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Name: Adam Bernard
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About Me: Entertainment journalist with 20 years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, and B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. My memoir, ChemBro, is out now!
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Shaggy Is Still Boombastic & On A Quest For Legendary Status
Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Very few reggae artists have the catalog, or the longevity, of Shaggy, and with another Grammy nomination, and a new single titled “Habibi (I Need Your Love),” not only is he not slowing down, he’s aiming for legendary status.

When I caught up with the Boombastic one, he revealed what he feels are the qualities that make an artist legendary. Shaggy also discussed some of the most memorable moments from his career so far, his passion for working with younger, lesser known, artists, and which concert appearance made him feel legitimately scared.

Adam Bernard: You are nominated for a Grammy this year for your album Out Of Many, One Music, and I know you’ve won a Grammy previously. Where do you have the trophy?

Shaggy: My Grammy is at my studio in New York in a recreation room. It sits on a little pedestal there with my other awards.

Adam Bernard: I’m assuming the rec room has some games in it. You’ve never gambled your Grammy, though, right?

Shaggy: No no no no no, never gambled it. As a matter of fact it’s not mine to gamble. The Grammy is actually the property of the Grammy Association, or RIAA. You’re just awarded it, that’s it. It’s still their property, you don’t own it. There’s nothing you can do with a Grammy. You can’t sell it. You can’t do anything with it.

Adam Bernard: The good news is we now have 3D printers, so screw it, you can make as many as you want.

Shaggy: {laughs} Yeah.

Adam Bernard: This year also marks the 20th anniversary of Boombastic.

Shaggy: Is it!?! Jesus Christ, 20 years, you’re right. I never thought of that.

Adam Bernard: So you don’t have anything special planned for it yet?

Shaggy: Not at all. I had no idea that it’s been 20 years since Boombastic’s release. Funny enough, it’s 20 years and I’m singing that song tonight. How about that? And it still gets reaction.

Adam Bernard: At what point during Boombastic’s rise did you realize your life was going to be forever changed?

Shaggy: I never thought about that. I think the only thing that happened during that time was wow, my pocket changed. {laughs} When Boombastic happened, I was like wow, this is a lot of money. We were signed in 1993, it was during a bidding war between Virgin Records and Island Records. I ended up going to Virgin Records, and the contract was for a million pounds. It was the highest signing ever in reggae music at that time. In ‘96, after Boombastic, we were given another million again after that. I was like wow, I could get used to this.

Adam Bernard: What would you consider your first taste of fame? Not necessarily signing the contact, and getting the money, but the accelerated lifestyle of moving 100 mph all the time?

Shaggy: The thing for me is that it really started moving fast during the “Oh Carolina” time (1993), but everything kind of led up to it. I used to do background for Maxi Priest. The first person that took me in was Maxi Priest. That’s when I learned how to do interviews, and the whole promotional aspect of breaking records.

I had little reggae records prior to “Oh Carolina” that were big, so I was already almost like a ghetto superstar before, so I was enjoying that kind of ghetto star fame. We got to “Oh Carolina” and then you’re starting to see white people like you, like, “Oh OK, white girls like me, too? Wow!” {laughs}

Adam Bernard: Then you got play on the pop stations.

Shaggy: “Oh Carolina” was a real pop record. The pop stations played it, Z100, and KTU, and all that.

Adam Bernard: You mentioned white girls started to like you. You also had two very animated fans in Beavis & Butt-Head. In terms of career highlights, where does Beavis & Butt-Head talking about the video for “Boombastic” rank for you?

Shaggy: I think if you had asked me before 2000 I’d have been like yeah, that ranked high, but after Hot Shot there were a whole lot of things that became more of a highlight. It’s still dope, though.

There are a lot of moments. There was actually a moment with the claymation, there was a fight between myself and Bob Marley. It was Celebrity Deathmatch with me and Bob Marley, and Bob Marley REALLY kicked my ass. {laughs}

Adam Bernard: How did you feel about claymation Bob Marley kicking your claymation ass?

