Sean Paul Henriques was born January 8, 1973 in St. Andrew, Jamaica to a culturally diverse family of Sephardic Jewish, African, and Chinese descent. He has come to represent more than just the Jamaican motto ?Out of Many, One People?. His Grammy-winning double platinum album Dutty Rock (featuring the ganja-lovin? song Gimme the Light) has brought dancehall rhythms into clubs, onto TV and right into our mainstream.
Attributing his success to both hard work and Karma, Sean Paul revealed himself in this exclusive interview with Cannabis Culture as a spiritual, nostalgic and intelligent person. He reflected on how marijuana is positive for his meditation and holds potential economic benefits for his struggling nation. Although his success truly classifies him as a worldwide superstar, he gives thanks to be from Jamaica where ? he affectionately says ? ?The food and weed is just better.?
Sean Paul: May I say that I am very happy to hear of your magazine?s name! Just the name alone makes me very happy.
Cannabis Culture: I was wondering if you could start off by telling me what inspired you to record Trinity and how you got involved with creating music?
SP: Okay. I got involved with music by being a fan of music. I?ve been learning from my heroes, people like Super Cat, Shabba Ranks and Bob Marley. When I got into music, the vibe to me was just about expression. It was definitely about telling people about who I am in any which way. So if the song was about badness, I was saying things as I would react in that situation. If it was about love, I would say things about how I would react in that situation; if it was about mackin? ladies, about partyin?, anything like that. So it was about self-expression, and to let people know who I am. [The Trinity] is my third album, it has been three years in production, and all produced in the Third World, which is why it?s named Trinity. It represents the Third World, because [of the]young entertainers and young synergy of producers that have been running the street there for the past four years (Steven ?Lenky? Marsden, Don Corleone, Renaissance Crew, and Snowcone). They?ve inspired me and reminded me of myself ten years ago when I started, without album support, without radio stations supporting me ? you know, underground! People who are still tryin? to prove themselves [to the world]but they?ve proven themselves to me. That?s the whole inspiration behind doing it at home with young kids representing the Third World, The Trinity.
CC: Of all the places you?ve traveled throughout the world, where did you find the best ganja?
SP: I?ve been to many places. I?m gonna talk about that a little bit, because I think that cultivation of weed is really the important thing here. The soil and climate is good, it?s something that affects the weed, but you must know how to treat your plant. I have a friend at home that teaches us about using a certain type of fertilizer and picking at the right time and allowing it to dry for the right time, but where I?ve been to… I?ve heard stories about Africa, that, ?Oh, it?s the mother-land and it has the best weed? but when I went there I was disappointed because I don?t think the people took care of their product. I?ve been to Amsterdam, and wherever they get their weed from, that?s very good weed. Of the whole entire United States, I?ve had great weed in Miami and in New York City, but that place called Humboldt County is a blessed place. (Laughter) Yeah, they are really treatin? the weed good and the whole concept of growing it… you know, what you put in is what you?re gonna get out. Also, the climate is very great over there. I?ve experienced great amounts of great Sensimilla in Humboldt.
CC: How much does smoking weed play a part in your life?
SP: In my song We Be Burnin? I say it?s the best thing for my meditation. I was a teenager when I first experienced smoking it. My father had been smoking it around me since I was a kid. I knew it was something that other parents probably didn?t do, and I knew it was wrong in terms of the public view of it, but I didn?t think that daddy was a bad man for doing it and he didn?t change his attitude towards me or the family. That was him. I?ve always loved the smell of it [ganja]. By the time I was a mid-teenager I?d experimented once or twice. In Jamaica the laws are not as strict, so sometimes you can go out as a fourteen year old and drink a few beers. I was kind of a social drinker then, and I enjoyed it and whatnot. But when I started to smoke weed, and get more and more into the culture of it, it really, really sunk into me that this is a better thing for my meditation. When I smoke it I become a calmer person. There are a lot of things I can pin-point about weed, in terms of the medical greatness of it, and how it can make soap, bricks, and hemp rope, everything! To me, it?s the best thing for my meditation, to calm myself down, remember who I am, and get in touch with the Earth again.
CC: How does it help you with your music?
