Shaggy breaks down 20 years of hit collabs from Janet to Sting and Cardi B

The real question is who *hasn't* he worked with.
July 9, 2020 7:02 p.m. EST
July 13, 2020 8:55 a.m. EST
You're not the only one scratching your head wondering how the heck Shaggy's Hot Shot came out 20 years ago last month. The dancehall musician himself is a little baffled and to celebrate the major milestone for his breakthrough album—which gave us bangers like "It Wasn't Me" and "Angel"—he's taking us down memory lane with the release of the anniversary album Hot Shot 2020 and a play-by-play of some of his greatest hits and collaborations.Shaggy connected with Traci Melchor via video chat ahead of his etalk Open House performance and reminisced about his early career and breaking through as a dancehall artist, all the fantastic artists he's collaborated with and some fun anecdotes like the time he gave Janet Jackson the cold shoulder at the Grammys and then performed at her brother Michael's 30th anniversary concert. You can't make this stuff up.[video_embed id='1992136']Shaggy performs 'It Wasn't Me' from home[/video_embed]Traci: How are you?Shaggy: I’m good, surprisingly. I actually thought [quarantine] would be worse than it ended up being. We’re all here just making the best of a not-so-great situation. I’ve started to get back to some of my earlier talents—cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, stuff like that.I’m in real isolation—I didn’t get to go home to my family. My family’s in Jamaica so I’m here at my home in New York by myself. We’re ground zero here [in New York] so my staff isn’t even here. So I’m just stuck. At that point you kind of have to—as the Jamaican people say—“tek yuh hand tun fashion,” so you have to try to make it work.You were on tour when the COVID-19 lockdowns started happening. How do you look back at that time? Because none of us really knew what was going on. To be honest with you, when I was in the U.K., on the Blast Off! Tour—we’re in front of 20,000 people every night, there were tons of people backstage. I always thought when I was watching the pandemic happen in Italy and all of these places I was like, “Well, the U.K. ain’t taking it serious at all. Everything is business as usual.” I thought when it was getting really crazy, “Okay, we’ve got the Birmingham show—which is the last show—this show’s not going to happen.” They kept the show! It went on. Everybody—20,000 people—packed in.Then the next day, my tour manager was like, “Okay, I want to leave right after the show, we’re going straight to London and getting on a straight flight.” It’s the best decision he could have made because as soon as we jumped on that flight, that was the last flight going out before they closed the border. Go figure. I would have been stuck in England—I probably would have been at Sting’s house or something, in one of his cabins.Speaking of Sting, you recently virtually got together to do a fundraiser for COVID-19 relief. How did that come about? They approached us about it and Sting’s always game for stuff like that—he’s a charity guy, he’s a boss at that. So it was easy for use to do, we just had to get all the technological madness going because it has to be in sync and playing, you know, we wanted to do 44/876 from Jamaica to the U.K. and all that.He’s wonderful. I think he’s getting a little antsy, of course, because he’s the hardest working man I know in showbiz and he’s always moving around and working really hard so to be stranded and stay put is quite the adjustment for him. But he’s over there in the lake house having a wonderful time and he’s got every amenity that he needs. He’s holed up pretty good. What do we have to complain about? We can’t complain.[video_embed id='1500592']RELATED: Who has the more demanding tour rider: Sting or Shaggy? [/video_embed]Are there any artists in particular you listen to while you’re self-isolating and you’re feeling like you need some energy?I like stuff like H.E.R. I like Billie Eilish’s stuff. I like SZA’s stuff. Megan Thee Stallion. I like Da Baby as far as hip-hop. I like a lot of stuff Da Baby’s doing. I can understand it. I get it the way he presents it—make somebody like me get into it. Because I’m not a hip-hopper; I’m not into the culture but I can listen to Da Baby and get into it. Drake, of course is easy, super commercial.But I also listen to a lot of classics—I’m big on compiling a lot of old stuff. One of my favourites is Bill Withers who passed recently, rest in peace. He’s always been my favourite artist and songwriter. I’m big on songwriters. He’s my favourite and Sting’s favourite also so we share that together. I just love the sound. He wasn’t a man who made a lot of records but the ones that he did make were so timeless and so in-your-face. He left us with some gems.How much does doing a self-isolated performance energize you?It’s cool when you do something like that when you’ve got all the musicians and stuff like that. It’s easy; it’s something to do. I would never trade it for live. People don’t know—I made records for live, because I wanted to do them live. I’m more comfortable on stage than anything else. I like entertaining people. I like seeing people—hands in the air, losing their minds, smile, scream, walk out of my concert and lose their voice. I love that. That is everything for me because I feel like I’m bringing joy with something I love to do that brings me so much joy. That is the motivation in doing music.It’s good to have [quarantine concerts] because we’re not going to be back out live until next year. It is what it is. It sucks for me because I’ve never ever sat down a whole year and not toured. It’s weird.How are we marking and celebrating this 20th anniversary of Hot Shot? I thought [doing an anniversary album] was great because Hot Shot is kind of a classic landmark—for lack of a better word—because that was the album that really broke dancehall into the mainstream. In 2000, when this happened, we were having a hard time getting dancehall played on mainstream radio at all. That sound was not very popular and “It Wasn’t Me” was the song that really broke it through and crossed all kinds of genres and all radio formats. People were now playing dancehall because they think it’s cool and the cool factor came up and I was at the head of the cool factor at that time. Now dancehall is the soundtrack of today’s music—it’s spawned such genres as reggaeton and Afrobeat and hip-hop and all of this. Dancehall has now become that sound.So I think that Hot Shot, “It Wasn’t Me,” is really a celebration of that journey that we have gone through to get dancehall—with the likes of Sean Paul and Gyptian and all these other people who have contributed—it’s a celebration of that.
