New York City is home to many cool record stores, but few have stories as inspiring as the one behind VP Records in Jamaica, Queens. Like many immigrants, the founders of VP Records, Vincent “Randy” and Patricia Chin, came to New York City seeking opportunity and prosperity. As immigrants of largely Chinese descent from Jamaica, they were able to achieve the American Dream and carve themselves a chunk of the pie. The result of their hard work and dreams was VP Records, an internationally renowned reggae and Caribbean music label and distributor. Get to know the unique immigrant story behind this record label company and its retail store that thrives in Jamaica, Queens.
Image via VP Records
Vincent and Patricia are from Kingston, Jamaica, where they owned “Randy’s Records” to sell music and “Studio 17,” a recording studio that housed some of the most prominent reggae, soca, and dancehall music. Fleeing political violence, the Chins immigrated to the United States in the 1970s and set up VP Records in Brooklyn in 1975, where they sold and distributed records. The company’s name, as you might be able to tell, comes from the founders’ initials.
Patricia “Miss Pat” Chin, co-owner of VP Records with husband Vincent “Randy” Chin, now deceased. (Photo: VP Records)
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer back in 2014 on the company’s 35th anniversary, Patricia said they were able to fill the void for reggae music because at that time, the genre was relatively unknown to the country. The only Jamaican artist many in the U.S. was aware of was Bob Marley.
The Chins opened the store in Queens in 1979 and they’ve been providing the authentic reggae to the community for decades. “A lot of the music stores are no longer around, but the VP Records retail outlet continues to serve the community with new releases and vinyl classics,” said Patricia, also known as ‘Miss Pat’. Her husband Vincent, a record producer and label owner, passed away in 2003, but the vibrant shop continues his legacy. Today, the label is run by the Chins’ sons Randy and Christopher, with Pat maintaining the company as well.
Inside VP Records retail store at 170-21 Jamaica Avenue
But now that Caribbean music has made its way into the mainstream airwaves, how does VP compete? They don’t. Miss Pat aims for the company “to be the premier Caribbean label to help develop new artists and give them wings to fly as we have been doing for the last 60 years.”
VP manages artists like Fay-Ann Lyons, Bunji Garlin, and Elephant Man help promote other up-and-coming artists to keep reggae, soca, and dancehall vibrant and fresh.
With the label and store being housed in a predominately Caribbean community, VP Records strives to be as involved as possible by holding events in their store and being a part of cultural celebrations like the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival. “I love Jamaica, Queens because it is a diverse community and reminds me of back home Jamaica, W.I [West Indies],” Miss Pat said.
Vincent and Pat Chin in the 1980s. Image via VP Records
VP Records has become the largest and most successful reggae label that produced world-renowned artists and has global outreach that helped shape the future of Jamaican music. Despite all the accolades, Miss Pat stays true to their humble beginnings. Miss Pat says they don’t forget the people who helped them to become the powerhouse they are today.
“We have many loyal reggae fans who we have kept in touch with for over 60 years from back in Jamaica,” she said.
VP Records is located at 170-21 Jamaica Avenue. The company also has offices in Miami, London, Kingston, Tokyo, Johannesburg, and Rio.