Shaggy paying it forward, doing his part to help Caribbean artistes

By Hanan Redwan Published on March 10, 2023
Shaggy paying it forward, doing his part to help Caribbean artistes

After years of building his career to become a global superstar, Shaggy is paying it forward and helping Caribbean artistes to properly navigate the music industry.

His first Island Music Conference, held in Kingston last month, marked his formal approach to educating artistes, producers, songwriters, managers and other music stakeholders about the industry.

The conference, held during Reggae Month, was a collaboration between Shaggy, Sharon Burke of Solid Agency and media consultant Judith Bodley.

Speakers from Pandora, Tik Tok, Audiomack, YouTube, Warner Music, BET, Ineffable Records and BBC1XTRA among others, convened in Jamaica to speak on a range of topics from mental health and style to contracts and social media marketing.

Speaking to Loop News during a visit to Trinidad, Shaggy said the conference, in his estimation, was a success.

“It achieved more than we thought. First of all to have some of the panelists we had from YouTube, Tik Tok, Instagram, some of these are top brasses who came in based on our relationships and friendships and the idea of trying to ignite the region and put us in a conversation to level the playing field,” he said.

He said they could have had more high-level panelists but the conference took place around the same time as the Grammys and the NFL’s Superbowl so they may have to reconsider the dates for the event in the future.

The event was supported by Jamaican artistes among them Valiant, TeeJay and Bounty Killer and Shaggy noted that a lot of young and new artistes were in attendance.

“In the business of music and doing music I realized there are a lot of people who don’t have the knowledge. When we had our run in dancehall, when Sean Paul and Shaggy and Wayne Wonder were happening remember Gwen Stefani came in and she had “Hey Baby” with Bounty Killer and then right after that she started to sell Caribbean-infused handbags and shoes and purses through Neiman Marcus and these stores. None of us was educated to take those opportunities,” he said.

“For the first time, we were more than a conversation, we were a bigger part of the market share and we didn’t know how to capitalise on it. That comes from education…I didn’t have management or a team at the time that was smart enough to capitalise on my breakthrough.”

Shaggy observed that many artistes think once they make it with a big song that is it. He said, however, that the work actually begins when you make that breakthrough.

“These are things we need to keep teaching and let them know how necessary it is. So apart from me screaming it, let’s bring some big players to say yeah this is how it is done and validate what we are saying,” he said, explaining the purpose of the conference.

The lessons he seeks to convey to Caribbean artistes through the conference are lessons he had to learn along his journey.

His knowledge, he said, came from trial and error. 

“I had the biggest album in the world with Hotshots. I went Diamond, everyone knew my name, I performed with Michael Jackson. I met the queen, I met the pope, Nelson Mandela but as somebody was ahead in that culture if I had a smarter team around me there was a lot more we could have accomplished,” he said, drawing comparisons to Reggaeton artistes who, he said, has educated and smart people in charge.

Shaggy said Caribbean music could benefit from the wide support Reggaeton receives throughout Latin America.

“We are taking a culture that is less than five percent of the global market share so literally for us to do that it starts from us sporting our own,” he said, calling for radio quotas to ensure a certain percentage of our music is played on our airwaves.

“Radio is not the tell all but it certainly is still relevant,” he countered when asked if quotas can work in an age where everyone has access to music via their devices.

He also called for a Caribbean Grammy Awards.

“That’s one way to go but we can’t achieve these things without leverage and we can’t get leverage without numbers and we can’t get numbers without support,” he said.’

Looking at the music itself, Shaggy, who is a very versatile artist, champions hybrid music as a key factor for success. He also believes music should not be seasonal and that lyrics matter.

“Songwriting is a craft, Mastering your craft is also about having your finger on the pulse. It is really about writing songs that are relatable. Lionel Richie looked at me one day and said that he has written one song in his entire career. I said I don’t understand what you mean, you have many songs and he said they are all about the same thing, “I Love You”, three little words. He keeps writing the same thing over and over because it is relatable,” he explained.

“It Wasn’t Me was relatable. It’s a song about banging but whether you are young or old, straight or gay, Muslim or Christian, it is relatable.”

Shaggy isn’t a fan of writing camps as he believes each writer has his or her own process. He advises, however, that people look to the greats in the industry who are masters of their craft. His favourites are the Beatles, Lionel Richie, Simon and Garfunkel, and Bob Marley

“I studied those people and bring some of that into my craft. I don’t like the idea of a writing camp where they are telling you it should be done one way, it is really not my thing,” he said.


Apart from helping the Caribbean music industry through the Island Music Conference, Shaggy also works one on one with various artistes. In the past, he helped to shine a spotlight on artistes such as Rick Rock and Rayvon.

Last year, he worked with Spice and Sean Paul on the single “Go Down Deh” and helped to promote Spice all over the US. He also recently worked with Teejay and for the Superbowl, did the “Electric Slide” song for the Jeep commercial with Marcia Griffiths.

On the soca end, Shaggy recently collaborated with Kees Dieffenthaller for the song “Mood” and will feature other soca artistes on his first-ever soca album due to drop this month.

 “My job is to pay it forward, my job is to use my platform to promote the culture,” he said.

But if you think getting on Shaggy’s radar is easy, think again. He said artistes must work their way up.

He said: “For us to have a conversation with YouTube or Live Nation, it really boils down to leverage and that leverage is being on their radar. We will be on their radar when we start doing numbers. So the same thing with any artiste. You are not going to just start out and I will do a song with you. I did a song with Spice because she was on my radar, she worked her way up and I said okay let me give her a shot. Teejay has done enough songs and worked his way up so I said let me do a song with him. It’s an investment you are putting into that person to move forward.”

Hanan Redwan

Hanan Redwan

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