Dancehall reggae has finally broken free of its Jamaican island shores after a decade’s fermentation and is making a sizable impact on the international album charts and on radio waves around the world.
The global call is being spearheaded by 30-year-old Jamaican DJ Sean Paul, who has turned the hip-hop-influenced rhythm into the flavor of the summer.
An amalgam of hip-hop and reggae characterized by uptempo electronic rhythms, dancehall has produced international hit singles in the past from such performers as Beenie Man and Shabba Ranks — but it wasn’t until now that an artist was able to develop a consistent album-selling fan base.
“Dancehall has been on the international scene for 10 years, but it wasn’t represented on TV or radio stations until Shabba Ranks changed that,” Paul says. “Now, after being in the clubs for 10 years, the radio stations are playing it and so is TV.”
The artist’s sophomore set, “Dutty Rock,” released through New York indie reggae specialist VP Records in conjunction with licensee Atlantic Records, has already sold half a million copies outside of the U.S. since April 28. The album has charted in the top-20 in seven territories.
Meanwhile, in the States, the record has sold 1.7 million units since its Nov. 12, 2002, release, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The set reached No. 9 on The Billboard 200 and spawned the No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 and Hot 100 Airplay single “Get Busy.”
The timing on Atlantic’s part followed healthy sales of Paul’s debut album, “Stage One,” released through VP in March 2000.
“That was at a time when VP was selling 15,000 [units] per artist,” Paul says. “Selling 75,000 copies of my first album [in the U.S.] gave an indication of what was coming.”
With Atlantic on board, Paul enjoyed crossover success with the single “Gimme the Light,” which was released internationally Sept. 9, 2002, entering Music & Media’s Eurochart Hot 100 Singles at No. 99 and peaking at No. 3 this month.
In May, follow-up single “Get Busy” was unleashed to the global market, where it has reached the top 10 in 12 territories, including Denmark, Germany, Holland, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K., Singapore, Lebanon and Thailand.
Paul’s biggest territories outside the U.S. are the U.K. and Japan, where the album has sold 200,000 and 120,000 units, respectively. The artist completed a short tour and promo trip of Europe, taking in the key markets of the U.K., France, Germany and Italy in the middle of July.
Paul notes, “I’ve just come back to the U.K. to do a bit of promotion after a little two-week European tour; going to the U.K., going on Eurostar to France and playing to 17,000 people; then Germany, where I performed in Berlin; Switzerland [to 12,000 people]; and then on to Rome.”
Paul returns to Europe in September to capitalize on the Aug. 8 release there of next single “Like Glue.” After the European tour, Warner Music International plans to send Paul to Japan this fall, followed by Australia.
Excerpted from the Aug. 2, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.
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