Chyna Nicole’s Star Is On the Rise (The Interview)

by May 29, 2024Articles, Interview

Chyna Nicole’s Star Is On the Rise

 


Where: Connecticut / Los Angeles CA (by phone)
When: May 5, 2024
Reporter: Stephen Cooper
Photos: Courtesy of Chyna Nicole, and the respective record companies (labels/sleeves)
Copyright:  2024 – Stephen Cooper


Love is unity. Love is strength. When I write, I think about love in itself.” — Chyna Nicole

Like a refreshing, invigorating downpour—one that’s been brewing a long time and is now exploding in full force—the sensational and soulful singer, Chyna Nicole, is taking the reggae world by storm.

As she prepares to release her fourth album, I was supremely blessed to interview this extremely friendly, down-to-earth, funny, exciting, smart, unique, highly gifted, and versatile artist. The interview took place on May 5th, by phone; Chyna was in Connecticut, and I was in California.

For 80 minutes we spoke about fascinating subjects for reggae fans, including: Chyna’s early life, influences, and career thus far; her forthcoming album and a string of hot singles she’s released; many (but of course not all) of the irie tracks from her three previously released LPs; her endorsement by the late, legendary Tabby Diamonds; her sensational collaborations—both new and old—with other legendary names in reggae, including (but not limited to): celebrated riddim twins, Sly Dunbar & (the late) Robbie Shakespeare; virtuoso singers Andrew Bees, Sizzla Kalonji, Mykal Rose, and Richie Spice; genius saxophonist, Dean Fraser; and last, but by no means least, my good friend, heavy-weight champion sound engineer and dub pioneer, Hopeton Brown, known worldwide by people who know about—and love—dub music as, “Scientist.”

The following is a transcript of the interview, modified only slightly for clarity. This nearly 13,000-word conversation is the single most comprehensive interview conducted to date, that you can read—anywhere—about Chyna Nicole. Embedded throughout the transcript are links to Chyna Nicole’s music, videos, exclusive photos, and more.

Hi Chyna! I have my recording devices now running. And I’m so excited, because we’ve been planning this reasoning session for a while now, and—
We have been.

And I’m so glad the day has finally come. I want to start by thanking you—so much—for spending this time with me. And I’m so thrilled to be able to discuss your career in reggae. And of course, I want to immediately get the ball rolling with the massive news, Chyna: you’re about to release—or as they say, cool people say in the parlance, you’re about to “drop”—your 4th LP, or your 4th solo studio album—is this true?
Yeah!!

Yeah!!
Hurray! Hurrah! Hurrah! Yuh dun know. You’re gonna see me split back and forth of course with my English vernacular, and you know, my patois.

I can work with it. And I’m sure—
It’s nice to be here—I was sending you stuff—I was saying: “I think this person, this dude, this journalist, this brainiac, is definitely going to like all this stuff I’m sending him.”

Oh, I loved it all.
‘Cause I’m sending you stuff like constantly.

Oh, I love it. I love it.
(Laughing)

And I feel extremely honored and privileged to be one of the few people to have heard, pre-release, a majority if not close to all the new tracks—I know you’re still making some final decisions—and we’ll talk about that—about the new songs you’re about to release to the reggae world—that are gonna be on this new album. By the way, have you decided on a name for the album?
I have. I have. And again, thank you for having me. So the name of the album, and I sent you the cover as a hint, and of course, confidentially. It’s called: “Reggae Tribe: Roots & Culture.”

Great. Now even though I’m in the rare, and I can say enviable position to have heard mostly all of this new album, and although I don’t want to tip my hand overly much about just how I feel about it, because I’m gonna review it, it’s impossible for me not to start [off by] saying: Congratulations and big up, Chyna! I think this album is extremely impressive, and overall, in my humble view, this is your best work so far!
Really!?

Chyna Nicole. age 4
Yeah.
Thank you so much. They say, “As you get older, age is like fine wine.” But when I think back with my first album, I feel like there’s a lot of great stuff on the first album, too. People say you evolve, and you are supposed to evolve, but I’m one of those artists that feels like all the stuff that we do and everybody who I work with are just amazing people, and I’m just so privileged—and everything we do is great. But I know that’s not true in terms of the quality of work that goes on, because the fans—because the growing fans I should say, because I’m not “super major” I don’t think—but anyway, I see what they like—[and] I see what they don’t like. And then I do my own assessment. And me and my small team will look, and we’ll say: “Okay, there’s something about that song, or that song, or that song that they really like. And let’s revisit the one that’s really popular.”

I think that’s wise. And we’re gonna talk about your catalogue—and we’re gonna talk about some of the songs on your first album. So don’t worry about that. I want to jump right in though and start talking about this new album, starting with the first, already released track that some people—many people, in fact, not “some”—many people know already. And I think more and more will as time [goes] on. A track that just kinda landed on the reggae world that’s gonna be on this new LP [you’re about to release], and that’s the dynamic, explosive song “Boom Love”; your sweet, soulful collaboration with Sizzla Kalonji. And about “Boom Love”—
Yes?

—you told The Jamaica Star, in April, quote: “I have grown my fan base and I have also received nods from radio DJs and fans saying reggae needed this kind of duet.”
Yes.

How did you first meet Sizzla? And how did the idea for this collaboration, or you could even call it a chemistry, how did it begin?
Wow. Okay, so I first met Miguel Orlando Collins, aka “Sizzla Kalonji,” back in the early 2000s when I was a radio host on ZIP FM—and he used to come to the studios often. He was very familiar and cool with Judith Bodley, who was my former boss, and Preston, who was the engineer. So, he came to the studio, but it was really just a “hi” thing or whatever. You know what I mean? Because I was just a—I actually had two jobs: I was a traffic coordinator, which they put on all the commercials and all that stuff, and then I was a DJ as well. Because I studied radio, tv, and film back in the day. So thank God they hired me to do both, because my salary was better. (Laughing)

Nice!
So it was just in passing, you know, you see all these—it was just a “hi/bye” type of thing. And then, you know very quickly they saw that I loved reggae music. Because of my dad being Rastafarian, and me growing up on that music. And developing a huge appreciation of it as I got older. So he and other artists saw that I was really promoting Rastafarian [ideology], promoting the spirit of the music—good reggae music. So—

Respect.
—I think that was kind of a bond in just knowing about each other in a sense. And then we didn’t really start connecting until—we’d see each other periodically. But we didn’t really start connecting until 2015ish—14ish. Around there. Because my cousin kept in close communications with him. Because Sizzla always recorded at Jammy’s studio which is right next door to my dad’s house. Let’s drop that in there, too. So—

Nice. [I’m] gonna ask about that later.
So, I saw him in 2014, and we we’re gonna do an album together. And I say that proudly, because the project had stopped because the disease was going around in Jamaica, like “Chicken-something.” And my mother was like: “You need to come back to America. Because whenever you get sick down there—da-da-da.” And it’s like we were trying to figure out—I had a place to stay and everything. I mean, [the late legendary musicologist, producer, and owner of Merritone Music,] Winston “Merritone” Blake, bless his soul, was like hooking me up with his professors at [University of the West Indies]. He was like, “Maybe they have somewhere over there where you can stay.” So, you know, I was really trying to work this out for me to stay to do this album with Sizzla Kalonji, okay!? (Laughing)

Right!
And it didn’t happen. But we did record, and that song [“Boom Love”] was a piece of what you’re hearing. We just revamped it. And [Sizzla] ended up playing the whole entire track—a different track. A different composition. He can play every instrument by the way.

