Reggae legend Shaggy on Rihanna, Prince Harry and his Sting collabs
The reggae star, 51, on his daughter being unimpressed with Prince Harry, Grace Jones and the huge success of his Banana…
You’re in Jamaica, how is it?
Well, because of the pandemic, you’ve got people policing you. When you come into the country, they put the app on your phone and if they catch you breaking the rules, they’re coming for you. Because it’s such a small country, these hospitals would be overrun, so the only option they have is to lock it down.
Your Banana song has been everywhere this summer, hasn’t it?
When Conkarah brought this record to me, I really liked it and the clever lyrics. But I didn’t really want to jump on it because if you check my Boombastic album, I played with the Harry Belafonte Banana Boat Song in 1996 and so I was a little apprehensive about repeating myself. But I got a good arm-twisting.
It’s a sexy song, right?
Yeah, the innuendos are crazy. You know what we’re talking about.
And you’re celebrating 20 years since the Hot Shot album…
Yeah, I was asked to do a remaster of that album, because it was such a monumental album in the genre of dancehall – it brought it into the mainstream and made it household and paved the way for the likes of Sean Paul. So I understood why they would want to – it was an album that was still streaming very well. But I didn’t want to do it exactly, because I’m a creative person – I did my version.
Didn’t Prince Harry sing one of your songs to you?
He came to Jamaica to visit and one of the places he went was a children’s hospital, which I’ve supported for years through my charity. It was a big thing when he was here, all over the news, and my daughter said, ‘Why can’t I meet the prince?’ So I was like, ‘OK, sure,’ so I took her to see the prince and when she saw him she was not impressed – he didn’t have a horse, he didn’t have a cape like a Disney prince but he was such a sport about it. He said, ‘I’ve never met someone so unimpressed.’ And then he turned around and shook my hand and said, ‘It wasn’t me’, like the song.
And you’ve just been honoured in Jamaica, haven’t you?
Yeah, they just gave me a Reggae Icon citation.
What does that mean to you?
I’ve been doing this for 30 years and have won awards but it’s nice to be acknowledged, especially in your country – it’s me and Usain Bolt and Sean Paul and the great Bob Marley…
Don’t forget Grace Jones.
Well, Grace is a big friend of mine. I’m always trying to get her back into the studio and she’s like [in a diva voice], ‘Where’s my song?’ She’s so creative and has done so well because in her head she knows exactly what she wants.
She turned down a collaboration with Lady Gaga when she was the hottest thing in the world. But everything Gaga is doing is what Grace already did. Gaga, Katy Perry, all these girls, everything came from Grace.
Didn’t you turn down a collaboration with Rihanna?
No, I didn’t. I was talking to her A&R and he wanted me to work with her but because she was so busy he was like, ‘Can you do a couple of songs and send them in?’ But I didn’t want to do that because I’m also super-busy so I said, ‘Well, whenever we get the time to get it done together, that’s fine.’
So he said, ‘Can you send some beats?’ But I’m not going to audition. We’re either going to do it or we’re not. But I’d be up for it. I’m good with Rihanna.
The weirdest collaboration is you and Sting.
Well, it’s weird on paper but it isn’t if you really check it out. A lot of what The Police did was a hybrid form of reggae. Every Breath You Take, Every Little Thing She Does is Magic, they were done at GoldenEye in Jamaica, so he’s always had a special connection to Jamaica and the culture, so when we got together it was a no-brainer. He came to a studio and we ended up chatting for hours, doing a song, laughing more than working. And he became the brother I didn’t know I needed.
And your Sting collaboration, 44/876, was your second Grammy last year.
Yeah, it’s funny.
He says, ‘Thank you for getting me a Grammy, I never thought it would be in the reggae category!’ He’s the single greatest person I’ve met in years. Not just in a professional level but on a friendship level. Sting has an inner poetry.
It must feel good to still be at the top and getting Grammys all this time after you started?
I’m blessed to still be relevant but I wouldn’t say I was at the top.
Winning a Grammy is sort of at the top, isn’t it?
Nah, they give those things away these days. I’ve never really strived for that. Even when I was at the top, I wasn’t the guy you’d see at every party and on every red carpet.
The album Hot Shot and the single Banana by Conkarah, featuring Shaggy, are out now
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