FOR the past three years, reggae singer Chronixx has built an enviable track record. His efforts are paying off as the 'conscious music crusader' is number one on Billboard's Reggae album chart with his latest EP, Dread & Terrible.
Released on April 1, the Dread & Terrible project contains 10 tracks including Alpha & Omega, Here Comes Trouble, Capture Land and Eternal Fire. The set features production work from Phillip 'Winta' James; Lloyd 'John John' James; Chronixx's in house production team, ZincFence Records; Overstand JA Records; and France-based Pierre Bost.
"Dread & Terrible for me is like a state of mind, ideology, whatever is good and pleasant is dread and terrible inna Babylon system. I'm kinda educating the youths about certain realities. Like a wake-up call," Chronixx explained in an interview from his hotel in Spain, where he is in the middle of a 22-date European jaunt.
Dread & Terrible became an instant hit on iTunes reggae charts around the world. It is currently only available digitally. However, vinyl and compact disc editions are to be released shortly.
"We are aiming for everyone to discover the project. It's a collector's thing," said Chronixx.
Born Jamar McNaughton Jr, 22-year-old Chronixx formerly recorded under the name Little Chronicle. He developed a love for songwriting and music from an early age. His father Jamar McNaughton Sr recognised his talents and nurtured his musical aspirations.
A former student of the St Catherine High school in Spanish Town, Chronixx made his professional recording debut in 2003 working with producer Danny Browne. He later provided harmonies on tracks for the likes of gospel artiste Jermaine Edwards and reggae artiste Lutan Fyah.
By the age of 14, he got involved with producing and building riddims, among them the Freezer riddim for Ice Box Records.
Following his brother's death in 2009, Chronixx teamed up with Romaine 'Teflon' Arnett of Zincfence Records and, the rest, they say, is history.
Songs including Behind Curtain, Odd Ras, Smile Jamaica, They Don't Know, Ain't No Giving In, Here Comes Trouble, and Warrior have kept Chronixx on playlists and the charts at regular intervals.
His European tour kicked off on March 27 and ends on April 21. The tour has already made stops in France. Portugal, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Germany are among the upcoming stops.
While many of the top acts at the recently concluded Blue Mountain Music Festival provided pleasing performances on a chilly Saturday night, the likes of Chronixx, Kabaka Pyramid, Raging Fyah, Third World and Tanya Stephens were a cut above the rest.
Chronixx was the penultimate act to perform at the event which started shortly after 8 p.m., entering the stage to roars of approval some time after 2 a.m.
Dressed in one of his usual Adidas-branded jackets, he immediately went into chanting down Babylon.
He all but had the crowd eating from his hands as the excitement became palpable, with songs like Grow Your Natty, Rain Music, Odd Ras, Here Comes Trouble and They Don't Know.
In tune with nature
In fact, even nature appeared to be enjoying his set as the trees above the stage, assisted by the wind, waved almost in unison with the dancing bodies of the patrons and the soothing bass lines of reggae music and the thumping drums of dancehall.
Chronixx also paid homage to Professor Nuts by performing his song Tan So Back, which put surprised patrons in a frenzy.
The Raging Fyah reggae band also gave a good account of themselves. So authentic was their sound, that they held the attention of the audience even when they stopped singing to extract melodious sounds from their instruments.
The young lead singer, holding his guitar and jumping in Marley-like fashion, gave clear signals that reggae music is on its way to recovery in Jamaica.
That sentiment was shared by Chronixx, who, during his set, expressed how proud he was to see Jamaicans climb a mountain to hear reggae.
"A few years ago, reggae music couldn't do this in Jamaica. We are the true representations of reggae music," Chronixx said.
Raging Fyah received strong responses for Judgement Day and Nah Look Back, and there were others to which the crowd took a liking.
Kabaka Pyramid seemed determined to prove his worth on this night, and based on the strong performance and the response he received from the audience, it appeared that his mission was accomplished.
In a 30-minute set, Kabaka Pyramid took patrons on a lyrical journey, showing his ability to use witty word play and hip hop rhyming schemes to get positive messages across.
Songs such as Choppinz, Warrior and Never Gonna Be A Slave received deserving encores.
Tanya Stephens was like a feminist teacher during her set, though the men in the audience enjoyed her preachings just as much.