Chyna Nicole, Sizzla Kalonji
Yeah, I want to ask about that. I’m glad you said that. And I want you to continue; I don’t mean to cut you, but you also told the Jamaica Star, “Boom Love” is “original down to the strum of the guitar.” And as you’re saying right now, which I, I confess [I didn’t know], but Sizzla, he not only composed and arranged the composition for the song, “Boom Love,” he also plays drums, bass, keyboards, and guitar on the track, too.
Yes!

And I, frankly, while I’m well familiar with [Sizzla’s vocal] talents, I appreci-love that he [has] that musical range about him.
You know, neither did I honestly. I did not know—I knew he was musical. I knew he was intelligent. And spiritual. But I didn’t know that depth—that he really can play all those instruments. I mean, he has a lot of high-tech instruments when you go into his studios, just hanging out. Electric guitars—

Oh, you’re leading—
A real musical person. And you’ll notice, too, if you watch his shows, you’ll start to look at him different. Because he’s always around the band—like gelling with the band itself. Talking to the band. Just watch—watch his shows. And you’ll see. He really gets it. Yeah, he’s that dude (Laughing).

And I think you may have answered my next question already, which is: Did you work “live” in the studio with Sizzla when you made that song together? (You know, in this day and age, all these songs can be made via long distance.) But were you actually in the studio with him?
Yes. I was in Jamaica. And God has blessed me to go this year to Jamaica, and we were talking about the album. And he’s like, “Yes,” he’s ready to do the album. And I was like, this is awesome. And the song, you know, I played an old version of some of the lyrics I had, and he’s like: “Wait a minute. We started this, and we didn’t finish!?” So he made me a priority, [and] this project a priority. I’m talking about everything stopped, and he just had me there and made sure that we [recorded] this track.

And just to be clear, was this [in] his home studio?
This [was at] his home studio, Kalonji Music Studios in August Town, at Judgement Yard—yes.

Wonderful. Thank you so much for that. Now you told the Jamaica Star, “You can call me a student of Sizzla.” So, since you said that, what are some of the things you learned as a “student of Sizzla?”
I learned, you know, I was a person that always wants to meet deadline[s]. And he’s just so spiritual that he really taught me to just don’t worry about things so much. Don’t rush it so much. Because I’m always like, “I gotta get this done. I gotta get this done.” Because I’ve been held back so many times. And I just feel like I have to do this for myself, you know?

Right.
And he’s like, you know, I was in the studio all day and he’s like, “You gotta take a break.” And I didn’t want to take a break, Stephen! (Laughing) He was like, “Yeah, let it marinate. Let it organically happen, basically.”

“Boom Love,” the more I listen to it, the more I like it. And it’s really a song about a love that’s so powerful, it explodes like “Boom.” Would you agree?
Yes, I agree.

And I think Sizzla, or you, even sing in the song: “My love explodes for you.” Even though the song is written primarily by Sizzla, for me, you know, doing some preparation for this interview, it’s an example of something that I’ve noticed in looking at your discography—at the three studio albums you’ve released so far. And I want to see if you agree with my observation. Though you of course sing about many subjects, your greatest strength for me, your bread and butter as it were, are songs about love, and about relationships. Would you agree?
Well, I will say that, yes, because that’s where I started. I think in terms of the lyrics for Sizzla, you know he experiences love, [and] I experience love, so we just know that love is unity. You know, love is strength. Love is power. And when he writes, and when I write, you know we just think about love in itself. We’re not singing really to each other in a sense, but we’re singing about love, do you know what I mean?

Yup.
If that makes sense? And so many people can connect to it, because it’s so organic. And so I have to agree with you. Even though I like to sing about righteousness and freedom, which is so important, because I was—and then you know people from England say, “You need more ‘message’ songs.” And, “you’re singing too much about love.” And I’m like, “That’s true.” And I do that, but I started out on lovers’ rock and reggae, you know, with Firehouse [Crew] and my dad, so—

And before that—sorry, but I want to interject. Because you said something in your answer to begin with that I want to highlight a little bit, which is that—is it true that—my understanding is that you started singing R&B songs first before you began to sing reggae songs?
That’s true. I was singing R&B songs, and R&B demos—I recorded in New York. I auditioned for Al B. Sure! I never had an [R&B] record though.

R&B, of course, is all about love and relationships—for the most part.
True.

Chyna Nicole, Fitzroy Francis
By the same token now, leading into this extremely exciting song, Chyna—and you’re gonna have to explain, because there’s some kind of last-minute, breaking developments—
(Laughing)

—and I’m sure there’ll even be more, concerning your new album. And that’s a good thing—these are good problems. Good complications. Where you’re trying to figure out, well what songs am I gonna put on my new album, and what songs am I not gonna put on my new album. How am I gonna work this? That’s a good problem to have.
Yeah.

But now there’s this song—we’re gonna concentrate on this song for a minute.
Okay.

I’m gonna ask my question kinda of how I wrote it [about this song]—[but] try and alter it a bit. Now I know it [may not be] on the new album, [and] it may be coming out even sooner; it’s also an example for me, [another] piece of evidence—you know, I’m an attorney—
(Laughing)

—many people know this. And so, you know, I work with evidence. And when I’m looking at your catalogue—and, you know, looking at what you’re doing right now in music—it’s another piece of evidence—a strong piece of evidence—that really any male singer out there—and I hope that, hopefully, this interview will get around. And people will maybe learn a lot more about Chyna Nicole than they previously did. Including, in fact, artists in this industry. Because, for me, this next song we’re about to talk about, in addition to “Boom Love” and yet more [songs], is more [evidence] that any male singer out there who wants to do a collaboration with a female singer in reggae, about love and relationships, I mean 100 %, every time, they should be going out of their way to work with Chyna Nicole. Right?
(Laughing) Yeah.

So, you know, I’m buttering you up a bit, but definitely, it’s true, you have many examples of dazzling—I’m not actually puffing you up [unreasonably], because we’re gonna talk about some [of these songs]—I’ll present the evidence as an attorney. You have some dazzling collaborations with male singers even before this new album you’re about to release—many of which we’ll try to touch on today, some of which we’ll have to touch on on a later date. But bringing it back to the new album, you already knew this, but I was over-the-moon when you told me that you have this new collaboration that’s about to hit the reggae world—a single coming out at smart reggae stations—smart DJs who know what they’re doing will [be playing this new collaboration of yours] at reggae stations, and on podcasts, etcetera, near you soon—[a collaboration] with one of the best singers from Jamaica, period. The definition of “Waterhouse sound.” The one and only, Mykal Rose. I can’t even—
Yeah!!!

Yeah!!!! I can’t even hide—I never hide how I feel about Mykal. I don’t. Because I love and respect him as an artist so much, and I’ve told him to his face that this is so. Because, you know, when I was a youth there was a time when I was getting into reggae music and his voice was, as I think it was for the world, a big one. Now tell me about this [new] song [you’re about to release with Mykal], “Royal Hearts.” How did “Queen Chyna”—
(Laughing)

—and “King Mykal” get acquainted to begin with? And what’s the genesis of this fantastic, super-irie song you guys made?
Well, I can tell you we met through my former manager who [has] played an instrumental role in my reggae journey. His name is Fitzroy Francis, aka “Mightyful13,” aka [the] former road manager of Black Uhuru. And we were—Mykal Rose—I believe—did they have a show where it was a performance? I don’t remember, but it was in New York. And that’s my first time meeting him. And Fitzroy was like, “You gotta meet Mykal.” And then, my mother, my father, they all knew each other—

Roughly how long ago was that when you first met [Mykal]?
I met him in 20—I sent you a photo—

Mykal Rose, Chyna Nicole & Fitzroy Francis (May 27, 2013)
Yeah.
2013 or 2014. So, about 10 years ago.

