Born Orville Richard Burrell on October 22, 1968, in Kingston, Jamaica. Addresses: Record company--MCA Records, 70 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608. Website--Shaggy Official Website: http://www.shaggyonline.com.
Born Orville Burrell in Kingston, Jamaica, on October 22, 1968, Shaggy earned his nickname from the animated Saturday morning show, Scooby Doo. Scooby's sidekick, "Shaggy," was the ever-hungry hippie on the show, and his friends thought it fitting for Burrell because of his unruly shock of hair. A cover of the reggae tune "Oh Carolina" in 1993 catapulted Shaggy to international fame, but subsequent success with the Grammy Award-winning album Boombastic in 1995 and multiplatinum Hot Shot in 2000--on which the hit single "It Wasn't Me" appears--established him as one of reggae's most popular artists.
Shaggy left his native Jamaica at age 18 to join his mother in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York, where he soon found himself a place in the local New York reggae scene. While in high school, Shaggy would use his lunch break to recite lyrics and perform on the benches outside. Shaggy's recording career started at the age of 20, debuting with "Man A Mi Yard" and "Bullet Proof Buddy," followed by "Big Hood" and "Duppy Or Uglyman" for producer Lloyd "Spiderman" Campbell. But his musical career took a higher leap after he hooked up with New York's premier reggae radio DJ and producer, Sting (not to be confused with pop rock recording artist and former Police member). Shaggy cut "Mampie" with Sting, and the song rose to number one in the New York reggae charts along with his next single, "Big Up."
Shaggy's musical career was temporarily halted in 1988. After a difficult year trying to find work with a steady paycheck and wanting to escape the gun-to-your-head mentality of the streets of Brooklyn where the only work that could be found was illegal, Shaggy joined the United States Marines. He thought it was a way out of poverty and a vacation from the harsh streets of Brooklyn, but was misled and found himself in the middle of the Gulf War. He also found himself driving an armored HumVee tank through an Iraqi minefield.
When Shaggy returned from the Gulf War, he was stationed in Camp LeJeune, in North Carolina. While he had been in the Gulf, the New York street tunes he had first recorded made him a local star. Every weekend while he was on active duty, Shaggy made a pilgrimage, driving 18 hours to New York City to record his music. There, he would live the life of a star, but during the week, he was back on base with a mop and bucket, having misbehaved his way into various duties.
Success was right around the corner for Shaggy when in 1993 he released "Oh Carolina," a remake of an old Prince Buster classic. "Oh Carolina" became a surprise smash hit topping charts around the world. He became a world traveler and performed in a number of countries. He was also the first dancehall artist to perform in South Africa following the abolishment of apartheid. His 1993 debut album, Pure Pleasure, established Shaggy as one the most exciting new voices in the reggae movement. With the release of Boombastic in 1995, Shaggy's audience expanded across all formats.
The Grammy Award-winning album Boombastic derived its name from a Jamaican word meaning anything sensational. Since its release in July of 1995, it shattered barriers worldwide, taking reggae music to new heights on pop, rap, and R&B charts throughout the world and reaching platinum record sales in the United States. Boombastic took the 1995 Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album and dominated the top spot on Billboard's Reggae Album Chart, where it held the number-one slot for 30 consecutive weeks, making Boombastic the longest number-one reign in the chart's history. The title track of the album went platinum and emerged as one of 1995's biggest hits.
Shaggy's main critics are purists who question his brand of reggae music. But Shaggy replies, according to David Hiltbrand in TV Guide, "you have to bridge the gap to succeed in this game." Shaggy wants his music to be ecclectic and gets his reward from fans instead of critics. Shaggy also grew up listening to Jamaican radio where "anything goes." With that influence, Shaggy was exposed to all kinds of music. Plus, Shaggy sees music history as starting with reggae, and before that, with the drum and bass rhythms of African music. "If you want to live under the shadow of Bob Marley, be my ... guest, but I ain't doing that. I'm respecting that man's work, moving ... on and trying to do something, because it's a new generation we're working with right now," Shaggy told MTV.com.
