By Rebecca Heilweil
Shaggy, the reggae star known for the hits "Oh Carolina," "It Wasn't Me," and "Boombastic," released his first solo album in nearly six years. The artist says the twelve new tracks on "Wah Gwaan?!" might be his most personal work yet.
"You should feel like you're on a rollercoaster ride. Remember, in making music, you shouldn't just hear music, you should feel it. And that's what reggae music is about," Shaggy told Cheddar. "It must be eargasmic. It must feel like an orgasm of your ears." The album combines several genresーreggae, EDM, and dancehallーand is meant to cultivate a "festive" vibe.
He adds that this compound approach echoes his early work. "None of it was pure, authentic reggae. It was all hybrid," Shaggy said.
Shaggy has a long history of collaborations. Last year, he released an album with Sting, called "44/876," that won a Grammy. He's also worked with Cardi B, Janet Jackson, and even comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (as his Ali G character). "I've been doing collaborative albums because I was bored," he said. "I felt like it was time for me to give the fans a really Shaggy record."
"Wah Gwaan?!" still features other artists. For the song "You," Shaggy worked with the rising 19-year-old Canadian pop singer, Alexander Stewart, who first gained a following on YouTube. That music video dropped on May 2.
It took Shaggy a few months to find the right singer. "Alexander's voice really fits this track," said the artist. "Once Alexander did it, he nailed it." The album also showcases collaborations with dancehall artist Shenseea and the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Stacy Barthe.
Shaggy's last solo album, "Out of Many, One Music," came out in 2013. The artist hinted that new music was coming last November when he released the single "Use Me," but he said the album was delayed by personal matters and the passing of several loved ones. "I'm a Libra, so I tend to sweep things under the rug," he added. "For me, I needed to just address it head-on."
Shaggy, who began performing in the 1990s, has managed to survive a vast transformation in the music industry. He boasts nearly 8 million monthly listeners on Spotify, with loyal followings in the U.S., the UK, and Mexico.