Tami Chynn: One In A Million

For decades, Jamaica has been hailed as the mecca for reggae and dancehall music. With artists such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Beenie Man and more recently Sean Paul, Jamaica holds a consistent track record for creating sounds to move your body, mind, and spirit. It’s unfortunate that the female factor has been seriously overlooked.

While artists such as Lady Saw have made tremendous contributions in providing femininity and sexuality with hypnotic “riddims,” there has yet to be a woman who can successfully carry it over to the States. Universal recording artist Tami Chynn may finally change the tides for the creative ladies of Jamaica.

Tami Chynn has been an affluent member of the dancehall scene for years. Possessing a smooth sound with commercial appeal, Miss Chynn radiates beauty in both her vocals and soul. With collaborations from Sean Paul, Bounty Killer and Lady Saw to name a few, she is now poised for her solo debut. It’s only appropriate that her debut album is entitled Out of Many…One. Her hit single “Hyperventilating” is not only a club anthem, but also the catalyst propelling her career.

In the midst of a major radio promo tour, Tami took the time to discuss her musical family, biracial upbringing, self-managed fan club, and her plans to represent properly for the black, green, and gold.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Distinguish between reggae and dancehall music.

Tami Chynn: The easiest way to distinguish between reggae and dancehall is using artists. The difference between reggae and dancehall is Bob Marley: reggae and Sean Paul: dancehall. Reggae is very old school, and has been the music of our country for years. Dancehall was kind of a music that was a rebellion for the ghetto people, a voice for the ghetto people; hardcore, hard-hitting. So basically the difference is Bob Marley and Sean Paul. [laughs]

AHHA: Do you feel that the U.S., particularly U.S. radio, does enough to distinguish between the two?

Tami Chynn: No. I think the more they know about it the more they can explain. It’s more of an education thing, and people knowing the difference, knowing there is a difference and doing their best to decipher. Jamaicans get put under this big umbrella, like Sean Paul. Even though he is dancehall he gets classified as a reggae artist, which is kind of weird. You never see somebody in Hip-Hop or R&B, because you’re from America and do Hip-Hop, be called R&B. I think that with the more artists that come out, the differences will become obvious.

AHHA: Who were your influences in both dancehall and reggae growing up?

Tami Chynn: Well before I say who my influences were, many of these artists didn’t really influence my music. A lot of times when I say who my influences are and then people listen to my music they’re like, “Well, where is it?” As far as dancehall and reggae goes, of course Bob Marley, of course Peter Tosh. As far as the dancehall side, Diana King, Lady Saw, Cecille; there’s lots. The Jamaican music scene is very diverse and versatile…and alive!

AHHA: You’ve worked with Lady Saw on some projects. Do you feel that women in dancehall have slipped under the radar?

Tami Chynn: Yeah I do, but I also feel that there is such a thing as the right time and the right place. I think as far as Lady Saw, the music that she does is really hardcore Jamaican music, and is very…it’s not maybe acceptable to people over here, and depends on what you like to listen to over here as well. We have to try and be as crossover as possible sometimes in our music. [Lady Saw] really does essential hardcore dancehall, as opposed to me, who has mixed essential hardcore dancehall with pop and R&B. A little of this; a little of that.

AHHA: Your family was in a group called the Carnations. When you were younger, did they lead you in the direction of music?

Tami Chynn: My parents never pushed me to do anything. They always were like, “Whatever you do, do the best that you can.” I always showed an interest to be in music or dance or acting, so they always made it possible for me to go in that direction. They never ever said to me, “You know you really should be a musician.” [laughs] But they gave me all of the tools I needed to do what I wanted to do.

AHHA: Was there any point in your childhood where you knew music was it for you?

Tami Chynn: Maybe not in my childhood, but when I was 17, I really realized that I wanted to pursue singing. Growing up though, I knew I was going to sing, dance, or act. It was just a matter of where I was going to start. Come like 16 or 17 was when I was like, “Hey, I think music is where I want to go.”

AHHA: Do you still plan on pursuing acting?

Tami Chynn: Eventually. One day at a time. Right now I’m trying to establish myself as a singer, so why not? I want to do it all, so definitely.

AHHA: Let’s talk about your album Out of Many…One. I know you mix a lot of different styles in this album; what’s the concept behind it?

