A fixture in the international dancehall and reggae music scene, Willy Chin has been at the turntable for over a decade. Having started his career as a deejay with the popular sound system group Black Chiney. Born Warren Hoo to Jamaican parents of Asian decent, Willy Chin has always been surrounded by music. His cousin is grammy-award winning record producer Dwayne “Supa Dups” Chin-Quee who is the founding member of Black Chiney.
Supa Dups served as an inspiration to his younger cousin whose fascination with sound system equipment began at an early age. As a teenager Chin worked at Light and Sound Equipment (LASE) a local family owned music store in South Miami. While at LASE he garnered an understanding of studio equipment and how they worked.
Ironically many would be surprised to know that Chin did not endeavor to create a living out of being a disc jockey (DJ). His fascination with the industry grew as a hobby in which he indulged recreationally.
Growing up, Chin was often unimpressed with the skills of deejays he observed at birthday parties and other events he attended. His dissatisfaction at the poor quality of the presumably amateur deejays influenced him to start offering services of his own to his closest friends. As his schedule continued to grow, Chin received several opportunities to go on tour with his cousin’s group, Black Chiney. Such trips exposed him to the skills and determination needed at the professional level. Eventually Chin became motivated to go beyond the occasional DJ jobs; he delved into the industry whole heartedly.
What initially started as a hobby began to take shape as professional opportunity. By age 17 Willy Chin realized that there was more to being a DJ than he previously thought, it took more than skills at the turntable; it required good time management and business skills. Consequently he started to invest time in managing his ventures more effectively. As he matured, his business acumen began to take shape. It didn’t take long for Supa Dups to realize that Chin was destined for success and consequently extended an official invite for him to become a part of the Black Chiney dynasty in 2003. His association with Black Chiney did not erode his entrepreneurial spirit, Chin continued to work on independent projects and he released his first mixed tape, Willy Chin Volume One, the same year. The release of the mixed tape and his association with Black Chiney propelled his reputation as the Remix King in South Miami, and the demand for his services grew exponentially. By 2004 he launched his own recording company, C-Lab Studios. To date his signature solo event is his annual birthday bash which he has organized since December of 2007. The Willy Chin Birthday Bash has grown to attract audiences in the thousands and is a hot ticket item for the dancehall masses in South Florida.
One of the perks of being a world renowned reggae/dancehall entertainer is the opportunity to travel to different countries, playing in countries like Japan, China, Italy, Jamaica, Germany and a list of others. Global travel has helped to increase Chin’s awareness of cultural sensitivities and differences. Astounded by the demonstrated impact of reggae music and Jamaican culture on people around the world, Chin asserts that Jamaica has a strong cultural brand, one that penetrates geographical boundaries and erode language barriers. It is not uncommon to see speakers of other languages singing reggae songs or using Jamaican slang.
No audience is the same and as such, Chin is constantly surveying the demographics of his audience. In so doing he has discovered that different regions tend to prefer a specific genre. For example music from entertainers like Chornixx, Gentleman, Matisyahu et al receive greater airplay and listenership in Eurpoean countries where as dancehall entertainers like Popcaan, Beenie Man, etc. have greater listenership in heavily populated Jamaican communities such as Miami. Asked about whether the impact of reggae/dancehall music has been positive or negative, Chin asserts that it has been overwhelmingly positive. He is however careful to note that reggae music is the anthem of revolutionists, those who are not content with the status quo. It is the music of the rebel, one who questions authority and the structural foundations of society.
I questioned Chin on his assertion that reggae music has been overwhelmingly positive in light of the recent airplay limitations that placed on certain artistes and lyrical content. For example, there is no denying the fact that some entertainers have songs with very violent lyrical content. The genre’s inherent homophobic content, and the tendency at times to subjugate and demean women serves as an example. Despite this, Chin is adamant that reggae music is just music. With over a decade within the profession he insists that he has never observed people acting out of aggression as a result of the music. He is also troubled by the fact that regulatory bodies have made it their duty to limit the scope and reach of reggae and dancehall music. Such regulation, he asserts, only serves to “water down” the music industry and the experience of patrons at events (stage shows, etc).
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect about the deejay is his name, Willy Chin. Asked about how he came up with the moniker he relates his battle with obesity as a teenager. His friends and family jokingly referred to him as Free Willy, a name taken from the then popular film of the same name. The reference was made to associate him with the star of the film, the monstrous whale! Needless to say as he got older he won against the battle of the bulge, and eventually his moniker was shortened to Willy. In Jamaica many people refer to men of Asian decent as Mr. Chin, it was no surprise therefore when countless individuals started to add Chin to his name and he ultimately became Willy Chin.
A rather humble individual, Chin is quick to let you know that the business is not all fame and glory. Asked to share a word of advice for any one hoping to become a deejay he implores that you follow your heart;
“If you love it, do it. Don’t be in it (the business) for the money, because the money comes a dime a dozen. There are people that have been doing it longer than me, and still haven’t seen any money. Money is no guarantee in the business, but with hard work it pays off. Invest your time wisely.” – Willy Chin
Chin still has high hopes for the future of his business and his brand. Most days when people refer to him as a success, he is quick to point out that he feels like he hasn’t done anything yet. With such a drive, it is no surprise that Willy Chin has achieved so much. He is indeed a part of the very brand he promotes. As an entertainer he represents brand Jamiaca to the world, and he does so with humility. I recall asking him recently about how fame has affected him, he brushed aside my assertions regarding fame; “Me, famous? I am just a regular guy that loves what he does.” The truth in his statement is evident when he is not engulfed with work. His favorite past time is sleeping and playing video games. It doesn’t get any better than that.
For more information on Willy Chin you may visit his website at: willychinremix.com
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