Sean Paul On ‘Mad Love The Prequel,’ The Future Of Music & Collaborations: Interview

Sean Paul is no stranger on the charts. The 45-year-old has signed his name onto some of the biggest hits of the last 20 years. His discography includes chart-topping anthems “Get Busy” and “Temperature” as well as Beyonce’s “Baby Boy.” And he has been on a hot streak for the last two years. After reigniting his fire by landing numbers ones in both the US (Sia’s “Cheap Thrills”) and the UK (Clean Bandit’s “Rockabye”), the Jamaican powerhouse has churned out a bevy of singles. He linked up with Dua Lipa on “No Lie” and joined forces with Becky G and David Guetta on his thumping “Mad Love.”

He kept the high-energy bops coming with the release of the Major Laser-assisted “Tip Pon It,” and by teaming up with Sigala, Fuse ODG and Kent Jones on “Feels Like Home.” Today (June 29) he dropped his Mad Love The Prequel EP, which includes several of the singles he has released over the last two years. It also includes additional collaborations with the likes of Ellie Goulding, Jhene Aiko and Stefflon Don. Any of the frenetic bangers on the tracklist could easily propel the hitmaker back up the charts, and he is set to dominate streaming playlists for months to come.

This week I had the opportunity to talk with Sean about how it feels to release the project. He talked about what went into selecting the right featured artists for every song, hinted at some forthcoming projects and reflected on the constantly changing music industry. He also revealed several other artists that were in the running to appear on the project’s title track and opened up about working with several of his biggest collaborators. Would he reunite with Beyonce and Rihanna? Who else was in the running for “Mad Love?” Learn all that and more about what Sean has been up to in our exclusive interview below.

Mad Love The Prequel will be your first collection of new music since you dropped Full Frequency in 2014. How will you feel once its released Friday?

I’ll just feel good about having my work come out, you know? Sometimes they come out sporadically so it’s great to have the public hear it. When you say it’s been so long since the last time, I’ve done a lot of songs since then. But it’s just not… it hasn’t come up. For the artist, he’s like “ah, all the time I’m trying to get this out. I’m feeling anxious about it.” So when it does happen, I’ve listened to the song ten billion times. Yeah, we’ve mixed it ten billion times. And the anticipation and just the relief, that’s really what it is. It’s like, “ah, thank god.” I’m excited for people to hear it. And I hope people like it.

Absolutely. Everything I’ve heard from the project has been fantastic so far. And on this EP you’ve landed some massive collaborations from likes of Ellie Goulding, David Guetta, Migos and Major Lazer. Is there a process you go through to make sure you have the right artist working on each track?

Sometimes other artists… You know, we might pinpoint a couple artists that might sound right on a track. Maybe her or maybe her. Maybe these dudes or those. But sometimes we can just pinpoint it. Like, with Ellie Goulding, I wanted to do a song with her for a while. So when I came up with the right idea it was like definitely what I hear her on. So that was directed straight to her. A lot of times with songs people want me on, they have definitely heard me on it before they even ask me. So, it’s the same type of thing. But sometimes it’s like you pinpoint different people, and you see who is available. Some people have red tape involved. What I mean by red tape is, you know, they’ve got an album coming out pretty soon, and they can’t put out too many songs at the same time and all this stuff. So sometimes you get the perfect dream, but it doesn’t end up being the perfect thing. But the song with Ellie was pretty cool.

That’s one of the ones I’m really looking forward to hearing. Another one that I really want to talk about is “No Lie” with Dua Lipa. That dropped before “New Rules” totally dominated the charts. What was it like working with Dua and can you talk about what made you want her on the track?

