Story and photo by Brittany Somerset
The national motto of Jamaica is, “Out of Many, One People,” and no one personifies this more than dancehall superstar, Sean Paul. Born in Kingston to a Jamaican mother of Chinese and British descent and a Jamaican father of Portuguese, Jewish, Indian and Spanish descent, his Patois is as thick as a brick and his English is perfect. Defying stereotypes, bridging gaps and blazing new frontiers in music, he has dominated both the reggae and rap charts, rising to #1 on the Billboard rap chart with his third album, Imperial Blaze. HIGH TIMES sat down with Sean in New York to discuss his views on music and marijuana.
You’ve been very open about your marijuana use with songs like “Legalize It” and your new album, Imperial Blaze. Do you feel that marijuana should be legal?
For Sure! In terms of it crowding up prisons with relatively innocent people. In terms of the economic benefits of certain societies, especially Jamaica. In terms of it being utilized for economic and medical purposes. There are so much things that hemp oil, rope and the substance alone can do. It’s kind of funny that more people have been documented to have accidents, crash and die on alcohol, yet that is legal. I think that when people freed it up and decriminalized it in L.A., and you could go into a store and buy medical weed, it was a step in a great direction – if it could happen without it changing into a different type of product. It should be natural.
If you do what they do to tobacco in cigarettes, with weed it’s going to lose some potency. If you put chemicals in it to keep its potency, it will become a cigarette all over again. It should be legalized in the right way. The governments are going to want to take advantage of it of course and tax the hell out of it, but also for it to be on a shelf, it’s going to change the freshness of it and we don’t want chemicals in our weed.
Everyone who smokes weed knows if you leave it out for a while it cures, so they’re going to put chemicals in it to preserve it, to maximize profits, and I’d hate for that to happen because it will lose some of its potency. It wouldn’t be the same smoke for me. To me that is the only issue I foresee with legalization.
You’ll have to come out with your own brand of Imperial Blaze.
One day… Hey you never know. We’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll open a natural store in L.A. one day.
What would make your store “natural?”
Organically grown. Even hydro is just grown in water. I mean people do add chemicals to it to enhance whatever, but most of the chemicals that are added are mostly fertilizer like Guano, which is bat shit. It’s just stuff that will help the plant to have more nutrients which will turn out a stronger level of THC. Hydro is just a word, but hydro can be organic too.
What is your favorite strain?
I don’t know. I just enjoy the feeling I get from it. People say indica or skunk or this-n-that, but I really like the feeling I get. It doesn’t really matter which strain, as long as the THC content is what my brain is used to, which is a lot. A lot of people get the feeling from eating it too.
Do you feel marijuana helps your creative process?
I feel it helps with the feeling of euphoria. If you’re in a bad mood you’re going to write a bad mood song. My songs have always been feel-good songs. People always say my music makes them feel good. So being in a good mood comes out in the music. If I have to write a happy song when I’m upset and I don’t get to smoke as spliff, I can still focus, be creative and write the happy song, but it helps with the euphoria.
Speaking of euphoria, how does it feel to be #1 on the Billboard Rap Chart?
Euphoric (laughs). It’s kind of a great feeling. People check the vibe out still. I’m glad to know people see it and appreciate it.
What do you have to say to dancehall artists who have criticisms of your work, despite the fact that you’re a global phenomenon?
The world is not a fair place. I have been a very fair person to the people around me, my fans and people who enjoy my music. Other people not being recognized has nothing to do with me. I don’t have a big finger in the business holding people down. Dancehall music is ghetto people music. I don’t claim to come from a certain area or claim to be the biggest gangsta, I just wanted to make music, so I bridged the gap between uptown and downtown. I went to downtown and did it. When people look at my popularity and say negative things I understand that they are frustrated. It is frustrating for me at times too to have to keep proving myself to my own people. It’s annoying. To those who hate me, to my critics, I say, you have to hate me more than I hate myself because I am my own biggest critic. I try to do better every step of the way.
The national motto of Jamaica is, “Out of Many, One People,” which personifies you. You have a multicultural background, and yet are sincerely Jamaican. Do you think being multicultural contributes to your worldwide appeal?
I think growing up a lot of people would ask me where I was from. When I went to foreign [countries], people would think I look Latino or Indian. The world is comfortable with stereotypes and compartmentalizing, like Jamaicans are this way, and other people are that way and so on. But life is about balance. That is our national motto, whether or not it lives in everyone’s heart is debatable, but it does live in my heart from when I was told that as a kid. I figured to myself, well, “That’s me!” So when I think of myself, I’m Mr. Jamaican.
If you could work with anyone in the industry, who would it be?
Alicia Keys. I really like her music. I don’t know every song that she’s ever done but the ones I’ve heard are very heartfelt. I like them very much. When she talks about falling in love, it’s very emotional how she uses her voice. I’d like to do a song with her one day.