Songs like Handle Di Ride, Boom Wuk and It's A Pity received strong responses and were delivered to perfection, reminiscent of the actual recording.
Iconic reggae band Third World brought the curtains down on the festival with a strong set crammed with classic hits.
Now led by veteran reggae singer A.J. Brown, the band stamped its authority at the festival and rightfully erased doubt from the minds of patrons who initially stared with uncertainty since the band had lost its lead vocalist, reggae icon Bunny Rugs.
A.J. Brown proved a worthy addition, reeling out some of the band's timeless material, Forbidden Love, Ride On Jah Children, and Fret Not Thyself among the bunch.
Among the other acts were Kenny Smith, Jah9, poet Abbebe Payne and Machu Ezra.
There was food on sale at reasonable prices, the only thing missing was a big enough parking space for the hundreds of patrons who decided to drive their personal vehicles to the festival, despite being offered a shuttle service.
Marcia Griffiths, Chronixx, Chalice and The Other Side of Moses Davis will add a tasty mix of sweet reggae to the 2014 Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival between tomorrow and Saturday at the Trelawny Multi-Purpose Stadium in Greenfield, Trelawny.
The Queen of Reggae, Marcia Griffiths, will celebrate her 50th anniversary in the music industry with a special performance tomorrow. Bob Andy, Judy Mowatt, Freddie McGregor, Tony Gregory and Chris Martin will also make appearances during the Golden Jubilee celebration of Griffiths' career.
Griffiths, known for her smooth delivery and effervescent performances, was a member of the all-female trio the I-Threes, which did their own recordings and performance as well as harmony for Bob Marley & the Wailers.
Advocate of the Reggae Revival, Chronixx, is also slated to deliver onstage at this year's Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival. Chronixx has fast risen to the forefront of reggae music with a string of popular songs, including Smile Jamaica, Behind Curtain, Odd Ras and They Don't Know.
Chronixx has steadily improved his craft and, among his more recent well-known songs, are Here Comes Trouble and Me Alright, the latter recorded with Kabaka Pyramid.
One of Jamaica's finest dancehall performers, Beenie Man, will be showcased through an entirely different lens, as the Grammy Award-winning deejay will be performing under the theme 'The Other Side of Moses Davis'.
The 2014 Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival's star-studded line-up includes Chaka Khan, Chrisette Michele, Mary Wilson and Crystal Gayle. Other acts include Joe, the silky smooth Beres Hammond and Protoje who, all together, will combine for a diverse set of performances.
The festival is sponsored by The Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), Consumer Brands Ltd. Seaboard Marine, Knutsford Express, Jamaica Observer, Courts and Intelligent Multimedia.
Chronixx is one of the biggest new artists in reggae, as well as part of a younger generation of Jamaican musicians who give old-school sounds a fresh take.
Live bands. Soulful music. Substantive lyrics. I could be describing the Jamaican music scene circa 1976, the heyday of Bob Marley. But I'm talking about a sound that dominated at this year's Reggae Sumfest, Jamaica's biggest annual music festival.
Jamaican artist Chronixx, 20, performed live before nearly 10,000 fans at the yearly event. He's Jamaica's most buzzed-about artist right now, and he's leading the way in a rich musical movement: new-school roots. It's a bit of Rasta meets hipster. Chronixx says it's a repackaging of what came before.
"We are not going to do it like Bob Marley did or like Burning Spear did," Chronixx says. "We are using their blueprint to bring on a new generation of works."
It's a sound that's been in his ears since he was a kid. His father was a successful musician who went by the name Chronicle. Chronixx began writing songs at age 6 and started producing as a teenager. He says he went to "reggae school," which he compares to the rigorous demands of medical school.
"It's just like, before you go out there and do a surgery on a human being, you have to learn medicine, biology, chemistry — all the things you need to be a doctor," Chronixx says. "And in reality, artists don't do much different from doctors; they heal people. So you have to learn your craft good. It's a science. You have to learn the history."
While "Know Thy History" is an unspoken commandment of the new roots movement, it's not just about creating a musical carbon copy of the past — though the fashion sense of these artists definitely screams 1970s. Take new roots artist Protoje: He describes the style of his 2013 sophomore album, The 8 Year Affair, as a blend of traditional roots-reggae, modern-day rock and hip-hop.
