VP Records’ Patricia Chin: An immigrant success story

Patricia Chin, co-founder of VP Records at the 2nd Annual Spirit of the Caribbean Festival in 2019, on the front lawn of the Jamaica Performing Arts Center, Jamaica, Queens.
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Audrey Marks has lauded the contribution of Patricia Chin and her late husband Vincent “Randy” Chin in both the development of Jamaica’s reggae music genre and its promotion through their business, Randy’s Record Mart and VP Records, according to CaribbeanNationalWeekly (CNW).

“Since its emergence, reggae music has come to be known as the ‘heartbeat of the world,’” CNW quoted Amb. Marks as saying at a recent reception to celebrate the release of Chin’s memoir, “Miss Pat: My Musical Journey,” hosted by the Manhattan-based Carib News.

“However, any credible study of this important genre, which has remained a significant feature of Jamaica’s cultural heritage, will reveal Mrs. Chin’s remarkable contribution to its growth in Jamaica and across the globe,” added the envoy, stating that, from their humble beginnings, as Randy’s Record Mart in 1958 — founded by Chin and her husband, “the Chins were instrumental in introducing and giving prominence to many new reggae stars.

“Their relocation to the United States in the 1970s, where they established a reggae empire known as VP Records, constituted a groundbreaking move, given their singular role in introducing several artistes to the international scene and building a new wave of reggae legends, including Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Lady Saw and Sean Paul,” Marks continued.

“I laud Ms. Pat, as she is affectionately called, for her philanthropy and unwavering commitment to the continued growth and development of reggae music, evidenced by the establishment of the Vincent and Pat Chin Foundation, which supports music education in the Jamaican Diaspora and the Caribbean, and seeks to preserve the history of reggae and Caribbean music,” she said.

The proceeds from the book will go towards supporting music education, as well as the Alpha Institute in Jamaica, “to enhance the facilities and upgrading the school’s musical technology equipment,” CNW said.

“I am always inspired by the remarkable contribution of members of the Jamaican Diaspora to the economic, social, cultural and political landscape of the United States,” CNW quoted Marks as saying. “Ms. Pat’s life stands out as an immigrant success story, blazing a trail of excellence in entrepreneurship which has inspired many other Jamaicans to pursue similar dreams in their adopted homeland.

“Ms. Pat is, without doubt, a cultural icon, whose life is one of fusion with reggae music for more than six decades,” she added. “Whether Ms. Pat chose music or music chose her, Jamaica and, indeed, the world is a better place as a result of her courage and fortitude in overcoming the odds and making her mark in the music industry.

“I, therefore, join Jamaicans at home and in the Diaspora in celebrating the life of a legend,” Marks continued.

Chin told Caribbean Life on Wednesday that she felt “blessed and happy to believe and embrace my culture for so many years.

“I live in the Sates for over 40 years, but my heart is always back home in Jamaica,” she said in a telephone interview from Montego Bay, Jamaica, before heading back to New York on Thursday.

“I love my community, my friends and my culture so much, and I will not trade them for any other culture,” Chin added. “I’m a true Jamaican, and I love my culture.

“I am happy to be able to spread our Jamaican music and culture to the world,” he continued. “Thanks for all the artists and the reggae fans who have made VP (Records) possible.”

Yahoo News noted, on June 2, that Chin is “an influential figure in the reggae community, and the woman who helped popularize the genre in the United States and around the world.”

It said it all started when the Chins opened Randy’s Records in Kingston, the Jamaican capital, “where they sold jukebox records, according to Rootfire.”

The couple then opened a recording studio above their store called Randy’s Studio 17, “which later became a hub for many musicians,” Yahoo News said.

Bob Marley, the legendary reggae superstar, was one of the singers who used the studio, Chin told Yahoo News.

“Studio 17 was like an employment agency; you could find everybody right there,” Yahoo News quoted Chin as telling Rootfire in an interview in 2018. “If you want a singer, he would be there, or a backup singer, or any musician.”

Chin said the ‘50s and ‘60s were “exciting times,” adding they had just “created a new culture called reggae music,” according to Yahoo News.

“The songs are like a newspaper. It tells you what’s going on in the country, the poverty, the struggle, and what’s going on politically,” she said.

Fearing for their safety, Chin and her family decided to leave her native land in the 1970s, as the Jamaican political unrest continued, Yahoo News said.

It said the family migrated to New York, where they opened VP Records, named after the initials of Vincent and Patricia.

According to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, VP Records is “an independent Caribbean-owned record label” in Jamaica, Queens.

With offices in New York City, Miami, London, Kingston, Tokyo, Johannesburg and Rio de Janeiro, VP Records is known for releasing music by notable artists in reggae, dancehall and soca, Wikipedia said

It said the label has established a presence in Toronto, Australia and New Zealand.

The Chins first set up a record store in Brooklyn, called VP Records, in 1975, from which they sold and distributed records, Wikipedia said.

Four years later, they relocated the store to Queens.

In 1993, the record label was formed after the success of the retail store, Wikipedia said.

“The label established itself as one of the first and largest independent record labels for reggae and dancehall; and, with the popularity of the riddim sound of the early 2000s, the label achieved worldwide success for artists such as Sean Paul through the label’s deals with Warner Music Group’s Atlantic Records and Virgin Music Canada,” Wikipedia said.

“The label is often also accredited with having increased the popularity of the now globally recognized Elephant Man, also known as the ‘Energy God’ or ‘Ele’, through a deal with Bad Boy Records,” it added, stating that VP Records has acquired the slogan “Miles Ahead in Reggae Music” to signify that “they could be considered to be the future of music that derives from the Caribbean.”

In addition to reggae, VP is also known for dancehall, soca and reggaeton music, Wikipedia said.

It said VP also releases a series of Riddim Driven albums, which feature various artists tracks using the same rhythm.

The Biggest Reggae One-Drop Anthems is a series of CD reggae compilations that began in 2005, released by Greensleeves Records, Wikipedia said.

It said Greensleeves was acquired by VP in 2008, “and, with Greensleeves’ catalogue of over 12,000 songs, VP became the largest reggae label and publisher in the world.”

Wikipedia said VP has also issued the compilations series “Strictly the Best,” which has now reached over 50 volumes.

It said VP Records has been awarded Billboard’s “Best Independent Label” for two consecutive years (2002 and 2003), and has received the award for “Best Reggae Imprint Label” for three consecutive years.

VP was also nominated for Best Independent Reggae Label at the 2003 Billboard Hip-Hop and R&B awards, Wikipedia said.

It said Vincent Chin died in 2003, and that the label is now run by the Chins’ sons, Randy and Christopher, “while Patricia Chin continues to assist with the maintenance of her late husband’s company, as well.”

In 2007, VP Records began re-issuing classic albums from the 1970s and 1980s on the 17 North Parade label, the address of Randy’s Studio, “where it all began,” Wikipedia said.

“Giving back my culture throughout the world makes me very proud,” Mrs. Chin told Yahoo News.