In New York?
In New York, yup. Queens, New York. And the genesis of [“Royal Hearts”], [the song’s producer] Paul Daley, I knew him also from like 20 years ago [from] just going to the studios and recording—that kind of thing. He’s one of the ones that recorded me, actually. I’ve been with a lot of amazing people, but—

I’m sorry to interrupt you—but Mr. Daley, he’s Jamaica-based?
He’s Jamaica-based. Paul Daley is—I don’t know if he’s a protégé of Steven Stanley? But he’s worked with Sizzla, I mean, so many [artists]. If you look at his catalogue, it’s amazing.

Yes. I have to look him up a little bit more.
Paul Daley, yes. He’s worked with a lot of people. He’s an amazing engineer turned producer. And so he is the one who gave me that opportunity—he invited me. He said, “I have a song with Mykal Rose—I’ve been trying to do a remake of it.” He had the song already out before, like 20 years ago or so. And I was like, “Are you kidding me!? I’ve been trying to work with Mykal for forever, and we never could nail down something. I want to work with [Mykal]—of course I would do it.” And so that song was recorded a couple of years ago, and it just—I think [my working with] Sizzla kinda lifted the gate a little, in terms of “Chyna’s good, I’ve worked with her. [Chyna’s] good, check her out kind of thing, you know?” So Paul was like: “Yes, Chyna, we need to put this out. If you want to put it out, just go ahead. Let’s work.”

And Mykal, you know, I love Mykal, and I love him even more now that I’ve met him and sat with him, and talked with him—and seen him more than once in person. He’s just special.
Yes.

How was it to vibe with him in the studio? What can you tell me about Mykal Rose?
So, I didn’t get an opportunity to vibe with him in the studio, per se.

Oh.
We spoke on the phone a couple of times, and I met him in Queens, New York.

I see.
This was really a Paul Daley project. I have sent it to [Mykal’s] wife—who I believe is his manager—so they know it’s coming out and that kind of thing. But I have not spoken to him directly about this. I was invited to come on the project, and it is Paul’s product. And I believe [Mykal] will be proud of it. And I hope we’ll do some more work [together], you know, so that other songs can come out. I just want to work with Mykal, always. All the time, I just want to work with Mykal Rose.

Yeah, I can understand. I mean, Black Uhuru was one of the biggest bands. And we all know what Mykal’s contribution was there.
Yup.

And we also know about Mykal’s other contributions, and so, of course you’d want to work with him. Who in their right mind wouldn’t? So—
(Laughing) He’s only the first Grammy award winner [in reggae]. He’s from where my mother and my father are from.

Right. As I said—and as he’s told me, and he’s right: He is the “Waterhouse Sound.” Now this song[, “Royal Hearts,”] is mixed and mastered by your husband, producer and studio engineer, Gary Sutherland—who himself has a very impressive career in reggae—one that probably we could go on about for some time, and maybe, at some point, we will. And he’s been, of course—I think he has to be your biggest supporter in music, maybe—and I’ll let you talk on it. But he’s the one who was been behind the scenes on this particular track?
Right. So Paul Daley is the one who mixed it. And I believe Paul Daley—because we were talking about that. Paul Daley sent—‘cause Gary sent him the session, and then Paul sent it back to us. But really, Paul Daley is the one who mixed it.

Paul Daley
I see. Now people who know reggae—well, let me put it out this way first: There are some excellent musicians who are supporting you and Mykal on this track, true?
True. And Gary Sutherland does support me. He’s been supportive [for] 8 years plus, and he does a lot of my recordings and records—he does a lot of the mixing for the majority of my records. And engineering the majority of them for the past 8 years[, too. And] I want to highlight Earle Holder—

I’m gonna ask about [him].
I just want to make sure I say his name, too.

Yeah. And I’m gonna ask about—let me put it on the table just so you know, I’m gonna ask about Mr. Mightyful13 in some detail, and also I’m gonna ask you about Mr. Holder, [but] let’s hold their names for just a second. Because we’ll come back to those two gentlemen. And if at some point you feel like we’re missing [anyone else you want to credit], please, I don’t want to hold you back. You gotta give credit where credit is due.
Yes, man.

But let me take it back to the musicians on this track. Because I was so excited listening to this track, and I’m gonna ask you about some of the lyrics in a minute. Because I really like this track. I think—well, let me hold off on [speculating about] what people are gonna say. But first, before we talk about the track and how great it is, there are some [legendary] musicians on this track. Musicians people may have heard off, like Sly—
Sly Dunbar.

Yeah, like legendary drummer Sly Dunbar. (Laughing) I was trying to be coy with it, but—
(Laughing)

—but let’s not be coy with it: Legendary drummer, Sly Dunbar. Then you have Dalton Browne on keys. And Glen Browne on bass. And then Andre Daley [,the producer,] who [we’ve] already mentioned.
On keys is Carol “Bowie” McLaughlin.

Oh, I’m glad you corrected me there.
Yeah, because he’s also a legend too.

Now this song, let me just say, this song with Mykal, like the song with Sizzla already has been, it’s gonna be a hit [too]. That’s my prediction.
(Laughing) Amen!

Just like the song [“Boom Love”] with Sizzla, “Royal Hearts” is another back-and-forth—a call and response between lovers, true?
True.

And without giving too much away, there’s this beautiful, melodious chorus where you and Mykal are singing: “Love, love, love, you can’t hide it. Love, love, love, you can’t deny it.” And—
Yeah.

—I’m just telling you—[and] the ladies and gentlemen—anyone who later reads this interview—that, you know, once people hear this song, they’re not gonna be able to hide from it. And—
(Laughing)

—they’re not gonna be able to deny it. Because—
(Laughing) You are too funny.

—it’s a great tune. And sticking—
I love it. I think that Sly and Bowie McLaughlin, and Glen Browne, Paul Crosdale—who started with me back in the studio; he’s the one who [along] with my dad put me in studio [at the beginning of my career], when I was very young. By the way [shout out] Firehouse Crew. And Andre Daley—this track—I thought it was—I thought these people were from like Europe or from America. I did not know. When he told me who the musicians were—these iconic musicians—they’re so versatile. That track is not a straight reggae track. It has influence of other genres, you know. It’s just amazing. I love it.

Sticking with the theme that your forte, your strong suit, your specialty is really—
(Laughing)

—love songs—
You called it, so—

I’m calling it. It’s really love songs, [and] songs about relationships. Just two days ago you shocked, and you very pleasantly surprised me with yet another wicked collab! Yet another big male star in reggae [that] you’re about to drop [another] new tune [with]. [And] this one is going to be on [your] new album.
Yes!

Without further ado, the big name: Richie Spice!
Woohoo!

Yeah! Now as soon you sent [me] the song—the song is called “Play Reggae Music DJ”—and before even listening to it—and then I saw, you know, you sent me a picture of you and Richie—and then I immediately thought, before I even heard the song, I was thinking Richie Spice is such a genius pairing for you. Because he, too, is often singing love songs amidst plenty of other Rastafari themes. He’s often singing love songs. Tell me how you, as you sing on this mellow track, how did you get the “Spice in your life?”
So let me tell you something. You say that this is a love song?

