Sean Paul is one of the greatest Jamaican artists currently on the music scene. At the tender age of 46, he is still bringing out bangers, earning a Grammy nomination in 2017 with Sia’s “Cheap Thrills” and three Brit Award nominations in the same year. He is unquestionably one of the biggest Jamaican artists to grace the medium of music.

But, he is not just a fantastic singer, rapper and producer. He is also one of the most unappreciated advocates for the legalisation and decriminalisation of marijuana.

And that is best displayed in his 2005 smash hit “We Be Burnin’”.

“We Be Burnin’” was originally shunned by radio stations across the world because of its heavy promotion of marijuana, which forced Sean Paul to essentially re-write the song, to make it less drug-heavy and instead sang about women for three and a half minutes. Despite this slight obstacle, it allowed consumers to enjoy two songs from the lyrical genius, one denoted with “legalise it” in the title and the other with “recognise it”.

The song starts with a punchy clap sequence, followed by a repetitive, yet enticing, guitar pluck. Then with the first line, Paul immediately launches into his powerful assertion: “Just gimme di trees and mek we smoke it yow”. This lets the listener know straight away that he is about to launch into his argument regarding his perceived disappointment with the continued illegal status of marijuana.

The following line, “it a mek we peace so don’t provoke it yow”, shows Paul’s fondness for marijuana’s medicinal and recreational benefits. This is echoed throughout the song with the lyrics:

  • “set yuh mind at ease we gotta take it slow” – Marijuana’s reputation as a calming drug, used for insomnia and anxiety as well as lessen the effects of more sever illnesses such as Tourette’s and Alzheimers.
  • “best ting fi di meditation” – Many people are petitioning for the drug to be legalised for a purely medicinal sense, especially in the USA where more and more states are legalising the medicinal purposes of marijuana. Many people hope to follow in the footsteps of Canada who legalised weed in October 2018.

Sean Paul continues his diatribe with arguments that it “mek me write nuff tune and dat’s what pays me”. In this he credits his astronomical success and song writing ability to his marijuana usage, which has a lasting effect through most of his songs.

Other than his own personal biases, the Kingston-born rapper shares the economic advantages to his home nation of Jamaica. Very few statistics are available for cannabis in Jamaica, but just a few months after Canada legalised weed, the top 12 Canadian cannabis companies were valued at around CAD$55 billion.

Marijuana was decriminalised in Jamaica in 2015, whereby rules were relaxed allowing Rastafarians to use cannabis for religious purposes as well as medical marijuana becoming legal. For decades now, Jamaica has been seen as the culture birthplace of mainstream marijuana usage, thanks to the global spread of reggae music in the 1960’s and 70’s.

His passionate pot posturing keeps the listener engaged with rhythmic violin and the catchy chorus as he fights for his case of having “trees”, legal.

Paul also questions “why dem incarcerating” asking listeners why governments continue to incarcerate people for something that should be legalised due to its numerous apparent benefits. Although there are no official statistics for the number of people in prison in Jamaica for marijuana offences, the Washington Post published a statistic stating that there were 587,700 arrests for marijuana-related offences in 2016 in the USA.

To finish the song off, he repeats the chorus a few times, to really hammer his point home as the catchy strum of the guitar fades out. And so finishes Sean Paul’s greatest piece of work and his own personal marijuana manifesto.

His divergence from his usual lyrics of money, fame and women, shows a new perspective of Sean Paul as he advocates for a legitimate political hot topic. As he threw his hat in the ring as an outright supporter of legalisation, and through his lyrics, decriminalisation.  

As silly as it sounds, from the beginning, Sean Paul showed bravery in his lyrics, by making bold statements about Jamaican society in his 1998 song, “Deport Them”. However, he regressed to simpler songs in the early 2000’s, leaning heavily on the usual R&B stereotypes of over-sexualising his lyrics, as seen in the global chart-topper “Get Busy”.

For Sean Paul, 2005 seemed to have been a ‘green year’ as he released “We Be Burnin’” and “Ever Blazin’”, both of which emphasised his love for cannabis. This overt support for marijuana legalisation shows Paul to be one of the ever-increasing number of artists to put their name behind the cause, much like the other most obvious advocate, Snoop Dogg.

His love for the marijuana reached new heights on the 26th of February 2017, following the birth of his son, whom he blessed with the name, Levi Blaze.

That is commitment to the cause.


A Critical Analysis of Sean Paul's "We Be Burnin'"