"The first song I ever knew word-for-word was Slick Rick, 'Children's Story.' When I heard Slick Rick — that type of flow — I was like, 'Yo, it's so cool!' I didn't hear stuff like that. So I kind of started to pattern my style."
Protoje wrote a song called "Kingston Be Wise" about the so-called "Tivoli Massacre" of 2010, when 76 civilians were killed by Jamaican police and military forces, who were scouring Kingston for alleged drug lord Christopher Coke.
"I sat on the top of the skyline and watched the city burn that day," Protoje says. "So I wrote about that to say, 'Be wise in these times, and understand there's a lot of geopolitics at play.'"
This message suggests another commandment of the current movement: Write your own songs and have something to say. Kumar Bent, lead singer of the band Raging Fyah, says that's what the new roots scene is about.
"This movement now that's happening is a revival of consciousness," Bent says. "It's not about singing about a girl's skirt anymore; it's about upliftment of the mind."
Add two more tacit rules of the scene: First, don't beef — collaborate. Artists like Chronixx, Protoje and Raging Fyah form a kind of collective, performing and recording together all the time. And last but not least: Go live. Chronixx plays keyboards, drums and guitar, while Raging Fyah delivers the ultimate live show. Protoje, who only records live in the studio, says this return to bands places Jamaican acts on par with American reggae bands like SOJA and The Green, who have come to rival the island's musicians in popularity.
"We're ready to go back out there and play reggae music alongside these bands, and show that the authentic sound is still Jamaican," Protoje says. "Reggae music was born and bred here, and we're ready to show that we're here to continue on that tradition."
It's a tradition that, however many times it's remixed and repackaged, never seems to get old.
Long before Snoop Lion was an unripe bud-dream in Snoop Dogg's bizong, Rastafarians were influencing and shaping Jamaica's notoriously prolific musical output. Count Ossie teamed up with the Mystic Revelation Of Rastafari (a Rastafarian drumming group), who provided the percussion for his 1962 ska prototype Oh Carolina (the same one that Shaggy sexed up in 1993). Meanwhile, acts such as Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, Dennis Brown, the Congos, Beres Hammond – plus some bloke called Bob Marley – all made sure Rasta culture remained synonymous with reggae music.
But dancehall's emergence in the 80s and 90s started to make roots and Rasta seem past it. Weed was replaced with cocaine as the drug of choice, traditional live takes of songs were usurped by computer-programmed instrumentation, and the message of a Rasta "Ital" lifestyle was ditched for brash braggadocio, face bleaching and dance crazes that mixed sexual contortionism with WWE moves (daggering).
But Rasta roots were never going to go quietly into the Kingston night, and now 21-year-old Chronixx (né Jamar McNaughton) has emerged as the figurehead of its latest revival. Son of roots head Chronicle, he was making tracks for dancehall royalty such as Konshens before he was out of his teens. But after playing at Usain Bolt's Tracks & Records restaurant, it was Chronixx's own take on the roots sound that was touted as the jump-off point for a "musical revolution" in his home country.
Along with artists such as Proteje and Jah9, he's set about toppling dancehall's hegemony and filling the void left by Vybz Kartel (who's still in prison) and Mavado (who's still trying to make it in America). Mixing anti-war messages, calls for equality and using a live band, Zinc Fence Redemption, Chronixx is modernising reggae staples and breathing new life into the roots reggae movement. That might all sound a bit self-righteous but, like Damien Marley, he manages to marry the snarling attitude of dancehall with lyrics about social cohesion in a way that doesn't make you nod off. He soon caught the eye of reggae-culture magpie Diplo, who put out Chronixx's Start A Fyah mixtape under the umbrella of his Major Lazer project.
Chronixx isn't just content to harp on about Rasta life though; he takes aim at those who promote vacuous poppy dancehall, such as Vybz Kartel's former bezzy mate, Popcaan. Chronixx took him to task on his 90s ragga throwback tune Odd Ras, where he literally told him to pull his pants up and made it clear he wasn't interested in new trends such as tattooing or face bleaching. Snoop Lion might claim to be "born again", but Chronixx is dishing out lessons in the real three Rs: Rasta, and roots reggae.
Chronixx plays The Drum, Birmingham, 12 Oct; Scala, N1, 13 Oct