Like Justin Bieber, Sean Kingston rose from nowhere to superstardom seemingly overnight. Though he may not be in the Chris Brown or Ne-yo tax bracket, the Jamaican native has done pretty well for himself. Judging by his videos, one would assume that the baby-faced singer/rapper is a happy-go-lucky chap with a distinct Jamaican accent.
Maybe not. It’s 9.30am in Miami and seven hours later here when I first dial the supplied number for the interview. The St Lunatics rapper Nelly’s Just a Dream suddenly plays on the earpiece and, it being one of my favourite songs at the moment, I bop my head as I wait. It’s going to be good day, I think to myself.
Before Nelly is even done with his first verse, the song abruptly stops and in its place a woman’s voice speaks for an eternity about God’s love and the need to surrender to His will. When she is finally done, I’m told I can leave a message.
In a slight panic, I call the South African company that set up this interview, but they, too, are struggling to get hold of young Mr Kingston. Then, a few minutes later, they call me back with the good news and the interview is on again. I introduce myself, but the voice on the other end sounds distant and does not have the Jamaican accent that I’ve come to expect having watched Kingston’s music videos. If anything, it is more American than the ordinary versions I have heard before.
“Am I on speaker phone?” I ask. “Because I can barely hear you and instead I am hearing myself echo.”
“You were, but you are not now,” croaks the voice on the other end.
Good, I think to myself, let’s do this. I then re-introduce myself and explain the purpose of my call. He grunts. Okay, it’s not going to be a good day after all.
A colleague of mine feels Kingston has only two songs in his career worth mentioning. There’s Beautiful Girls, which made the industry sit up and take notice. Now there’s Dutty Love, featuring Nicki Minaj, but since she is not touring with him, how’s he gonna pull that one off?
I, on the other hand, feel there’s more to Kingston, but the mood he’s in sure isn’t helping.
Since this is Kingston’s second visit to South Africa, I ask what audiences can expect this time around.
“More energy, more interaction,” he says. For some reason, I picture him lying down facing the ceiling as he speaks to me. Probably concentrating on the aerodynamics of an unwelcome insect in his room.
Talk about drawing blood from a stone. But I soldier on and ask how the show will be different from the last time.
“I will be bringing my full band so it should be fun,” he answers. Silence.
Has Kingston just woken up? I ask him what he thought about South Africa on his first visit.
“I loved it. We went on a safari and I got to relax. It was really cool,” he says, barely stifling a yawn.
Aha! I knew he was lying down! That explains the missed calls and the lack of energy.
The 21-year-old is only just waking up. Pity he had to use my phone call to do it.
I steer the conversation to his latest album Kingz of Kingz. I sense a bit of a pulse starting up, especially after mentioning that Dutty Love is doing well in South African clubs.
“Really? Dutty Love is big there? Wow, great. I have just released the whole album on the internet and it is doing very well,” he says, now a totally different person.
We talk about working with Nicki Minaj, and he literally lights up. I should have started with this question.
“I really loved working with her, man. I mean, I worked with a lot of artists on this album, but going back to Jamaica with Nicki to shoot that video was amazing.
“She is a wonderful girl and very funny too.” Do we smell a crush there?
Speaking of collaborations, I ask if there are any artists, dead or alive, who Kingston may want to do songs with.
“It would probably be Biggie man. I just loved his voice and maybe soon you will hear a collaboration,” he says.
Kingston is also making other moves in the music industry, and has signed up an exciting talent in Virgin Islands singer Iyaz, who he discovered online.
“I am always on myspace man. It is where I was discovered and when I saw Iyaz, I knew he was not a one-hit wonder and now he has proven just that.”
Then comes the signature sign-out question: is there a “queen” in Mr Kingston’s life? Drum roll.
“No man, I am single. We all know there are some pretty girls down there, so we’ll see,” he says.
He’d better pack a bit more enthusiasm if he’s going to make that happen …