Photo Credit: eL Puru
"Our Purpose is to Do Serious Work" Chronixx on Crafting His Political New Single "Safe N Sound"
We spoke with Chronixx about crafting "Safe N Sound," creating music that inspires the youth, and how the war on drugs affected Jamaica.
Last March, an assemblage of niche journalists gathered for a Chronixx album listening session. Inside of the display at the Harmon store in Manhattan, Chronixx would debut Dela Move and preview his highly anticipated sophomore album, Dela Splash, slated to drop later that spring. The qualities of the sophomore LP shattered any preceding thoughts of the artist as a roots purist. A high compound of dancehall beats and 808 percussions exposed the artist’s position on being boxed into the one-drop sound, even to the extent where many weren’t sure if the world was ready for the reggae luminary to fork. However, a couple of days later, the World Health Organization officially announced that the COVID-19 outbreak was a pandemic. The album was postponed.
Almost, a year to that date, Chronixx picks up the baton with a fresh perspective. He has just dropped his new single — and first release of 2021 — “Safe N Sound."
"Safe N Sound," the record co-produced by the singer birthed Jamar McNaughton, and Romain "Teflonzincfence" Arnett, is an eerie call for evolution. “Wise ghetto youth start wise up now,” the musician trills over a viola down-bow before the digital syncopation takes center. In a catch-up with the Jamaican artist last week, the one don reveals the genesis of the track’s distinct sound, discovering inspiration in a cave in Israel while singing against his vocal reverb.
In the video, directed by Dark X and SAMO, Chronixx holds a reasoning in a post-war zone where there is no one to shape the scene but him. Expanding on the video concept, Chronixx shared that, “as much as we emphasize or empathize with others, we need to have intuitive reasoning with ourselves and spend more time with that voice within cause now we are bombarded by everyone else's experience.”
"Safe N Sound" isn’t a safe space for dancehall DJs who thought this traditional reggae crooner couldn’t easily come in and sweep sub-genre. Nor is it sound space for the corrupt government officials who want to hide the truth about destroying the Jamaican landrace Sativa just to go into business with the California herb market years later.
Chronixx still holds the crown for effortlessly addressing country and culture concerns while presenting it cool to sing and dance along to. Although inquiry about whether it’s the boom and rum — the popular Jamaican beverage duo — swine, crappy cable shows, skin bleaching nonsense, or community crime is what has everyone going mad, Chronixx is firm on delivering conscious music to keep the audiences aware at least to the truth of the possibilities. He’s also fixed on the importance of allowing everyone to make up their mind. We spoke with Chronixx about crafting "Safe N Sound," how the war on drugs affected Jamaica, and creating music that inspires the youth.
Last year around this time I attended your album listening session in NYC for the Dela Splash album. There was a lot of dancehall and hip-hop merged with reggae and then COVID-19 hit on a global scale right after you had just welcomed a new baby and you had just birthed your new album child. What was that like for you?
It’s always a good thing to have music to share with the world. I feel like the making of music has just as powerful of an impact on the entire human race as the sharing of the music. But before the world became such a lockdown situation, I kept getting an impulse that the structure of my business and the structure of the creative business and how it was administered needed to be more suited for the times. But as an independent artist, it's up to you and your team to figure out what's the new step to take. So we were ready to release the album literally in a similar way, how we released the previous one. And I'm happy it never turned out that way because, naturally, I'm a person who loves to progress. I like to use every creative project as an opportunity to branch out. A lot of us, as Jamaican artists, will release music, and the way our music is marketed allows the press to control our narrative. It’s almost like people who have never really touched our music have the final say. They have the first say. So I feel like for it to be more sustainable and something that we can ensure to be around for a longer time we have to make sure that a level of autonomy, sustainability, and a level of future is in it. For it to make it to the future, it has to have the future in it. If you look at all the artists and the music that made it into our generation from past generations, it’s just like futuristic shit that was just really futuristic at that time. People from the future look back on it but it feels fresh to them.
It sounds like you're saying there might've been a direct correlation between the world-pause and the fact that you felt that music needed to be distributed in different ways? Is that true?
Yeah, well, another thing is that with anyone who moves around a lot, they develop a global sense. People tend to pick up on impulses from the environment and the people they meet and the different cultures they interact with. So in traveling the world, and seeing, and having so many different friends and family within the music industry gives me a sense of what is needed, what is missing, and what is already there. It also helps me see things that I should be taking advantage of, solutions that people already came up with, and wheels that need reinventing. It reveals the blank spaces culturally that need to be filled, even technologically. As they use the various technologies to release music, to transfer payment, to download music, to stream music, you start to develop this sense of how it could be better and how it could serve your music more. I am the type of person that, whenever I get that type of impulse, I always seek to create it for myself or find someone close to me, who could help to create it. So that's what I've been doing, to be honest. Trying to be more close with my team, trying to figure out what they need, and these little things because I've been in creativity for a while just writing songs.
"Safe N Sound" has a really eerie pull that sucks you in and sits in your body. So what was the genesis of this song? When, where, how did it come together?