Chyna Nicole & Richie Spice
Well, no. I have to listen to it more, [but] this isn’t a love song. This is a song begging the DJ to play reggae music, and talking about—it’s really a roots-reggae song. And I’m about to get into the lyrics, but it’s not a love song. It’s a back-and-forth [with a strong male singer]. No, it’s not a love song, and I’m glad you corrected me.
No, no. But there’s a little piece of it [where] I [sing], “Rub-a-dub it on the dance floor.” That’s love, you know, if you “rub-a-dub it on the dance floor.”

It’s more a song about reggae [though]—it’s not a love song. And I really dig the song. Because you’re begging the DJ to play some reggae. And not just play any reggae, but roots reggae. And it’s funny because, again, you just sent me the song last night. So I want to make it clear to the audience. I have to listen to the tune a bit more—
I know. You’re so funny. I had to surprise you.

—because I had like 76 or 86 other Chyna Nicole songs, or maybe more—
(Laughing)

—I had to pay attention to, too. So I need to of course listen to the song a little bit more before I can speak on it too intelligently. But I do know that it’s calling out to roots-reggae fans. And I think it’s funny because I do agree with your—you mentioned to me before the interview, people wouldn’t be privy to it—that you think Californians out here, that we kind of have a “roots-reggae vibe” more than a “dancehall-culture vibe”—
Uh-huh.

—that kind of exists more in New York. I do agree with that.
Yeah.

Richie sings [on this track], people start to “show up when the bass turns up.” And that reggae provides a “healing,” and a “meditation.” That it provides “inspiration.” And you’re immediately following that with the sweet chorus. And you’re begging the DJ to play some reggae. And so I just think the tune is a scorcher. And I really dug—
Wow!

—your last-minute interview surprise last night. You knocked me out with it. And what I want to say is: I think [the tune] is a scorcher!
Wow! That’s amazing. Big up, Richie Spice! But this song, you know, [I met] Richie, again, just from living in Jamaica and being “on air”—this was early in his career, you know? And he’s blown up more so now. And he was supporting me when I was singing in the studio trying to make it.

Nice.
He was supporting me with just, you know, the lighter in the air and just giving me good vibes. And I used to introduce him and stuff onstage when I was “on air” and stuff like that—when we had broadcasts and shows. [Because] I used to get booked to emcee shows and stuff like that. So we have a history. But we just, you know, you grow up, you have your family, you’re apart. So we hadn’t really been in touch. And I would just see him from afar—these people who I knew in my 20s and 30s. And I’m like, “Wow, they’re blowing up!” So I’m so happy to reconnect with them again. And they still accept me. And that is so awesome.

Now Chyna, this new album you’re about to drop is so exciting. And I’m definitely going to ask about a few more songs on it, though not all of them—just due to time considerations. And because I also want to sit with some of the tracks a little more before I—
Can I just shout out the musician is Terry Vibes? He’s actually out of Greece. So I just want to shout out Terry Vibes. And of course, Gary Sutherland, with the mixing and the mastering. And “Twos” [in Portmore] who recorded us in Jamaica. And my cousin, Linton, [for] making sure I [stayed] connected with [Richie Spice and other artists].

Now we’re gonna come back to this hot new album you’re about to drop on the reggae world towards the end of today’s reasoning. Then we can talk about your future plans also for this album, including maybe some official videos, tours, and some other new things that might come about [as a result of the new album]. Let’s do that towards the end.
Okay.

And at this point, I’d like to just take a step back from the new album, and ask a few questions about your biography, your background, and your career arc—or trajectory—as [one] might say. I know you were born in Harlem to Jamaican parents, that you grew up in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and that you graduated from a Catholic high school. Do I have this much accurate?
That is correct, yes.

Chyna Nicole with her father, Carl Williams, Anchor Studios, August 21, 2014.
And now I know your father, Carl Williams, is someone you really credit as I think you mentioned earlier—you really credit for your music career. And [he’s] a close advisor to you same as your husband, Gary Sutherland. True?
That is true. I can’t forget the people in between. Before Gary and I connected, it was Fitzroy Francis—

We’re gonna come to him.
I have to give him his glory, because he was the one that highlighted my first album. And introduced me to disc jockeys I didn’t know who are pretty prominent in the field. So I gotta give credit to Fitzroy Francis—

Sure. As you know, I definitely have a few questions [for you] about Mr. Francis. Now I understand your father is himself a reggae producer with a history in the business. But you know about that much better than I do. Can you describe your father’s background in music a bit? And how did he help to launch your career? And how does he continue to be involved with your music still?
Good questions. So you know that he was involved in my career, but even before then he had his own career in music. He was a DJ, and he used to go to King Tubby’s. And he was part of the whole upbringing of reggae music in Waterhouse, period. [Back] when “King Jammy’s” was “Prince Jammy’s.” I mean they all used to be in that stable [at] King Tubby’s, and my dad was a DJ. And then my dad ended up playing a little bit of sound. And then he became a producer. And he’s, you know, sometimes you see someone [and say], “What happened to likkle man over there?” And people just forget. But he helped launch so many careers, because he was so fascinated with music—as most people that are musically inclined [are]. He started his label called “Little C” label. And he released several songs which [were] distributed under Dynamic Sounds—which is no more. But that was my first vinyl. But he distributed a lot of songs. And produced a lot of songs. It just never skyrocketed, because we already had a dominant force coming out of Waterhouse—which was King Jammy’s, right after King Tubby’s. And so here you are the next door neighbor also doing the same thing, so you know it’s not gonna be a smooth ride.

Your father’s still in Jamaica?
He’s still in Jamaica.

Is he still [involved in your] music?
He’s involved in my music in terms of listening. He’s happy to hear what I’m doing—listen to a melody, that kind of thing. You know, he just gives me the glory if you will. He’s not “hands on” anymore. He’s the one who told me to launch my label and stuff like that.

Chyna, I read somewhere that Black Uhuru used to rehearse either in your dad or your mom’s backyard—in Jamaica—at one point. Can you tell me more about that—[Black Uhuru] used to rehearse there—somewhere close to your family?
So I don’t know the actual particulars, but I know it was something to that effect.

I see.
We’re talking about neighbors—

Right—
Mykal Rose and my dad lived on the same street. Duckie [Simpson] was adjacent. And they all used to play, and my father used to play soccer with him—

They all knew each other.
—and Sly [Dunbar]. So I’m not saying the group Black Uhuru rehearsed, but—

They were all in the neighborhood [together]. Now when you were growing up in the United States, and before you went to college at Howard University in Washington, D.C., did you travel to Jamaica often—or at all?
Before then, I traveled and visited my father—so, yes. And then, right after I graduated was when I got my [first] record actually; I graduated and got my record done.

Now in my opinion, [as] I’ve mentioned, there’s a big R&B and soul fusion [component together] with reggae that I hear in many of your songs—and in much of your work. So I wasn’t surprised when I learned—from looking at some previous interviews that you’ve done—that you were heavily influenced by Michael Jackson. Were you also, at the same time, as you were growing up in the [United] States, were you listening to a lot of reggae, too—because of your parents?
Well they played reggae music, but I didn’t really latch on to it until I heard Sanchez. I mean, of course, it was rooted. [My parents] played Bob Marley, Rita Marley, [etcetera]. But it was Sanchez for me that really lifted it. Because he had that soulful R&B [and] reggae kind of sound—

I see.
—and I was like, “Wow, his voice is crazy—this is amazing.”