After the slow-going 1997 release of Midnite Lover, his third album, Virgin stopped all support of the album, let sales drop, and let Shaggy go, a reaction Shaggy attributes to the fact that "most labels right now are not looking for career artists, in any genre," according to Mim Udovitch of Rolling Stone. Shaggy wasn't throwing in the towel and spent much of three years concentrating on soundtracks, since he lacked a record deal. He contributed songs to soundtracks including Speed 2: Cruise Control, For Love of the Game, and "Luv Me Luv Me" with Janet Jackson for How Stella Got Her Groove Back. It was his contribution to this last soundtrack that got Shaggy noticed at MCA--and a new record contract. Even though he was looking for a contract with a small record company, Shaggy was impressed with the promotion he received at MCA and signed on.
Shaggy was being called a "has-been" when the unforeseen happened. After Hot Shot--Shaggy's 2000 release with MCA--stalled in the charts, a disc jockey in at KIKI-FM in Honolulu named Pablo Sato picked up the single "It Wasn't Me" on Napster. He began heavy rotation of the song, and it was an overnight hit in Hawaii. Before long, the deejay Tommy Austin from KKRZ in Portland was visiting Hawaii and noticed the reaction to the song, which he tried to duplicate in Oregon. It worked, and before long, audiences across the country were singing along--and buying the CD. Hot Shot suddenly shot up the Billboard chart to number three, along with "It Wasn't Me," which reached number one. The next popular single from the album was "Angel." Hot Shot had sold more than six million copies as of June 2001 and made Shaggy the first reggae artist to top the Billboard 200.
Shaggy soon had an appearance on NBC's Today Show and also played himself on the soap opera All My Children. He headlined at Walt Disney World Summer Jam Concert and Fox's Teenapalooza. Shaggy wants to continue making music, but he has hinted at a career in acting. He is also starting a label with MCA called Big Yard, which will feature reggae musicians. He said about the new label in an interview with MTV: "There are a lot of great acts in Jamaica ... [who] come out of there, and only do two or three songs. We need people to guide these young talents, to look at this as a career and not as a hustle." In 2001, the first two artists signed to Big Yard were RikRok and Ravyon, who toured with the Backstreet Boys.
by Robyn Weiss
Began recording career, age 20; fought in the Gulf War, c. 1988-92; had first hit with "Oh Carolina," 1993; released Grammy Award-winning album Boombastic, 1995; released Original Doberman, 1996; Midnite Lover, 1997; and Hot Shot, 2000.
Grammy Award, Best Reggae Album for Boombastic, 1995; Juno Award (Canada), Best Selling Album, 2002.
- Selected discography
- Pure Pleasure , Cema/Virgin, 1993.
- Boombastic , Cema/Virgin, 1995.
- Original Doberman , Greensleeves, 1996.
- Midnite Lover , Virgin, 1997.
- (Contributor) Speed II: Cruise Control (soundtrack), Virgin, 1997.
- (Contributor) How Stella Got Her Groove Back (soundtrack), MCA, 1998.
- (Contributor) For Love of the Game (soundtrack), MCA, 1999.
- Hot Shot , MCA, 2000.
- The Complete Marquis Who's Who, Marquis Who's Who, 2001.
- Billboard, August 2, 1997, p. 9(2).
- Ebony, May 2001, p.116.
- Ebony Man, May 1996.
- Entertainment Weekly, January 19, 2001, p. 90.
- People, August 14, 1996.
- Rolling Stone, February 15, 2001, p. 31.
- Time, February 19, 2001, p. 75.
- TV Guide, June 23, 2001, pp. 29-30, 32.
- All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (April 1, 2002).
- Grammy.com, http://www.grammy.com (April 1, 2002).
- MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com (April 1, 2002).
- Recording Industry Association of America, http://www.riaa.org (April 1, 2002).
- Shaggy Official Website, http://www.shaggyonline.com (April 1, 2002).