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"Craig Kallman understood where we were coming from and what we were trying to do. The thing is, we have our own label and distribution. We still do our own thing, but we needed someone to really harness and maximize those records."
——VP’s Randy Chin
VP/ATLANTIC "GET BUSY"
With Major's Help, VP Trying to Break Reggae in America
Is reggae the next big thing? Apart from a few notable one-offs, like Shaggy and Eddy Grant, the Jamaican-based music has been unable to establish a commercial base in the U.S.—despite a continuing interest in the genre’s standard-bearer, Bob Marley.

By inking a worldwide deal last October with the Chin family-run VP Records (named after its founders, the late Vincent and wife Patricia), Atlantic Records Co-President Craig Kallman believes he can bring the strength of a major label to breaking "the most vitally creative force in global popular music today."

So far, so good. The first release, Sean Paul’s Dutty Rock, has sold more than 700k to date, with a smash second single, "Get Busy," helping to catapult the album into the Top 10. Hot on its heels, Wayne Wonder, using the same diwali "riddim" created by Jamaican producer Steve "Lenky" Marsden, is now crossing over with his album, No Holding Back, and single, "No Letting Go."

The VP label originally started as a record store in Jamaica in the ‘60s, before the Chins expanded into producing reggae records under the label Randy’s Records. In 1977, they moved with their three sons to New York, where they opened up the first VP Records shop on Jamaica Avenue at 171 St. in Queens. With roots in mobile discos and sound systems, the label has been home to such major dancehall talents as Beenie Man, Shabba Ranks, Supercat and Buju Banton.

VP’s Randy Chin, who runs the company with brother Christopher and their mom, realizes the company needed to find a partner to take dancehall to the next level.

"Craig Kallman understood where we were coming from and what we were trying to do. The thing is, we have our own label and distribution. We still do our own thing, but we needed someone to really harness and maximize those records."

The label puts out between 50 and 60 releases a year by artists like Tanto Metro & Devonte, Beres Hammond, Capleton, Lady Saw, T.O.K., Elephant Man and Banton. By teaming their artists with rappers—Paul with Busta Rhymes and Banton with Fat Joe—they have crossed over dancehall to an Urban audience.

Says Kallman: "Dancehall has been an underground force in Urban music over the last decade, but it never really had a consistent release schedule with the backing of a major label. We want to put that kind of investment in the marketplace to build equity for the music—and VP is the biggest, most important label and distributor of dancehall music in the world. It’s a company that lives and breathes this music."

Randy Chin notes credibility is vital: "We’re trying to build career artists. We want to maintain the integrity of the original without losing the core audience. That builds new fans."

Adds Kallman: "We are dedicated to getting the gatekepers to continue to challenge their audience by developing what is a vital, emerging musical form that will create and carve out its own space in the marketplace. Or my name is Dread."

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