When you went to Howard University as I noted a moment ago, where I know you studied—and you mentioned [earlier]—you studied radio, tv, and film, had you already started performing as a singer, and, were you singing reggae songs at that time?
I was actually doing a lot of writing, and going to studios in D.C. I didn’t perform. I was very shy. I would sing around my friends and stuff, and people would say “Why don’t you go up there? Why don’t you sing?” And I just was like, “No.” (Laughing) Was so shy! But I used to take the bus, and copyright my lyrics, and go to the Library of Congress which was cool. I used to tell my son to do the same, you know, [and other] people to do the same—and have a plethora of your works there at the Library of Congress—where it is, in D.C. So I did that kind of stuff, and [I] used to go to different studios. Matter fact, one—I know Puffy’s in a lot of trouble now, but before all that, there’s a producer that worked with Puffy, Ron Lawrence, who went to Howard as well, and I did some recordings with him. Just some other people that—

Chyna Nicole with her son Nico
Since you mentioned your son, I know that [he] graduated from Howard University[, too,] and I believe he’s maybe studying to be an architect, or is an architect—something very impressive.
Thank you.

And also wise to mention him I think, because his name is “Nico.” And I believe your publishing—or your own label—is called “Nico Star Music.” Is that correct?
Yes, that is correct.

After your son, of course?
Right.

Now, as you mentioned, your father produced your first two—my understanding is he produced your first two professional songs, in 1994. A song called “Love Me Tenderly”—which is actually available on YouTube. And another song called—
Is it? I didn’t know that.

It is!
(Laughing)

Hey Chyna, I’m gonna share your tune with you later (laughing). And another song, “Last Night,” that I couldn’t track down. That’s not available on YouTube. But on YouTube, that song, or that record, “Love Me Tenderly,” has a Jammy’s label on it. That’s because I think, as [you may have] mentioned earlier, this song—well, I guess it was distributed by Jammy’s then? What was the relationship between Jammy’s with that first [tune you recorded]—
I have no idea. This is all news to me.

Ah!
Back then—

I’m gonna send you that—you have to look at that label.
Yeah, somewhere I have the actual vinyl. Because I kept a copy. But “Little C” was the name of my dad’s label. And it was named after his son—he passed—

Is it “Little C” or “Lukie D?”
So “Little C” is the label. My father named it “Little C” because I had a brother, Camaro, who passed away. But back then he was alive, obviously. So “Little C” label is my father’s label which distributed my songs through Dynamic Sounds. So now that Jammy’s has it, I mean maybe my dad was just like “take it,” you know what I mean? He wasn’t doing any music anymore, and he didn’t have the funds, and I don’t know why—

Okay—
—but if Jammy’s was distributing it, that’s great. I did some recordings for Jammy’s separately [from] what I did with my dad.

I understand also that you moved to Jamaica, and that you lived there between 2000 and 2004, during which time you worked as a disc jockey on Jamaican radio stations (specifically 103 FM, Irie FM, and Mello FM). Accurate?
No, I was there from like end of 2001 to—yup, until around 2004.

While you were working on Jamaican radio, were you at the same time, in your spare time, working on your singing and performing places?
I was, but not as much as I was doing the broadcasting and the hosting, and [being] a supportive artist. But yeah, I definitely was knocking on doors, trying to get on riddims and stuff like that. Prominent people like Vybz Kartel—I just was around so many amazing talents—

And that’s why—
—around the different studios—

And that’s why—
—because I had exposure to that.

That’s why I wanted to raise this, because I’m actually not aware—there could be—but I’m not aware of other—if any—[modern day] reggae artists who have this kind of background as a reggae disc jockey for a number of different radio outfits in Jamaica. What are some of the top lessons that you learned as a radio DJ in Jamaica that have helped you as a singer?
Wow, that’s a really good one. I think you just have to be you. I was always me. And I think that’s what made me unique, and why so many people gravitated to me. I think some of the lessons, I guess: You can be fair in music, but then knowing the artist is a totally different thing, I think. (Laughing)

(Laughing) Oh wow. Chyna: That’s funny—
I was gullible. Now I know B.S. when I see it, you know what I mean? But back then, you’re like: “All these people are gravitating to me!” You’re the “hot girl.” And so, you know, I made some mistakes. I’m not perfect. But I just—separate the music from the actual person until you know the person.

Now, close to a decade—
And when the lights go down, when the lights dim down, and you’re not working or whatever, then it’s a cold reality.

(Laughing)
You’re not the “hot girl” anymore. (Laughing)

You’re heading in the way I’m going. Now close to a decade later, after this time that you worked on Jamaican radio, in 2013, you released your first studio album called: “20 Years in the Making and Ready for the World.” Of course, since 2013, you’ve released 3 LPs and you’re about to release a 4th studio album—as we’ve been talking about, and we’re still gonna talk about [more]. Things have been steadily picking up for you over time. And there’s no question in my mind, your star is on the rise. But I know things in this industry, same as for many people, and especially women, they haven’t been easy.
No.

Chyna Nicole & Half Pint
On the “Conduit Show” in 2014, you said: “The plight for women in reggae is a difficult one.” And in 2019, while talking to the Jamaica Observer—you were talking to them about an all-female compilation album that was called “Queens in the Arena”—that you performed on—and you produced, you conceived of. And you said, “I needed the break in music 20 years ago, and I didn’t get the support.” Over the years, and in other interviews and articles, you’ve indicated that between the first two professional recordings that you had in ’94, and your first LP in 2013, that you did a lot of recording at various studios in Jamaica—and for some big-name producers like Jammy’s, [and a few others too]. I know you even did a collaboration—you sent me a picture with the legendary Half Pint—[a tune] that was never released. Can you describe a bit this 20-year struggle that you had before that first L.P.? What was happening, and why weren’t any of these producers releasing your songs?
Well, you know, I still have to big up Jammy’s, because Jammy’s at least took a chance on me. He still helped my father. Like you said, you see my song [“Love Me Tenderly”] is still active on YouTube. And he’s helped in terms of telling me—at the time, he felt like I sounded too American. That was it back then. But then a couple of years later, the girl Lauryn Hill just buss up the place—because I love her so much.

(Laughing)
So I just—I didn’t understand that. But you know, we recorded several songs with Jammy’s. But I think that everything is for its time. I don’t have any malice in my heart. I don’t know why [other producers didn’t release my songs]—I know why Jammy’s didn’t. Because we had that conversation. But in terms of the other producers, I don’t—I think that when artists—you know, artists are gonna put their careers first. Unless you’re somebody like Bounty Killer. Bounty Killer he bussed so many other artists, you know, he’s like one of a kind. But in terms of other—I mean I have songs—I don’t want to say all of them—I don’t know why they don’t release them. You know somebody said that maybe they’re just waiting for another [one of your] songs to pop off before they release [them]. So maybe that’s why?

Now that’s interesting. I take it that the various producers who recorded you back then, in Jamaica, own all the master recordings of the songs that you sang?
Yes. I just own my lyrics.

Are you to this day still trying to get any of those recordings of your old songs released? Like the [song with] Half Pint?
No. I mean I reached out to the producer, and he said he’s working on it, you know—but, I don’t know.

