Sean Paul occupies a momentous position within the progression of Jamaican music. His platinum selling third album The Trinity (2005, Atlantic Records) stands as the biggest opening week sales ever for a Jamaican dancehall artist, moving 107,000 copies. Sean’s RIAA certified sales have surpassed 26 million, a staggering amount by today’s standards as reggae, despite its widespread influence, struggles to attain significant sales numbers. Sean’s sales are even more impressive because his biggest hits — including “Gimme The Light,” “Like Glue,” and the Billboard Hot 100 chart toppers “Temperature” and “Get Busy” — are undiluted dancehall tracks that enjoyed widespread U.S. radio play without the remixes that are typically used to take dancehall reggae to a larger audience.
Despite Sean’s mainstream recognition — he’s had 18 Hot 100 hits that include providing the Jamaican flavor on Beyonce’s “Baby Boy” and Sia’s No. 1 “Cheap Thrills,” and a 2004 best reggae album Grammy for Dutty Rock (his major label debut, RIAA certified 2x platinum) — the Kingston, Jamaica born and raised artist has steadfastly clung to his dancehall roots. In late September Sean’s label Dutty Rock Productions released its first artist album Turning Tables by Chi Ching Ching, a popular Jamaican dancer turned deejay (Jamaican rapper). On Nov. 30 Dutty Rock dropped an 18-track various artist dancehall rhythm (or riddim) compilation, Gang Gang, featuring dancehall star Konshens, veteran deejay Spragga Benz and singer Wayne Marshall individually offering their vocals over the same beat.
“Ching’s Turning Tables is the first artist album project I’ve ever done as the production team, the record label and the artist behind the scenes. It’s the first step for Ching in this direction; he’s been amazing to watch because he gives his all and he’s willing to learn from the experience,” Sean told Billboard on a recent promotional visit to midtown Manhattan with Chi Ching Ching. Sean signed Ching to Dutty Rock Productions in 2017 (Ching was previously signed to dancehall artist Popcaan’s Unruly Entertainment) and since that time, Ching has been a part of Sean’s hectic touring itinerary, which this year has included shows throughout Europe, the UK, the Middle East, North America and the Caribbean.
“Ching has gone through a lot of hardship, but you wouldn’t know because he is such a charismatic, fun person,” continued Sean, who describes his role in Ching’s career as more friend than advisor. “I’ve tried to mentor people along the way before, but they don’t fully step with me, because it’s not in them heart,” Sean continued. “But Ching’s creativity sparks my own and I want to give him a chance; there’s a lot of energy around him at home and I want the world to see that.”
Hailing from extremely humble beginnings, Ching, born Radion Tashaman Beckford, began his career as a dancer at the numerous dancehall street dances that are essential components within Kingston’s vibrant nightlife. To distinguish himself from the other dancers in attendance, Ching brought along a red carpet which he would roll out before demonstrating his choreographed routines. Audiences quickly noticed the electrifying 6’7” dancer, initially known as All Star, who complemented his smooth moves with comical slangs. “One of my sayings was I got diamonds and pearls for the world, chi ching ching, that’s how the fans started to call me Chi Ching Ching,” recalled Ching, whose talents shine on the dance-oriented dancehall singles “Rock Di World,” and “Crick Neck,” the latter a collaboration with Sean, both included on Turning Tables. It was Sean’s brother Jayson “Jigzagula” Henriques who suggested Ching record some of his sayings. Jayson introduced Ching to Sean and Sean liked Ching’s style so much, he recruited the aspiring artist for the intro to his 2009 album Imperial Blaze; a closer working relationship developed from there. “Working with Sean is a one in a million opportunity, it has changed the way me look ‘pon the business; gracing the stages he has brought me out on, I wouldn’t even know that Chi Ching Ching could get there,” Ching told Billboard. “For me to accomplish an album now, it’s like living a dream. Me have to just give Sean thanks. I’m doing my best, and he’s proud of me.”
The Gang Gang compilation was produced by Sean, Jigzagula, Copper Shaun and Money Matters Ent. and is the fifth riddim album from Dutty Rock, which Sean founded to facilitate his Jamaican dancehall productions; in 2017 Dutty Rock partnered with New York City based Chris ‘Mannix’ Schlarb’s DubShot Records for distribution. “We’ve built an awesome team which includes my management (Jules Dougall, Steve Wilson and Jayson Henriques, with Sean’s attorney Terri Baker providing resources and support), Headline Entertainment for our public relations, and we have dope producers like Copper Shaun and News from Money Matters Ent., who is also the label manager,” Sean notes. Dutty Rock Productions has commissioned a multi-part animated video series for the Gang Gang riddim medley, with animation by Zeej Sterling; part 1, featuring vocals by Sean Paul and Chi Ching Ching, debuts here.
“Sean’s still representing for dancehall on a global scale so as his artist brand reaches new heights, it’s important he has access to the underground street culture and releasing riddims with dancehall’s hottest artists is a natural way of doing that,” observes Chris Schlarb.
The breakthrough success of Sean’s 2002 single “Gimme The Light” was the catalyst for a joint venture between Atlantic Records and reggae independent VP Records, who initially signed Sean and released the track. Sean spent 12 years at Atlantic; he departed in 2014 and signed to Island Records in 2016. “Island has allowed me the freedom to do projects like the Gang Gang, promote Ching, and record other artists and that’s really cool,” Sean acknowledged. Dutty Rock will release more riddim compilations because Sean says he misses the jugglin’ (that is, multiple artists recording on the same riddim) that once dominated dancehall. “I like that vibe where you have one artist talking about the girl thing, then the gangster thing, then a righteous thing,” says Sean. “One of the biggest jugglin’ from Jamaica, the Diwali riddim (produced by Stephen “Lenky” Marsden over which Sean voiced his No. 1 hit “Get Busy”) was like that, with artists talking about all different aspects of life on it. That helped people get more attached to the riddim and that’s something I want to see return to dancehall.”