Chrome — The man who made Kartel’s Clarks
Shaun Chablal remembers as a youth playing music on old turntables in the backyard of his home in Clarendon. It was the start of a career that has blossomed and made him one of dancehall's hottest producers.
Chablal is known as ZJ Chrome, the man behind monster hit songs like Vybz Kartel's Clarkes and Mavado's Hope and Pray. His Cr203 label has been churning out hits since its debut in 2007.
But despite all the chart success he has enjoyed during that time, Chrome retains a low-key profile. According to the former Glenmuir High, Knox College and Northern Caribbean University student, that suits him just fine.
"Being low-key that's just me, I prefer it that way. I rather the work that I put out to speak for itself," he told Splash.
Much of that work is featured on the new compilation, ZJ Chrome Presents Cr203 Hits Volume 1, which was recently released by 21st Hapilos Digital.
With hit rhythms such as Recession, Trippple Bounce, Mad Collab, Smokin, Dancehall EFX, Cardiac Strings, Contra, V6 and TNS, Chrome has risen to the top of his game in a relatively short period.
Bicycle by Vybz Kartel, Mr Vegas' Man a Gallis, Cheaters Prayer by Christopher Martin, Duh Road by Mavado and Matie Wine by Tifa, are some of the other chart-riders he has produced.
He points to Clarkes (which also featured Popcaan and Vanessa Bling) as his biggest production to date. It was a massive hit in Jamaica and on North American ethnic charts and made strides in Britain where it was endorsed by the shoe company to which the song paid tribute.
Chrome says Clarkes has done a lot for his resume.
"It cracked open the door a little wider for my label and future productions. Clarkes was part of the Mad Collab project which was a concept rhythm that I wanted to do from 2009," he explained.
While making beats and hit songs are important in the fast-paced world of dancehall, Chrome says it is equally important for him to create music that will endure.
"I am making music that I like and I do it without exception. It has to have a certain quality and standard or I will not release it," he said. "I don't go into the studio thinking what it is to achieve. I do what I like and hope that people understand my goals and like it too."
One way to achieve longevity, he points out, is to avoid sampling which is a major part of dancehall and hip-hop.
"I do not sample, and yes, I do keep my productions fresh. None of my projects sound similar."
Chrome has had a productive relationship with Kartel, the flamboyant deejay who is presently in police custody on murder charges. He said Kartel's troubles have not affected his label's output.
"I look forward to working with everybody with the hits. Each artiste has his or her own talent," Chrome said.
His latest production is the Wild Bubble rhythm. It features songs by Elephant Man, Tommy Lee, Tifa, Aidonia, Voicemail, Konshens, Popcaan, Blak Dymond, Tony Matterhorn and Bugle.
He is also working on the final installment of the Cardiac rhythm. Titled Cardiac Keys, it carries tracks from Cecile, Christopher Martin and Alaine, among others.
With the 'ZJ Chrome Presents' collection, he hopes to highlight the work that has put his label on the map.
"This is an ode to some of my greatest work over the past five years. Why wait 10-15 years to celebrate what you have done. It's best to do it while it's relevant," he stated.