Jamar Rolando McNaughton was born in Jamaica’s Spanish Town, the son of dancehall artist Chronicle. By the time he had reached his teens, Jamar ‘Chronixx’ McNaughton was making tracks for dancehall royalty Konsheens. Raised from early on the music of Burro Banton and Gregory Issacs, Chronixx quickly became attuned to his own conscious spirituality – his perspective made him a stand out talent and, by 2014, he had found international acclaim.
‘Dread & Terrible’ was the project to top the US Reggae Billboard chart, and what followed was a shower of praise from every quarter, Chronixx was able to count the likes of Mick Jagger and Major Lazer as fans of his work before his official debut album had been released.
Finally, ‘Chronology’ arrived this summer, with 16 chances to get close to the philosophy of an artist who has already been lionised as the evolution and uprising of traditional roots reggae music. I ask where he began conceptualising such a highly anticipated debut album when we chat over Skype, “what me really wanted to communicate with people is just – bring them closer to their human spirit, how they could evolve their human experience, and what that feels like. Because, sometimes, our human experience don’t fully – it don’t feel as purposeful as we want it to be, yuh know?”
Recorded in studios in Brooklyn, Kingston, London and Chicago completing ‘Chronology’ was the definition of a dream come true, “what makes that important for me was, as a child growing up in Jamaica, I always imagine myself making music all over the world. All different kinds of people and musicians, and to see that manifest at age 24? It’s a vision I had when I was like 10, and 14 years later – it manifest. That’s not very long, that’s a blessing and I count that as one of my greatest blessings.”
For Chronixx his music serves as a conduit for spiritual discovery, like meditation, it’s an opportunity to find calm in a world that is otherwise hell bent on destruction “I was just trying to seek some spiritual kinda music,” he says of the album “where people wasn’t bombarded by all the politics that they’re forced to consume in today’s world, yuh know? All the politics, and all the hate, and all the materialism and the superficial essence of this life experience. So, I just always want to bring people into a balanced space where we show people the other side of the human experience.”
Human struggle is a beautiful thing – you can only struggle as a human.
From the start, ‘Chronology’ wastes no time in setting the stage, drawing his audience in Chronixx paints the picture of his youth in Spanish Town, as the album unfolds Chronixx illustrates why so many people are tapped into his prodigious talent, his introspective sound almost commands that you simply slow the pace and look within, “with tracks like ‘I Know Love’, ‘Black Is Beautiful, ‘I Can’, ‘Ghetto Paradise’, ‘Christina’, ‘Legend’ – all of those tunes is just kinda bringing people into the greater parts of themself and like, helping people to reflect upon their human life experience in a positive way. Because, a lot of times whenever a story that’s African come up, it’s a very distasteful chapter of the story. But, yuh know, in the greater picture it’s a very beautiful story. Human struggle is a beautiful thing – you can only struggle as a human. Birds don’ struggle, yuh know? Birds just live and die so the fact that we’re able to struggle and to learn from our struggle, and to write songs based on our struggle and to overcome our struggle, I think that’s a beautiful thing. That’s what it’s about showing people the other side. That spiritual ting, yuh know? Yeah.”
Story of my life
Ordinary person just like you
If you take a look inside
You’ll see the great things that people do
Changing lives day and night
But nothing I do ever makes the news
Still I have to do what’s right
To the king of all kings, all praises due (- Chronixx, Legend)
Chronixx wanted to create an album debut that would allow its listener a chance to pull back from the intensity and instant gratification that comes from living life in the future, “It’s much easier for us as 2017 children to go deep on the poetry and use the biggest words that listeners now have to go in the dictionary – like, it’s much easier for us as educated musicians to do that. Sometimes as hard as it is, and as degrading as it might feel, it’s in my opinion worth it to step out of your intellectual self sometimes to be a more simple musician. Intellect only leads you to be political and one sided. To be totally intellectual I would be singing ‘Black is Beautiful’ being on black people side or white people side or indian people side. Whereas, you can just channel music from its most pure place. The place music comes from is not a place that’s associated with people’s race.”
I ask how easy it is to channel music and write things that resonate when Chronixx is being hailed as the reggae roots revivalist by critics in a social media age so exaggerated and frenzied it’s almost as though he is the second coming of Jesus. He laughs before replying, “Yo, I think our generation is the second coming of Jesus, yuh know? Honestly, I do and um, if not our generation it must be the generation after us because we need something like that, yuh know? We need Rastafari so we need Haile Selassie and we need Marcus Garvey and we need all of these great people – Bob Marley – and we have to have great people continuously coming in. I think one of the tings when humanity experience something great, we are so mesmerised by it that for a long time we miss out on the fact that these people are born every year in different parts of the world. Doing great things and moving people in a very drastic way and shifting humanity in a very special kinda way; Jesus is a very famous man, yuh know? That’s why you hear a lot of people in our generation would read more about Selassie and less about King Solomon or King David, yuh know? It’s how different people is publicised.”
