Dub and reggae music are some of the most timeless sounds in the entire canon of popular western music. The classic genres have influenced modern musical genres, such as ska, punk, dubstep and hip-hop, but they still stand on their own today. Introspective and deeply connected to the roots of Jamaican culture and the healing power of cannabis, Chronixx, also known as Jamar Rolando McNaughton, is continuing the rich tradition of bringing dub music into the modern era. At only 24 years old, his career is picking up momentum and breathing new life into a practiced sound. While on tour, Chronixx made some time to chat with CULTURE about the power of music, his upcoming album and why cannabis is bigger than legalization.
How did you get started making music?
I got started making music when I was a little child. My father was a musician, I was exposed to the process of writing music when I was a child. Growing up, that’s what I chose to be; it was a fun thing and a cool thing for me to do. I loved it. I did it at times during school when I probably could have been playing football or doing something else.
“The herb is one of the most intricate plants in the plant kingdom. The more you study the more you learn about creation. I try to use a little bit all the time, every day, especially when I am trying to be creative and I need to channel inspiration into the physical world. It’s very good for those times.”
Who are some of your biggest influences?
My family, obviously. Growing up I felt that my family were great musicians. They were always singing and drumming and doing those kinds of things. We were exposed to creating music, and I realized that Jamaican music is such a big inspiration to so many. It inspired me to grow up learning about music.
What was your rise to success like? Were there a lot of struggles along the way?
Not really struggles—more like lessons. I learned a lot of things that I feel I could have only learned through experience. There is no college that can teach these things, or maybe there is, but I wasn’t lucky enough to learn about these things outside of real experience. There are a lot of lessons I learned that made me more efficient and into a better musician and a better professional. I learned many hard lessons, like who I can and can’t work with. It was hard, but these were great lessons, and I can’t regret these things.
Do you have any upcoming shows, releases or projects in the works?
We are working on the release of our debut album, Chronology, which will come out in the next couple of weeks. We are currently on tour. We just left Portland, Oregon leading up to the release of the album, and will continue on to Europe after that. On the U.S. tour we just had our most recent show yesterday.
There were a lot of sold out nights, and there has been a great energy so far. It’s always a little overwhelming to know we are here making music and to know that we can actually look at what we’re doing and see how much more we need to do. Our music has a mission you know—a great mission of spreading knowledge around the world and supporting the people of Jamaica and people who need to be affected most; those are the people our music is about. Those are the people our music will impact.
How do you feel about the genre you are a part of?
I don’t really see myself as part of any genre in terms of the music I make; I’m a Jamaican musician. Jamaican music is one of the most popular genres in the world. Being born in Jamaica and raised in a musical environment—that is so rich. I wouldn’t be true to what I’m doing if I didn’t fully embrace that, and I grew up listening to ska dub and rock steady. I was born in 1992, and by the time I was old enough to start listening to music I wanted to listen to, I was in an era where we had unlimited access to an unlimited amount of music. I was listening to everything all the time. I don’t think it’s true for any artist who is my age to say that they are a part of any one genre.
How do you feel about cannabis legalization? Could anything be done better or differently?
Cannabis can’t be “legalized” because it was never illegal. I am not really a politician; I don’t understand politics in detail so I can’t even comment on that part, but as far as herb is concerned, the plant, and the various properties that it brings, it is a thing that could fix a lot of the problems that we are facing. However, the legalization of marijuana alone does not signify that you have good intentions to fix any of these problems and these issues. We also need to account for the people who use cannabis for medicine, and the people who use it religiously, as an herb.
“Cannabis can’t be “legalized” because it was never illegal. I am not really a politician; I don’t understand politics in detail so I can’t even comment on that part, but as far as herb is concerned, the plant, and the various properties that it brings, it is a thing that could fix a lot of the problems that we are facing.”
Have you ever worked cannabis into your music as a theme? If so, how?
Rasta music always embraces the full culture of Rastafari and the full culture of the plant, cannabis, marijuana; we call it herb. It has played such a great role in our spirituality over the years. It is one of the single most elements of our spiritual lives. Jamaicans, Rasta, our music has always reflected our culture and because marijuana is always involved, whatever we do, whatever we say, people call it all different things, weed, ganja, marijuana, cannabis, herb, greens, chronic—but everything is a product of the theme of reggae music. Bob Marley says, “Excuse me while I light my spliff.” Damian Marley says that it has been a part of his spiritual life. Rasta is what we are right now—one of the most peaceful groups of spiritual people in the world. Some of the most elevated and intelligent people are Rasta and a lot of that can be attributed to cannabis and spiritual, social and nutritional practices.
How has cannabis affected your life and creative processes?
It’s a part of the family you know; we have found a life in Rastafari and that we identify; marijuana is part of everything. It’s the center piece of my whole life and my whole existence. Whatever I do and whatever I practice must be conducive to that and must help contribute to my creativity and my spiritual life. I try and understand the plant more so I can use it effectively and not abuse it. We acknowledge what we need to use and what we need to be creative. It depends: are you trying to be psychedelic; what kind of message are you trying to have; what kind of vibe are you trying to create? The herb is one of the most intricate plants in the plant kingdom. The more you study, the more you learn about creation. I try to use a little bit all the time, every day, especially when I am trying to be creative and I need to channel inspiration into the physical world. It’s very good for those times.
We heard you like to vape rather than smoke. Why is that, and how do you think that affects you overall as a cannabis enthusiast and advocate?
The first time I tried using the plant was when I started to make teas with it. I would use it with other herbs to make tea, anything from mint to rosemary to garlic. I started using it as a tea, and then I tried something called a steam chalice, a thing that you make from coconut shells and bamboo. We use that to steam; it’s like vaporizing except with a water filter, which makes it even more pure, just the raw vapor. I’ve never tried smoking before; I don’t really know the real affects of it. There is someone smoking around me sometimes, especially when I am trying to sing and record and perform, and it’s not the most pleasant thing. The vape is clean, and it opens up the deeper breathing, the breath and the deep breath.