So I got this very simple beat from Teflon. He sent me just some snare drums, some kick drums, and it had some samples in it as well. Whenever I get something like that, I tap into the void in it because sometimes you will get drums with one phrase and it's complete. Like, dare not touch it. However, sometimes you get music and you can feel a space that needs to be filled with either vocals or with another instrument. I was thinking it needed a classical future aspect to it but with modern instrumentation. Even though there are a lot of strings in it, there are still some really cool synths. It's the 808 and the bass, which was important for me to make into a modern symphony type of song where it’s like dancehall. If you're someone who is really into dancehall, you probably know about Buccaneer. Buccaneer was the first classical dancehall artist where he was singing all classical melodies, in classical tones but he was a dancehall DJ. You'd hear it even in Beenie Man. They are using known classical melodies to create dancehall. That's something I wanted to do but I wanted it to be darker.
I got those types of impulses [the] time I was traveling [to Israel and I went to this cave. The cave had such a long reverb where you could harmonize yourself because, when you sing a note, it would ring out for so long that you could sing another note while that note is still ringing out. I was in the cave harmonizing myself, and it was just the sickest experience because there was no technology. There was just straight organic architecture that was producing this type of resonance. For me, I love to bask in that type of phenomenon. I was in there and these dark melodies kept coming and I was like cool.
Can you explain the message in the song?
I'm always going for the song that has more of a social message in terms of dancehall because the people who that song resonates with the most, there are certain things that they need to know. If you're going to use that resonance to connect with those people, you have to do them a service also to remember that it's their voice. That music came from their lives, to express their lives, to say things that they can't say to themselves, and to say things to the rest of the world on their behalf that they don't have the platform to say outside of their collective sound, which is dancehall and sound system culture.
Photo Credit: eL Puru
Explain what is going on in the last line of the song when you point out the herb situation and landrace Sativa in Jamaica?
What happened during the war on drugs with [Ronald] Reagan was a direct assault against the natural herbs that thrive in Jamaica. So with the war on drugs, a lot of people didn't realize it was the war on the Rastaman economics and the African man economics because they created more harmful drugs and distributed more harmful drugs than herb and then classified herb in the same group with those other drugs. African people were not the ones who were in charge of the manufacturing and distribution of cocaine. They were the hands because they were unemployed and they didn't get land or anything after hundreds of years of sub-human bondage. So you find that we became the first candidates to be the hands of the cocaine business. And then everything got mixed up with herb and they attacked everything as one war on drugs when really, and truly, herb is not even classified as a drug anymore in the world organization. Which means there must be some form of reparation for these things. But for things to happen people need to know the truth. So these songs kind of spark the thirst for truth. That's the aim. To make people understand that our government took money from the American government to destroy our land reserve. And now that herb is legal, we're backwards. Now that herb has been decriminalized and herb is now a legal medicinal market, we don't even have herb that can grow properly in our ecosystem.
If it rains for too long, all of these California strains and strains from Holland can't thrive in Jamaica. So we'll never be able to compete with California on herb that was designed for the California climate. That type of awareness, not even knowledge — just awareness — is what we try to bring to the forefront. Through awareness, you can go and seek out information and become informed in deciding to give your trust to different governments and different people.
What’s happening in the video for "Safe N Sound"?
The video for "Safe and Sound" is just me trying to create a next level of communication on top of the audio. There is no acting in it. There are no real extras or anything. It's just me performing the song in certain environments that bring the song to life, creating certain visual effects of someone being alone having a reasoning. The type of look we're trying to get is kind of like you placing yourself in a situation without putting everyone else in the same situation and just looking at it from your angle which we all need to do. As much as we emphasize or empathize with others, we need to have intuitive reasoning with ourselves and spend more time with that voice cause now we are bombarded by everyone else's experience. Just to see what your truth is. Just to check. Not to go off of your own beliefs, because that’s very dangerous. Since they are unique, they are not tailored to suit everyone. So if you are someone who goes off of that, you're going to miss the other half of the mystery of life, which is developing an understanding of everyone else's experience as well.
In the song, you suggest that we give more love in the streets. What do you suggest on how to give more love?
In a song, you don’t get to touch everything so you have to inspire people to imagine the rest. People can think of a community where children can laugh, and feel happy and children can get a chance to play because that’s the purpose. Our purpose is to do serious work and the most serious work a child could do is play in terms of work that is beneficial for their brain growth, for their cognitive skills, for them to be able to make decisions when they get older, for them to be fit, and for them to be immune to certain bacteria. They need to play extensively. So it’s about building up communities and places where these things can manifest. Where the youth can play for full time so they don’t go into adulthood at 10-years-old.
The people who are my age — 28 and such — we are the parents of now. We still have the power to introduce a certain type of knowledge and certain consciousness that can help other people to curate communities such as this. We are trying to achieve the perfect life for the coming generation. And not even perfect in terms of a life that is free from struggle, and wants to advance. But a life where they can live a full life experience of a child, and full life experience of an adult instead of struggling to be an adult as a child, and struggling to be a child as an adult. That’s the drama that most of us live in. Grow up too fast and then struggle to have peace in your older life.
Noel Cymone Walker is a music, beauty, and lifestyle journalist in the NYC area. She has written for the likes of Marie Claire Magazine, Billboard, The Fader, Essence, Allure, Glamour, and more. You can catch her on Instagram @thefurstnoel.