Focus on Sean Kingston.

Sean Kingston archieved superstardom when he was just 17, Sean
Kingston has amassed an untold amount of
experience as a singer/songwriter over the years. On
his third-full length album Back 2 Life, the 23-year-
old builds on that experience by greatly expanding his songwriting role, nixing the multi-producer
approach of his last release, and pushing for a fresh
new sound. Like his 2007 self-titled debut (featuring
the double-platinum breakout hit “Beautiful Girls”)
and sophomore album Tomorrow (featuring the
smash singles “Fire Burning” and “Face Drop”), Back 2 Life fuses reggae, hip-hop, R&B, and electro to
create melody-soaked pop. But on Back 2 Life, the
singer/songwriter blends his newly strengthened
vocals with fiercely inventive effects and hard-
hitting live instrumentation—a formula that’s
yielded his most passionately inspired work to date. “This album’s a really honest reflection of where I’m
at in my life right now,” says Kingston. “I’m proud
that it shows everything, because it shows my
growth too.” Teaming up with Jonathan “J.R.” Rotem,
Red One (who produced “Fire Burning”) and new
producers Nic Nac, Kingston found himself tapping into his musical roots like never before on Back 2
Life. “On this album I felt the need to get back to my
culture,” says Kingston, who was born in Miami but
moved to Jamaica when he was seven. “It’s much
more organic than anything I’ve done before—the
music’s real and it hits you on a gut level.” Indeed, Back 2 Life emerges as Kingston’s most
richly eclectic and ambitious album so far. On the
album’s title track “Back 2 Life (Live It Up),” for
instance, Kingston samples the vocals from the Soul
II Soul classic of the same name and twists the lyrics
into a triumphant call to action. Sweeping and celebratory, the song mixes pummeling beats with
chilling synth effects and Kingston’s fearless
assertion that “what won’t kill me makes me
stronger.” After a masterful guest rap from T.I.,
“Back 2 Life (Live It Up)” dissolves into a stripped-
down pairing of sampled vocals and delicate piano work that’s both stark and stunning. Although Kingston keeps up that heady intensity
throughout Back 2 Life, many of the tracks are built
on party-ready hooks, such as his summer smash
“Beat It.” The track featuring Kingston’s crew Chris
Brown and Wiz Khalifa, merges breezy melodies and
bass-powered beats in a deadly catchy club jam that quickly landed the track on the Billboard Hot 100
chart upon its release this past spring. Bouncy and
hip-swinging, “Bomba” combines flamenco-flavored
acoustic guitars, soaring vocals, and pounding live
percussion in the sonic equivalent of some epic
beach party. “Seasonal Love” supercharges old- school R&B with dreamy synth, sultry beats, and a
fiery guest verse from Wale, while “Shotta Luv” pairs
ferocious guest-rapping from 2 Chainz with a
velvety-smooth groove. And on the unstoppable
post-breakup anthem “Save One for Me,” Kingston
tells off the girl who broke his heart and then finds his own sweet revenge on the dancefloor. All throughout Back 2 Life, Kingston boldly proves
how far he’s come since he first began recording
songs on the tiny personal studio his mother bought
him when he was 11-years-old. Back then, Kingston
would whip up his own reggae-pop hybrids and
perform them local block parties and talent shows in Miami (to which he returned after spending several
years living with his family in Ocho Rios, Jamaica).
But when his mother was convicted of tax evasion
and bank fraud and sent to federal prison, the 15-
year-old Kingston had to put his music dreams on
temporary hold. After a brief period of homelessness, Kingston
began bouncing around the homes of his friends and
relatives and ultimately landed a lawn-mowing job
to earn the money he needed to make a demo.
Thanks largely to Kingston’s dogged persistence in
pursuing every hit-making producer he could find online, that demo ended up getting him signed to
Rotem’s then-newly-launched label Beluga Heights
in 2006—a deal quickly followed by a joint contract
with Epic Records and the release of a debut album
that went on to sell more than a million copies
worldwide and spawn three back-to-back Top 10 singles. Kingston released his follow-up album Tomorrow in
2009, then—in May 2011—suffered a devastating
accident while jet skiing in Miami Beach. After
spending nearly a month in the hospital and
undergoing two emergency open-heart surgeries to
repair a torn aorta, Kingston two months to heal— and start plotting his return to the studio. “I couldn’t
go anywhere while I was recovering, so I spent all my
time writing songs and listening to beats,” recalls
Kingston. “All I wanted was to get back to doing
music, which is what I’ve been devoting my life to
since I was eight-years-old.” With a voracious appetite for music including
“everything from Taylor Swift to Ne-Yo to Musiq
Soulchild to Paramore”—as well as a deep reverence
for artists like Bob Marley, Outkast, and Lauryn Hill—
Kingston has recently broadened his musical role by
serving as a songwriter for such performers as Jason Derulo (“What Ya Say”) and Iyaz (“Replay”) and
discovering new musical talents (including Iyaz,
whom Kingston found online and signed to his Time
Is Money Entertainment label). Still, having sold
more than 12.5 million tracks to date, Kingston’s top
priority is continually elevating his own music into new and unexpected territory. “A lot’s happened
over the past few years—I’ve traveled the world and
had relationships and dealt with breakups, so I’m
singing from the heart about things that I actually
went through,” says Kingston. In capturing those
experiences on Back 2 Life, he adds, his main ambition was to keep positive. “I knew I needed to
address some difficult things on the album, but my
goal was to do it in an upbeat sort of way,” says
Kingston. “So the songs on Back 2 Life are catchy and
uptempo and everyone can have a great time to
them—but at the same there’s no doubt that it’s all the way real.”


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