At 24 years of age, the Rastafarian singer-songwriter known as Chronixx (full name Jamar McNaughton) is already up to the task of leading the next wave of Jamaican reggae artists in the present millennium.
The long-gestating Chronology finds the genre in a curious place, appreciated in the mainstream but in an appropriative sense, with the genre vibes, chords and sensibilities serving as the foundation for many a "tropical house" and faux "dancehall pop" hit but nary a Jamaican artist on the level of making a Marley-esque splash.
To his credit, Chronixx isn't concerned with being a reggae saviour; the focus is on creating authentic music with universal appeal. Throughout this 16-track album, he largely succeeds, primarily thanks to an experimental approach that takes the temperature of the international zeitgeist and organically crafts a holistic winner. The artist previously best known for his "Smile Jamaica" anthem works with names such as France-based EDM duo Picard Brothers, UK drum & bass band Rudimental and NYC-based Federation Sound on this effort, with the result being something that's grounded in roots reggae but fearless in its integration of pop and electronic elements as well.
In hailing his hometown with "Spanish Town Rockin'," Chronixx is able to set the tone with a straight-up genre take. On "Big Bad Sound" with his father, reggae vet Chronicle, he's able to connect the dots between old-school reggae and the new wave direction. Elsewhere, "Ghetto Paradise" and "Country Boy" dig deep into a SuperHeavy vibe while showcasing strong storytelling skills, while "Selassie Children" and Black Is Beautiful" trade on respective R&B and hip-hop flavoured grooves to riff on themes of empowerment and destiny.
The mid-'80s-sounding R&B/pop ditty "Loneliness" is pleasant enough, but most likely to be overlooked, while the Picard Brothers-produced "I Can," on its surface, feels like a post-Paltrow Coldplay single — and yet, Chronixx manages to imbue it with an authentic, deeply experimental take, making for a breezy track destined to be a mainstream hit.
Chronology is a socially, politically and industrially aware effort, the work of an intelligent, savvy and ambitious artist who makes for an ideal genre representative to take reggae to its next global level. (Soul Circle/Universal)