Shaggy infects Berkeley with his Jamaican Whine

Aslesha Kumar/Staff

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“Ladies,” dancehall reggae legend Shaggy addressed half the sold-out crowd with a raised brow,  “this is the part of the show where you might get pregnant.”

With one gyration on Friday night, nearly 500 fans at Cornerstone forgot the year was 2017, not 2000. The unabashed party anthems instantly took fans back to the era over which Shaggy’s music ruled — an era when men took pride in their infidelities and woman expected disappointment. The smoldering looks and gyrating hips that have stayed intact throughout the years fooled the audience into thinking the reggae singer was still the young, hot, Mr. Boombastic — and despite the years that have passed, he really was.

Even with his 49th birthday nearing next month, Shaggy had no trouble charming the audience with his “Jaimaican Whine,” complete with “the face” — a requisite facial expression for any fully-committed Whine. And in response, the audience — the grandmas and grandpas in the back, to the moms and dads on the sides and all the youngsters in between — erupted into their own Whines.

Somehow, the reggae star who undoubtedly peaked over a decade ago drew the most diverse crowd a show could ever muster. His music reached all in attendance — even though fans admitted to only knowing three songs by name (“Boombastic,” “Angel” and “It Wasn’t Me”). Although fans generally agreed they weren’t familiar with his music, aside from his three famous hits, everyone still danced just as hard to the lesser-known tracks.

Everyone went just as wild for Shaggy as they had in the past. Older women fought their way to the front, hoping to to get one good look — or, in one fan’s case, one good stroke of his leg. Younger fans danced seductively with their counterparts while nearby groups of parents happily bobbed up and down. Everyone, regardless of age, was moving.

Though Shaggy initially seemed nervous while performing, he quickly picked up the pace and kept up with the crowd who continued to feed him energy throughout the night. With the crowd’s help, he transformed from an uncle at Karaoke Night to the performer he was known to be. After all, one sway of the hip erupted into countless cheers and whoops. Mr. Boombastic may have disappeared from the mainstream music scene, but his power and talent remained.

Surprisingly, in addition to his unrivaled dance moves, his vocal performance has hardly diminished with age. Fans would have settled for nostalgia (which is all they expected), but Shaggy actually delivered a rock-solid performance. He sounded just as impressive as he does on his albums, and clearly his record label agrees, as Shaggy announced to his fans that they might be able to look forward to new music.

The star, struggling to maintain relevancy, admitted to working on an album with Jamaican singer Omi (of “Cheerleader” fame), which he’s being “pressured” to release soon. Based on his closing performance, which was a song on the new album, fans can expect more upbeat, sensual vocals mixed with pop — all while Shaggy’s mission to bring Jamaican musical styles to the mainstream front remains the same.

“Since not many of you can’t go to Jamaica ‘cause there are no visas,” he said apologetically, “maybe I can bring Jamaica to you. Berkeley, can you help me celebrate my country tonight?”

There was no shortage of fans eager to help Shaggy express his Jamaican roots and cheer alongside the reggae star. Fans were reliving their glory days — the year of “It Wasn’t Me” — and so was Shaggy. It almost seemed as if his Cornerstone performance gave him the confidence he needed to continue his music, a genre that is rarely played on radios these days.

At the end of it all, no one can define Shaggy’s unique musical niche better than Shaggy himself, as he remarks that the only sound he knows is “the bad boy, get-you-pregnant, makes-you-leave-your-husband Jamaican Whine.” And based on Friday night, that’s all fans really want.

Contact Ilaf Esuf at [email protected].