Jamaican singer/rapper Sean Kingston crafts a dance-friendly medley of dancehall, R&B, and hip-hop. It was a style featured most prominently on his breakthrough single, 2007’s platinum chart-topper “Beautiful Girls,” off his debut Sean Kingston. Subsequent hits “Take You There” and “Fire Burning,” the latter off 2009’s Tomorrow, scored additional platinum hits for Kingston. However, it was a fortuitous collaboration with Justin Bieber, “Eenie Meenie,” that helped propel him further into the pop mainstream in 2010. Following 2013’s Back 2 Life, Kingston focused his attention on singles, including 2015’s “Wait Up” and 2019’s “Peace of Mind,” before heralding his fourth album, Deliverance, with 2021’s “Darkest Times” featuring G Herbo. A self-proclaimed product of his past, Kingston’s history helped inform his sound. Born KiSean Anderson in Miami, Florida, and raised in Kingston, Jamaica from the age of six, he mixed more than a little dancehall and reggae into his hip-hop. The hard lyrics come from a hard life, which included incarceration, homelessness, and growing up a lot faster than he should have. His young parents didn’t play teen pop or teen rap while he was being raised, so he absorbed the adult lyrics of Buju Banton, Ice Cube, and Rakim. He also lived the lyrics and landed a breaking-and-entering charge at age 11. Twenty-one days in jail, boot camp, and living in a car while his mother was incarcerated on an identity fraud rap all followed. None of it swayed the youth against hustling; it just pointed him in a different, more lucrative direction.
Taking his ability to write rhymes and hooks, he started working Miami’s talent show and showcase circuit hard, eventually sharing the stage with Pitbull, Ludacris, and Trick Daddy. Producer Jonathan “J.R.” Rotem (Britney Spears, 50 Cent, Rihanna) caught his demo and signed the young rapper to his Beluga Heights record label right before the major-label bidding wars were to begin. The Sony imprint Epic won and introduced their new artist in the spring of 2007 with the single “Colors 2007,” featuring the Game and Rick Ross. Although he sounded much older, Kingston was only 16 when the track landed. With his second single, “Beautiful Girls,” he took a sample of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” and twisted it into a huge hit. This more polished, smoother, and less hardcore stance suited the singer and figured heavily in the sound of his full-length debut, the eponymously titled Sean Kingston. Released in July 2007, the album proved a breakthrough for the rapper, hitting number six on the Billboard 200. Following high-profile tour appearances opening for Gwen Stefani, Beyonce, and Kelly Clarkson, Kingston returned with his sophomore album, 2009’s Tomorrow. It once featured production by Rotem, along with RedOne, Wyclef Jean, and others, although it found him incorporating more of a dance-oriented Europop sound into his dancehall and reggae-style. Buoyed by the singles “Fire Burning,” “Face Drop,” and “My Girlfriend,” the album peaked at 37 on the Billboard 200. In 2013, he released the single “Letting Go (Dutty Love),” with special guest Nicki Minaj. However, it was his next song, “Back 2 Life (Live It Up),” featuring rapper T.I., that worked as the debut single from his third album, Back 2 Life. Released in September 2013, the album again paired him with a handful of producers, including Rotem and RedOne. Along with T.I., the album included guest spots from Chris Brown, Wiz Khalifa, Wale, and others. It at number 33 on the U.S. R&B chart. For the remainder of the 2010s, Kingston stuck to singles, issuing a steady stream that included “Wait Up” (2015), “One Away” (2016), “Breather” (2017), and “Amore e Capoeira,” a 2018 collaboration with Takagi & Ketra and Giusy Ferreri. In 2019, he recruited Tory Lanez and DaVido for his single “Peace of Mind.” In May 2021, he released “Darkest Times,” featuring G Herbo, as the first song released off his fourth studio album, Deliverance.