Let’s talk a bit about your first L.P. and studio album, “20 Years in the Making and Ready for the World.” Which you know, I think is a funny title on its own, just because of the title’s length. Because I was trying to imagine how that [long title] would old-school fit on a CD—it’s a pretty long title—but, it’s not so funny when you consider the backstory behind that title. [And] why it took so long, and the failure to get the support you needed—to get your music released for so many years—as we were [just] discussing. But my favorite tracks off of your debut album are: “Take Me to the Moon,” “Love in the Arena” (featuring Junior Cat), your Bob Marley cover of “Waiting in Vain,” and then, especially: I dig your collaboration with Andrew Bees, track 9, “Cool Operator”—which is a wicked tune! It’s a tune I can’t get enough of. And, in fact, I want to focus on that tune a bit for a number of reasons. First, you already know I’ve interviewed and I have great respect and appreciation for Andrew Bees, whom everyone knows—or should know—has been the lead singer for Black Uhuru for many years. And [he] has an impressive solo career, too. But the song “Cool Operator”—I mean any Delroy Wilson song I love—
Yeah.

—and any cover of any Delroy Wilson song.
Uh-huh.

[That song] is yet again another shining early example in your recording history showing you excel when collaborating on love songs with strong male reggae artists. And so, my “reggae paparazzi” theory you might say, is that success with Bees really kind of foreshadowed all these similar wicked collaborations that you[’ve] been [making]—with Sizzla, with Mykal Rose, [and] with Richie Spice. What do you think of that theory?
I think that’s a great theory. I think collaboration, you know, makes you great. I mean the major artist I have to say who is killing it now is Beyoncé. She collaborates with so many different people. You know, you see her as a beautiful face—she collaborates. And so what you’re seeing, and the song that you resonate with, is collaboration. And collaboration just makes anything greater. I do have some singles I feel like, yeah, this is hot, for me personally, but it’s really what the fans think. So you’re onto something. You’re onto something. (Laughing)

(Laughing) I have to bring up “Cool Operator” with Bees also, because when I look back at my interview with Bees, and I saw, and I know I shared this with you before our interview, that I had asked [Bees during my interview of him] about his close relationship—and now we’re getting to it—with the producer Fitzroy Francis, aka “Mightyful13.” And how Fitzroy produced Bees’ “Cool Operator.” And I knew that I had to ask you, too, then—and you’ve already now said—I mean feel free if you want to add on to it, but you’ve said a lot about it—I wanted to understand more your relation and connection with Mightyful13, and I think you’ve described that. But, you also mentioned Earle Holder [earlier], who I honestly didn’t know much about him until preparing for this interview. And the only things I really know now about him—[they’re] pretty impressive in [they’re] own right: He’s a Grammy judge and currently he’s the Chief Mastering Engineer for Public Enemy—and one of Chuck D’s labels.
Yes.

So, that’s not bad, right?
(Laughing)

That’s not bad when you go out on the street and you tell people; that might help you get in some places. Can you please describe, you kinda did, but if you want to add to it, how did you connect with him—he’s not in the reggae world. [So] [h]ow did you first connect with Mr. Holder—anything you want to say about that? And also, about his influence?
Sure. So, Mr. Holder, his mom was my mom’s mentor. They’re both nurses in the field. His mom has passed, and I met Earle actually in the hospital. During a really, really tough time for all of us. And especially for his family, right? That’s his mom. Amazing woman, you know, rest in peace, a soldier. And we talked about music. I don’t know how music got into the conversation, but he was telling me he’s part of the Recording Academy. And you know, honestly, I was like, “What!?” And you know, he’s mastering music. And he’s the one who took all my songs—I didn’t pay a dime—and just mastered them. And [he] introduced me to the Recording Academy. So now I’m an official member. I just went through this whole accreditation with the Recording Academy, because you have to go through this whole assessment. It’s so grueling, “I’m like God, I hope I get in! I hope I get in!” And I just had my 6th year, and I do volunteer work with them here and there[, for the Recording Academy]. But Earle Holder has been amazing. He still is. And that’s why I had to include him in this. Anything I do, I have to make sure he gets a piece of it. Because he’s just so awesome. He’s an amazing person. And I learned a lot from him. And he and Gary [Sutherland] also connect, too, because they’re both engineers, you know. And he has his own mastering software, I mean, he’s a brainiac as well.

Nice. I’ll have to mention that to another friend of mine you know, who we’ll talk about later. Now Chyna, just for—
But let’s talk about Fitzroy though—Fitzroy Francis.

Oh, did you want to add to that?
Yeah. I want to add that he’s my brother. He helped on my first album after Danny Bassie, my dad, and myself you know[, we were trying to decide] should I put my first album out under Little C’s label, which was my father’s label at the time, which was kinda dormant? And they said, “No man, come up with your own thing.” And I said, “Daddy, put it on your album.” He’s like, “No Chyna, just come up with your own label.” So they were in Waterhouse, and my dad was there in the room, and they told me I needed to start my own label. And that’s how I came up with “Nico Star Music.” I just want to say that Fitzroy Francis lifted that entire project, and has still been like a brother along the way; even if he’s not working with me directly in music, he’s always a part of it because he’s so indebted to the Waterhouse community. Because he’s from there as well. I don’t know if I mentioned that. And I used to see him every now and again when I was in Jamaica during those times, at Jammy’s studio. But we just didn’t have that musical connection yet. He’s just been instrumental across the board.

Now just for the sake of time, I want to jump to your second studio album called “Higher,” released in 2016. Of course, I have to ask about the intro track—and you knew I would—
(Laughing)

—on “Higher,” in which no one less than the great, the late (unfortunately) the legendary Tabby Diamonds—he’s both introducing your album and fully endorsing your music. In fact, people need to go back and check this out. They need to see what Tabby says about you, Chyna. I just love the [Mighty] Diamonds so much.
Me too, me too.

And I kind of have a continuing relationship with Judge—even after Tabby’s passed. And I feel so badly about the ending of the band. I think Judge is still carrying on, but you know, the Diamonds…. I mean Tabby said, his words [on Track 1 of “Higher”] are that you’re “one of his students,” Chyna. I mean, wow! I about had a meltdown when I heard that. Could you describe or talk about your relationship/connection with the legendary Tabby Diamonds—leading to this irie, heartwarming endorsement of you by Tabby?
Yeah, so during that time—so this album was released in 2016. So I was in Jamaica in 2015. So after that thing happened [with] Sizzla, during that time in 2013-14, I had to come back. There was something in me that [was saying] I need to go back to [Jamaica to] do this work. And so during that time in New York, I was “on air” at Linkage Radio. And I just got, you know, when you do radio work, you start kind of getting—kind of like you’re doing, your journalism. You just get immersed with just archives, and gems. And so, even though we know about The Mighty Diamonds, I fell in love with them in 2014-15. That’s when I fell in love with them.

You needed “a roof over your head.” And “you needed some bread—”
(Laughing)

Chyna Nicole & Squidly Cole
—on your table.”
And so when I went to Jamaica, and Squidly [Cole] and I were hanging out, you know, just doing musical stuff, and he told me that [Tabby Diamonds] was his uncle. I said, “What!?” And I was like, “Oh my God.” So they took me to his house. I met his whole family, his wife, his grandkids—a couple of times, actually. And then it was Squidly who took me over there. We just went right to his dining room. He was right there in the kitchen. And right there at the [kitchen] table, he literally recorded into my phone. And then Earle [Holder], the genius, took that recording and made it what it is to go on my album—to enjoy.

