Sean Kingston earned the right to sing the teen angst blues the hard way.
He doesn’t find inspiration in lightweight situations such as getting dumped. No, try living on Kingston, Jamaica’s mean streets at age 11 after your mother and sister have been hauled off to prison.
You’d think this kind of experience would breed an angry young rapper. Instead, the 19-year-old vocalist, songwriter and producer is making a meteoric career out of upbeat, lively, positive music.
“I was very young and angry. I was fortunate to have people around me, who grounded me and made me see there would be a better day coming, But it was hard and I remember it like it was yesterday. For four years every day was a struggle.” says Kingston, on the line from management HQ where he’s “doing things for the tour”
That’d be the one which brings him to The Guvernment Friday in support of sophomore album Tomorrow, as part of an 11-city jaunt. The album’s already creating a Web stir on account of its unique promotional component. The CD booklet that comes with Tomorrow (due out next Tuesday), contains a special image fans can hold up to their computers’ webcams to launch an “augmented reality” karaoke session on Kingston’s website.
It allows fans to use their computer’s video camera to record themselves singing Fire Burning, along with an animated version of Kingston called Lil Sean. Lil Sean is superimposed on existing video formatted to make it seem he pops out of the screen, as if it’s in 3-D. It even allows for choreographing of his dance moves. Fans can post their vids to a social networking site, or to seankingston.com, which has a section for voting on favourites. So far as we know, Kingston’s the first artist to incorporate this kind of interaction on an album but he modestly offers it’s no big thing, just a kid at play.
“I was thinking about putting in some cool thing for people to have fun with. I was in the studio one day when I came up with the idea. We talked about it and turned out we could do it and didn’t cost all that much. I can’t wait for the fans to start working it.”
Work it they will, as Kingston has a fan base that’s bought more than six million digital singles, 4.5 million ringtones and over one million albums.
The tunes on Tomorrow are all about Kingston’s trademark meld of reggae-flavoured vocals with grabby, melodic pop hooks. Standout tracks include Fire Burning, the tropicale swing of Island Queen and the grownup sensuality of Wrap U Around Me; Kingston’s already a name in production circles, currently working on projects for Rihanna among others. For his own album, he chose to step back from the production, leaving it up to mega names like Wyclef Jean, Timbaland and original mentor, J .R. Rotem, to give the self-penned tunes their proper settings.
Once the work day is done, there are ATVs to ride, mucho video gaming and beach hanging out with buds in store.
“I don’t drink or do drugs and I don’t go to clubs much. I’m an outdoors kind of guy, that’s the kind of stuff I like to do, which is why I love Miami. That, and the music vibe. The sound is well mixed up down here. I love that.”
Sean Kingston plays
Toronto: The Guvernment, Friday in support of sophomore album “Tomorrow”.