalis Pro” featuring dancehall star Alkaline.
Throughout 2019 Sean has been a part of several popular international collaborations including the Spanish/English “Contra La Pared” with Colombian reggaeton singer J Balvin and “Fuego (feat. Tainy)” with DJ Snake and Anitta; he also worked alongside English grime emcee Wiley, rapper Stefflon Don and (actor) Idris Elba on “Boasty.” Unexpectedly, Sean scales some high notes in his current Island Records single “When It Comes to You,” which he describes as “a poppy-dancehall production with some hardcore patois in it. Whether it’s Justin Bieber or the most hardcore Jamaican artists, if the backbeat has a dancehall pattern, to me, it’s dancehall; in most of my songs, I like to be on the cutting edge of what’s (considered) pop and what’s (considered) dancehall,” Sean observes.
Some 25 years after he started out, “Buss A Bubble” reaffirms that even with his global spanning success, Sean Paul and his music remain securely rooted in dancehall’s birthplace. “Many people have asked, ‘why have you never left Jamaica to go live somewhere else?’ My question to them is ‘why would I?’ These are my people who have influenced me every day, up until now, and I put that into what I do,” Sean reflects. “When people hear my hardcore dancehall songs and ask, ‘what’s that’ I point them in the direction of other artists, producers and musicians that helped to make me who I am. I didn’t invent this, I was influenced by this culture; it’s something I love, something I want to continue to shine a light on.”