Yeah. Same way. You know, on that song I didn’t know exactly who I wanted. I didn’t know who would sound great doing it. There’s a songwriter that wrote that hook, Emily is her name. Emily Warren. And she’s pretty dope in terms of her tone of voice. And so I didn’t know who was going to kind of capture that vibe because I really liked how it sounded. Someone in my management group brought Dua up. And I kind of saw her in passing here and there and wondered what she was about. And when I first kind of was introduced to her voice, just meeting with management like “yo let’s check out this girl.” Her voice was just so very sensual. A sexy voice, yeah man. And I’m so proud of it. I picked her last year and she was an established artist, but she’s just a lot more huge this year. This really seems to be her year that she’s getting crazy. So I’m glad to be someone who kind of was involved in her earlier stage. It’s pretty cool to be able to work with her.

Her voice is so distinct. It brings something so unique to every track. And it’s so amazing to see how you managed to mesh in with her on the production.

Right. It just shows you how good of an artist she is. In terms of, she’s done so much different types of songs recently. And people are gravitating toward them. Her songs are really the thing right now.

So far each song off the EP has been really different but has had your personal stamp on it. I was curious, do you have a favorite song on the EP?

It’s hard for me to say “ah this is my favorite.” Sometimes for months I’m waiting for them to come out. So each one becomes, every week I have a new favorite one. And then it comes out, and I fall in love with them all over again. And then the public picks their own and I’m like “oh, I’ll fall in love with that one.” For obvious reasons, that instant gratification when you do it onstage. So it’s different. I can’t pinpoint which one. But right now I’m still loving the Major Lazer. It gets me up. Pretty much the sound in it is just nuts. Even before I did any lyrics on the track. Everybody who heard it was like “oh boy, instant hit. You’ve got to do it.” The craziest horn or whatever sound that is. And the video’s pretty dope.

Actually that leads into my next question. Visually, this has been a very bountiful era for you as well. We’ve already seen videos for several songs. The “Mad Love” one in particular is a favorite of mine. Do you have any plans to roll out any others in the near future?

Oh yeah. For sure. Actually, I have a young artist in Jamaica so we’re kind of shooting some viral videos for him. His name is Chi Ching Ching. I’ve been involved in doing that for the past couple of weeks. I think we’re dropping his album later; I think early in September. So yeah. His album is going to be called Turning Tables. And he has a very big buzz in Jamaica right now. He’s got a lot of people dancing and doing crazy moves. So yeah, that’s one set of videos that I’ve been looking at and doing. I’m kind a doing little bit of production for him on his album also. Just directing where I think he should be; where I see him and where he sees himself. And I’m kind of just that way and as I said the videos.

I’ve shot another video for the song called “Jump On It,” which I am eager to release. And I’m looking to shoot another video in the summer here. I have a pretty much on-and-off touring schedule this summer. It’s not like last summer. Last summer was pretty much on, on, on. So I’ve been kind of like taking some space and time just to do some personal stuff. And yeah. Looking forward to shooting some videos soon.

Regarding the “Mad Love” video, Becky G has become such a prolific visual artist over the course of her career. What was it like working with her on the video shoot?

She is, what can I call her? I don’t know what to call her. She’s like an expert at all things being an artist right now. In terms of, it’s free. Then when it’s time to focus she knows when it is. She’s just very adult-thinking in her brain, and I think it’s because she’s been in the industry from quite a few years back. You know, rapping on YouTube and rhyming and singing and just developing in front of our eyes as an artist. Now she’s like a force. I’m really proud of her steps also. And I was introduced to her music a while back from some producers who were working with her. And when it came up for her to do the song, I was at first like… “I don’t know.” Over the years, looking at someone’s career. You’re not sure if you and them will actually match. You’re not sure if you have the same type of fans. But I kind of got used to the idea of it. I’ve been a fan of her. But I just wanted it to match properly. Actually, a couple people did try on that song. But she’s the one who really came through. And I remember calling her or Skyping her over Facetime or whatever at like 2:30 in the morning where I was, somewhere in Europe. I’d just come off the tour bus and she doing adlibs and finishing up the song and taking all of what I was asking her to do and doing it expertly.