Shaggy: I just felt good that they put me and Bob in the same category. You didn’t see them putting Bob fighting Sean Paul, he was fighting Shaggy! {laughs} So that all worked.

Adam Bernard: You mentioned Hot Shot, which went six times platinum.

Shaggy: Over ten million worldwide. Six times platinum in the US.

Adam Bernard: Give me an example of the height of the craziness, and the opulence, of your life at that time, when you’re going diamond, and touring the world.

Shaggy: It was just like it was an amazing roller coaster ride. Not just having one massive massive song, it was really three because “Luv Me, Luv Me” with Janet (Jackson) was the first record that jumped off. That became a number one record in America, then “It Wasn’t Me” was second, and “Angel” became third.

There were these three big singles on this album there were selling huge numbers, and in looking at the whole situation, you’re going at such a pace.

I think one of the biggest things that hit me was I did the 30th anniversary for Michael Jackson, and I ended up finding myself in a room having a conversation with Michael Jackson, and he’s asking me a lot of things about my music, and did I write the song, and where was I when I wrote it, and all of this stuff. I’m like, this guy knows not just my name, but knows every damned tune on my record. This is not happening right now!

We ended up with me, Justin Timberlake, a whole bunch of us on stage singing, I think it was “We Are The World,” or something like that. I remember standing right beside Michael and saying (to myself), “This dude is right beside me right now.”

Those moments are moments that I think about, and I’m like wow, this was crazy.

James Brown was another moment. James Brown came into my dressing room, we were touring together, and he sat me down, and not only did he know my name, but he knew my record, and he sat and watched me throughout the whole tour. He watched my performance every night.

Those are life changing moments for me where my accomplishments are concerned.

Adam Bernard: We’ve lost a lot of legends over the past dozen years, and that’s just the way of the world, but it almost seems as though those moments will be fewer and more far between for younger artists. Are there people left for those moments to happen with?

Shaggy: I think so. People like Jimmy Cliff (are still here). Going along I think you can say somebody like Jay Z is a legend and will be that kind of a person. Beyonce will be that kind of a person also. I think Rihanna, even though she’s really really young, if she continues on the path that she is on she can be one of those people. You get to that point where your credibility becomes so amazing, your credibility is just so in people’s face, that when they call your name it’s like a cool factor. You think of somebody like Pharrell, there’s a cool factor that goes with a name like Pharrell’s.

I always say the great ones are not the ones that ride the wave, but the ones that make the wave die down and create the new wave, and I’ve done that three times.

You look at like somebody like a Rihanna, there has not been a low moment in her career from when she started, it’s just been high. She’s not gone away for five years where you haven’t heard anything, and then come back. Jay Z didn’t even did that.

Take for instance a Gwen Stefani, how she just disappeared, and now she’s coming back, and when she comes back she comes back with a massive hit. We haven’t seen that massive hit yet, but hopefully that will happen. That, to me, if you’ve done that three times, four times, that’s the true, for the lack of a better word, sentiment of a legend, the true making of a legend, in my opinion.

Adam Bernard: That makes me think back to a few years ago, when Sade came out with an album after like a decade away, and it debuted at #1.

Shaggy: Exactly! When you start dong things like that, there’s a cool factor that comes attached to your name. Sade will always be cool. She can always go on tour and you’re gonna come out to see her, it doesn’t matter if she has a (new) record or not. That’s what you strive to be.

I’ll give you another one, Barbra Streisand, you’re like whoa, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Eric Clapton, these are people that I aspire to be, and have that legendary status.

Adam Bernard: Speaking of your continued push towards legendary status, your latest single, “Habibi (I Need Your Love),” is a collaborative effort with three lesser known artists, Mohombi, Faydee, and Costi. Tell me about how that song came together.

Shaggy: This I what I always do. You have to remember when I came out with “It Wasn’t Me” I came out with someone like Rikrok. Nobody knew who Rikrok was. He was a guy that I put on the record because the record sounded great with him (on it), because it was a special record, and it became a massive hit, but it was still a Shaggy record.