SP: My mother is an artist, and she told me when I first started smoking weed that, you know, you don?t have to feel that the weed gives you anything, so get used to that. You are perfect the way God designed you. So if I stopped smoking weed now, I wouldn?t stop writing hit songs, I would still continue. It gives me a feel of euphoria, that?s all, and helps my meditation to think of certain things. I had a song a long time ago, when I first started in the biz, about 1995, I said, ?If it ain?t meditation from the Almighty One, than how come the leaves amount to seven?? To me, seven is a blessed number. It represents a lot of things in the human space represented by God.
CC: You had to censor some of your songs for radio and TV.
SP: The main TV stations said they would not play the songs with the weed references in it, so my record company asked me to change the one word. But the song wouldn?t make sense that way so I ended up changing a few lines. I didn?t like the idea but I wanted people to hear the songs so I went ahead with it.
CC: I read about an incident with your father and the authorities, involving marijuana. Do you want to talk about that?
SP: Yeah. As a youngster, my father was a gangster. He was a hustler, I should say. Tryin? to make things here and there. A couple of them went bad, but one was very, very grave ? what you can call a mistake, or a big lesson. Staying in general penitentiary for six years because of an incident when he was tryin? to send away some weed, tryin? to export it from Jamaica. So that was his story, in terms of always tryin? to make that buck, and doin? it through ganja, and he was incarcerated because of something that happened to someone; he could have stopped it from happening, and he stayed in prison for six years of my teenage life, from the time I was 13 to 19 years old. And that?s really the bottom line. That?s why I do believe it should be legalized, and a lot of Jamaica?s economic problems can be helped, I mean… anything we can use to help us, we need it. So to produce hemp, whether it be for medical reasons or cleansing abilities, for the whole vibe of making clothing and rope and that kind of thing, it would help get a lot more people jobs. I?ve heard so much about what the greatness of the plant can do. Jamaica, we are a small little dot, a small little island, but geologically it has been proven that we pushed up out of the earth at a different time than these land masses around, so our soil is rich in different qualities, and makes our weed very deep, just like Hawaii. So the food and weed is just better. I don?t know why the weed is so much better there… it has a lot to do with the Rastafari influence, and that vibe. So I just give thanks to be born there and know what good weed is about.
CC: How often do you get to perform at home?
SP: Actually, not very much any more. I?ve been home, I did the album at home, from January to June we stayed at home and didn?t do any shows or anything. I was just in the studio. I spent two weeks at Christmas and the first two weeks of January [there]. But I only had one show in that whole time period.
CC: How do the people receive you when you go home?
SP: People always treat me with a lot of love and I receive a lot of energy from them. It?s a lot different, because people have known me for ten years publicly there as Sean Paul, and internationally maybe I?ve been known for a little less time. So I?m probably a new artist to many people, but [over there]people are used to the idea of me, and what my music is about. I think the show over Christmas showed people how much performing I?ve been doing and the experience I?ve gained on the road, and they were very expressive about it, telling me, ?Wow! You?ve really come a long way!? so it felt good, to come home and full-circle it, ya know.
CC: Are you involved in any charity organizations?
SP: I?m not fully linked to any charity organizations, but I did help out during hurricane Ivan in Jamaica. I helped out some schools and hospitals that were damaged. There were certain schools that were going to be non-operational for six months. That?s crazy. So I tried to help the schools and hospitals get back on their feet as quick as possible. There are some houses for disabled kids and kids that are paralyzed, Mona Rehab it?s called, and these kids live there, kids with fragile bones ? if they jump on the ground their legs might break because of calcium deficiencies and whatnot. I try to give back in that respect. There are a lot of people in the country that need help economically.
CC: I read a quote from you where you talked about hard work and Karma. Could you expand on how much Karma plays a part in your life?
SP: When I was a kid, I would hear it all the time, ?what goes around comes around? but I didn?t really understand the vibe of it until I was a teenager. Instead of chasing things down, [just]do your thing, and treat people with respect and love. I noticed a difference in my life from that point on, and I started to write more. So I try and treat people how I would like to be treated. Just for that alone, it has shown me that Karma is a really true thing. Energy and forces come and go, but to wait one?s time, and to have patience, to taste life and enjoy life and embrace life, is the greatest thing. Overgrow the Ballot Box!
CC: What do you see for your future?
