Inside Chin Injeti’s Technicolour Hit Factory

With a rap sheet that includes Eminem, Kanye, and Drake, the legendary producer is fighting to keep colour out of music. 

by Brendan Lee

A wall of guitars, a piano tucked into the corner, and a vibrant bustle of activity backdrops a conversation that cuts to the core of Chin Injeti’s unfiltered reality. The Vancouver-based musician and producer was a torchbearer for hip-hop in Canada in the 90s and has spent the past 20 years defying the odds while producing Grammy-winning songs and albums for the world’s biggest artists, including Eminem, Drake, P!nk, and 50 Cent. 

“If you get anything out of me bro, it’s this: I want to be able to say that I’m part of a movement that extracts all the colour out of music, other than from the things that make music beautiful,” he quickly clarifies. As usual, Injeti gets straight to the point. RANGE connected with Injeti over a video call from his studio in Surrey, BC, and despite a recently broken leg, the smile on his face says he’s exactly where he wants to be. “It’s really small but it’s mine and it’s fantastic,” he says, referring to the studio behind him filled to the brim with a variety of instruments and gear. “I make music, and I create, and I write with wonderful people day in and day out. Everyday feels brand new; every day I feel like a new kid on the block.”     

It’s difficult to discuss Injeti’s career without mentioning the rapid ascension of his first musical venture, Bass is Base. The group was a fun-loving hip hop/R&B trio who dominated the city of Toronto’s MuchMusic fuelled music scene in the mid-90s. Their debut album, First Impressions for the Bottom Jigglers, sold over 20,000 copies in Canada independently and won a Juno Award for Best R&B/Soul Recording in 1995, and the band went on to sign with A&M Records and tour with legends like TLC and James Brown.

“We were just three kids: A Trinidadian, an Indian, and a French-Canadian Italian. Like Black Eyed Peas before Black Eyed Peas,” he says with a laugh. “We were doing the indie thing before Black music was doing indie things. We were having success when no one would touch music like ours. They would just laugh at it in our industry. We were just so happy being us, being Canadian, speaking the way we speak, being who we were, way before it was in style.” 

The group released a second album in 1995, Memories of the Soul Shack Survivors, which saw the band break out across the border with their hit single “I Cry.” And then, in 1997 at what seemed like the height of their game, the band members went their separate ways, leading to Injeti’s cross-country migration to Vancouver and the beginning of a necessary rediscovery. “I was still signed to Universal, but I didn’t want a bunch of white people who didn’t understand the fabric of my being to make decisions for me for another five years of my life. So I didn’t make a record until they dropped me,” he says. “And as soon as they let me go, I feel like my life began again.”

Injeti spent some time as a touring musician before eventually finding his way to LA where he hit it off with DJ Khalil, then known for being a staff producer under the wing of Dr. Dre. It was here where the present version of Chin Injeti truly took form. “We got along so great, and he was signed to Dr. Dre, and that put me in the same room as him,” he says. “Dre loved me, and then one thing led to another. A couple years and three Grammys later, and I’m still doing it.”

Together, Injeti and DJ Khalil have produced such notable works as 50 Cent’s “Could’ve Been You,” Clipse and Kanye West’s “Kinda Like a Big Deal,” and Eminem’s Grammy Award-winning albums, Recovery and The Marshall Mathers LP 2. When asked about how he finds ways to stay creative amid the pressures and expectations of working for such high profile acts, Injeti’s confidence is a clear indicator of who has spent his entire life overcoming the odds “If you listen to Recovery, there’s no other Emrecord that sounds like it. It’s rock,” he says. “I did one song with Drake, it’s called “Fear.” Listen to it. He doesn’t have a single song like it in his entire catalogue. You always find a way.”

Injeti began life with his back against the wall. When his family immigrated to Canada from India as a child, he was wheelchair-bound and diagnosed with polio. True to his form, he found a way to leave the chair behind. He spent those younger years idolizing artists like Stevie Wonder, Prince, and David Bowie — fitting role-models for a man who strives to break the mould in his own right.

Partway through the interview, Iman Wamboi, a Kenyan-Canadian songwriter and client of Injeti’s, entered the studio ahead of a meeting the two had planned for later on. She was quick to praise Injeti for his work in supporting smaller local acts such as herself. “One thing that Chin really helped me see, especially as a young Black female, is that I don’t have to subscribe to an image of what people think music from people who look like me sounds like,” she says. “It’s been really special being able to connect with him and create with him on that level.”

Injeti still collaborates with DJ Khalil, and they form half of production team The New Royales. Since his Bass is Base days, he has continued to write and release hip-hop and R&B music under his own name, and most recently released the funky feel-good single, “Sparrow,” and the emotional tear-jerker, “Golden.”

A lot has changed since Injeti hit the ground running, but there’s no doubt in his mind that the music industry, and society as a whole, still has a huge mountain to climb. “They’re still putting colour on music. And they’re opening up these doors for coloured artists, but they’re still kind of fucking uptight that all these new artists are getting the opportunities that were once all theirs. In my time in the industry, I’ve done a lot of cool things and I’m grateful,” he says. His determination, once again, shines through. “But I hope I can be one of those people who, when people ask, ‘Who was that guy who took the eraser and erased all that colour shit,’ you know? I would like to be that person.”

Chin Injeti has come a long way from being the kid who overtook the streets of Toronto with a backpack full of concert flyers and an electric grin. He’s fought the fight of a lifetime to earn every spot, yet the smile’s never left his face.

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