Beautiful. I full-joyed it. Now it would be impossible for me not to mention on this second album of yours, your album “Higher,” it would be impossible for me not to mention, Chyna, tracks 9 and 14. Because track 9 is a sweet song [called] “Oceans in Windows” that has a nice mellow video that you did with reggae royalty, drum and bass duo, the “riddim twins” no less, Sly & Robbie. The late Robbie [Shakespeare]. Then, too, track 14—
Yeah, rest in peace, Robbie.

True. And then, too, track 14—as I mentioned to you before [today’s] interview—is a beautiful instrumental track called “Jah C’s Special.” If you’re a fan of reggae music, you want to go and check out Sly & Robbie on the album “Higher”—Chyna Nicole’s [sophomore] album.
Thank you.

How did you get—I mean, thank you! And thank you, Sly & Robbie!
(Laughing)

How did you get introduced to Sly & Robbie, and what was it like to work with them? And also, did you work with them—I think you did work with them in-person? Tell me about this. And also tell me about this special Sly & Robbie instrumental track I really love, this “Jah C’s Special.” Who was “Jah C,” and what’s this all about?
So this is my very first “live” session. At Anchor Studios in Kingston, Jamaica. And I flew out there—so my former manager, my brother, “Rocky” Fitzroy Francis, the former road manager for Black Uhuru, he introduced me to someone else, and we all flew out there. Rocky didn’t come. But my son came. And we flew there, and so it turns out that Sly and my dad link up—and Sly just made it happen. Sly Dunbar made it happen. I had sent Sly a little email previous to making that trip—with a demo. You know, that’s me. Real geek. Just get my headphones, and just recorded to the computer, and sent off the demo. (Laughing) So I sent it to him [beforehand], so he had an idea of it. And he’s just so chill, and so cool. And then we linked up, and he really gave us a huge discount. Like, it would have been way more money [otherwise]. And we wanted to make sure that that linkage would be still firm. And that other person who went, he didn’t do his job, so we kind of just took over the project. And Delroy “Fatta” Pottinger, who is the engineer at Anchor—I don’t know if he’s still working there—he was instrumental in making sure I still got amazing [projects]. Like Dean Fraser is on that track. Steven “Lenky” Marsden who did the Diwali riddim, he’s on that track. So other icons are on that track along with Sly & Robbie. And Dalton Browne. It was an amazing experience—one that I will never forget.

And why is it called “Jah C’s Special?”
My dad’s name is “Carl.” And so he named it that. So he’s like, “You know, let’s put an instrumental track [on the album].” And I know that it’s different because it’s instrumental. But we wanted to give the public that. These are gems. These are reggae gems. So my dad named it, “Jah C’s Special.”

I know I’m steaming along—
Yeah.

—and before you know it, I’ll be back at your new album again. But before I leave the album “Higher” to talk about your third studio album a bit, I do just want to mention to the world a charming little mellow song I really like [on “Higher”]. It really feels kinda like a trademark Chyna Nicole song. I don’t have a question about it. I think it’s just wonderful—it’s a song about finding a little love—
Oh, “Sing a Little Love Song?”

“Sing a Little Love Song,” yes! I really like that.
So that song is produced by another Waterhouse gem. He’s not really popular, but he’s a gem to me. His name is Ruel “Chilla” Clarke—and he’s from Waterhouse. And we met. And he sent me that song. It was supposed to go on the first album, but it didn’t make it in time when we did it. So I said, “I gotta carry this song.” And so we went and shot the video—

It’s a nice song.
I love that song. I like the background harmonies. [Donald] “Tixie” [Dixon], who’s no longer with us—amazing engineer, who also engineered “Take Me to the Moon.” He’s the one who recorded it. And mixed it. And Earle Holder—again, Earle Holder mastered my first and second album. Yeah, I love that song.

I like it, too. I like it a lot. Now, in June 2020, so kind of at the start of the Covid pandemic, you released your third studio album called “Level of Concern.” And there are two, really three tracks from that album I want to highlight—[tracks] that really caught I-man’s attention—songs that everyone should be familiar with, in my opinion. One of the tunes many people already do know—because I think it did well on some reggae charts—[is] called “Nyah and Binghi.” The song is such a classic Jamaican song, with a great metaphor about Nyah and Binghi: “The prettiest, cutest birds one has ever seen.” They may sing, but they also fight. And so this is a great metaphor for a lot—
Thank you.

—of [of what’s going on in] Jamaica. Beautiful birds, but they fight.
Yeah. Big up to “Computer Paul,” [he] produced that song.

Level Of Concern
Yeah, [Paul] “Computer Paul” Henton. Now before today, Chyna, I mentioned to you—I think you may have laughed at it—I mentioned to you I was kinda seeing a certain pattern, a certain theme that connects some of the songs that you’ve done. Specifically, you know, there’s “Nyah and Binghi,” as I mentioned, but then there’s another excellent 2021 single that you released called “Butterflies.”
(Laughing)

And I know not many [people other] than myself [right now] also know this, too, but yet people are about to find out, in 2024—
(Laughing)

—on this new album: You have a new tune called “Peeny Wallies.” Which is patois for “firefly,” of which over 50 different species exist in Jamaica. But you know, anyway, you seem to use—and you have great success using—these majestic, flying creatures—
(Laughing)

—to express yourself—
(Laughing) I never thought of it that way. I honestly didn’t.

You have great success using these flying creatures to express yourself, and you know, this freedom to express things in your songs. Why do you think that is? And where do you think that comes from—this desire to weave the natural world into your music?
I think we’re all a part [of it]. We’re all connected. And I don’t “think” we are, I know we are—we’re all connected. And I like to write about what I see. What I feel. What others tell me. What others’ experience[s] are. What I see in the news. What I see in the world. And you know, nature is a part of it. And I just take it into detail. It’s not like I like bugs, but—

(Laughing)
(Laughing)

Chyna, what about ladybugs? What about ladybugs?
Oh, I like ladybugs. (Laughing)

(Laughing) There you go. Everybody likes ladybugs.
No, but the thing about it is, peeny wallies are special because you really don’t see them. You don’t see them until they light up. And when they light up, they’re beautiful. Wow! It’s just amazing. Yeah, so I had to bring it to Jamaica—

And Chyna—
But what about the other two songs on [“Level of Concern” you liked]? I’m really curious.

Chyna, hands down my favorite tracks on [your third studio album,] “Level of Concern,” are tracks 3 and 11—which are the same song, but different—“Righteousness Reigns in a Mama Africa.” I really, really like that tune. Both the song and the dub are super-wicked, [and] super-conscious. Great lyrics. And if you love roots-reggae music, you haffi check those two tracks out.
You like the roots-reggae stuff, okay. Nice!

Level of Concern Album

And you know, to be honest Chyna, for some reason, frankly, it’s while I was listening to that track that I seriously started thinking how your talents would blend so well with a very good friend of mine—we talk a lot: The legendary sound engineer and dub pioneer—
(Laughing)

—Hopeton Brown—
Yeah!

—Yeah! Everyone who loves dub and knows about their reggae calls him “Scientist.” So it makes me so happy, and it pleases me to no end, that after connecting you and Scientist together, that there’s this new song—
Yes!

—that we have to talk about on your new album.
You’re responsible! How do you feel!? (Laughing)

I feel—listen, I’m about to celebrate! A new song—
[You made] it happen! And that song is a monster. I love that song. Scientist, big up yourself. And big up yourself, Gary [Sutherland], who also worked on the vocals.

