Sean Paul and veteran producer Lenky shares some back story on the origins of the classic club banger “Get Busy.”
“Get Busy” was one of Sean Paul’s biggest songs of his career, and for the first time in a new interview with Vice, the dancehall legend shares how the song not only changed his career into an upward spiral to global fame but also cemented his career as a dancehall artist.
Sean Paul’s 20-year career has not always been peaches and cream. Born in a struggling uptown family where his father served time in jail for drug smuggling, Sean Paul was constantly placed in a box of what his community wanted him- to be a national water polo athlete like his father and leave the grimy dancehall music that spoke about suffering alone.
It was a case of the ‘right message from the wrong messenger’ Sean Paul says, as his career received pushback from the uptowners who couldn’t take him seriously and the downtowners who felt he wasn’t an authentic messenger.
Despite fears from those around him that he was “making a mistake” with his life by making dancehall music, the artist says he persisted for six years going to the studio before he finally met producer Jeremy Harding that helped to guide him to making marketable music.
“He started off making what we like to call cultural records,” the veteran producer said. I asked him, have you ever made a party song, like a girl’s record? Because knowing his background to try and sing cultural records about what’s wrong in the ghetto, for example, it was like ‘Nah not from you,’” Harding said.
“He was like ‘bro, nobody don’t believe you, you know that right? You’re not gonna be the person to preach…why don’t you sing about what you are?” Sean Paul echoed Harding’s comment.
Sean Paul said he started making music for the girls, and his career took off in the diaspora and led to his first album ‘Stage One’ being released. However, marketing a Jamaican artist was difficult because the American market did not understand dancehall music. His former A&R at VP Records, Murray Elias, revealed that the label pushed to maintain Sean Paul’s authenticity. His song “Gimme The Light” was the biggest hit of his early career which led to a deal with Atlantic Records.
The artist was now on a mainstream American label, and his team was now seeking to grow his career. The artist says that is when he met Steven ‘Lenky’ Marsden, who created the Diwali riddim that changed not only Sean Paul’s life but Lenky’s as the artist created the track “Get Busy,” which catapulted his career to international stardom and put Jamaica on the map once again.
The artist also described the story of “Get Busy” from his brother going on a hill in Kingston and sharing some potential lyrics for the verses to the uncertainty and pushback from his label in deciding to release the track.
“He’s a very particular musician,” Sean Paul described Lenky’s guidance with voicing the track.
“Lenky had the ability as a musician to go and customize each person’s song. So each person’s song would have a special set of music matching the person’s lyrics and arrangement. By customizing each song on Diwali [riddim] he kinda revolutionized how we produce songs to this day,” Sean Paul’s brother Jason Henriques said.
Lenky is well-known in the Jamaican music industry as not only a maestro of a producer but also as a top-notch songwriter with credits like “Luv” by Tory Lanez and “Let Me Love You” by DJ Snake featuring Justin Bieber, along with several dozen tracks for artists in the dancehall industry.
In the meantime, Sean Paul also broke down some of the lyrics and what they meant, some of which are just plain playful. According to him, the verse that mentions Jodi and Canna are actually real people – his now wife and her friend Canna who asked that he put her in the song after being told that he was heading to the studio.
As for ‘gwan pet it,’ it’s a sexual reference in Jamaica, but the artist said that he incorporated hip-hop slang that drew in fans from across the world.
However, VP/Atlantic wanted to release a new track, “Like Glue,” rather than “Get Busy” on the Diwali riddim.
“I went to several meetings and said ‘yow please don’t do that’. And they were worried if they pushed the button on that and it doesn’t really work then it would miss the opportunity for “Like Glue” to come and it would be an over album,” Sean Paul says while his former A&R said a decision was made at the last minute to swap “Like Glue” and put in “Get Busy.”
Videographer Little X also helped to bring together “Get Busy” as a package with the music video creatively shot in a basement in Canada, appealing to thousands of people in the Caribbean diaspora who could relate to the song.
“You have a number one song on the Billboard charts,” Sean Paul says, laughing as he recalls the song’s pure sales number on almost all of the charts across the world.
“It was worldwide, it’s not even Jamaica, it’s a world thing,” Lenky said.
Sean Paul later released his second album ‘Dutty Rock’ which not only was a commercial success but caused an upward projection as it transformed his life from a struggling Jamaican artist into an international artist with more hit songs on the Billboard Hot 100 songs- “Like Glue,” “I’m Still In Love,” “We Be Burnin,” and another No. 1 track, “Temperature.”
Sean Paul says that he still starts his show with “Get Busy,” his first No. 1 track and one of his most popular tracks ever.
<iframe title="The Story Of ‘Get Busy’ By Sean Paul