Chino McGregor – Self-Titled
1.) Never Change [From Mawning]
2.) Protected (Album)
3.) Pon Your Head
4.) I Am
5.) Yeah Yeah
6.) Build A Vibe [Free Style Skit]
8.) God Nah Sleep [Rise and Fall Story]
9.) My Soul
10.) Leaving [Seal The Link]
11.) Ruff It Up
12.) Mus Come Back
13.) Driving Me Insane
14.) Before Dem Gone
The Pier Album Rating:
Release Date: May 24th, 2011
Record Label: VP/Greensleeves
Official Website: Chino Website
Alright, let’s get the obvious out of the way. Daniel ‘Chino’ McGregor is the son of reggae legend Freddie McGregor, but don’t think that Chino’s just riding on his Dad’s name. The guy’s been performing since he was a small child, most notably, singing for the Jamaican Prime Minister at the age of 12. In high school, Chino began rapping and acted as a selector for the Omega Disco sound system. Since then, he’s gone on to produce for the likes of Elephant Man and Delly Ranks. The self-titled Chino is his debut album.
Chino may be Freddie McGregor’s son, but listen up and listen good: this album is NOT a reggae album. Itunes may classify it as such, but this is an example of regge/dancehall music moving far out of it’s usual boundaries, blending hip-hop, r&b, rock, French pop, soca, and various other styles so tastesfully that they merge together seamlessly into 15 minutes of dancehall gold. Produced by Chino’s brother Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor, Chino’s debut album is raising the bar for dancehall musicians everywhere, taking musical risks at every corner only to throw them right back in the listener’s face with an even wilder twist.
It’s hard to figure out exactly where to start with Chino since the MC’s approach is so multi-faceted and varied from song to song, it’s difficult to pinpoint one track that sums up the entire album. “Pon Your Head” is a dancehall masher with a message to young men everywhere about the importance of education, safe-sex, and a life steered away from crime and violence, while “I Am” riffs on a bouncy, French pop theme. Album closer “Work” dances around a giant pop hook and three-two rhythms, while “Mus Come Back” reminds me of early 2000’s Nelly with a Jamaican twist. It’s pretty inspiring to see work this varied in a genre like dancehall which is often unjustly derided as derivative, repetitive, and stagnant. This album is anything but.
On the production side of things, this Chino and Stephen rarely miss a beat. Bouncing between the multitude of styles mentioned earlier in this review, the McGregor brothers rarely fall out of step, musically speaking, placing all the accents over just the right vowels, speaking in the perfect tones to make hips sway and heads nod. Danceability seems to be a requirement of every track, even on the slower tracks. Well, actually none of these tracks are really slow. Some just happen to be a bit ligther.
Chino’s rhymes are always positive, but not the typical kind of rasta-consciousness positivity we run across in most reggae music. Chino’s rhymes remind me more of one of those big-brother role model types, giving sensible, down-to-Earth advice like “work hard, stay in school, and believe in yourself.” It’s a universal message that doesn’t have the same polarizing “us vs. them” effect Rasta inspired tenets generally do, but instead focuses on self-improvement and the basics for leading a healthy life.
As far as dancehall is concerned, Chino’s self-titled debut is by and far the best release of 2011. Stuffed with danceable beats and positive lyrics, it’s a modern take on dancehall perfectly fit for summer-time club parties and nights spent at home with a small group and a few beers. With the multitude of styles and brilliant execution of nearly every track, this album should worm it’s way into quite a few sound systems this summer.
Written & Reviewed by: Chris Castro
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