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Interview: Chronixx

Interview: Chronixx

Interview: Chronixx

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"Reggae music is the healing of this whole world"

Sampler

United Reggae first heard of Chronixx when we interviewed Kabaka Pyramid in 2011. Fast forward two years and he is being tipped for stardom in 2013.

To those who know his story this is not so surprising. For 20 year old Jamar McNaughton - the son of singer Chronicle - has been involved in music since he was a seedling. The studio and the church choir were his playground, artists family friends, and he was producing and writing songs from a formative age.

Like Kabaka Pyramid and Protoje before him he has built his career simultaneously at home (recording with local production house Zinc Fence) and abroad (voicing with European label Special Delivery and the USA’s Major Lazer).  

When the Jamaican press began to take serious notice at the tail end of 2012 we decided it was time to link him. By then he had become a sensation – and an interview that would have been easy to get a few months ago became a tussle amid a media scrum. Nonetheless, Angus Taylor spoke to a young man fully aware of his potential fame and importance – and how transient it can be.

Chronixx

You were born in music. What advantages has that given you?

I think it has a lot to do with my appreciation of the whole history of Jamaican music and my applying these elements from the past into my music right now. When you grow up within the music and see what it takes to create a record and the power that a record has in it when it goes out to the people then you will treat and approach music in a whole different way. I have a different appreciation for music. Especially Jamaican music.

What about Rasta? Were you born in Rasta or did it come to you?

All Jamaicans are Rasta people. I can tell you that for sure. Even the pastor and even the Christian. Because we are born in a culture where the system is anti-Rasta but the Jamaican culture has a lot to do with Rastafari. Once you are born Jamaican and you practise Jamaican culture and you live it, you will automatically become a Rastaman! (laughs)

All Jamaicans are Rasta people. I can tell you that for sure

But you started in a Christian home?

In my house my father had a whole heap of Rastafari friends and my grandfather was Rastafari but in my immediate family there was no Rasta living there. I grew up in church directing choir and messing with the keyboards and drums, exploring music of all different genres and training our little voices for the work ahead! (laughs) But Rastafari is a manifestation. It’s an inborn thing but sometimes for different people it takes a while to come out. You have ones who were born into Rastafari families who today are not Rastafari because it was not a natural conception for them. “My father is a Rasta so I have to have dreadlocks” or “My mother was Rastafari woman so I had to live like a Rasta”.

Sure.

So it’s just like where our parents were Christians so we had to go to church but that doesn’t mean we were born to be Christians. So as soon as you have your own concepts and don’t have to listen to mummy and daddy any more (laughs) your natural self will surface. When you are a child growing up in your family you have to be whatever your family is. If your father is a pastor you have to go to church. You can’t disrespect your family and the culture your family is from.– that is bad. I am sure His Majesty discourages that. But you have to go out there and start your family based on your ideas and what you think is right. So I am born a Rasta.

As a producer as well as an artist – who are your musical and production heroes?

Jamaica is very diverse in its very colourful and long musical history. I have a hero for every era! (laughs) You have Jacob Miller, Dennis Brown, Ini Kamoze, Black Uhuru. I have Sly & Robbie – and then I have Sly Dunbar separate from Robert Shakespeare as my idol! (laughs) And also when it comes to musicians I have Carlie Barrett and Familyman. I have Leroy Sibbles as a bass player and then I have Heptones! (laughs) I have a whole slew of musical heroes. Then in the late 80s and 90s you have Shabba, Supercat, Buju Banton, General Trees, Nicodemus, Professor Nuts. For my era I take elements from their music and try to creatively make it influence my creativity. Production - Sly & Robbie! King Jammys and Lee Scratch Perry. I like the people who produce rare and odd music. Music you don’t hear all the time. From the new generation you have Stephen McGregor. Internationally I love producers like Swiss Beatz, Timbaland. Actually it’s between Kanye West and No I.D. as my favourite producers in the whole world – because of the respect that they have for the music that was made in the past and they’re trying to preserve that music.

I like the people who produce rare and odd music. Music you don’t hear all the time

In December 2012 performed at the Usain Bolt Tracks and Records show – where the Jamaican press reported that you got a surprisingly big crowd.

That show was the realisation. That show was reality. That show displayed our pulling power. It brought the realisation of the public of what was happening within the whole underground movement. It showed them that Chronixx, No-Maddz and Kabaka Pyramid can pull thousands of people and we are not even mainstream acts as people would put it. So it was very shocking for the general public because they brought quote unquote “the biggest names” to Tracks and Records and to see the younger artists and the young Rastafari movement pulling young people from all walks of life bringing them all under one roof to bask in some good reggae music – it was a very exciting thing for Jamaican music.

The Gleaner compared you to Peter Tosh. What do you think of that comparison?

We will definitely not see a next Peter Tosh or Bob Marley or Dennis Brown again but time has its way of reintroducing people in different ways. So when a person looks at me they see elements of Peter Tosh or they will see elements of this artist or energies of that artist in I&I. And I get Peter Tosh comparisons all the time! My friend was wearing a Peter Tosh shirt one day and people were like “Yow, I didn’t know that Chronixx had shirts out!”

You met Usain Bolt – what is he like?

He was dancing to the music all the time so when I came offstage we vibed and he bigged me up and I bigged him up. He’s a cool and a fun loving youth so anywhere the music is you’ll find a person like Usain Bolt there. It was a good experience for us both because he got to share in some good music and I got to meet the fastest man in the world.

