Jamaican singjay Chino has recently put out his self titled debut album produced by his younger brother Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor. Reggaemani got a chat with this self-confident artist.
Chino is part of the of the McGregor clan that hosts the famous father Freddie, the singing sister Yeshemabeth and the producing and singing brother Stephen.
Chino has just put out his debut album. Photo by Marvin Bartley.
Chino’s music career began early. He performed for the first time as a 9 year-old when he attended a school choir in Kingston. Later on he became a selector with Omega Disco, a sound system he had formed with his brother and a few friends.
First hit was hip-hop
But he didn’t score his first hit with reggae music.
At age 15 he was known as the rapper Cappuccino and came up with the hit Leggo Di Bwoy, a duet with Kip Rich.
“Hip-hop was my comfort zone in the late 90’ and early 2000’s. Hip-hop was very influential in Jamaica at that time. I was searching for my sound. Since then I’ve grown and matured,” says Chino over the phone from Jamaica.
He continued in hip-hop for a couple of years and relocated to Florida where he landed a record deal. He did some recordings, but it wasn’t long lasting.
Started working with Di Genius
Back in Jamaica he changed his style from rhyming to a more singjay oriented approach. Even though his rapping talents can still be heard on a number of tracks on the debut album.
Chino and his brother started a fruitful relationship when Stephen was just 15 years old. Their first hit was Red Bull and Guinness, which reached number 27 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart.
When I ask about how it is working with his brother, I get the feeling he is tired of getting the same question over and over.
“People are always asking me that. It’s a family vibe. We bounce ideas. Create things out of the box. Not what everyone else is doing. It’s like ‘yeah, wow, this is fresh’. Motivate each other, push the bar,” he explains.
Broader than dancehall
Chino’s hits together with his brother continued with tunes such as the duet Protected and Pon Your Head. And now Stephen is responsible for the entire production of Chino’s debut album.
“It’s a ground breaking album. Not a typical Jamaican release. It’s real music. Reggae and dancehall is the foundation. But you also have hip-hop, rock and world music. And some jazz vibes,” he says, and continues:
“I’m not trying to appeal solely to a dancehall audience. I want to reach everyone. I want everyone to appreciate our movement.”
He explains that the whole album is outside the box and that he and his brother were in the studio until around 5 or 6 in the morning bouncing crazy ideas.
“It’s a unique concept,” he explains, and adds:
“There are concept songs. Leaving (Seal the Link) is a heartbreak song. Work is about motivating people. And also lots of stuff for the ladies. Like Driving Me Insane with Denyque, early 90’s dancehall with a Mr. Loverman twist.”
A new classic
Lyrics are important to Chino. He says that he wants to show a direction in his lyrics.
“It’s about personal experiences and everyday life. I mean, Jamaica is an eventful place.”
His debut album is a diverse set and shows several different directions. Chino explains that he is influenced by reggae artists such as Shabba Ranks, Supercat and Bounty Killer, but also Jay-Z, Biggie and Michael Jackson.
He wants to make solid, timeless music, music that is relevant in ten to 15 years.
“It’s a classical album. Like Til’ Shiloh, Welcome to Jamrock or Ready to Die. It’s a breath of fresh air. I want people to listen to every single track and not skip one,” he says, and adds:
“This is me right now. It’s a genuine love for music.”