Entertainment

VP Records... according to Pat Chin

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

Friday, July 04, 2014    

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THIS is the 11th in a 12-part series looking at Jamaicans who have excelled in the tri-state (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) area's entertainment and leisure industry.

VINCENT and Pat Chin had been involved in the music business for almost 20 years when they migrated to New York City in the late 1970s.

But the husband-and-wife team soon discovered there was no mass market for Jamaican music in the Big Apple.

"Nobody knew about reggae. When I went there 35 years ago the only person they knew about was Bob Marley," Pat Chin told Splash recently.

Unfazed, the Chins started VP Records in Queens in 1979. Today, the company is the world's leading distributor of reggae and is usually credited with breaking modern dancehall music in the United States.

Vincent Chin, who previously operated the successful Randy's label in downtown Kingston, died in 2003. But he and his wife saw the 'mom-and-pop' label they started 35 years ago grow to distribute million-selling albums by Sean Paul (Dutty Rock), as well as numerous hit songs by Beres Hammond, Garnet Silk, Beenie Man, Shabba Ranks, Lady Saw, Luciano, among others.

Chin says VP's early product was hardcore roots-reggae by acts like Augustus Pablo and the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, but it was dancehall that really put the company on the map during the 1990s.

"Anything that was similar to Bob Marley we sold initially but it's safe to say that the deejay stuff introduced us to the younger people," she related.

Pat Chin's grandparents came to Jamaica from China in the early 1900s, settling in the district of Snow Hill, Portland where her mother was born. It was after meeting Vincent in the early 1960s that she got acquainted with music.

The Randy's catalogue is extensive, with titles by just about every top act in ska, rock steady and roots-reggae. But VP's commercial achievements have surpassed its predecessor, something that has not gone unnoticed by major companies like Atlantic Records which has worked with the 'indie' to break acts like Sean Paul to a pop audience.

Chin recalls that there was a handful of reggae stores and labels in New York City when she moved there. An historic event 10 years ago proved that the music, and VP, helped change that.

"When we had our 25th anniversary, we kept a show at Radio City Music Hall and our name was on the big billboard. Radio City is a big American institution, so that was a big accomplishment for us," she said.

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