Photos by the author
This article originally appeared on Noisey Canada.
A mere ten years after the release of “Temperature,” Sean Paul performed in my home city of Regina, Saskatchewan—the crown jewel of Canada. Known instantly for rhyming with the word vagina, Regina is a glowing metropolis/leading producer of stagnant lake smell and, as luck would have it, something Sean Paul (remember “We Be Burning”!?) couldn’t resist any longer. The Jamaican star brought his dancehall jams to the Conexus Arts Centre. For the non-Reginans reading this, the Conexus Arts Centre is described on their website as “a world-class performing arts and theatre complex.” Sean Paul, whose “Gimme The Light” came out in 2002, played in the basement of that place on the Saturday of Easter weekend. Noisey sent me to review the show after I convinced them Regina only just got Sean Paul’s music on CD this year. And after seeing him live I realize I’ve become a better person.
Doors were at 8:30 PM, so naturally I arrived two hours late—as in not late enough to miss some bad DJing before the headliner. One-quarter of a song is the new full song in 2016. The Conexus Arts Centre basement greeted us with a perfume of weed smoke and a horde of heavily turnt 30 year olds. I spent a while bumping into a lot of old friends because Regina, population 17, is basically one long procession of awkward run-ins. For example, here is a slightly interpreted conversation I had with a former coworker from a failed internship at a stable company that never hired me:
Me: Hey, [former co-worker]. You like Sean Paul?
Former co-worker: Wait, you’re still in Regina? Weren’t you going to be a novelist or something? How’s that going?
Me: Sean Paul is so great!
Sean Paul bridging the gap between Rush fans and over-40 soccer moms.
I had similar conversations for about an hour. Once in a while the DJ would put on a Fetty Wap song I knew, and I would aggressively mouth the lyrics to assert my sense of belonging. “Wow,” I thought, “Why does ‘Trap Queen’ seem so old, like a song from a long forgotten realm? There’s still time for me to write a great novel, right? And maybe I like living in Regina.” And then, like a hip-hop and reggae Jesus rising from the dead on Easter, Sean Paul took the stage at 11:08 PM to the cheers of 400 strong and sloppy. The dancehall king broke out with “Come On To Me” and smoothly transitioned into “Get Busy.” Flanked by two nearly-naked and toned dancers, he sounded crisp and still looked cool as hell. The nostalgia hit like a drug, and I was transported back in time to high school, when I was still a b-boy. Yeah, I was actually a breakdancer, and I was very good. The theatrical release of You Got Served was my moon landing, and Sean Paul was set to autoplay on my Myspace page. To my friends, that made me the Sean Paul guy. Here is a scientific chart depicting my Sean Paul fandom:
And there he was in my city, my original gateway into dancehall music. Some time after he performed the Sia song “Cheap Thrills” accompanied by a backing track, Sean Paul stopped the show to talk about the resurgence of the Jamaican music he helped bring to a generation of mainstream listeners. He is the mid-2000s' Shabba Ranks. “There are a lot of people doin’ the dancehall music and sampling it and I fuckin’ love it,” Sean Paul told the audience referring to acts like Drake and Rihanna, “It means we made it.” He followed up with a tribute to the iconic reggae singer Maxi Priest. And while I got lost in thoughts of colonialism, the rise of ska music in Jamaica following their independence in 1962, and the precursors to the contemporary dancehall sound, I was suddenly hit in the chest by Sean Paul’s sweaty towel.
The singer threw his towel into the crowd, and it sailed over outstretched hands and finally slapped me in the torso before falling into a heap on the drink-soaked floor. I knelt to pick up the memento at the same time as a gorgeous dancing woman. We simultaneously grabbed the sopping wet treasure. She offered it to me. For a moment, we held onto Sean Paul’s juicy rag, knowing this would be a juncture in our collective histories. “You can have it,” the graceful stranger mouthed. “No, you take it, please,” I countered, while Sean Paul crooned on stage. While letting go of the singer’s steaming wipe, I finally understood the power of dancehall: Locking eyes with an attractive woman and doing nothing. I then (clumsily) asked the beautiful stranger to hold up the towel for a picture.
The love of my life... and the woman who came with it
I faded into the music, and before I knew it, Sean Paul was closing with “Temperature” at 12:05 AM. This was it. This was my Sean Paul, sheltering me from the storm of life. I felt alive; I felt not really Jamaican, but man, this is a fantastic song. This was the pinnacle of musical achievement in person. Happy Easter, Regina. Abruptly, security cleared out the room, and I was left standing alone in a pile of literal garbage in an old basement. Extra special fans who paid $122.50 did a meet and greet with the legend himself. In the lobby, we spoke to two concert goers, Tiffany and Brittany. Brittany, 25, said, “That was great. I haven’t seen him before, but I’ve been following him since forever. I used to listen to Sean Paul in high school.” Tiffany, 24, added, “We have one of his towels.” They showed me the towel, dashing the idea that I was somehow special.
We stuck around to try and sneak an interview with Sean Paul on his way out, but security told us to leave. Obviously, they didn’t know that Sean Paul would want to speak with me, his biggest fan. I tried to convince one faceless guard—maybe if I queued up my old Myspace page on my phone or busted out some pop locking, they would understand. But no, I was turned away. When suddenly, I saw him. Well, it was a guy who looked like him. He’d tell me he was a Saskatoon resident by the name of Andre Mofford, but for today, he would be my Sean Paul. Or at least, a very nice and well-mannered Sean Paul clone (dibs on the screenplay idea!). So, I interviewed him and his wife Romona Jeffers in the coat check area. Below is that interview.
Andre Mofford a.k.a. my Sean Paul
Noisey: You look like Sean Paul.
Sean Paul clone: Yes, I get that all the time.
We got kicked out of the meet and greet with Sean Paul. Is this basically it?
Yes, this is pretty much it. You can’t get closer than this.
Is it better even?
I think so [laughs].
Did you have fun tonight?
I did. I’m a big fan, and I’m from Jamaica as well. Kingston—the ghetto. I was born and raised in the ghetto. To see everyone come out and support Sean Paul, it’s a blessing. I can’t complain.
Have you seen him before?
Oh yes, man. I met him.
Whoa, did you point out you look like him?
In Jamaica, that’s a bad thing. You can’t walk up to someone and say, "You look like me." That’s trouble. You have to be cool.
Is there anything you—I mean Sean Paul should have done differently tonight?
He could have sang more old-school Sean Paul. Ghetto Sean Paul. For me, that is Sean Paul.
Do you have any advice for Sean Paul?
You’re doing good, man. You’re doing good for dancehall.
[To the wife of the Sean Paul clone] What’s it like being married to Sean Paul?
Romona Jeffers: I had to fight with the girls up front trying to get to see [the singer] tonight. When I left, I thought, ‘My husband is better looking than Sean Paul.’
Our interview was cut short when security told the Sean Paul clone and his wife to leave.
Devin Pacholik is a Regina-based writer and knows there is only one Sean Paul. Follow him on Twitter.