First appeared on IGGY: October 21, 2004
Of Indian and Punjabi heritage, London’s Jay Sean might be the first Asian singer from the UK to dominate not only Britain’s pop charts, but the world’s. By fusing R&B sensibilities with traditional Desi rhythms, Sean’s numerous hit-singles have a distinct sound that have won him a huge following in both America’s insular R&B community and in India, where Sean outsells even Madonna and Jay-Z.
Born in London in 1981 as Kamaljit Sing Jhooti, Sean took music seriously as early as age 12, when he and a cousin formed a rap group called “Compulsive Disorder.” Gifted academically, Sean pursued his studies and enrolled in medical school, but found himself becoming more and more obsessed with his music. However, he was no longer interested in rap; Instead, he wanted to pursue R&B and even renamed himself as an R&B singer–”Jay Sean.” A track he wrote, “One Minute,” fell into the hands of Rishi Rich, a UK producer who was looking for a way to fuse pop music with bhangra. After a quick meeting (Sean just had to sing his song, impromptu), the two teamed up to produce “Dance With You (Nachna Tere Naal),” a clean R&B track layered over South Asian rhythms that slithered its way up the pop charts.
Signed to Virgin Records’ “Relentless” label, Sean produced such hit singles as “Eyes On You” and “Stolen,” and followed with the full length, “Me Against Myself.” Critically acclaimed, the album launched him into the International scene. He toured Europe, South East Asia, and even performed alongside Akon for the Sultan of Dubai’s daughter’s Sweet Sixteen. In India, Sean was a major star and even appeared in a Bollywood film. His follow-up album, “My Own Way,” saw five top-20 hits on UK radio and garnered Sean three wins at the UK Asian Music Awards.
In 2008, Sean became the first Asian British singer to sign with a US label. He joined US rapper Lil’ Wayne’s “Cash Money” Records, based in New Orleans, and collaborated with Wayne for the single “Down,” which hit #2 on the US Billboard Singles Chart and went Platinum, selling more than one million copies as a single. Set to release another single alongside American star Drake, the Indian boy from London is poised to become a household name all over the world.
Jay Sean sings classic R&B with a pop sensibility. His collaborations with high profile hip hop artists only add to his sound.