When asked how they met, Shammah turns to Scott. “Whose version do you want?” she says to me. “My husband’s version or the real version?”
“My version is the actual, real version,” Scott protests.
Shammah smiles knowingly. “You listen to his version, then I’ll tell you the real story.”
Scott shakes his head incredulously. Before he met Shammah, Scott had a fascinating career in music. He started in high school in Detroit, where he built a fanbase as a Dj, producing records on his own dime and in his own time. It wasn’t long before he earned a spot at the world-renowned Music Institute, opening for Derick May. By 19, he’d started his own record label as an artist, producer, Dj, art director, publicist and marketer. By 22, he’d moved to New York, producing hits and spinning records in the best nightclubs in the world.
After a 20-year career, he walked away with 25 gold and platinum records under his belt. He’s still a Grammy nominator, meaning he votes every year to help decide who wins the Grammys. Scott’s little brother is Marc Kinchen, stage name MK, a very well known DJ, record producer and remixer. At the mention of him, Scott grins fondly. “Please, I taught him everything he knows.”
But at that point in his life, he was feeling done with music. The life of a musician is stressful at the best of times, and destructive at its worst, but the last straw for Scott was Snoop Dogg.
“Right, the Snoop Dog thing,” he says, nodding. The last major record Scott produced was Snoop Dogg’s “Dance Wit Me.” The record was fairly successful; it won an MTV award and even got picked up by a video game. But Snoop Dogg never actually compensated Scott for the work. “I took it as a sign from God that it was time for a change.”
Waiting on his money, Scott moved briefly to Euless, where his father lived, though he expected in a matter of months that business would bring him back to New York. A friend of the family gave him a woman’s CD and he thought it was pretty good, so he called her up to see about working with her as a musician. It was Shammah.
He turns to Shammah. “How’d I do?”
She smiles. “Yeah, that’s the story.”
“I didn’t get paid, but I did meet her,” Scott says.
“You got the best prize.” Shammah turns to me. “After that we didn’t go a day without seeing each other for a year.” Neither was looking for a relationship, so as friends, they started a marketing firm together; Scott put off plans to jet out to LA.
“We’ve always shared this entrepreneurial relationship,” Shammah explains. “We’re not afraid to step out and try something, which is interesting in a relationship. We allow each other to grow. That was 17 years ago. We’ve been married for 12.”
Even though they’re very different people, Scott and Shammah are still kindred spirits. They’re both creatively driven and quick-minded who would never be content working for someone besides themselves. When you think of serial entrepreneurs, think of the Kinchens.
It’s a big summer for the couple. Scott is on the brink of launching new liquor brands under Luxury Distilled Beverages. For example, new to shelves is Infinity, a signature vodka from the Champagne region of France, distilled five times. He shows me an elegant bottle, with cool blue accents on the label. Scott calls it ultra premium. “We’re appealing to both the mature drinker and the new drinker. We want it to stand out on the shelf,” he says.
“I’m on quality control,” Shammah puts in. “I make sure it’s good.”
“It’s sophisticated, smooth.” Next he brings out three heavy decanters, their subtle design of palm fronds emblazoned with the name of his rum brand, Mur Mur Rum. His label produces three varieties: a pink coconut, a light rum, and a dark rum. White rum comes from Nicaragua and Martinique, he explains, while the dark is an eight-year blend from Barbados, a high proof sipping rum. The lightly hued pink coconut rum is delicate enough that mixers are unnecessary.
“It’s too good for a rum and Coke,” Shammah adds.
“It’ll stand up nice on your liquor shelf,” he says. “Not all rum has to have a pirate on the label. It’s sexy, it’s clubby, it brings people together, it’s entertainment.” Liquor is a natural fit for him after his music career; like music, liquor can elevate an evening, an essential presence in restaurants and bars. It offers the same chances to be continually creative. To Scott, that’s the fun part.
“Alcohol can be touchy,” Shammah puts in. “Some people have been so negatively affected by it, so we pair it with sensitive messaging, showing that as a company. We’re conscious of potential ramifications. We can’t control others drinking, but we can market appropriately and be proud of what we’re putting out.”
Shammah is also debuting a small haircare line, scalp serums, wigs, shampoos, conditioners and vitamins this summer. “For me, healthy hair care is an empowerment thing. There’s vulnerability in trusting someone with color, scissors and your head.” She’s well versed in the problems women have with their hair, such as permanent hair loss, breakage, damage from chemical processing. She puts her knowledge to the test at Solutions by Shammah Kinchen, a studio at a busy corner in Plano. Shammah makes her own wigs, hair pieces and extensions under the Adornments line. They’re all made with real human hair.
“She grew up with pastors, I grew up in Detroit, so I can give it to you quick and she can pray for you quick,” Scott says. “Now we’re in the Bible Belt, where we represent a small percent of the population.”