Usain Bolt got to share in some good music and I got to meet the fastest man in the world

You gave a short performance with Major Lazer at the University Of The West Indies on 21st January and you were featured on their Start A Fyah mixtape last year.

I am a big fan of collaborative work. In music different people have different fanbases and the more you work alongside people the more you get to tap into their fanbase and their whole world of music. A whole interrelation starts happening there. So it is very good for networking and for you presenting yourself to a different audience. So I would advise every young artist to try to work with other people. Once that person is willing to work you under certain conditions and not try to steer away from your personal mission and respects your mandate – because we all have a different mandate – then by all means!

Another collaboration is your link with Special Delivery – who you met in 2011 when they were helping research the book Clarks In Jamaica. Has having a presence abroad helped you?

Jamaica has 2 million people and even though we are so small we are very influential in the world. Jamaicans have a huge impact on different countries and cultures that are bigger than ours in size. But also you have to keep a presence out there in the world. The regular supporters of reggae music are important but we also have to cover the new ground – the untouched places, the places that are just discovering reggae. We have to keep a steady presence in those places to make sure the souls are found and the sick are healed and the dead are raised and everybody is alright at the end of the day. Because reggae music is the healing of this whole world when you check it.

The healing of the whole world?

ChronixxWhen you look on this world one of our biggest barriers is language. The Frenchman can’t relate to the Englishman as much because of language and culture barriers. But reggae music over time has become a universal language where almost every crevice and corner in the world speaks reggae music. So reggae is no longer a form of music but it is also a language. Regardless of which language, which culture, which creed, when a man touches a mic and says “One love, one heart” everybody says “Let’s get together and feel alright”. So we have to look at it for what it is and call a spade a spade - it is a language.  If language is the thing that has been preventing the cure and reggae music is that bridge then we can call it the cure. Reggae music is the way to preach love every time.

You described your music as underground. Is something new happening in Jamaican music right now and are you part of it?

It definitely happened already in the past – as I said time has its way of reintroducing people and things even after they are long gone. People will still get a Dennis Brown energy when they see us artists – they will get a Peter Tosh energy or a Bob Marley vibe. With this movement – it’s the same thing that happened in the 70s where music that was not being played or sponsored by corporate Jamaica became the biggest thing in the country and eventually in the world. We are not getting featured on the big interviews on TV and our music is not being played on the prominent radio stations. Yet still we have managed to become the voice of the people and what the people want to hear at this significant time. It’s a thing – I wouldn’t say new – but it’s what is happening right now in Jamaica. The artists that are going to be rising up are going to be artists that have been doing music for so long.

In the 70s music that was not being played or sponsored by corporate Jamaica became the biggest thing in the country and eventually in the world

Like Kabaka Pyramid and Protoje.

Kabaka Pyramid toured Europe last year, went to Europe and spent six weeks doing shows on top of shows. Raging Fyah and Protoje toured Europe yet still people don’t know five of our songs in Jamaica. Our music is very new for the Jamaican people. It is the same thing that used to happen during the Studio 1 vibes and Bob Marley and Jacob Miller days. Bob Marley for a very long time wasn’t a mainstream artist in Jamaica. He rose up from the underground and was getting international recognition but even though Jamaica is such a very small place the general public didn’t know about Bob Marley. So the same thing is happening again within the music. You have Kelissa who released her EP in Africa – all six of songs are being played every day in all different African countries. She toured six African countries, and now she is back in Jamaica she can walk on the road and nobody recognises her! (laughs)

Why is there this gulf between what is happening for your movement at home and abroad?

Jamaica is the mecca of Jamaican music which is, as you know, very diverse. You have the dancehall scene, lovers rock, you even have hip hop artists living in Jamaica – rappers and poets. At different times people gravitate to the different forms. So you will have a time when the one drop rhythms are the hottest things in Jamaica and then you’ll have sometimes ten years when no one listens to that. It’s just dancehall and the fads and what is hot at the moment. You will have one artist who is the biggest thing in Jamaica for just two months and then after that he’s a nobody again! (laughs) It’s a very funny market and sometimes the people fail to nurture their own talents and leave it up to other people. I don’t know the exact reason why these things happen but I think the media has a lot to do with it.

How so?

The media place a lot of dedication into presenting the bad things happening in the music – the clashes and the feuds, gay people protesting against dancehall artists, how this artist started a fight on stage. But they will not report on whenever Kabaka Pyramid comes back to Jamaica from a successful tour in Europe or when Kelissa comes back to finish up her album after a very successful tour of six different African countries. They should really take the time out to present what is good and not just the hype things that are only here for five minutes.

I first heard your name when I heard Kabaka Pyramid endorse you two years ago. Which names can we look out for that get Chronixx endorsement?

Kelissa McDonald and Keznamdi. They are brothers and sisters and they are the most powerful things I have seen in my life. These people perform shows where they are 100% unknown and at the end of the show people are all over them! Dre Island too. 

The only controversy surrounding Jah works is Babylon’s opposition

You mentioned the media reporting the negative things. There was some controversy at Sting 2012 but you came out of it well.

Exactly, because I don’t try to be the most controversial - I just try to make an impact. These things happen when you try to do your own job and not Jah works. When you go out there and try to do your own selfish things – that is when controversy comes up. But the only controversy surrounding Jah works is Babylon’s opposition. Jah works is just the thing I do man. Say things to uplift the people and then go back home! (laughs)

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