Move away from the tabloids and the social media and the columns and the articles and place yuh focus more on yuh human experience.
We talk for a while about the concept of publicity and his recently released single ‘Likes’. On the one hand, the internet age has levelled the playing field for a lot of musicians that weren’t born into a family with money and connections in entertainment. But on the other it’s easier than ever before to cast an impression of yourself that may be more hollow than truth, “move away from the tabloids and the social media and the columns and the articles and place yuh focus more on yuh human experience. Who’s really moving people in reality? Sometimes you have to move away from the likes and views and yeah, you have millions of views on internet but that doesn’t say a lot about the music and the value of your work in your human life – sometimes it doesn’t match up with how it looks in the newspaper or social media. It’s like what Bob Marley say, Bob Marley say, ‘I shot the sheriff but I didn’t shoot the deputy’ it’s the same ting, yuh know? Nowadays a lot of us are being portrayed in one way – it’s like you say suttin, and it’s blown out of proportion on social media. It seem as if you did everything but yuh did one ting. So, it’s really I shot the sheriff but I didn’t shoot the deputy. The newspaper always make it look like you shot the deputy, the chief and everybody – is only the sheriff!”
Across the album Chronixx has not only recorded in multiple cities but also with lots of exceptional talent, sonically the production is as sophisticated as you would expect from an artist so considered in his craft. Chronixx co produced the entire body of work with revered musicians from around the world: Zincfence Redemption along with Jamaica’s renowned musicians Lamar ‘Riff Raff’ Brown, Dean Fraser, Stephen McGregor (amongst many others) all contributed to the album. Rudimental and Utters, the Picard Brothers from France and New York’s Federation Sound are also counted amongst the album’s credits. Both ‘Country Boy’ and ‘Christina’, were blessed by the iconic American blues guitarist Donald Kinsey, known for his recording and touring history with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. “I tell you about Donald Kinsey,” Chronixx says when I ask about their working together, “very beautiful soul. Very, very, very beautiful soul. He’s a blues guitarist that understand Jamaican music. That’s very rare in the world, you don’t find a lot of that suh, it was a good experience connecting with an authentic musician such as Donald Kinsey and bringing that authentic feel to the album – he played ‘Christina’ and ‘Country Boy’ which we been getting really good feedback from and I’m sure it’s because of the authentic feel; and he needs to be credited for a lot of that.”
‘Chronology’ is an album about change, and facing up to reality that its us as humans that are the problem in plenty of ways, “sometimes we start to feel like, yeah we need to change this problem and this problem. But that’s not how problems work. We are all trying to be successful for our immediate family and surroundings – not remembering our first family is humanity. We need to make sure whatever we do for our community stay within the lines of betterment of humanity as a whole. Then, we won’t have problems like exploitation and the robbery of natural resources and the raping of different cultures and the marginalisation of women and racial prejudice. We tend to feel like the problems is the systems but system is an invention humans grew.”
We are the problems, we need to fix our own self because animals don’t go through gender inequality.
The track ‘Majesty’ is another opportunity for reconnection, a song that featured on his 2016 mixtape ‘Roots & Chalice’ by Federation Sound Chronixx gives thanks and praise to the female influences that have shaped his outlook on men and women. “‘Majesty’ is my attempt to create a reunion between man and him origin, which is woman, yeah. Because, having a sexual relationship with a woman doesn’t necessarily connect you to the majestic essence of a woman. So, I think that we have to reconnect with the godly essence before we can even look to solve certain problems on the earth. If we are to reconnect with the godly essence of a woman, then little problems like gender inequality, as some people would call it, those things – abuse, rape, all of these mutilation and sterilisation and all these things people complain about wouldn’t be an issue. So I find myself in the body of an artist, and I feel like I have to use this body of an artist to somehow help humanity towards that place where they can reconnect with them spiritual self and that way; the problem dem fix them own self. Because we are the problems we need to fix our own self because animals don’t go through gender inequality. Lioness know exactly the purpose she serve, and the lion know exactly the purpose she serve. So the problem is humans. That’s what ‘Majesty’ is about 100%, the very fact that a life can enter from an unseen place to this physical world and a woman is the only way for that to naturally happen? Then we have to rethink what a woman really is, yuh know? A lot of people underplay it, and a lot of people understate it but it’s a very deep thing. And, until we discover why a woman is this portal for life, why a woman is the only way humans come into the earth, until we start answer these questions – a scientist can tell you how but they can’t tell you why. A lot of people feel like when they discover how it happened they feel like ‘oh I know everything’ but what if I’m to ask you why?”
‘Chronology’ is a celebration of human struggle then, a chance to reflect upon our successes in life, our ability to overcome and persevere. The long awaited debut album from 24 year old Chronixx – an artist who is as much poet and performer as he is philosopher. Introspective, searching and striving for the betterment of humanity.
Chronixx’s album ‘Chronology’ is available to stream now and will be released on all physical formats via Soul Circle/ Virgin EMI on 28th July 2017.