“You don’t see many African American families here,” Shammah Kinchen admits. “In our country club I’ve probably seen one or two other families. People born and raised here tell me, ‘Oh my one black friend, she’s my best friend—she’s black.’ But it’s fine. I don’t care. I’m consistent. You take it or leave it and a lot of people take it more than they leave it. But people come this way not for diversity, but for the opportunities for our children. It’s all about what’s best for the kids.”
“It’s also an opportunity to get to know people who aren’t usually exposed to African Americans, which is weird in this day and age—we’re still doing this?” Scott asks wryly.
Scott and Shammah have two boys, Collin, who’s nine, and Kingston, three. Collin attends Huffman Elementary, a Title 1 school, and so will Kingston, when the time comes. There’s more ethnic diversity there than in other Plano schools. Others in the Kinchin’s neighborhood are sometimes upset about poverty level and the presence of minorities. One neighbor told the Kinchin’s that they shouldn’t let their kids go to Huffman because it was a Title 1 school, to which Shammah replied, “yeah, those are our old neighbors, that’s our community.” She also didn’t want her son to go to a school that was only four percent black. “He’d have been the only Black kid,” she explains. “Our experience at Huffman is phenomenal.”
It frustrates Shammah when people blame children for needing a free lunch at school. “It’s not that baby’s fault,” she says. “But it’s hard for people to change, and that’s their experience. We’re all shaped by our experience.”
“It’s why we want our kids exposed to a wide world,” Scott agrees.
“When you go, you can’t take anything with you,” Shammah continues. “Kids remember camp, the beach, summer outside—the experiences you have will shape you and relationships build you. Wherever you put your value is where you’ll get your return. That’s the goal when you’re raising little adults.”
Their main goal is bringing up proud, confident children. “You won’t always make the right choice, but you need to look in the mirror and be proud of yourself,” Scott says. “And learn and grow from your mistakes.”
It’s especially important to Shammah when it comes to raising Collin, who is “overcoming autism,” as she likes to say. When a child is born with autism, they explain, it’s important that they’re celebrated for what they can do, not what they can’t. “Everyone is on the [autism] spectrum to some degree,” she explains. “Those who are more recognizable, we have to recognize their gifts and let them blossom.”
It was in this spirit that Shammah wrote a children’s story, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Overcomer and the iCans. She’s now in the process of turning it into a TV series. “There’s a myriad of intentionalities weaved in. We discuss diet and nutrition. All of the characters are different and there’s no sugar coating it. The messaging is simple, not too crazy, with fun songs, easy music, daytime affirmations: we want to develop children into individuals who take ownership of their feelings.”
Even with challenges to overcome, Shammah and Scott never want their children to blame others for their lives, but to own them. “Every day, Collin does something they said he couldn’t do,” Shammah says. “I’m determined to raise young, powerful, God-fearing men that take ownership of themselves. You can control your destiny and purpose.”
The iCans are a tight-knit, engaging cast. Alana has cochlear implants and a flower crown; her special gift is spreading peace, diffusing difficult situations and helping people deal with their feelings. Rain is Shammah’s “samurai of positivity”, who has Down Syndrome and is indomitably optimistic and uplifting. Bright’s wheelchair transforms into a flying ship, and she’s always the first to get to the action. Captain Overcomer, the leader, uses his logical thinking and problem solving prowess to lead the iCans to success. He’s based off of Collin.
She chose to write for an audience of toddlers because children at that age monopolize technology in the home. As Scott puts it, “If your kid is watching McJunior, you’re all watching McJunior.” Therefore, everyone in the home is exposed to the messages of shows targeted toward preschool-aged children.
“It’s been such an incredible journey so far, showing how things people think are limits are actually important to the way we problem solve and deal with emotions, teaching early how to see people kindly and embrace differences. God made us all incredible, even if we look different. There’s always something to be mad about, but infinite things to celebrate,” Shammah says.
“Raising kids in this age, there’s so much technology,” Scott says, part of why they both feel it’s important to utilize it as a teaching tool. “So much to expose them to. Then there’s Collin. We’ve got a Nintendo Switch for him, but you know what he wants? A Gameboy Color.” He offers a half-smile. “He’s a cool dude.”
Between the two of them, Scott and Shammah have totally different stories, different things that brought them to the point where they met. Scott often thinks about how his experience growing up was very different than what his sons will have. Detroit, America’s crime capitol, then Brooklyn: “It wasn’t pretty,” he explains. “But within three months of moving to New York, I got to go to Paris, then Switzerland, Pisa, Germany, London. I was 22 and I got to see everything. The world is much bigger than this one particular area. We’re raising strong Black men who are confident in themselves wherever they are.”
Originally published in the July 2019 Family Issue of Local Profile