SP: More music. There are days that I sit in hotel rooms, gloomy days, and I think about sitting outside in sunshine and reasoning. It?s a different vibe when I?m sitting in the back of a studio with the sunshine on my face, and so I hope to do a lot more of that. Music helps to bring people together, and so to do music is such a blessed thing and I?d like to try and maintain and keep it up.
CC: Anything else you want to say to the people?
SP: Yah. Straight up to the kids first of all, because I was around ganja from when I was a kid, like I said my father used to smoke it and was involved with shipments, and my mom used to smoke it at one point when she was younger, but I didn?t start until I was a teenager. I smoked one spliff when I was 15, and I didn?t make it an every day habit. When I got to the age of 21 that is when I really started to smoke more weed. I just wanted to emphasize to kids that you should take your time, and let your mind and ideas develop before you get into anything, even drinking. I?ve seen friends who aren?t able to handle ganja, for whatever reason. They get very hectic and start having some ideas about crazy things that don?t exist. So I would just like to say to the kids to be careful what you?re trying out, and give yourself time.
Sean Paul has received numerous prestigious awards and accolades during his career. He won a Best Reggae Album Grammy for his 2003 release Dutty Rock, which has reached more than 6 million sales worldwide. The album?s hit Get Busy was the first reggae single to take the #1 positions on all charts. Baby Boy, a duet with Beyonce Knowles, placed #1 on the Billboard charts for 5 weeks. In 2003 Sean was bestowed with awards from MTV European Music, MOBO (Music of Black Origin), Much Music (Canada), Juno (Canada), and Source magazine. That same year he was presented with the Bob Marley award for entertainer of the year, and broke new ground when he appeared as the first reggae artist ever on the cover of Vibe magazine. He was named Top Reggae Artist and had the Top Reggae album (Dutty Rock) on the 2003 and 2004 Billboard year-end charts, and won again for his newest album The Trinity, released in 2005. The Trinity debuted in 2005 and sold 107,000 copies in the first week ? a US sales record for a Jamaican artist. That same year, the International Reggae & World Music Awards honored Sean Paul for his Jamaican Hurricane Relief efforts. And in April 2006, The Trinity?s hit single Temperature burned up to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. ? Rhiannon Rose
The Sean Paul Photo Shoot
One of the finest photographers in California, Derek Plank, prepared for the Sean Paul shoot at the Los Angeles House of Blues. The self-appointed ?weed tech?, Hopper, set up a vaporizer and wiped the fingerprints from a coiled Sour Bong.
Sean Paul arrived unpretentiously, sunglasses on and signature cane in hand. He took his seat on a bright and gaudy king?s throne made of bottle caps and bicycle locks, and was surrounded by silver trays of bud. ?This is Train Wreck,? Hopper explained, ?and here we have Romulan, Bullrider, OG Kush and Gonzo?s Gold.? A temple ball of hash was placed in Sean?s hand and he studied it closely, evidently pleased with his souvenir.
Hopper presented a loaded vaporizer decorated with an image of Bob Marley. This was Sean?s first experience with a vaporizer and he enjoyed the new method, likening it to the Chalice back home. (The Jamaican Chalice is made from a hallowed and hollowed coconut and named after a religious ceremonial goblet.) The camera started flashing, and Sean?s associate, wearing a t-shirt that read ?Marijuana Cures Racism?, shook his head proclaiming ?if only I could trade places with you for one day, man!? A fresh round of cold Jamaican Red Stripe beer was brought in to cool us down.
The shoot went on for over an hour. Like a true connoisseur Sean Paul smelled, pinched, rolled, and smoked the buds. He took his time absorbing the bouquet of varieties and flavors, disarming everyone with his authenticity and proving to be a genuine weed lover.
A Universal executive came to give us a five-minute wrap-up reminder. ?Telemundo is here for your interview,? she told Sean. I looked into the hallway and saw crewmen laughing at the billows of smoke rolling down the hallway. ?But you can?t take that,? she said, pointing to the big joint between Sean?s fingers.
?Nah, this is my special likkle spliff, and I?m taking it wit? me,? Sean replied. After finishing the final shots and trading warm goodbyes and hugs, he walked down the hall into the televised interview, with burning spliff in hand.