Sean Paul


Full name
Sean Paul Ryan Francis Henriques



Copper Soldier Chinee Boy
January 9, 1973
Kingston, Jamaica


Reggae, Dancehall
Deejay, Vocalist
Years active
VP, Atlantic
Stage One

Dutty Rock

The Trinity

Sean Paul Ryan Francis Henriques (born January 9, 1973) is a Grammy Award-winning Jamaican reggae and dancehall artist. He is professionally known as Sean Paul.


Early lifeEdit

Sean Paul Ryan Francis Henriques was born in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, and spent his early years "comfortably" in Upper Saint Andrew Parish, a few miles north of his birthplace. Most people who knew Sean when he was a boy probably thought that he would end up as a responsible and respectable member of the island's middle classes. His part Chinese mother, Frances, was a well known artist. His father, Garth, of Portuguese origin, had a slightly more notorious background as he was rumoured to be descended from a gang of horse rustlers. Because of his exotic ethnicity, Sean was known to the neighbors as the "Copper Soldier Chinee Boy". He was educated at Wolmers High School, and later at the exclusive Bell Air High School in Mandervil, an establishment responsible for the training of several movers and shakers in Jamaica's political and business elite.

Sean's musical abilities made themselves apparent at a very early age. When he was about 4 years old, he was at a barbecue and became separated from his parents. He started crying but to the amazement of the other guests he was bawning away in the same key as the background music. It seemed that the boy had perfect pitch. He didn't throw himself single-mindedly into music, however. He was an athletic child and a particularly strong swimmer, excelling at water polo.

In Jamaica nobody could escape the rhythms of reggae, and Sean was surrounded by the sounds of legends such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. He was not, however, a reggae purist. One of his favourite songs when he was growing up was "Another One Bites The Dust" by the British rock band Queen. The first album that Sean bought for himself was the soundtrack to the hip-hop movie "Beat Street", featuring numbers by Afrika Bambaataa and Melle Mel. He purchased this seminal record with money received from his 12th birthday. There is a Jamaican tradition called "bumming" which involves birthday boys getting their behinds kicked. So, to avoid a bruised butt, Sean hid on the roof of his parents' house and played the ground-breaking New York hip-hop rhythms over and over.

Sean was a popular, well rounded child. He had a fairly happy home life, although this was tested at the age of 13. His father was jailed for possession of marijuana, and young Sean became depressed. However, he found positive ways to deal with the situation. His father had always encouraged his sporting efforts and Sean became increasingly obsessed with swimming, eventually joining the Jamaican water polo team. He also represented his country at swimming in the CARIFTA Games in 1989 and 1991 and he still had his music to help him through the difficult years. He took a few piano lessons when he was 14 years old but quickly reacted against the petty rules, like having to sit up straight. His mother then bought him a little Casio keyboard for $30 at a flea market. Sean's keyboard included a small drum machine, and he relaxed by constructing new rhythms (or riddims as they were usually called).

Early jobs Edit

At this stage Sean enjoyed music but didn't take it seriously as a potential career. His first dream was to be an architect, but his school grades weren't good enough. Also failing to win a college place to study marketing, Sean found himself working in a bank for a short while. "I was counting money," he recalled, "It was not my own. I did not like it." He took a course in hotel management at the College of Arts, Science and Technology on Kingston's Hope Road, opting for tough training in the kitchens and learning to cook a five course meal.

He was creating new rythms with his Casio keyboard and writing songs around them. Although he still loved the classic reggae of Bob Marley and American soul singers, it was more than modern dancehall style that provided much of his inspiration, together with lashings of American hip-hop. Sean, who had dropped his surname in favour of the snappier Sean Paul, was getting a little recognition as a songwriter. He really wanted success as a performer and his focus was on the intence sound of dancehall, rather than reggae. As Sean put it himself: "Dancehall was really the right avenue for me to get people to hear me out above how I saw the world."

