The Story of ‘It Wasn’t Me’ by Shaggy

It seems like divine intervention.

An A&R suit accidentally hears a song’s irresistible hook, convinces Shaggy to chase the magic.

Meanwhile in Hawaii, a rogue DJ scores the song off Napster, starts blasting the guy-denies-everything-while-RikRok-implores-him-to-lie-lie-lie tale of sin and a lady walking in, and the people go absolutely bonkers.

The culture-crossing pop hit explodes from the islands to hammering #1’s across the planet.

All because two ears caught a glimpse of a future too irresistible to be denied.

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  • My Rating: 90/100
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Review of “The Making of ‘It Wasn’t Me’ by Shaggy

Brooklyn in the ’80s was tough, crack cocaine ruled the streets.

That’s where Shaggy, trying to dodge the hustler life, decided the Marines in ’88 was his escape.

Shaggy would sing songs that made fun of the officers.

Fast forward to ’93, his song “Oh Carolina” hits big.

Shaggy’s Marine cadence singing lands him a cool million deal with Virgin Records.

The year 2000 was a game-changer.

Shaggy teams up with Shaun Pizzonia (aka Sting International and self-proclaimed “Music Motherfucker”) in New York’s INS studio.

He calls Shaggy “a little bit nuts”.

They’re working on the “Hot Shot” album.

Then, Shaggy hears a beat that Sting International lays down.

Shaggy’s all in and takes the beat on a cassette to play for friends.

Rikrok, Shaggy’s buddy, jumps in to help pen down lyrics.

They get inspired by Eddie Murphy’s “Wasn’t me” sketch on men denying that they cheated (it’s poor quality but hilarious!).

Producer Sting International, known for his skit-like intros, nails it again. He provides this opener (no music, just 2 guys talkin’):

Yo man
Open up, man
Yo, what you want, man?
My girl just caught me
You made her catch you?
I don’t know how I let this happen
With who?
The girl next door, you know?
I don’t know what to do
Say it wasn’t you

Then, the song starts with these lyrics (with music) that give it an extra POW:

Honey came in and she caught me red-handed
Creeping with the girl next door
Picture this, we were both butt-naked
Banging on the bathroom floor

While Shaggy, Rikrok and Sting International love “the song”It Wasn’t Me”, Shaggy’s manager Robert Livinston wasn’t sold. And “Robert was kind of the man in control”, says Shaggy.

He didn’t want it on the Hot Shot album.

But then Hans Haedelt’s (Senior Director of A&R at MCA) accidentally hears the song played in-studio while he’s visiting Shaggy and team (who are out getting food).

“This is a hit”, Hans says.

“It Wasn’t Me” gets thrown on the album last minute.

The MCA execs think the whole album is junk, Hans says.

MCA pays Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (big music producers) who add 2 songs (including “Dance and Shout”).

Probably to the tune of $250,000 per track, says Hans.

“Dance and Shout” tanks. Shaggy is about to get dropped.

Hans says one of the MCA execs says “Get this fucking guy (Shaggy) on a cruise ship, doing limbo lines”.

Enter 2001, DJ Pablo Sato from Hawaii’s KIKI-FM (93.9 in Honolulu). He wants to hear Shaggy’s album and calls MCA but they said they didn’t have any more to send out.

So DJ Pablo scours the Internet and finds the “Hot Shot” album from Napster.

Remember Napster? It was illegal iTunes.

DJ Pablo says “I found myself singing the damn song halfway through the song”.

DJ Pablo plays “It Wasn’t Me” — and the song explodes. Listener love was off the charts, literally.

“It Wasn’t Me” tops charts worldwide, pushing “Hot Shot” to over 10 million sales by 2008.

And it marked reggae’s mainstream breakthrough in dance halls.

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac, Daily Doc