Michael Di Iorio chats with Shaggy after the release of his incredible return to form, 2019’s Wah Gwaan!? The artist who has won over the hearts of generations with his unique voice and infectious style is now heading to Australia with Sean Paul in 2020, for a show that we’ve been dying see.

Shaggy really needs no introduction. 1995 saw the release of ‘Boombastic’ which was effortlessly smooth, iconically voiced, and irresistibly positioned for dancefloor dutty wining.

Hot Shot kicked off the Millenium with two of the most incredible hits that 2000’s kids have ever listened to in their lives. ‘Angel’ and ‘It Wasn’t Me’ became staples in everyone’s pre-streaming service lives. Today, the tracks still timeless as ever, you can catch Shaggy’s handprints on any house party and every gathering of friends.

Having spent three years in the Marines, which he says helped prepare him for the intensity of the music industry, Shaggy continued his career with incredible success, dropping a Grammy-winning album with Sting, and reclaiming his Dancehall throne in his later years.

Now with his 2019 album Wah Gwaan!?, which is Jamaican patois for “What’s Going On?”, the man has reinvented himself yet again, and is doing exactly what he wants.

You can catch Shaggy headlining One Love Festival in February 2020 with Sean Paul, for a show that is sure to be unforgettable and full of blinding hip movements.

Listen to the timeless Shaggy hit ‘It Wasn’t Me’ below

Love Hip Hop?

Get the latest Hip Hop news, features, updates and giveaways straight to your inbox Learn more

Your brand-new album recently came out, congratulations. One of the biggest highlights of that project is the song ‘Use Me’. Why do you think fans are gravitating towards that song the most?

It was the song that I put out first. It was a real Shaggy kind of record. It wasn’t like any other R&B record; I was touching on a subject matter that really is relatable to everyone in so many ways relationship-wise and sexually, but then there are also parts of it where it’s about challenges in your life as well.

There’s a couple of things you have to check off of your book, where someone’s concerning your life. They have to be stimulating you physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially or sexually. You may not get all five of those, but you have to at least have three of those to make it in anybody’s life.

Probably about 25% of everybody you know, there’s something that you just can’t fuck with. But when there is a 75% positive person in your life then it’s worth it. It matters if the person is under 50% or over 50%. If they’re under 50% you’re like ‘ok this is going to be a problem; this is going to bullshit.’ You really start to question the value of that person.

That’s really what the song is about: the value system. We live things more comfortably in life than it really is.

When somebody’s in your life and there not positive in your life, it’s not always easy to shut your phone off. We get all get caught up in emotions and all of this shit. And then it gets to the moment when you pick your phone up you realise how little of an influence that person really has on your life.

You just think it does because you have an emotional attachment, but when they’re out of your life, you’re like ‘I don’t really miss this person’. At the end of the day, their bullshit has outweighed their value so now they are 75% bullshit and 25% of any kind of value. And that’s what the whole ‘Use Me’ thing is about. Everybody wants to be of relevance in that other person’s life.

And everyone can relate to that. That’s probably why everyone’s been gravitating towards it.

Yeah because it’s so relatable.

Listen to ‘Use Me’ by Shaggy below

Your music has been a source of joy and optimism for so many for so long. What was your inspiration going into the studio to record the new record?

So I knew that this was the last record (with 300) and I had done this record a year ago. Before it was finished the whole project with Sting came up and I kind of put everything on the shelf and shut the record out. Then I came back to it and I knew I had to deliver it. I came back in and just re-wrote the whole thing. Took me about 6-7 days to do it.

The whole album complete in just 6 days?

Yeah. The majority of it. I still had a few tracks. But about 80% of it. I rewrote the whole thing and came up with songs like ‘Wrong Room’ and ‘Live’, ‘When She Loves Me’. I just wrote them within 6 days. And then I called the label and I was expecting them to be like ‘nah’ but he was like ‘oh my god, this is great’. I wanted it (the record) to be personal because there was a lot that has happened in the year before.

Do you feel like this album is more personal than any of your previous albums?

Absolutely. I never wrote anything that is genuinely about my life in a personal way. This album is really about my life and I touch on personal matters. The song ‘When She Loves Me’ was about my life. I really touch on personal matters. ‘Wrong Rule’ is about my mum not being very well in recent years. Just people in my life that I got rid of within the last year. A lot of it is
super super super personal.

People will certainly try to write you out of history. You do something really big, especially in this small generation, they don’t look at anything from before. It’s all about what’s now. People say, Michael Jackson, who? Who’s that? It’s like wow. Stevie Wonder, who’s that? The dude is still alive and he’s part of history. He’s a part of what made you do music as a black person!

Your album Hot Shot came out 19 years ago now. How do you feel about the old classics that people may still remember you by today? Since it’s been 19 whole years.

I’m glad. I’m really amazed that I wrote such amazing songs, and that I wrote such amazing songs still. Those were some of my biggest albums. Songs in that album (Hot Shot) resonated with people. I tried my best to write classic music. It really is classic music.

‘Use Me’ is a great song and I hope that it will go on to resonate with people and that people will really gravitate towards it. It’s one of my favourites to perform. It’s just timeless. I try to
make a timeless sound and not use current sounds. I tend to just use instrumentation like acoustic guitars, piano – just regular sounds that you know are just going to be here
forever and are not going to be a sound that’s only really hot at a certain time. Timeless instrumentation.

So, you’re going to be headlining One Love festival this February in QLD, with Sean. What are you most excited about in returning to Australia?

I was supposed to come to Australia two times, and I had to cancel both times because of different issues. It’s always a great opportunity, and a great time in Australia and New Zealand. That
whole area. It was all about making the deal happen this time and making sure we go there. I’m psyched. I have a lot of friends in Australia and I’m really looking forward to kicking it.

Get unlimited access to the coverage that shapes our culture.
to Rolling Stone magazine
to Rolling Stone magazine