The song is called “Celebrate.” And in my opinion, in my admittedly biased opinion—everyone’s soon gonna know “Celebrate”—and you’re gonna celebrate. And we[‘re all] gonna celebrate this song. [Because] it’s sweet—it’s [so] sweet! And it’s a song about celebrating oneself, and having self-love.
It is. It’s a sad love song.

([Paraphrasing some of the lyrics:] There might be a mess outside, but you can sing a love song. And some nights, you’re gonna “celebrate” me.) And it’s a very melodious tune with backing vocals by Carol Dexter. Now when I last heard this song, it wasn’t actually complete yet—it’s not actually complete yet, because my understanding is that the legendary saxophonist Dean Fraser—whom you collaborated with before, [in 2023,] on a track called “Gratitude for Mama”—that you did—a tribute, like a Mother’s Day-almost tribute—anyway, his saxophone will eventually be overdubbed [on this new song “Celebrate”]—
We’re hoping—we’re hoping. I mean, yeah, it’s supposed to happen. But people are busy, and we have a timeline. But we hope it happens.

Even if it doesn’t, my assessment of that track—and now again, I mentioned I’m good friends with the producer (laughing)—is that even if it doesn’t [have Dean Fraser’s sax in the end]: I’m still [gonna be] celebrating the track!
Wow.

[And] [i]f it does, we’ll celebrate it even more.
Yes, definitely. I hope he’s on it.

Chyna Nicole & Dean Fraser
Wow! Richie Spice, Sizzla, Dean Fraser, Scientist—you also have a groovy Afrobeats track that’s gonna be on this new album, [with] producer Shola Henry: that’s called “Ominira.”
Right, Stephen, you said it right.

I have to listen to it [more]. [“Ominira” is] Yoruba for freedom and—it actually has a more extensive meaning [than that]. It’s a very earthy and uplifting song that I think a lot of people will gravitate to. We could talk a lot about that, too. But, Chyna, we’ve been talking for quite some time already—about an hour and fifteen minutes. Which is good! It’s truly been a joy and a blessing.
It’s been a joy. It’s been a joy.

Thank you. Now I know there are some great songs both on your about-to-be released album, and also, other older songs that you’ve done that I didn’t get into today. And it’s a shame, but I’m gonna take heart in the fact that, as I mentioned earlier, your star is rising. And it’s rising fast. And in my belief, in coming years—
(Laughing) Rising fast!?

Well it’s rising fast now—now it is. And maybe that star took a while to get in the sky, but now it’s up there. So now it’s gonna get nothing but better. And so, in my belief—
Thank you—that’s so nice to say.

—in coming years we’re gonna be hearing a lot more about you. And so, even though I didn’t get a chance to truly get into all your catalogue today, my hope is that in the future, you and I will of course stay in touch, and, at some point we’ll do another interview—when you have other projects, too, that we’ll want to talk about. And we’ll be able to pull back the page, and go back into some of the things that we may have missed, or, even that we want to “patch up” from today’s great interview. Would you be willing maybe to do that—at some future point?
Absolutely Stephen. I think you did a great job. I mean you can’t talk about every single thing, but you touched upon a lot of important parts of my life. And I appreciate you for that.

Thank you so much. Now because there are some other great songs out there on YouTube, and on the internet, [tunes] that really showcase your range, your versatility, your uniqueness, and your willingness to experiment that I didn’t even touch on today, I want to kind of just shout them out. Like your cover song of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” Go find that on YouTube if you’re an 80s fan. And see a little reggae action to what is already a great song. And you took that song—and again, it’s a willingness to experiment [I admire]. And then, also, your cover of Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” Or also, you know, your super-cool single and your video [for the tune] that was released in 2021—I really like this one—it’s called “Do It My Way.” Go check that out on YouTube. [It’s] really kind of an amusing video. (Laughing)
(Laughing)

There’s some—you never know what you might see at a reggae show. So go check out that video [for] “Do It My Way.” And so, ‘nuff other tunes, of course, for us to discuss some time down the road together. But Chyna, before I turn off my recorders for today, can you speak a bit about your touring plans. Because I imagine you’re gonna release this album, and maybe there are already plans—you know, usually when you release an album you then try and see if you can tour off of it. And also, you have some pretty big names of people who are gonna be on this album, and that you’re releasing songs with. And [you] might also have opportunities based off of that—[opportunities] that you want to let the people know to look for. And also, this is a good time to let us know about any other new singles or things you just want to, you know, let the Chyna Nicole fan base—which as we’ve said is growing—and growing fast—and growing big—what do you want to let these people know—about your music coming soon?
Well we’re pushing the album [release] back just a little bit. We’re still in pre-production. And as you mentioned, we’re dropping Paul Daley’s production; it’s his record[, “Royal Hearts”] for me with Mykal Rose. The amazing Grammy winner, Mykal Rose, that we all wrote together. So that’s dropping soon. And in terms of tours, we’re in connection with—I did a reggae festival last year, and so we’re in connection with that promoter. So it’s now in the hands of the promoters to get in touch with us. We’re always looking for opportunities to do more shows. What I’ve learned over the years is that doing shows and people not really knowing your songs—I’m not saying it doesn’t make sense, because you’re getting yourself out there—and any promotion is good. But it’s really good when you just try and move your records, and promote the work that you’re doing. Building that repertoire. Like you said: Scientist, and Mykal Rose. And Sizzla Kalonji. Richie Spice. And [all] the people that we’ve already worked with—Gary Sutherland and Earle Holder. People that we’ve always worked with. You know, my dad. So that’s what we’re focusing on: We’re focusing on putting out good music—and putting it out in the universe. Because we are [independent]. We’re not signed to a label that has that already lined up for us like some more popular reggae artists.

Nice. Respect. Now I’m gonna turn my recorders off in just a moment after you answer this—
I want to big up my mother, who I love!

Big her up.
[She’s always] in my back corner. Big up, mommy! I love you. [And] [m]y sister, Princess LaTasha. Big up my son, Nico. And of course everyone that I’ve mentioned along the journey. Everyone who’s been a part of my journey who I did not get the chance to big up who I’ve collaborated with, thank you. And everyone who is just supporting me. So many great supporters along the way on my musical journey—I thank you. I salute you.

For the record, I want to thank you again so, so much for what has been just an amazing interview. It’s so good to get to know you. I’m so thrilled to [have] connect[ed] you and Scientist.
Yes!

I’m so thrilled to really just kind of dig into your music. There are many, many, many great Chyna Nicole songs that we’ve talked about today, and that I imagine we’ll talk more about in the future. But now, Chyna, my last question today: You’ve just shouted out a lot of people who have been in your corner, and that’s great. What do you want to say to your fans before we close this interview up for today? I think that they’re—as you say, you’re growing your fan base. But I also think that more and more people are kind of finding out about you. What do you want them to know about you and your music?
Sure. You know, it’s important to just be who you are. I, you know, at one point in my life I was trying to fit the mold of what that is—of what you’re supposed to be as an artist. Don’t try and do that. Just be yourself. And then when you are yourself, you know, you get to explore different areas of yourself. You know, [for] me, being Jamaican and American. I get to explore that. And I love it. And I think anybody should just be free in who you are. And be comfortable with that. And you know, I was told “no” a lot of times. [But] sometimes you gotta just take things in your own hands. That’s another piece of advice, too. You believe in yourself. And you fund yourself. And get your stuff out there. And let the universe hear it.

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