I think she’s just a pleasure to work with. She’s a force in the biz right now and I’m sure that who don’t know her right now are going to start knowing her more and more. She’s got millions of followers already, but there’s billions of people in the world. I think she can capture a lot of those numbers.

Can I ask who else you had considered for the track?

Actually, yeah. There was a few people did mock it up. One was Shakira. And that happened to end up being in a red tape situation. I kind of like could not use her. Which was a disappointment because I’ve always wanted to do a song with her. And a second person was Rita Ora. Yeah, and the only reason why I didn’t gravitate towards her doing it… well, first off, I have her on anther song, and she sounds way better on that song to me. And I didn’t want to mix that up. So, yeah. Those two. As I said, both were kind of disappointing. But when I got used to the idea of Becky trying it, and I was on Facetime with her for so long I got to see her whole personality. And she was trying and how late it was for her in the evening. And she knew where I was. I had just gotten into the hotel and stuff. I just saw she was the perfect match. Things work out for a reason, you know?

Yeah, and I’m sure that’s got to be the greatest phone call to get. To know that you’re going to be on a Sean Paul track. So you’ve been releasing music for years now. What do you think is the best tip for a newer artist regarding how to keep up with the changing industry?

Best tip. You’ve gotta keep your ears to the ground. And one thing I do try to remember is that every generation changes. Every five to ten years things are just totally different. But there are some similarities in what kids are doing that reminds me of when I was that age. And I never lose touch with that age. I guess with any age in my life. It comes for my whole journey. But I never lose touch with certain parts that were positive and were life changing for the better for me. And I think part of that was just music and socializing and going out as a youngster to house parties and meeting people who were just new friends to me who I didn’t go to school with. I met them from going out. And I tried to put that back in my music. Saying this to some other artist is maybe not the same for them. But it’s good as a artist. What we do is imitate life. We recreate what we see, our perspective of life. So I think that those magical moments, you need to, to be a great artist or to be someone who has work that turns heads or gets ears you need to capture that magic. And I can’t explain it in no other way.

So there’s kids doing their… Just recently the hip hop industry and everybody’s talking about mumble rap. There’s things that, I get it. I can hear the difference between Rakim and what Migos is doing of course. And even people from Atlanta. Andrew 3000 and those guys. They sound different from what Migos is doing. But there’s magic in what they’re doing. I don’t disagree with they’re doing. For me that’s what I do. I find the magic in it. And I understand. As different as it may be from when I grew up. No matter how crazy it might sound at first. There’s 12 notes and they go around in circles, and that’s what this universe is to me. They say the world is round so it comes back around. And so does karma. And so does music.

Talking about things coming back around and working with Becky G and Dua Lipa toward the beginning of their careers, two other artists that you worked with really early in their careers are Beyonce and Rihanna. Would you be interested in linking up with either of them again.

Yeah for sure. I’ve done music with people who nobody knows and people who everybody knows. And it really is about the song to me. There’s people who I love in the music business, and we’ve gotten together but we couldn’t. The vibe wasn’t good. The rhythm in the studio wasn’t right. The time that we had to work together wasn’t right. It wasn’t comfortable. So we were like “we’ll do this another time.” One of those people is Ashanti. I love her. I love her sensual vibe that she carries on a track. You know on songs like “baby, baby, baby, baby, baby.” But, you know, simple but it’s just beautiful to me. I didn’t get to work with her because of time restraints and because of the production house we were with at the time. So I was like “we’ll come back to this at some other time.” So, yeah I would love to work with Rihanna or Beyonce again. Both of them I’m still friends with and they do beautiful music.

So you have a lot of videos coming. Can we expect any big performances in the near future?

Yeah. There’s a couple things booked for the summer as I said. A small bit in Canada. Some parts in Montreal. Some parts in Toronto. What else is coming up? A couple things in Europe also. A lot of different countries, but I’m not familiar with every one right now. I know I’m going back to Italy for the first time in a while.

So there’s a lot to look forward to in the near future. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I’m really looking forward to hearing the rest of the album

Thank you, I hope you enjoy.

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