Responsible for 2009's ubiquitous hit "Down," British R&B singer/songwriter Jay Sean is notable for being one of the first British-Asian crossover stars. A chart-topping mix of smooth vocals, pop song structures and the occasional star-studded guest rapper led to massive international popularity and five consecutive Top 40 singles in America around the end of the 2000s.
Born Kamaljit Singh Jhooti on March 26, 1981, in the London borough of Hounslow, he began rapping at age 11 and eventually switched to R&B music, in part because of his Indian heritage, which made it difficult for him to break into the British rap scene. Sean was signed in 2003 by 2Point9, an all-in-one entertainment company whose roster is comprised of British-Asian artists such as Rishi Rich, and he made his recording debut late in the year with "Dance with You (Nachna Tere Naal)." Produced by Rishi Rich and featuring fellow 2Point9 artist Juggy D, "Dance with You (Nachna Tere Naal)" became a major hit in the United Kingdom, reaching number 12 on the singles chart. In the wake of his debut single's success, Sean was offered a lucrative major-label recording contract with Virgin Records. He accepted the offer and opted to drop out of Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry, where he was studying to become a doctor. Me Against Myself (2004), his debut album, became a Top 30 hit in the U.K., spawning a pair of Top Ten hit singles ("Eyes on You," "Stolen"); plus, the album became an even bigger hit in India, where it was a chart-topping success and went multi-platinum, thanks in part to Sean's appearance in the Bollywood film Kya Kool Hain Hum (2005).
Despite his international success, Sean left Virgin and released his second album, My Own Way (2008), independently via 2Point9 Records. Though its release date was pushed back repeatedly, My Own Way debuted at number six on the U.K. albums chart, a significant improvement over his last album, which had been released by a major label. The album spawned a couple U.K. Top 20 hits, "Ride It" and "Maybe," the former of which also charted internationally in countries including Poland, Portugal, Romania, and Bulgaria. The focus would turn toward America in 2009 when Sean signed with the Cash Money label. The relationship kicked off with the single "Down," featuring special guest and labelmate Lil Wayne. The track would land on Sean's album All or Nothing released in November of that year. The single "2012 (It Ain't the End)," featuring Nicki Minaj, was released in late 2010 and was followed a year later by his mixtape The Mistress. His sophomore release for Cash Money, Neon, was released in July of 2013 and included guest spots from Rick Ross, Ace Hood, and Busta Rhymes.
After leaving Cash Money in 2014, Sean released The Mistress II mixtape in November, and followed it with the Mistress II EP, which included acoustic versions of some of the mixtape's songs. Two years later, he returned with "Make My Love Go," his debut single for Sony and a reunion with All or Nothing collaborator Sean Paul; it became his first charting single in the U.K. since 2011. October 2016 saw the release of "Thinking About You," a collaboration with Hardwell. Early in 2017, the single "Do You Love Me," which featured co-production by Rock Mafia, arrived. A string of singles followed over the next two years including 2017's "What You Want" featuring Davido, 2018's "Emergency," and 2019's Gucci Mane and Asian Doll collaboration "With You." That year also brought new single "Lonely," which was followed in early 2020 by "Surma Surma." Both songs were streamed over a million times in a relatively short time frame. ~ Jason Birchmeier