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On this album I took five of the most downloaded tracks on Hot Shot—because I didn’t want to do the same Hot Shot album track-for-track—and we gave them a 2020 uplifted sound. More modern, still keep the authenticity of them. And then added four new songs. You put it all together, Hot Shot 2020 is really great for quarantine. It’s like the Caribbean feel, it’s like you’re on vacation when you pop that in and you just jive to it. Because all of these songs are songs you already know, they’re really amazing.There’s a whole new generation learning about your music. You’re timeless.I think the way to stay timeless is not to be cookie cutter or put into a box. Since the beginning of my career, I’m allergic to the status quo. When I was doing dancehall, I didn’t do dancehall like my peers did it. I wanted to be different and my producer at the time was very experimental. When we did “It Wasn’t Me,” we were in that N’Sync-Britney Spears kind of moment in 2000 and here comes this song that people are like, “I don’t know what he’s saying. I don’t know what this is. I don’t know what this sound is.”And we were lucky in many senses because none of these songs that happened were chosen as a single—they just kind of happened. With “Luv Me, Luv Me”—it was an album track on How Stella Got Her Groove Back and the Mary J. Blige single was the main single and that didn’t work on the radio and because Janet [Jackson] was on “Luv Me, Luv Me,” they played it and that got us through the door. So there’s a little luck in everything—“It Wasn’t Me” was an album track that a DJ out of Hawaii played because he liked it and it just took on a life of its own.I love that you brought up Janet. Were you in the studio together when you recorded that?I think I met Janet once in passing at the Grammys and it was kind of an awkward meeting because at that time I was young and a little annoyed that she didn’t come on the video. I did the song and they didn’t want to give us single rights but the radio was playing the record from the album. They eventually gave us single rights and I had to take Janet off and add Samantha Cole singing the hook for the U.K. and Canada and it was just stupid at the time. I was young and angry and then the record became number one and at the time I met her I was at “It Wasn’t Me” and 10 million records and I was the man and I’m walking in the hallway and I saw her and I went, “Yeah, whatever.” I was just young and dumb. You know, half the time it’s not even Janet [making those decisions]. From everything I know, she’s been a sweet person to a lot of people but at that time it was just a thing.But then you performed for her brother Michael Jackson’s 30th anniversary. What were your memories from that night?I didn’t even know he was a fan. I got a call from his office that he wanted me on the 30th anniversary. When I went there, I met him and he knew all my songs—he knew album tracks. He was asking me questions pertaining to my music. Like, I’m talking to Michael Jackson. I want to know everything about him but he was so in tune to knowing everything about me which was kind of weird. I was just moved that he even knew my name. And then I met Quincy Jones and Quincy Jones says, “How the hell do you sell so much records without any promotion?” He was just that guy.Fast-forwarding to Cardi B—what was it like working with her?At that time, Cardi was not Cardi—she was this girl who was on Love & Hip-Hop. I had done this record called “Boom Boom” and they came to me like, “Yo, can we get her on this record?” and I heard some stuff from her and was like “Yo, she’s dope. Yeah, let’s go.” I’ve seen [Cardi] a couple times since and she knows the record and we spoke about it and she’s always been very [grateful] for giving her that shot.But this is what I’ve always done—if you look at “It Wasn’t Me,” there was a guy called Rik Rok on there and nobody knew who he was but we put him on the record. And “Angel” with Rayvon—he’s not a big star. And recently I did “I Need Your Love” with Mohombi and Faydee which are two unknown guys really globally but they brought something to an international song that was a Top 5 song. I’ve always really put the emphasis on the song itself—I don’t really much follow the name or what artist is big because sometimes that doesn’t work sonically with the song.etalk Open House is a weekly series that features performances and exclusive interviews with incredible talent like The Killers, Jessie ReyezNiall Horan and more. Catch the series on Thursday night as part of etalk’s regular  broadcast at 7pm ET on CTV  and 7:30pm on CTV2.[video_embed id='1987731']BEFORE YOU GO: Jessie Reyez performs 'Kill Us' for etalk Open House [/video_embed]

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