Chronixx on 'Exploring Sounds Limitlessly' With New Album 'Dela Splash'

Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Chronixx attends the Chronixx Album Listening Session at HARMAN Store on March 2, 2020 in New York City.

Earlier this month, a contingent of journalists gathered inside Manhattan's Harman Store to hear tracks from Jamaican reggae superstar Chronixx's much-anticipated sophomore album, Dela Splash. Due in late spring on Chronixx's Soul Circle Music, Dela Splash follows the Grammy nominated Chronology, which debuted at No. 1 on the Reggae Albums chart in July 2017 and was followed by numerous high-profile performances for Chronixx and his band, Zincfence Redemption.

Prior to playing songs from Dela Splash on his laptop, Chronixx explained how promotion for his previous LP had a ripple effect on Splash. "In concerts, and on shows like Jimmy Fallon, you have to perform a song in one take. So, for Dela Splash, I recorded (each song) straight through, maybe 12 times, then took the best from those recordings and comped them together. There's 'nuff learning and experimenting on this album because I'm stepping out of my comfort zone."

In an interview with Billboard at Brooklyn's Tillary Hotel a few days later, Chronixx explained that a primary objective in making Dela Splash was building upon the musical range he incorporated into the production of Chronology. "Dela Splash is like what I would do on a mixtape: exploring sounds limitlessly because you don't have to worry about clearing samples, so you put everything you want on it and come up with a recipe for your next thing," he explained. "I am looking at this long road ahead of producing, writing and making music and I'm not just going to do one-drop reggae or dancehall songs. Now is a good time to be authentic and explore all the music that I like."

Dela Splash is named after a now defunct one-day concert once held in his hometown of Spanish Town, Jamaica, which presented reggae and dancehall talents and was a significant event in Jamar McNaughton's young life. Whereas Chronology expanded reggae's parameters with its blues, soul, jazz and even country elements, Dela Splash's meticulous sonic layering obliterates genres: shards of recognizable forms are used as sculptural elements in the creation of (on most songs) an uncategorizable revolutionary expression. The remarkable first single, "Dela Move," produced by Jamaica's J.L.L. and Chronixx, is anchored in traditional Rastafarian Nyabinghi drumming with flutes and electronic effects swirling around Chronixx's haunting vocals, as he heralds, "I've got some songs with brand new meaning, read between the lines."

At the Harmon Store, Chronixx premiered the video for "Dela Move," which was filmed in Spanish Town. Throughout, director Nabil Elderkin (whose credits include Kanye West, Dua Lipa, John Legend, Frank Ocean and the 2015 short film Captureland inspired by Nelson Mandela's words and Chronixx's song of the same name) skillfully utilizes the imagery of fire, a symbol of purification among Rastas. Against a darkened sky, Chronixx and a circle of Rasta drummers are illuminated by a nearby crackling bonfire; a young female, in seeming recognition of her own power, blazes a fiery trail running through a cane field and breathes an inferno into a barrel of crabs, a literal interpretation of the song's reference to the competitiveness in the music business. "Nabil and I are working on a lot of visuals, but music videos are not necessarily our biggest focus, so this video looks like a trailer to something that's on a bigger level," Chronixx stated, withholding further details.

"Jordan River" is equally vintage blues and contemporary hip-hop; "Nobody" incorporates African guitar flourishes and a subtle dancehall lilt; and "Same Prayer" intertwines reggae, jazz and R&B strands in accompaniment of Chronixx's devout expression of his Rastafarian faith. Asking for light amidst the gloominess on the hip-hop influenced "Darker Dayz," Chronixx mesmerizes with a stark commentary that culminates in a chilling falsetto cry: "Life is harder for the darker babies, some of them fathers incarcerated, single parents a coroner favorite/that's how they keep the jails filled, man commit crime to pay bills/I wonder if they know how pain feels? Fire burn, we burn down the cane fields."

"Dela Splash shows how reggae albums produced in Jamaica can evolve from the typical sound we know; it doesn't have to be full-on reggae, because genres separate music but music has no boundaries," comments Jamaica's Romaine "Teflonzincfence" Arnett, who produced "Darker Dayz," and co-produced a majority of tracks on Dela Splash. Teflon met Chronixx at a Kingston recording studio in 2010. Chronixx was building rhythm tracks, producing and writing for other artists at the time; Teflon urged him to record his own songs, which resulted in Teflon's production of Chronixx's breakout single, "Behind Curtain." A producer on Chronixx's 2014 Dread and Terrible EP (which topped the Reggae Albums chart and cracked the Billboard 200) and Chronology, Teflon calls Dela Splash "eclectic, futuristic; we wanted to expand sounds, create something different that is still relatable, and keeps its roots. Chronixx has evolved so much and as artists, you have to elevate, you can't stick to one thing. Even when it's working for you, you have to move on."

Chronixx co-produced several tracks and compares his approach to "what hip-hop artists do, putting different things together and rapping on top of it. I did most of the project in hotel rooms, in my home studio, wherever I could set up. I used the same mic, sang into my laptop, then did the harmonies and the instruments." Instrumental overdubs were recorded in studios in London and Los Angeles with musicians from Africa, America and Jamaica; vocal collaborations with artists from various genres will be added on a few tracks. The new sonic frontiers explored by Chronixx on Dela Splash, he cautions, may not please those who are "obsessed with one dimension of reggae music and are expecting it in a pure form."

Chronixx delayed the album's release because of a momentous, life-changing event: the birth of his first child, a daughter, in 2019. "Having a child teaches you to sit, admire life and be happy in the deepest of ways," he reflects. "There are so many new emotions that I was never able to express in words but having a child, being a part of the birth process reminds you of what it is to be human."

Aiming to balance the hectic, globe-trotting expeditions required for the promotion of Dela Splash with his desire to be there for his toddler as she grows up, Chronixx plans to bring his daughter on the road with him as much as possible. "I have already brought her to a few places, to test how she does on an airplane, staying in another house and she's been pretty cool," he shared. "Hopefully the world will be in a state where babies can travel; if not, then I will have to restructure and figure out a next way."