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Shaggy Claps Back at Critics Over His Style of Reggae, Likens It to Bob Marley

Reggae/dancehall legend Shaggy says his success as an international artist brought much criticism as many of his fans and critics accused him of “selling out” reggae music.

Shaggy first got noticed for his ‘Oh Carolina’ reggae cover in 1993, and his success began with the Grammy Award-winning reggae/pop cross-over album ‘Boombastic’ in 1995. The rest is history, but not without the growing pains as he describes the pressure from critics when he became a cross-over artist.

“You know when the purist used to hit me and say ‘oh Shaggy is you know he’s selling out he’s doing this, he’s doing that. I looked at it as being in good company because they said the same thing about Bob Marley,” Shaggy said in a video posted to his Instagram account.

Shaggy is one of the most successful artists of this generation as he bridged the gap between music before the technology and streaming era and pairs his career as an artist with being overall creative with voice acting and other ventures. The Jamaican legend has also taken on the mammoth task of mentoring younger artists in Jamaica through his Island Music Conference to ensure they understand their rights and are exposed to opportunities as Jamaican creatives.

Shaggy’s posture has been one where he has been sharing lessons from his own experience to ensure no gatekeeping.

In his latest interview, the artist revealed that he was not bothered by accusations of being a “sellout”, a Jamaican slang to describe someone who has turned their back on their people and is disloyal. According to him, he looked at Bob Marley, who was accused of being a ‘sellout’ when he decided to share reggae music with the world.

“They said the same thing about Bob Marley. They called him a sellout. They said he was doing cross-over watered-down white people’s music, you know. So ironic to this day, the very songs that they criticized are now the blueprint of what reggae music is today,” Shaggy said.

He added that his decision to cross over was conscious and deliberate as he didn’t want to sound like the others and decided early that he wanted to brand himself differently despite the opinion of “purists.”

“So clearly, the guy was ahead of himself. Same thing with what I was doing. I was criticized for doing those styles of music, but I just couldn’t do the same thing that Dennis Brown, Peter Tosh, and Bob Marley did, and the only way I could have done it and made my own mark was to do the music that was a little different. Step out. And do something that was hybrid so I could make that mark,” Shaggy said.

With multiple Grammys in his pocket and a career that has marked over three decades, Shaggy is arguably a force to be reckoned with, and it appears that he’s not done yet as he is mentoring other talented artists like Teejay and giving them the formula for cross-over success.

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