Early career Edit

Demos that Sean had recorded were creating a buzz around Kingston. His willingness to perform at the smallest dancehall barbecue also pinpointed him as someone with the drive and perseverance to succeed in the business. Sean's lucky break came from the deejay Spanner Banner, whose calloboration with Sean Paul was entitled "Ladies Man", which was released on Spanner's label Sweet Angel Productions, topped the Jamaican charts and brought Sean to the attention of the mainstream record buying public. The producer of "Ladies Man" was Jeremy Harding, and he spotted the potential of the junior member of the duo. In 1997, Harding released Sean Paul's first solo single, "Baby Girl (Don't Cry)", swiftly followed by the pumping, infectous numbers "Infiltrate", and "Hackle Me". One of his most important gigs was the opening for rap star Busta Rhymes, when he came to Jamaica in 1997. It was a meeting that was to have an important impact on Sean's career later on. In a matter of a few months, the Jamaican music scene was a wash with the dancehall sound of Sean Paul. Throughout 1997 and 1998 the hits continued to pile up: "Woman Ya Hot", "Work With It" and "Report To Me" seemed to dominate the airwaves. Sean recorded "Nag Get No Bligh (One More Try)" with producer Donovan Jermaine, and "Excite Me" and "Deport Them" with Tony Kelly. The last track, a reworking of the Bookshelf Riddim, provided one of the earliest examples of Sean's characteristic call, "Dutty Yo", a reference to the loose grouping of artists that would help to take Sean Paul's music to the next level, known as the "Dutty Cup Crew".

The Dutty Cup Crew Edit

Sean had had an unpleasant experience on the Carribean island of Grenada, where a local singer tried to humiliate him live on stage. So Sean decided to join the Dutty Cup Crew through psychological, political and musical needs. His old friend and mentor Don Yute was linked to the group, and Sean found firm friends and worthy collaborators in his fellow crw members Mossy Kid, Looga Man, Daddigon, Chicken, and Kid Kurup. Together, the Dutty Cup Crew recorded the singles "Groove Me" and "Jamone", both of which became underground hits in the New York clubs, especially in the Carribean immigrant communities. It was Sean's first taste of stateside success. The Dutty Cup Crew occasionally performed as a unit and helped out on each other's solo productions. Sean: "We all do our own thing, the rest of the family don't want to put out as much stuff, so they just do it whenever they feel." Sean's next big step was to re-work his old hit "Ladies Man" using the riddim known as "Underwater". The version that really gained him attention was a megamix, plus a companeing promotional video, featuring dancehall stars such as Bucaneer, General Degree, Buju Banton and Beenie Man.

Breakthrough into America & Stage One Edit

Sean embarked on a series of gigs that covered Europe, Japan, and most importantly, North America, to raise his profile as an individual performer. It was in the States that Sean came to the attention of Hype Williams, a directop of hip-hop promo videos. Williams was making his first feature film, "Belly", an urban thriller starring the rappers DMX and Nas, and featuring T-Boz from TLC and Method Man of the Wu-Tang Clan. DMX was also providing much of the music, and he teamed up with Sean and fellow deejay Mr. Vegas on the track "Top Shotter". The collaboration with Mr. Vegas continued when Sean eventually returned to Jamaica. They came out with the track "Haffi Get De Gal Ya", better known as "Hot Gal Today" in which Mr. Vegas provided a contrast to Sean's gruffa voice over the Street Sweeper Riddim. Not only was the track a hit in Jamaica as expected, it also did well in the United States, especially in New York and Miami. What looked like bcoming a potentially profitable partnership fell to pieces when Sean and Vegas had a bitter public argument over the packaging of the single. Not content with his own recording and performing, he also had the time to set up his own company, Baseline Records, through which he could scout for talent on the dancehall scene and hone his own production skills.

In 2000, the Jamaican label VP Records released his debut album, "Stage One". The album showed something of Sean's range, mixing up solo hits like "Infiltrate" and "No Bligh", with collaborations such as "Hot Gal Today" as well as "Sound The Alarm" and "You Must Lose" on which he worked with his Dutty Cup buddy Looga Man. "Stage One" wasn't a calculated crafted blockbuster, it was a hurried compilation that demonstrated what Sean had accomplished since his debut four years before.