It’s officially Dr. Orville ‘Shaggy’ Burrell as the dancehall legend accepts his Honorary Doctorate in the Fine Arts from Brown University.
The ‘Boombastic’ singer was recognized over the weekend for his contribution to music and culture and conferred with the Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Ivy League University, Brown University in the United States.
A citation from Brown University regaled the reggae and dancehall giant for his illustrious career.
“Your style, your voice and your influence on reggae and the genre’s growth in American pop culture cannot be overstated. You are recognised the world over for your success as a musician, your leadership and dedicated philanthropy through the Shaggy Makes a Difference Foundation.”
Shaggy, whose real name is Orville Burrell, received wide cheers of “Shaggy! Shaggy! Shaggy!” from the graduation class of 2020, whose commencement was pushed back due to the pandemic.
While addressing the students, a nervous Shaggy spoke about his humble beginnings as he joked about always wanting to experience college.
“What would the experience be?” Shaggy told students at Brown University. “I was never blessed with the opportunity, I could never afford it, I would have loved to have gotten a college experience and receive a higher education. See, I am from a single-parent family and I was raised by my mom and partly by my grandmother. Like most single-parent families, dads weren’t always present. I’m from a small fishing village from the downtown area of Kingston called Rae Town, a place made famous for the sound system.”
Shaggy also spoke about being talented and his passion for music which led to him excelling. Among the greats he named as his greatest reggae and dancehall heroes are Toots and the Maytals, Bob Andy, Jimmy Cliff, Dennis Brown, and the great Bob Marley and the contemporaries Super Cat, Josey Wales, Barrington Levy, and Yellow Man.
He later spoke about moving to Flatbush, New York, where he continued to pursue reggae and dancehall but the genres were not as established or as mainstream as it is.
“It started to look like my dreams of a successful career in reggae and dancehall was pretty dismal,” he said as he pointed out that he and his mother bumped heads, and this led to him enlisting in the Marines to primarily get the “G.I” bill that pays for college education for those enlisted.
His first song after he left the Marines, “Oh Carolina,” shot up the UK charts and led to a million-dollar contract from Virgin Records, and from there, his career took off with the mega-hit “Mr. Boombastic.”
According to Shaggy, this song made history as the first dancehall/reggae track to debut atop the UK charts and No. 2 on the U.S charts. As he detailed not only the rise of his career but the growth of the genre, he shared how his work made inroads into the United States with his album, ‘Hot Shot’ being the first and only No. 1 dancehall album and only Diamond selling dancehall album to date.
His songs “Angel” and “It Wasn’t Me” sold 500,000 copies a week, being certified Gold each week.
“That’s before streaming by the way, hard copies baby,” he joked.
Shaggy said he learned early on that he had a huge responsibility to the genre as he spoke about having a solid work ethic and presence in the genre.
“Nothing showcases culture like stars and nothing shifts culture like superstars,” he said.
Shaggy is also being lauded by fans and fellow artists in the reggae and dancehall community including Spice, who called him her mentor and hero.
In a thank you message posted on his Instagram, Shaggy wrote, “I’d like to take the time to thank all my well wishers, all my fellow Jamaicans across the Globe that sent such warm messages and congratulations. I’d also like to acknowledge and share with you massages and congratulatory post from some of our Jamaican high ranking honorable members ..I’m Humbled,moved and overwhelmed! Thank you.”
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Watch Shaggy full speech below.