Shaggy Shares His Strategy for Defeating ISIS

ISIS-leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the creation of a caliphate in June 2014. Since then the jihadist group has attracted militants from around the world to take up its apocalyptic goal. Scholars debate the group's sudden and insidious appeal. Popular theories point to the marginalization and alienation of Muslim minorities. Others draw likenesses between the dramatic appeal of transcendent legitimacy in al-Baghdadi's Islamic State and Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings.

But Shaggy simply can’t wrap his head around it. Orville Burrell, AKA Mr. Lover Lover, is resolutely anti-evil. For some 24, years he’s shared his distinct style of popular reggae with the world, and given men (and women too) the perfect excuse for, well, anything. "It's feel-good music, and you can feel that vibration in every country,” he says.

He’s a truly international act whose global success overshadows his presence in the United States. His charitable efforts have seen homes built and hospitals renovated in some of the world’s poorest areas. His constant collaborations have connected artists from Iran, Japan, Jamaica, and more.

Shaggy, it seems, has no time to hate.

We spoke to him about his act, his impact, and his thoughts on ISIS.

New Times: One of your most recent singles is subtly named “Go Fuck Yourself.” Is there anyone you want to tell to go fuck themselves?
Shaggy: ISIS can go fuck themselves. That’s some crazy shit what they’re doing. It’s horrible, man. I can’t see... I don’t get that much hate. I just don’t get that level of evil. I can’t understand it.

What actually inspired the song?
Well, the song's kind of a nice way of saying “Go Fuck Yourself.” It’s a happy record, you know. And I wrote it when I was happy. I was in the car with a friend of mine. We were just bullshitting, vibing, coming up with stupid shit — "I’m just a millisecond away from giving you the finger. I’m telling you straight up, go fuck yourself!"

I ended up recording it in my studio, and I’ve had that track probably for like five years. Dee Sonoram from Sony/Brooklyn Knights heard it and was like, "That’s a smash — let’s put it out!" I told him, "It’ll be a hard record to put out ’cus it’s got ‘fuck’ all over it." He said, "Nah, let’s let it happen virally."

Let’s go back to your first breakout hit in the States, “Boombastic.” I read that this song was inspired by your service in the Marine Corps. But the song is about loving and lusting, so that seems wrong. Can you clarify this?
Nah, it has nothing to do with the Marine Corps. “Boombastic” came about from the track — the track inspired the song. I was driving to a studio in Long Island, and the track is in my car playing on a cassette and I’m hearing it — boom boom boom boom bastic. I’m just moaning right, bmmm… bmmm… booh… bmmm… bastic… fantastic… By the time I got to the studio, I just freestyled it.

But if you listen to "Boombastic," I’m literally talking about my cock in a candid way. It’s all just like a cheesy pickup line. No chick in her right mind would go for that because it’s sexy. They might go for it because it’s funny, though. You might get her because she laughs but not because it’s sexy.

“Boombastic” was a perfect breakout because it stands by itself now and it is Shaggy. If there’s ever a song in my catalog that is Shaggy, that song is Shaggy. That’s what introduced the world to Shaggy as a household name.

That and “It Wasn’t Me,” which I think most people misinterpret. They think it endorses infidelity and lying, but it’s the opposite of that. In the last verse, Rikrok says you’re wrong, he says you make no sense, you’re not a player, you’re lost. You just play the devil on his shoulder. How do you feel about being so misunderstood?
Yeah, man, most people don’t listen to a record to the end. But, yeah it does not condone infidelity at all. It’s quite the opposite. And it’s the dynamic between the two artists that makes it.

When I write these songs I look for comedy points and points that will bring it home to people emotionally. Then I write the song around that.

"It Wasn’t Me” came from the Eddie Murphy’s Raw. This dude gets caught and was just like, “It wasn’t me…” And I thought that was dope. That really happens. That brings it home.

That’s the "Shaggy defense.” When someone is on trial and they just deny everything despite overwhelming evidence. It has a negative connotation, and it’s been tied to your name, which seems unfair now since you say Eddie Murphy inspired you. It should be called the Murphy defense.
That’s true, but you know the Shaggy effect has made this song live so long. I’m just happy with whatever. It’s good to look around and see people still singing it.

You’ve done a lot of humanitarian and charitable work. What’s your drive to give back to the community? Is charity a celebrity’s obligation?
Well, I do it because I’m a celebrity. The celebrity status gives me that platform. We as artists and quote-unquote celebrities have an enormous amount of power. And that power is to bring attention and command attention. I come from nothing, absolutely zero. So I know what that is. I know what it is to have nothing.

Your life is not your life; your life is here for a reason. You were put in this position for a reason: to shape the world and affect the world. You can affect the world negatively, or your can affect the world positively. I’d rather do it positive. Because it feels good.

My charity efforts are as important if not more important than my music. There’s the satisfaction I get from my charity work — it’s such an emotional high.

How does that high compare to the high you get onstage?
The stage is a different thing. The stage is why I do music. It’s a direct connection with people. There’s rich people, poor people, people from all walks of life. My favorite concerts are ones in rural areas, like if I go to Africa. Places that don’t usually get concerts, because tons of people come out.

You’ve described “Boombastic" as being “Shaggy.” How do you describe “Shaggy"?
Very cheeky. He’s an artist that just doesn’t take himself that serious. He means for you to have fun, to be comical. Onstage, I’m almost a comedian; it’s like a standup set. You must be entertained.

And I live vicariously through Shaggy, because my life is nowhere near that colorful. People think I’m Mr. Boombastic, Mr. Lover Lover, but I’m messing around.

You know, I was watching something the other day and this dude had these bodyguards and I realized, in my whole career I’ve never had a bodyguard...

You might need one after these ISIS comments.
Yeah, man, but listen. I get someone having a cause. I get somebody fighting for their cause. And I get that people struggle; I get that they suffer. But how does that justify killing your brother? Taking their heads off and filming it... That’s a different level of evil right there.

Extreme Islam discourages and even bans music. Since music alters moods, maybe the lack of music affects ISIS militants?
If you’re able to cut a man’s head off, you’re sick. But right, music evokes emotion. So if they’re listening to Shaggy music or reggae music, they’re not going to want to cut somebody’s head off.

There’re two thing you want to do when you listen to reggae: You get somebody pregnant, or you’re fucking high. High people don’t want to kill nothing; they want to love. They need to bag some Jamaican weed and distribute it amongst ISIS. I guarantee there won’t be any more wars out there.

A couple of kilos is all they need then...
Man, it’ll put them in a vibe. And throw some Bob Marley up in there and there’ll be peace.

Some of these world leaders need to be stoners though, really.  

Mack-A-Poolooza. With LunchMoney Lewis, Natalie La Rose, Shaggy, and Flo Rida. Presented by the Fontainebleau BleauLive Concert Series. Saturday, July 11, 2 to 4 p.m. Fontainebleau Miami Beach, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-538-2000; Lunch and show package costs $50 plus fees via

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Dyllan Furness is Miami New Times' "foreign" correspondent. After earning a degree in philosophy from the University of Florida, he crossed the pond and dove into music, science, and technology from Berlin.
Contact: Dyllan Furness