Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! We put Sean Paul to the test

Oh, this? It's NME's legendary, long-running feature Does Rock 'N' Roll Kill Braincells, in which we quiz a grizzled artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: Sean Paul

1. On the song ‘Mad Love’, which artist was Becky G a replacement for?

“She was actually a replacement for Shakira.”


“It was just red tape. We’d done the song together and she wanted it to come out – I wasn’t ready because I had some production issues with it. A few months passed and when I was about ready, she had other obligations, so she asked me if I could hold it a little longer. But I was definitely ready at that time, so we decided to just keep her as a writer on the song. She’s an icon so I was very disappointed and I’ve wanted to do a song with her for many years but this is how the business is – you have to take the blows and roll with them. And Becky G is a bundle of talent.”


2. Which posh pop star recited your lyrics to you on Never Mind The Buzzcocks?

(Laughs) Wowwww! I remember the show, of course. Was it Mollie from The Saturdays?

WRONG. It was James Blunt.

“Aagggh, that’s crazy! I should have known that one. Oh man, no points for me there.”


Could we ever see a James Blunt/Sean Paul collaboration?

“Oh yeah! At the time we were speaking of it but I guess we just didn’t get into the studio to do it. Similarly, me and Ed Sheeran met up on tour and spoke and said we should do something. At that time, he was doing a lot more of the guitar ballads. Now he’s doing a dancehall song that’s huge and I think ‘Damn! I wish we did that together!’.

Who’s the most unusual person to quote your lyrics at you?

“One day I was at the Grammy Awards signing things and I heard a lady’s voice say: ‘Sean, you can sing baritone, ‘bro. I know you can do it. Just try it. And I looked up and it was Anita Baker! I couldn’t believe it.”


3. You played water polo for the Jamaican national team. Which country are the current Olympic water polo gold medal holders?

“I would like to maybe say the United States? I’m not too sure. I recently started to play water polo again. My shoulders are not handling it very well! I played water polo and swam for Jamaica for most of my adolescent life – ‘til I was about 24. I’ve been back in the pool recently, but I’m not sure who the current champions are.”

WRONG. It’s Serbia

“My coach was from Hungary and told me that everyone there plays all of the time, so I’m not surprised at Serbia being number one. I was there recently. I play tennis and always carry my racket around, and played on Novak Djokovic’s personal court there.”

Have you played water polo against any musicians?

“No, but I’ve played tennis against Kevin Anderson, and doubles against Serena Williams. She beat my ass! Three weeks later, we found out she was pregnant. I was like, ‘Damn! That makes it worse!’”

Does Rock n Roll Kill Braincells?

4. When Beyoncé performed ‘Baby Boy’ at the 2003 MTV VMAs without you, which one-time pop star asked you why you weren’t up on stage?

(Laughs) I would call her a socialite – a pop star is something different. It was Paris Hilton.”


“Paris Hilton and her sister were sitting behind me and tapped me on the shoulder, saying ‘Why aren’t you up there bro?’ I was like: ‘I really don’t know’. It was a strange time.”

Will you ever collaborate with Beyoncé again?

“I would love to. She’s an amazing talent. Still doing it, even after having children – which is a hard thing to do, which shows the calibre of talent she is. From her voice to her performance to her styling, she’s the full package and I definitely hope to work with her again.”



5. Can you name all of the Peanuts Angels from the ‘Deport Them’ video?

“Of the WHAT? (Laughs) That one is as funny as hell! No, I can’t, actually. I’ve blacked that one straight out. I won’t even try.”

WRONG. It was Mocha Puff, Cappuccino and Cocoa Caramel Crunch

“I guess I should be studying up on my videos for these type of interviews.”

Do you think Trump has it as his ringtone?
“Have you seen the meme for my song ‘Trumpets’? When he was running for president, it’s the song and someone blowing a trumpet which blows his toupee off. I think someone [Trump] with so much responsibility should be a little bit more responsible in the way he communicates his ideas to people. His supporters are so very diehard they forget the obvious ridiculousness of what he’s saying. I don’t think the things that are on his mind are the greatest things for humanity in general.”

Does Rock n Roll Kill Braincells?

6: Who did Sting claim he once mistook for you?

“(Laughs) Probably Shaggy.”


“It happens a lot with me and Shaggy. It’s funny. I remember being on the Welcome To Jamrock reggae cruise ship that Damian Marley runs once a year. Shaggy performed and the next night, I was performing. I was at breakfast and there was a lady who said: ‘Oh I saw you last night. You were amazing!’. So I was like, ‘It wasn’t me’. And she goes: ‘Hahahaha’. And she starts poking her husband and the two of them are pointing at me going: ‘Yeah! It wasn’t me! That’s funny’. And I could tell they really thought I was Shaggy. But it happens a lot. I don’t think – and he doesn’t think – we look like each other.”

Does Rock n Roll Kill Braincells?

7. On eBay, somebody is selling a Sean Paul autographed Japanese Airlines boarding pass. How much is it going for?

“Woah, I really don’t know. I’ve not been on eBay but now I’m going to try and start to make some money that way then.”

WRONG. It’s $4.99.

“Four dollars?! I’d have to sign four million of them to make any money! I’ll try that though.”

Does Rock n Roll Kill Braincells?

8. Dua Lipa featured on your 2016 single ‘No Lie’. Can you name her rules?

“Her rules? Oh wow! You know what? I think I’m too busy looking at her in the video and I’m not paying attention to the words. I don’t know any of her rules! I’m flabbergasted when I see her – she looks and sounds so amazing. Is it (gamely tries singing) ‘One…don’t stay out too late’? Or something?

WRONG. It’s: Don’t pick up the phone, don’t let him in, don’t be his friend. And let me tell you Sean Paul, if you’re under him, you ain’t getting over him.

“Wow….(Long pause) WOW. I would never have known those. All I do is look at her in the video and drool.”

What was she like to work with?

“I’d written the song with a girl named Emily Warren – she’d written the hook and she sounds amazing. She didn’t want to be on the song, and I couldn’t find anyone who sounded as good as her. We tried a few people and someone suggested Dua. I’d heard of her but didn’t know her sound. Immediately when she sent the track back and I heard her voice, I was like ‘Wow’. She’s very sensual in her voice. I’m proud that she’s become such a huge artist right now – it shows I had an eye to spot talent, because she wasn’t as big then.”

 Does Rock n Roll Kill Braincells?

9. You guested on Simple Plan’s 2012 single ‘Summer Paradise’. What number did it chart in the UK?

“I think it went to number one in the UK. Am I correct?”

WRONG. It went to number 12.

“Oh man! That was one I guess I had higher hopes for!”

Does Rock n Roll Kill Braincells?

10. You featured on Little Mix’s 2016 single ‘Hair’. Can you name two of their members?

“Yes! Little Mix….wow, you’ve stumped me there again, bro. I’m probably not going to get any points for this game.”

WRONG. You could have had Jesy Nelson, Jade Thirlwall, Leigh-Anne Pinnock or Perrie Edwards. Who would you still like to work with?

“I’ve always said Alicia Keys, but right now I’m into Twenty One Pilots. I love them. They’re the new Nirvana. They remind me of the energy of that time. And I can hear myself being on one of their tracks easily.”


Does Rock n Roll Kill Braincells?

The verdict: 3/10

“These were very, very hard questions bro. Maybe I’d have more luck answering ones about Shaggy!”