It’s the same formula I’m using here. I’m coming with a bunch of guys that nobody knows, but they sound incredibly great, they’re stars in their own right, and when we put this record through it just sonically sounds amazing, and it’s sonically a song that has legs, and it will do great things.

To me, in my mind, that’s what legends do, that’s what you're supposed to do, put these great people on, and reinvent yourself.

Adam Bernard: It’s interesting you say that, because going back to earlier in the interview, you mentioned Maxi Priest helped put you on. It sounds like you’re paying it forward.

Shaggy: Oh absolutely.

Adam Bernard: Not everybody does that.

Shaggy: I look at it like this, there are a couple reasons why I do this. One, these guys are much younger, and the buying public is a younger audience, so you want something for them to grab onto, and buy into. I, as the brand, bring that cool factor to the whole thing. To me it’s a combination that works. There’s total marketing behind the whole vibe.

Adam Bernard: There’s marketing, but the honesty of it comes first.

Shaggy: The record has to be good. {laughs} You can market all day, but if the product isn’t good it’s not going to work.

Adam Bernard: The video for “Habibi (I Need Your Love)” was shot in Spain, and you’ve toured all over the world. During your time as an artist, what’s the most lost, or out of your element you’ve felt in a foreign country?

Shaggy: I would say when I was in the Republic of Congo. I think it was the most I’ve felt scared, because it was just a chaotic experience.

There were two shows, and we performed one, we didn’t get to perform the other one.

It’s an aggressive crowd, and funny enough, Mohombi, who is featured on this record, is actually from there, so I’m sure I’ll be visiting there soon, but at that time it wasn’t as organized, it wasn’t a very organized promoter, and it kind of got to where it could be a little bit of an issue.

Adam Bernard: You used the word scared, and I don’t know if you really meant fully scared...

Shaggy: Oh yeah. I was scared. There were moments that I got scared.

We had a security force that had way too many guns. When you have that many guns around you, you’re like alright, this is serious.

Adam Bernard: So having been in the Marines, and having gone to Iraq during the Gulf War, didn’t prepare you for what the security guards would be like at that show in the Congo.

Shaggy: Well, during the war you’re in a frame of mind for that. When you’re an artist, and you’re coming in with an entertaining vibe, with your mind set about doing something, and then you’re in a situation where there’s thousands of people, and a few security guards around you, and everybody’s coming to you, that gets scary.

When you see that many people coming to you, and they’re speaking a different language, and they’re in an aggressive mode, and you’re in a foreign country, that’s a lot to swallow, I don’t care how bad you are.

Adam Bernard: Finally, to end things on a much lighter note, what’s the most embarrassing thing someone might catch you singing along to when you’re in your car?

Shaggy: The Frozen song. {laughs} Let it go! Listen man, I have three daughters, I have two four year old twin girls, and I have a nine year old daughter. I take them to school in the morning. When I am not touring, and I’m here, their mom can’t take them to school, they’re like, “I want daddy to take me to school.” I’m taking them to school, and that Frozen song is playing, and that plays so much that you have to end up singing it.

I was just in New York a couple days ago, we went to see Disney On Ice, so I’ve been singing Frozen all week.

Adam Bernard: Oh man. I don’t have kids, so I only have a vague concept as to what Frozen is, but when I walk into Target I see almost everything there has something Frozen related on it.

Shaggy: Let me tell you, my house is Frozen! My daughters have blonde wigs. The amount of princess costumes you can see around ... I have watched that movie probably around 50 times, because they watch it on repeat.

Adam Bernard: Do you have a palette cleanser for yourself? Like after they go to bed is there a movie you put on that you’d never let them watch?

Shaggy: I tour, and I live reggae, so that alone brings it, but that Frozen thing, it is a part of my life. {laughs}

Interview originally ran on Arena.com.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 12:30 PM  
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