Jay Sean Jumps from Med School to Stardom

By Korina Lopez, USA TODAY

Scalpel, please: It wasn’t too long ago that rising R&B singer Jay Sean was examining a cadaver in preparation for a career in medicine. “My fame happened very quickly,” says the London native, who has broken through in the USA with his album All or Nothing. “One minute I was doing dissections in a lab, and the next I got a record deal.” Now that he has caught the music bug, the probability of soothing sick patients seems faint. “Would I ever consider going back to medicine? Hell no,” he says with a laugh. “I’ve seen the world now. I can’t imagine going back and cracking books with a bunch of 18-year-olds.”

Star on the rise: After All or Nothing (173,000 copies sold to date) made its debut in the USA in November, Sean, 26, was suddenly everywhere. Two singles, Down and Do You Remember, simultaneously reached the top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100. His No. 1 Down, which features Lil Wayne, has sold 3.5 million downloads in the USA, and the music video has snagged 50 million views on YouTube. Next up, he’ll be heard on the U.K. and Canadian version of Mary J. Blige’s Each Tear single, which went to radio this week.

Eye-to-eye with Jay-Z: Though Sean is a new name in America (his real name is Kamaljit Singh Jhooti), he has been known in England for years, where he has released Me Against Myself (2004) and My Own Way (2008). “I grew up in a small town, Hounslow (a suburb of West London), where everyone was into Snoop Dogg and Ice-T. And making it in America was so far from our reality, it’s just amazing for me.” He knew he had succeeded when Jay-Z recognized him at this year’s Grammy Awards. “That was an incredible moment for me. I’m sitting here and talking to Beyoncé and Jay-Z as peers.”

Unconditional support: Giving up a career in medicine to be a musician sounds like every parent’s nightmare. But Sean’s parents “were very cool, they’ve always known that I love to sing,” he says. “They cried tears of joy for me when my career took off.” Although he has Virgin Records to thank for his rocket rise to fame, he left the label in 2006 and started his own, Jayded, before signing with Lil Wayne’s label, Cash Money.

Family is everything: For Sean, who got his start at 11 as half of the hip-hop duo Compulsive Disorder, his Indian heritage is the touchstone for his future success. “I don’t think my heritage has influenced my music so much as it’s helped me develop a well-rounded personality,” he says. “And that comes in handy later on in life, because we put a lot of emphasis on being well-mannered and respectful.”

Inspiration from honesty: Sean, who credits Boyz II Men and Michael Jackson as his biggest influences, hopes to carve out his place in the giant R&B arena. “There are so many niches and categories now, which is a very different musical landscape from my childhood. But I like to blend R&B with pop music, and that helps me stand out.” He also insists on honesty as an artist. “When you’re a songwriter, it’s important to draw from your own experiences,” says Sean, who says he’s in a happy relationship with a “normal American girl.” “Anything about love that you hear in my music is a true story.”

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