There is no stopping Grammy-winning reggae/pop superstar Shaggy! With a string of smash hits under his belt including the massive "Oh Carolina", "Angel" and the current "Luv Me, Luv Me", the Shagster is on Australian shores once again, playing live at the Melbourne and Sydney Rumba Music Festivals and promoting his latest album "Hot Shot".

In his usual smooth sexiness, Shaggy spoke with FEMAIL about his Jamaican roots, his time served in the Gulf War and the enormous success he has enjoyed worldwide.

Femail: You were born in Jamaica and moved to New York when you were eighteen to join your mother. Did you find it difficult at first to adapt to the New York way of life?

Shaggy: The transition from Jamaica to New York wasn't that bad of a transition for the simple fact that I lived in Flatbush, in the area which is a predominantly West Indian area. So, basically you had the same food, same music, same people, and a lot more mixed culture because, then, you know, though it was West Indian -- you know, there was Trinidadians, and, you know, all different cultures of people. But, it was almost, like, a Jamaica with tall buildings, and it got really cold! (laughs) So, it wasn't that much of a culture shock.

Femail: Prior to your musical career taking off, you joined the U.S. Marines in 1988. Did your time in the Marines further shape who you are today?

It was good in one sense because it certainly was instrumental in the development of my character as a person. As far as my discipline and my assertiveness, and determination and so forth, yeah, that was all developed from being in the military. It certainly was instrumental in me, my development as far as becoming a man. It was bad, on the other hand, because for the obvious reason that a war happened, and, you know, war is ugly, and war is at the last resort, I think.

Femail: Would you ever consider rejoining the Marines?

Overall, if I had to do it again, I would still do it because of the outcome of who I am. Even though the experience in the war was a bad one, not a severely bad one, but bad one nonetheless, I still came out the victor for the simple fact that I gained knowledge, and with knowledge comes wisdom.

Femail: "Hot Shot" is your latest album and has done extremely well. Has your life changed much since the release of this album?

My life has changed a lot since the success of "Hot Shot" album for the simple fact that I'm a lot busier now. (laughs) I haven't had time to quite enjoy the fruits of the labor as yet. But I'm sure it's being enjoyed, yes, as far as the success is concerned. So, that would be the major change right now.

Femail: Are you surprised with how well Shaggy has done?

As far as the success today, I would say it's quite surpassed a lot of people's expectations. It certainly has surpassed my expectations, I mean, I was just basically expecting to top the "Boombastic" album. But, you know, I mean, six million records is quite an accomplishment and very much overwhelming. So, I'm extremely pleased. I'm sure you can notice from my ear-to-ear grin.

Femail: You have succeeded in bringing Reggae music to the attention of audiences all over the world? Do you think that Reggae music speaks in a univeral language?

I think reggae music does speak in a universal language, but I think all music does. I mean, reggae's just (searches for words), it's got quite a culture to it. It's not just music, but it's a movement. It's a way of life.

You go to reggae concerts, you know, you're not just going to a concert just to listen to music. You smell it in the air (laughs). You know the food, the colours, the attire, the dressing, you know, just the whole vibe - the love. It's a look. It's a feel. It is definitely a wear, a way of life. It's one of the oldest music. I think reggae's more the mother music for a lot of music, certainly where hip-hop evolved from.

Femail: And do you think that because of the fact that Reggae music is such a feel-good type of music, this might be one of the reasons why it appeals to broader audiences?

Yeah definitely, it is a feel-good type of music, and I think that's why it crosses all barriers. You know, I mean, there is no formatting this music because it kind of fits all formats, you know. When everybody listens to reggae, they just look cool. (laughs)

Femail: Do you believe that Shaggy's success has had an impact on reggae music itself?

I think the success of Shaggy does have an impact on reggae music itself. I also think that there are many people before me who have done their job, and done it to the best of their ability, to help pave the way.

We're all reggae ambassadors once you step outside that little circle of Jamaica to present this music; you're now an ambassador of this culture - this reggae culture. Bob Marley, who has done it, people like Peter Tosh, people like Jimmy Cliff, Maxi Priest, of course, they've all done their part.

I, on the other hand, have been, you know, very successful at this, and probably a lot more successful than a lot of my peers. And I think the impact is always a positive one.

Femail: Give us a little peek into the Big Yard family. Who makes up the team, and how did you initially form those relationships?

Well, the Big Yard-label thing was somewhat of a dream that Robert and I had for a while. Robert Livingstone is my manager and partner in this here venture. It consists of myself, Robert, Sting International, Paul Lee.

We're fortunate to be blessed with the opportunity to experience a lot of things in this business that the normal artist from Jamaica would not be able to experience. We have the knowledge of these things, and we want to pass this knowledge on to a lot of artists and basically give back to the music by doing something to uplift the music.

So, we came up with this whole label of Big Yard. We've been putting out underground records, seven inches, and the majority of them have been very, well received and quite successful.

And it is very much a family-oriented thing. We all contribute in every way possible, both creatively and, you know, as far as advice is concerned.

So, we're now signed to MCA Records, and this is totally something we're looking forward to, and we have an opportunity to present this company and our music, the music that we make, on an international level. And we're certainly looking forward to that.

Femail: Do you have any parting words for the readers of Femail?

Shaggy: (in character)
Hey, yo, yo, yo, this is Mr. Lover, Boombastic, Romantic, Fantastic. Ladies, [unintelligible] moist, um!

- Annemarie Failla & Michelle Palmer

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