Tami Chynn: The whole album is really a nice…I don’t want to call it summery, but it is coming out in the Summer and is fun-loving and has that feeling, but there are also songs on there that are different from what people have already heard from me. Of course you have your dance tunes, your club songs, that fun and sexy, “Hey let’s all have a good time.” Then you have songs on there like the love songs, reggae-style music. The album is a really nice blend of everything I think. I think there is something in there for everybody. It was fun making this album. I’ve been making it for a long time. There are songs on there that were written four years ago; there are songs on there that were written three months ago. It’s really fresh, but at the same time, really attached to my heartstrings.

AHHA: Are there any guest appearances on the album?

Tami Chynn: There is one guest appearance on the album from an artist called Assassin. He’s a Jamaican artist, really well known deejay in Jamaica, and he’s just fabulous. He’s a star, he’s young, and I got the chance to work with him. I didn’t want to fill it up with too many collaborations, especially when you’re trying to establish yourself [as an artist]. So that’s the only collaboration on the album.

AHHA: How does it feel coming out with your debut after collaborating with so many well-known artists and already having this track record?

Tami Chynn: I feel good about it. It was a lot of work. When I got the chance to work on Sean Paul’s album, I was like thrilled about that, ya know? And he’s such a great guy and has done all he can to really endorse me. Wherever he goes, if he has the chance to even mention my name he will. That’s wicked, and I feel great coming into my own now and have the support from other artists. It feels like I’ve taken on something big, but really excited about it.

AHHA: How does your multicultural heritage translate into your music?

Tami Chynn: That’s the part where I called my album Out of Many…One, because even with myself, I love so many different heritages, I love so many different cultures and backgrounds. I’m just me. And with the music, there are so many different styles, but really just one. I don’t know, maybe that’s [being mixed race] why I love so many different backgrounds. There are also so many different people who are mixed race like me, so I hopefully can be a positive role model for them. People can be like, “Hey I’m mixed too.” For such a long time, being mixed race was frowned upon. The world is going that way [mixed race] now though.

AHHA: Did you struggle at all in your early years with your heritage?

Tami Chynn: Actually I lived in England for three years. I was 14, and that’s where I faced most of the struggles with my heritage. Believe it or not. London is a great melting pot, but I don’t really want to put it all on England. It just happened to be that it was there that I discovered I was of mixed race after all. I had no clue [laughs]. Going to school, you know how kids can be. They also in the end turned out to love that I was mixed race and multicultural. What was bad became something good.

AHHA: Did being of mixed race affect your entry into the music industry at all?

Tami Chynn: I think it’s been a good thing. Any affect it has had must have been positive because I haven’t had any dealings or responses or feedback from it. So, it must have been good!

AHHA: On your MySpace page, you have a really personal interaction with your fans. Do you feel that the more famous an artist becomes, the more they need to still maintain that relationship?

Tami Chynn: Yeah, but it’s hard. I mean hardly anybody in the world knows me. I have how friends on there, and everyone that writes me, I feel this tremendous pressure to at least say thank you because I think if you take the time out, I should at least do the same. But already I am finding it very difficult to be like…”Hello back.” [laughs] I refuse to send out those generic emails. In the end you find that your fans are your support and are the ones that will propel you to the top. So it’s important [to write back], but sometimes almost near impossible. No joke.

AHHA; Do you feel that the internet has kind of opened you up to cultivate a relationship with your fans?

Tami Chynn: Definitely, especially with MySpace. Ok, I am not a computer genius at all. I mean like…no. So when I had my old website, it was very difficult for me to respond or even keep in touch. MySpace has made it so easy, well the internet in this regard has made it so easy for me to do that. I can’t imagine reading fan mail even this early. [laughs] I mean I’m sure I will be hopefully. But yeah, the internet is crazy. It’s allowed me to get my music out into the world much farther than it probably ever would have.

AHHA: Will you be touring soon?

Tami Chynn: Hopefully! That all depends on how well “Looky Looky” does. We’ll see. I’m hoping to be touring soon.

AHHA: How has it been establishing yourself and staying in your hometown of Kingston?

Tami Chynn: It’s kind of crazy because I started working in Jamaica two and a half years ago. I released my first single there. It’s allowed me to have roots, and the people there know me. As I’ve gone on, I’ve gotten very busy, so it’s so hard to try and maintain a career in Jamaica as well. They are two separate things really. I do videos for Jamaica all the time, and now I have to go to concerts and press and all this good stuff here, but now it’s been hard for me to juggle both. I can imagine that it will only get harder.

AHHA: If you weren’t here, where would you be?

Tami Chynn: I’d be working with children. Anything to do with kids; I’d be doing that. No, actually if I wasn’t here, I’d be trying to get here. [laughs] Who knows what’s next!

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