VP Records - The Basics:
- What - Atlantic Records distributed label VP Records
- Where - Queens, New York
- Founded by - Vincent and Pat Chin ("VP")
- Founded - 1993 (preceded by a record store and distribution company)
- Significant Achievements - Becoming one of the top homes for Caribbean music - particularly dancehall music, in recent years.
It All Started with a Jukebox:
VP Records can trace its roots back to 1950s jukeboxes in Jamaica. Vincent Chin was in charge of maintaining jukeboxes in bars all over the island, and when he realized that records were routinely thrown away when they were swapped out for new songs in the jukeboxes, he saw his chance. In 1958, Vincent partnered with his wife Pat to open the legendary Randy's Record Shop in Kingston. Randy's quickly became not only an outlet for old jukebox records but also a hangout for music lovers and a central part of the active Jamaican music scene.
Just a few years after opening Randy's, the Chins opened Studio 17, where Bob Marley, Gregory Isaacs and more made some of their earliest recordings.
Launch of VP - The Store:
The Chins relocated to New York in the mid-1970s to tap into the burgeoning reggae market there. In 1979, they launched a new record store in Queens that they called VP Records. From this retail store, the Chins quickly became the leading supplier of Caribbean music to record stores across North America.
Launch of VP - The Label:
In 1993, reggae - especially dancehall reggae - was experiencing a surge in crossover popularity, and the Chins decided to go expand their retail division to include a label to capitalize on the renewed interest in Caribbean music. VP Records quickly became the go-to label for dancehall reggae acts as well as other Caribbean musicians looking for an inroad in North American markets. The label grew quickly and was awarded Best Independent Label twice by Billboard within its first nine years of operation.
In 2003, 10 years after launching, VP signed a multi-million dollar distribution deal with Atlantic Records. At the time of writing, VP is one of the world's largest distributors of music of Caribbean origin, particularly reggae and soca. The label has offices in Japan, Jamaica, the US and the UK.
VP Records Comps:
It is difficult to think of an internationally known reggae musician who hasn't at least passed through VP - after all, the label regularly releases a whopping 60 albums per year. Although they certainly release single artist full lengths, compilation albums are a major part of the VP approach. The label uses their long running series of comps, Dancehall 101, Reggae Anthology, and Strictly The Best, as both introductions to Caribbean music and culture to new fans and as ways for dedicated fans up on the latest music emerging from the islands between full lengths from their favorites. The Reggae Anthology series in particular includes in depth liner notes to give fans a deeper look into Caribbean musicians, who often receive very little coverage in the music media outside of the islands.