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New York Times


“This is the beautiful sound of reggae music from the island of Jamaica,” said Chronixx, standing before some 6,500 fans in Prospect Park at a BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn festival event on Saturday night. Backed by his six-piece Zincfence Redemption band, he presented one of his most popular songs, a lilting number called “Smile Jamaica,” as a call to arms in a cultural battle.



“Look amongst yourselves,” Chronixx, 24, told those in the crowd as they swayed in the night air waving cellphones, and red, green and gold banners. “You’ll see people from all different races, with all different color faces. And that in itself is the power of music.”

Forty years ago, there was little need to specify that a given song was Jamaican reggae. Today, however, the music popularized by artists like Bob Marley and Burning Spear has spread all over the planet. “Smile Jamaica,” for instance, was produced by Silly Walks Discotheque, a D.J. crew and production team in Hamburg, Germany, that specializes in pitch-perfect Jamaican-style music.

Such underground aficionados are quick to give credit where it’s due, but in recent years Caribbean-derived sounds have inundated mainstream radio as well, far removed from its source material. It is in Ed Sheeran and Shawn Mendes’s gentle songwriting, Justin Bieber’s dancy tracks, Ariana Grande’s powerhouse pop and several of Drake’s recent hits.

“There may soon be a time when the general public completely forgets that reggae music comes from Jamaica,” said the British reggae journalist Reshma B.

Fans enjoying Chronixx performance in New York

Fans enjoying Chronixx performance in New York

Without the benefit of major-label backing or even a mainstream hit song, Chronixx has quietly built his own movement that has positioned him as more than just the next big thing out of Jamaica. Not content simply to reclaim reggae as a Jamaican art form, his stated goal is to push the music further than its founders did.

“Marley still ah lead pon iTunes,” he sings on his recent single “Likes,” which also mentions how Drake and Rihanna are playing major roles in the dancehall scene, an art form from Kingston’s sound-system culture. “Simply mean we nuh ready yet.”

Rather than following the usual formula of radio promo shows and reggae festivals, Chronixx and his band have played international festivals like Glastonbury and Coachella, appeared twice on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and been featured in an Adidas ad campaign. Most recently, he was tapped as the opening act for Nas and Lauryn Hill’s United States tour that begins in September.


By breaking the rules of business as usual, he has positioned himself to compete on the global playing field. His mostly self-produced debut album, “Chronology,” was released on Friday and topped the iTunes reggae charts in every country except for Germany, where it reached No. 2. The album debuted at No. 12 in the United States iTunes chart overall.

“The younger generation has gravitated to Chronixx,” said Bobby Konders of Massive B Records, whose weekend show on New York’s Hot 97 radio station has been a mainstay of the New York reggae scene. Mr. Konders produced many records with Chronixx’s father, the dancehall singer Chronicle, and met Chronixx as a youngster. “I remember he told me he was a beatmaker,” Mr. Konders recalled. “The tracks he was making at that time sounded like hip-hop to me.”

As he recounts in his song “Spanish Town Rockin,Chronixx was born Jamar McNaughton in De La Vega City in Spanish Town, Jamaica, also the birthplace of Grace Jones. His father exposed him to music at an early age, and he took an interest in production, inspired both by reggae artists and hip-hop producers including Kanye West. During the past five years, Chronixx and a handful of associated artists — Protoje, Jesse Royal, Jah9 and Kabaka Pyramid — have become known as members of the reggae revival movement. They have sought to integrate modern dancehall with the foundations of Jamaican roots music sonically, and to highlight cultural themes in their lyrics.


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