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Sean Paul speaks out on climate change and social issues

You know him for his club bangers, but the Jamaican dancehall legend has had more on his mind lately. Sean Paul is speaking out on environmental issues, Jamaica’s colonial past, and dancehall’s newest Gen-Z artists.

I got the right temperature fi shelter you from the storm, sings Sean Paul inside thousands of nightclubs around the world every weekend.

And don’t we all wish we could live inside an early 2000’s top-charting bop? I, too, would like to believe Sean Paul has the power to protect us all from the impending wrath of global climate disasters.

Sadly, this is not possible. But although he has been serving up immaculate vibes and musical escapism for at least two decades, Sean Paul has also been doing practical work behind the scenes to mitigate environmental destruction.

The Grammy award-winning artist was an unexpected attendee at COP21, participates in local beach clean ups, and continues to speak out on issues – environmental, social, and musical – in Jamaica right now.

Hellshire Beach


‘I was always like, maybe we will never see that happen.’

In a recent interview with Sky, Sean Paul recalled learning about climate change while growing up in Jamaica. He expected it would never occur in his lifetime, but like many living in the global south, is now witnessing it first-hand.

The white sand shoreline of Hellshire Beach in Kingston – an iconic local spot he frequented with family and friends as a child – has all but disappeared.

‘Over the years I’ve seen the beach receding,’ Sean said. ‘It’s very sad to see right now that there’s no more beach. And it’s shocking when I remember it as a kid.’

Bustling seafood shacks that once lined the beach now hover on stilts dangerously close to the water. The effects of climate change have become so obvious at this particular site that Reuters even reported on it way back in 2017.

According to experts, warming temperatures destroyed the once abundant coral reefs just off the beach’s shore. They no longer break up strong waves, allowing them to smash away at the coastline and pull sand out to sea.

Marine ecologist and director of the University of the West Indies’ Centre for Marine Sciences, Mona Webber said, ‘I’ve never seen anywhere along the Jamaican coast change so significantly. It’s a domino effect starting with the death of the reef.’

Rising sea levels are just one devastating consequence of climate change, but they currently pose a threat to the homes and livelihoods of over 300 million people globally.

Hellshire Beach, before and after

In 2015, the same year he attended COP21, Sean Paul collaborated with Paul McCartney, Leona Lewis, and Natasha Bedingfield to raise awareness of the climate crisis through the song ‘Love Song to the Earth’.

All proceeds from the song were donated to the UN Foundation and Friends of the Earth to help fight climate change.

‘I think a lot about the environment and nature, especially growing up in Jamaica where it’s all around you. It’s a great cause, and one that unites all the people on the planet; and since it’s for charity, I’m all in,’ said Sean Paul.

And though he has a new album titled Scorcha awaiting release, Sean Paul remains determined to use his press tour to keep campaigning for the environment, getting involved with beach clean ups in Jamaica, and supporting local reef restoration projects.

 

On politics and music

In March, we wrote about government backed protestors in Jamaica who demanded colonial reparations from the UK ahead of a springtime royal visit.

The tension between constitutional monarchies and Britain has only been amplified by Barbados’ move to become a republic last year. Political analysts expect other nations to advance efforts to detach from sovereign rule soon, too.

Though Sean Paul may stray from discussing politics (on account of his grandmother from Coventry still owning teacups with the Royal’s faces on them), he understands the Jamaican people’s frustration.

‘It’s weird for me… but then my friends who live in the ghetto feel like, where’s the people we can rely on?’ he said. ‘Emotionally, there is a nostalgia there, but as an adult I feel like: what is it there for?’

Dancehall comrade Beenie Man was vocal in the lead up to Prince William and Kate’s visit, asking similar questions on Good Morning Britain.

The Royals may be seriously dropping the ball on their duties to Jamaica, but Sean Paul wants to ensure the legacy of his fellow dancehall legends is not overshadowed by so-called ‘new sounds’.

‘People like Beenie Man and Shaggy and Shabba Ranks, they all need their accolades – otherwise people just say Drake is innovative. No. It’s our rhythms and it’s our lingo in their music,’ he said.

With respect for the legends, Sean Paul is proud of the avenue Jamaica’s newest homegrown artists are taking with their music.

He praised the likes of Shenseea, Jada Kingdom, Naomi Cowan, and Koffee – all female Gen-Z artists who have come to dominate the Jamaican scene in recent years with their original sound and strong messaging.

‘This music is all about reflecting what is happening in your community and the new generation are making it their own.’

It sounds like Sean Paul has a lot on his plate right now, yet he’s still advocating for so many things – the environment, Jamaica, and the artists it’s risen up. As far as I’m concerned, he could have already hung up his coat for providing us with a catalogue of timeless records.

Including one that’s increasing relevancy as time goes by, because… We (do) Be Burnin’ out here.

 

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