Chino McGregor may be the son of reggae legend Freddie McGregor, but he’s bent on creating his own foothold in the reggae world. With the help of his little brother Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor, Chino’s just released his self-titled debut album, a healthy smattering of reggae/dancehall injected with pop, soul, rock, and just about every other kind of music under the son. He’s already been called one of the best young singjays in Jamaica, but with Chino, he’s showing that he’s got the talent and the maturity to not just string together a few hits, but create a true, complete album, filled with twists, turns, and everything in between.
Chino was kind enough to sit down wit The Pier recently to discuss his new album, as well as the importance of ‘thinking outside the box’.
The Pier: How did you gravitate towards a career in music?
Chino: I just had a general love for the music, especially from being around that musical environment from a young age. We always had the studio at home so we always got that firsthand outlook, just observing the musicians and the whole creative studio process. We always had that early tour experience and tour exposure. That lead to me really wanting to step into music professionally
The Pier: The production is pretty varied for a dancehall record. Could you describe the working process you two had for the production of this album.
Chino: We tried to go outside the box. Totally out of the box. We tried to make a complete album, which is not like your typical album, which is like a compilation of singles. We tried to make an album with a lot of different vibes and different moods. The roots and the bass is obviously reggae, but you also hear fusions and hints of r&b, hip-hop, rock, alternative, and some stuff that might catch you as world music.
The Pier: Given that this is such a varied album, where would you say is the best place to experience this music? The club, headphones, a living room with a nice soundsystem?
Chino: All of the above! There’s stuff for the club like “I Am.” Then you have some songs that are better for driving in your car on the highway. There’s different songs with different moods and different vibes.
The Pier: Considering how you’ve garnered so much respect so quickly, did you feel like there was a lot of pressure to really deliver a great debut album?
Chino: Nah, no pressure. We knew what we were doing and we knew what we wanted to present with this album. It can only get better, if that’s a good indication.
The Pier: Stepping back to this idea of ‘stepping outside the box’ I read that you once said you want this record to change the perception that dancehall is limited. Could you expand on that?
Chino: If you look at a typical kind of album that’s been coming out, it’s the same thing. In terms of the level of production, most people are stuck in a box. If you listen to 15 tracks, it might get repetitive.
Our whole approach is like an album where you can listen to every single track. Different vibes and different moods help create a real solid album in every sense of the word. It’s like a full composition from track one to the end. You shouldn’t be listening to an album and feel like you’re listening to a mix-tape.
The Pier: I’ve also read that you think of the 90’s as the golden age of dancehall and you took a lot of inspiration from that era for this album. Do you hope this album might help re-inspire some of those sounds?
Chino: I’m not really hoping because you can never bring back the 90’s, that’s just the reality of it. I was born in the early 80’s so obviously the 90’s were my golden era. People who were born in the late 80’s and early 90’s, their golden era would probably be early 2000’s.
That’s just me trying to bring back that vibe. You have songs like “Driving Me Insane” for example which we did as an interpretation of a Shabba Ranks track that kind of just brings it back to the time when that was the sound. For the younger kids growing up now who weren’t familiar with that sound, that might sound fresh to them. You cannot bring back the 90’s, that’s a fact, but it never hurts to give them a reminder of where the music came from.
The Pier: Given that you have a very positive image and you’ve rejected any ‘gangsta’ type posturing, I’d like to ask what are your feelings on things like the glorification of crime, violence, drugs, degradation of women especially in not just dancehall music, but any music?
Chino: Music and musicians are powerful. We have to be careful of the things we say and the image we present. We have a lot of kids looking up to us and emulating us. Whatever we say or do or talk about they will follow. Our everyday life might, it seem novel to us because it’s us, but young kids watch us every day and emulate what we do, what we say, and what we represent, so we have to very careful about what we represent.
Chino McGregor Links:
Chino McGregor Website
Chino McGregor Facebook
Chino McGregor Twitter
— Read Chris Castro’s Album Review for Chino’s Debut self titled album by clicking HERE
– Interview by: Chris Castro