1. Sean Paul & Major Lazer – Tip Pon It
Jamaican dancehall superstar Sean Paul broke into the global mainstream in the early 2000s with his pop-friendly party jams, while a late-2010s resurgence introduced him to a fresh generation of fans via high-profile collaborations with pop and electronic artists. Born Sean Paul Francis Henriques on January 8, 1973, the multi-ethnic Paul (his parents had Portuguese, Chinese, and Jamaican forebears) grew up comfortably in St. Andrew, Jamaica; his mother was a renowned painter. He was a skilled athlete, excelling in swimming and especially water polo, playing for the Jamaican national team in the latter. Although his education was enough to land him a prosperous career, dancehall music remained Paul’s first love, particularly crafting rhythm tracks. He became a DJ after he began writing his own songs, patterning his style largely after Super Cat and finding a mentor in Don Yute; he also found contacts in several members of the reggae-pop band Third World in 1993, which helped him foster business connections.
A conceptual EDM act based around a fictional character, Major Lazer launched in 2008 as the digital reggae/dancehall project of Diplo, the globetrotting, taste-making DJ/producer whose previous collaborations included work for M.I.A. and Santigold. Recorded at Jamaica’s Tuff Gong studios, Major Lazer’s debut album, Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do, featured producer Switch as a member. Vocal contributions came from noted dancehall stars including Vybz Kartel, Busy Signal, Mr. Vegas, and Turbulence, as well as Santigold, Nina Sky, and rapper Amanda Blank. Much anticipation and online chatter were fueled in part by the novelty video/song “Zumbi,” featuring the comedian Andy Milonakis, the frenetic, legitimate lead single “Hold the Line,” and a goofy, invented back-story about a renegade Jamaican commando with prosthetic laser arms who was allegedly a Zombie War veteran and vampire-fighting C.I.A. operative (but was demonstrably a rampant Twitter user). The album was released in June of 2009 as a joint venture between Downtown Records and Diplo’s Mad Decent label. Lazers Never Die, an EP with two new songs and three remixes, followed in 2010, along with Lazerproof, a collaborative mixtape with the English electropop duo La Roux.