Chino was born James Mui in New York City on February 2, 1954, in the Little Italy/Chinatown area of Manhattan to a Chinese father (Chueng Mui), who obtained U.S. citizenship by joining the Merchant Marines during World War II, and a third-generation Puerto Rican mother (Gloria Figueroa Rodriguez).
Chino took music at Junior High School 65 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. By his late teens he had met Orchestra Dee Jay in Brooklyn, who soon allowed him into the fold as a band boy, then later as an occasional coro (chorus) singer. He formed his first band on the Lower East Side, simply called Chino Rodriguez and his Orchestra in 1968-69, playing weddings, birthdays, and private parties. Through the local musician's union, American Federation of Musicians 802, he found work playing music for New York City Department of Parks arts program, from 1970-74.
Chino recorded two albums for Ismael Maisonave's label, Salsa Records: Maestro De Kung-Fu, produced by Andy Harlow, and Si Te Vas Mi China, produced by Larry Harlow.
Chino onstage with Jose Rodriguez and Lewis Kahn, early 1970s
Maestro de Kung-Fu contained "La Computadora", the first Latin recording using a MOOG synthesizer, played by Larry Harlow. Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodriguez played on "Moonlight Serenade." Chino Rodriguez y La Consagracion was nominated for Latin New York Magazine's award for Best New Band. Chino's second album, Si Te Vas Mi China, was recorded in 1976 after a year's worth of daily rehearsals. It produced two hits upon its release in 1977 and, like his debut album, achieved gold status.
Chino returned to working full-time in the business side of the music industry in 1991, becoming Senior Vice President and General Manager of the newly formed Hidden Faces Records. After organizing business operations for Hidden Faces he opened his own artist management company, Chino Rodriguez Management (C.R.M.), and booking agency, OMNI Latino Entertainment (OLE), He opened his offices in Brooklyn, New York. In 2011, Rodriguez represented Latin hip hop artists Proyecto Uno, bachata artist Domenic Marte, and reggaeton duo Edgardo y D'niel, and bachata artist Alfred Martinez.