Shaggy Says There’s Not Enough Support for Reggae Music

How could he forget that he had given her an extra key? "It Wasn't Me" singer Shaggy will be performing this week in Irving with UB40.EXPAND
How could he forget that he had given her an extra key? "It Wasn't Me" singer Shaggy will be performing this week in Irving with UB40.
Jonathan Manion
Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

There is only one certified diamond-selling dance hall reggae artist, and he will be performing at the Toyota Music Factory in Irving on Saturday. His name is Shaggy. Yes, the artist who wrote “It Wasn’t Me,” the got-caught-cheating-red-handed record that sat in that No. 1 Billboard spot for three weeks and had elementary school kids singing the catchy but provocative lyrics.

Shaggy's Irving date will also feature UB40 and guest performances from Ali Campbell and Astro. The tour is labeled the 40th anniversary tour and Shaggy’s set list will be compiled of hits like “Boombastic,” “Angel” and “Oh Carolina.”

The singer's first major release in 1993 was “Oh Carolina” and it peaked at 14 on the Billboard Top 100. Shaggy is fresh off a 2018 Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album, 44/876, that he produced along with Sting. He doubled down this year with the release of his latest album Wah Gwaan?! — a Jamaican patois greeting meaning “What’s going on?”

The album is described as a collection that embodies Shaggy’s Jamaican roots and global reach. He has been one of a handful of artists who were able to stay relevant with new music into their 50s. He turns 51 in October.

“It has a lot to do with reinvention," the singer says. "Trying to find ways to reinvent yourself and really being driven. If you look at the catalog of music that I have made, I’m always slightly going against the grain a bit.”

You might not have heard a Shaggy song in a long time, but it’s partly because dance hall and reggae don’t have a solid platform in the United States. Take Bob Marley, for example. Everybody loves his music, but the possibility of hearing “Red Red Wine” on the radio is unlikely.

Shaggy thinks he could have been bigger if dance hall and reggae had more of an international market.

“How do you get a genre to be heard when there is no format that supports it?” he says. "That was me going against all odds and still being able to make these records that were so impactful.”

Shaggy’s hits have been worldwide hits, and surely that has helped with him still selling out venues. Out of all the records he has made, there are a couple that have stuck out to him.

“I think 'Mr. Boombastic' is classic. I think it is probably one of the greatest compositions that I have ever written. Just the way it is, the sound of it, the style of the record, the slurs. It’s unique. It’s Shaggy.”

Still though, making dance music into your 50s seems like it would be rough on the knees. But Shaggy looks 35, and living in Jamaica has probably allowed him to maintain his youth as he hasn’t even thought about slowing down or retiring just yet.

“This has just become a part of life for me now," he says of performing. "I don’t do it for money or anything like that. …It’s a purpose.”

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.