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Q&A: Shaggy

The artist on the origins of his name, being a Marine and foreplay

Shaggy

SHAGGY, circa 2001.

George De Sota (ID 5073478)/Redferns/Getty

In the course of his career, Shaggy –— born Orville Richard Burrell in Jamaica, where he lived until moving to Brooklyn at eighteen – has: fought in the Gulf War; won a Grammy for Best Reggae Album with 1995’s Boombastic; and charted around the world with singles like 1993’s “Oh Carolina.” Hotshot, his latest record, has climbed to Number Three on the Billboard album charts on the strength of the flamboyantly, comically macho “It Wasn’t Me,” which became a Number One hit almost by accident. The song being pushed was the also-excellent “Dance and Shout,” until a DJ in Hawaii downloaded “It Wasn’t Me” from Napster and unleashed a monster radio reaction. Shaggy’s music is, to say the least, far-ranging: Hotshot’s next single, “Angel,” somehow manages to combine samples from Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning” and the Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” and make them sound like they should always have been together.

I like your video for “It Wasn’t Me.” But I kind of wonder what’s going on in that video mansion, where you’re living with, like, fifty scantily clad women.
It’s my little Hugh Hefner impersonation. Without the Viagra, of course.

Oh. Well, that explains the fifty scantily clad women —– if it’s a Hugh Hefner thing, then they’re getting paid.
Right? Like all of us.

How did you find out you got dropped from your last label, Virgin? Were they nice about it?
They sent me a letter. I never even read it, honestly. My manager told me, and I just said, “Whatever,” and moved on. I don’t think they were looking at reggae as a career type of music – it’s like chewing gum: You chew it, and when the juices run out, you spit it out.

I think most labels right now are not looking for career artists, in any genre.
Absolutely, because they’re so corporate these days. It’s not like back in the day with Bob Marley, where you had Chris Blackwell, who owned his own company, Island, and believed the hell in his artists, even if it took them seven albums. Nowadays, if you ain’t hitting on the first one, God help you.

Nevertheless, “Hotshot” is a really happy record. And also really funny.
Thank you. It was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. I think you can put adult content in a record without being explicit.

Hmm. As long as we’re on this tongue-in-somewhere area, can I ask about this no-eating-pussy policy you talk about on “Not Fair”?
I’m Jamaican, baby! I’m old-fashioned.

That’s not an explanation. That’s like if someone said to me, “Why are you so mean?” and I said, “I’m a bitch, baby!”
Listen to me for a minute, darling. Tell me this: Don’t you like having it done to you more than doing it?

We are not interviewing me here. I didn’t record a song on the subject.
But it’s the same thing! All I’m saying is, I would rather have it done to me than do it.

And what about in your personal life – do you catch any flak for this attitude?
In my personal life, I’m just good from the waist down. And you know what? I’m a good foreplayer. I’m really big on foreplay. That’s why I can’t be sleeping with women who I don’t like all over. They have to have a smell, the touch, the texture of the skin, the hair – they have to be good kissers. Kissing to me is more important than actual sex. You know, I could bone anybody. But I can’t kiss anybody. Which is weird.

Oh, no, I think that’s human nature.
So you agree with me, then. See?

I agree about the kissing. When did people first start to call you Shaggy?
I got the name in primary school, because my hair was shaggy. And I didn’t like it; I thought it was derogatory. But then I went to England and found out that “shag” meant something else, man. And all of a sudden I felt cool. I was like, “Hey, I’m a good shagger!”

I’ve got to say that if you have to be nicknamed after a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character, Shaggy would be the one. Because, you know —– Quickdraw McGraw? It has a bad connotation.
Yeah, yeah. For real.

Do people call you Shaggy or by your proper name?
Even my mom is calling me Shaggy now, which is weird, because Shaggy is more like a character that I play. Shaggy is flamboyant, he’s cocky. And I can’t live that twenty-four hours a day – hell, no. I have to be me, which is, don’t like a lot of crowds, don’t like a lot of attention – kind of being by myself.

You’re in the wrong line of work.
But it’s fun, as long as it’s not twenty-four hours a day.

Why did you join the Marines instead of some other branch of the armed forces?
 I walked into this recruiting office, and the Navy had these bell-bottoms on, and the Army had these shitty-looking blouses, like a little girl’s blouse, and the Marines had this real mean-looking, hot uniform, and I’m like, “Yo, if I can’t get chicks in this uniform, forget it, dude.” Little did I know it was the smallest branch out of all of them, and it was the elite branch, and it was the hardest. But I was never a model Marine, you know? I used to drive from New York to North Carolina every weekend, just to do records – eighteen hours’ drive all around. They took my stripe away because I was late.

You were not one of the few, the proud, the on-time?
No. I dug a lot of holes. Because when you get into trouble, they give you a shovel and tell you to dig a hole the size of a five-ton truck. And I dug many a hole. I cleaned many a toilet. I’ve done a lot of shit detail. You know, I came out a PFC after four years. I should have at least been a sergeant.

In This Article: Coverwall, Shaggy

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