Shaggy’s 2000 smash hit “It Wasn’t Me” came off of his iconic album Hot Shot, and instantly became recognizable by nearly everyone. Even 21 years later, it has garnered more than half a billion streams on Spotify and is still played at important events like weddings and proms. It is truly a mystery as to where we would be without this special track, but according to a new documentary from VICE, that is almost what happened.
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Shaggy attributes the inspiration for “It Wasn’t Me” as coming from Eddie Murphy’s comedy special Raw, which he found relatable and funny because infidelity and relationship problems were everywhere. In July 2020, VICE released a short documentary to their YouTube channel that discussed the making of the song, including the way it was originally shot down by higher-ups. Someone in the studio at the time even recalls Shaggy saying, “Yeah, man, that one’s not gonna get finished and go on the album,” when “It Wasn’t Me” was played. In fact, the entire Hot Shot album was considered to be a record of throwaway hits that wouldn’t make it anywhere.
Producer Sting International and Shaggy both absolutely believed in “It Wasn’t Me” as a hit from the very beginning, but Shaggy’s manager Robert, who called the shots for most of his releases, didn’t even want the song to go on the album. Although Shaggy and Sting eventually convinced Robert that the song should go on the album, senior executives thought Hot Shot was a “pile of junk,” and that there wasn’t a song on the album they could release to radio. Label executives wanted Shaggy to create a single for the album with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who were two of the biggest producers and songwriters at the time. The label only felt confident about releasing Hot Shot when Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were behind it, and the record would have otherwise been on the cutting room floor.
When the album finally was released, it didn’t do well on the radio, and Shaggy was on the verge of being dropped. It wasn’t until a DJ in Honolulu, Hawaii illegally downloaded “It Wasn’t Me” that it became the hit it’s known as today. The song was an immediate hit on the Hawaiian radio station, and it soon blew up across the country while Shaggy was on tour on the east coast.
This weekend, the song will once again be making a nationwide appearance in a Cheetos commercial during the 55th Super Bowl starring celebrity couple Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher. In the ad, Kutcher catches Kunis snacking on his Cheetos, which is where Shaggy advises her to say it “wasn’t me.” When asked about working with the couple on the commercial, Shaggy said, “The chemistry between them is amazing. At that moment you realize why That ’70s Show was such an amazing hit, and they brought that same sauce to this commercial. This is a guy that married his best friend. You could tell, chemistry-wise, that it worked really well. They were laughing constantly, totally cracking each other up. I was just there like a sponge, I was like a student, because I’m in their arena.”
Check out the Cheetos commercial below.