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Jay Sean: American Boy

The New Now

Jay Sean did it. His US debut single "Down" just reachedNo. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart.

For weeks, Jay Sean patiently waited for the Black Eyed Peasto give up the coveted position. They have been holding the No. 1 spot for 26weeks. But when their song "I Gotta Feeling" dropped to the No. 4 slot thisweek, Jay Sean was waiting in the wings.

In just 14 weeks, the British pop-R&B singer-songwriterof Sikh Punjabi descent has topped the charts, making him the first solo male artist from South Asia to claim this honor.

"It's like a dream to have a song and you know you'vewritten those words, you came up with that melody and go, 'Here America, whatdo you think?' and everyone goes, 'Yo, we love this'," Jay Sean said via phone."You're getting No. 1 most added, No. 1 in requests. Shows in the country...That'scrazy."

Jay Sean is not new to fame. He scored a top 20 hit in the UK withhis first song "Dance With You (Nachna Tere Naal)" from his 2004 Virgin Recordsdebut album "Me Against Myself." He released his sophomore set, "My Own Way,"independently in 2008. Both albums earned him a total of 10 honors from the UKAsian Music Awards, Channel U Best of British Awards, UK BMI Awards, and MTVRussia Music Awards.

Jay Sean's seemingly instant American success is even moresubstantial because he is signed to a hip-hop label, Cash Money Records. CashMoney made a name for itself in the late '90s on the heels of artists includingJuvenile, the Hot Boys, and the then teensensation Lil' Wayne. Whilethese artists found tremendous success in the pop market, it was because theirmusic crossed over--not because they fit the traditional pop artist mold.

Cash Money had its first non-rap hit last year with Kevin Rudolph 's "Let ItRock." Jay Sean was signed to the label before Kevin's song blew up. Jay Seanadmits he was surprised when he found out that Cash Money was interested insigning him.

"I got a phone call from my U.S. rep," Jay Sean explained, "andhe said, 'Listen, you know Cash Money? They kinda wanna sign you. They've beenchecking your stuff out, all your videos, and songs, and really like youralbum. I got the CEO on the line."

Within seconds, Jay Sean was speaking to Cash Money head Ronald"Slim" Williams. Jay Sean thoughtjoining the Cash Money family might be perceived as odd by some, but hebelieves that is also the reason why the teaming has been so successful.

Slim's main selling point was offering Jay Sean creativecontrol. "[Slim] said, 'Dog, I don't want you to change anything. Do you," JaySean recalled.

Jay Sean already had a clear vision for his Cash Moneydebut. Though he grew up in the UK,his music tastes were heavily influenced by American R&B artists. As apreteen, he was drawn to music from the New Jack Swing era and idolized groupslike Jodeci, Boyz II Men, and Blackstreet.

"When I was 10, and 12 years old, I would listen to Jodecido runs and copy the way they sang," Jay Sean said. "It was the same for BoysII Men. All these kinds of styles. This is why you see a lot of people in the Philippines.They don't have it so much, so they emulate it and copy it."

If Jay Sean had to compare his Cash Money debut "All OrNothing," due out in November, to any American pop star, he'd pick Ne-Yo.

"This is a very eclectic, diverse album," Jay Sean said."The whole album is not like 'Down.' Every track is not some uptempo, nicelittle sing-a-long like chorus. There are slow jams, old New Jack Swing, like Donell Jones, Jodeci, Musiq Soulchild. It isvery Ne-Yo-esque, in terms of the diversity he brings."

It sounds like Jay Sean has more hit songs in the vault. Ifthe Black Eyed Peas continue to hold "Down" out of the No. 1 chart position,maybe he will get it with a subsequent single.

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