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Merging the markets - Dancehall artiste looks to make impact here and abroad

Published:Sunday | April 3, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Baby Chris - Gladstone Taylor/Photographer

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

A famished Baby Chris wolfs down a family-sized serving of Chinese food after a busy day doing the promotional rounds for his latest songs. The stiletto-framed singer hit the big time six years ago with the British hit Ring Ding Ding, but has found out that doing business in Kingston is way different than London.

"I can take a song to London and it's a hit within a month, 'cause I'm giving it to the BBC, Choice FM and the DJs play it 'cause they look out for me like that," said Baby Chris recently. "But inna Jamaica, mi haffi a work hard!"

Baby Chris' latest productions have been for Sean 'Seanizzle' Reid, arguably the hottest dancehall producer in Jamaica.

Grades (with deejay Versatile), What Did I Do, Moma A The Best Woman and Don't Tek Him Back are the songs the duo are currently pushing.

Reid was the man behind Beenie Man's monster hit Red Bull and Mr G's Swagarific.

What Did I Do was released last October on his Split Personality beat.

While satisfied with the local reception, Baby Chris says the song has enjoyed its strongest radio rotation in the London and New York City underground where it is being promoted by the Bronx-based 5 Stars Recording Inc.

Unlike most dancehall artistes who record for several producers, Baby Chris said he prefers to collaborate with one to maintain a level of consistency.

"Like how What Did I Do a gwaan wicked right now, if me'd a voice fi another man probably his song wouldn't match up an yuh career flop," he explained.

"Mi nuh voice fi a bag a man an' dat's how mi market myself."

Lived in Britain

Baby Chris has lived in Britain for almost 20 years, but began his recording career in Waterhouse at the fabled studio of producer Lloyd 'King Jammys' James. It was there he said that he got his moniker from an emerging deejay called Bounty Killer.

Christopher Lloyd (his given name) hailed from the nearby Cockburn Pen community where some of dancehall's biggest names, like U Roy and Super Cat, charted their course on the sound system circuit.

He moved to Britain after recording a handful of songs for James and Freddie McGregor's Big Ship label, but maintained his music ties as opening act for top dancehall performers passing through London.

With fellow Jamaicans Tishaun Elliot (Lenky) and Alex Wright (Orthodox), he formed LOC, which had a sizable British hit with Ring Ding Ding. As he tells it, they recorded the song on producer Rohan 'Snowcone' Fuller's Applause beat which they discovered on a London underground mix-tape.

"We were just mocking about in the studio, but the song went from the small stations to the big stations. It's off key but it had a hook, and it hooked dem!" Baby Chris recalled. Ring Ding Ding, which was done without Fuller's knowledge, became a London club favourite and peaked at number 58 on the British pop chart.

It earned LOC shows throughout Britain, Europe, Japan and the Caribbean.

LOC split up without going for a follow-up hit. His colleagues gave up on the music business but Baby Chris soldiered on, releasing his debut album in Australia and New Zealand where Ring Ding Ding was a minor hit.

Ring Ding Ding not only gave him an international profile, but appreciation for the dynamics of the music business.

"In Jamaica nuff man sey dem song a the hottest thing, an' when dem reach Miami is a different thing, it nah gwaan wid nuthin," he said. "Wha' me waan do is lock both markets, then merge dem."