It’s a crisp Monday afternoon in Los Angeles, and a production crew is moving with all of the efficiency of a swarm of worker ants, carrying towering palm plants, swaths of cloth in the colors of the Jamaican flag, and various items of ephemera to and from the cavernous interior of the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. Just past the ornate lobby, where a veritable UN of exhausted travelers is waiting to check in, lies the entrance to one of the hotel’s grand ballrooms.
Inside, Sean Paul is surrounded by a retinue of barefoot dancers, draped in white and moving sinuously to the rhythm of his Jhene Aiko-featured single “Naked Truth,” which appears as the lead single on Mad Love: The Prequel. Released June 29, the project is a refreshing reminder of Sean Paul’s enduring place in popular culture; any discussion of the reggae and dancehall renaissance of the mid-2000s wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Dutty Rock. Mad Love also represents the singer’s first album-length offering since 2014’s Full Frequency, which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Reggae Albums chart and went on to receive a Grammy nod for best reggae album.
While Mad Love features a lineup of heavy hitters, including Dua Lipa, Ellie Goulding, Diplo, Migos and Tory Lanez, according to Sean Paul, it’s the sensuality of “Naked Truth” that ultimately makes the lush, tropical groove a memorable summer banger.
“When we wrote the song, I wanted to pinpoint exactly who was the best person to give voice to the female perspective. Jhene hit it right on the head — sensual, emotional, powerful. As soon as I heard her demo, I knew she was the one. I love how she sounds and I love how well her perspective matches the song,” he shared.
That same projection of measured sultriness also inspired the forthcoming video, which Sean Paul describes as a representation of the constant push and pull between genders. “It really shows the sexual tension between sexes,” Sean Paul told Billboard on set. “She [Aiko] is the queen of her world and I’m the king of mine.”
The concept was a collaboration between Sean Paul and his longtime creative director, Tanisha Scott, who has worked with him since the release of his debut studio album Stage One in 2002. “She’s been my creative director and choreographer from the very start of my career. She is the one who makes sure dancehall and my culture is represented in the videos, especially the dance-oriented ones. The narrative is about us trying to get the other one to agree to an opposing perspective. I want her to come over to my way of seeing things and she wants the same thing, just on different terms. So it’s like a dance we’re doing – partially a battle, partially not. It’s the age old battle of the sexes represented through dance.”
Watch “Naked Truth” below.