Blatanty Blunt Interview: Stephen Marley talks #FruitOfLife, jazz influencing ska and joining Bob on stage as a kid
With eight Grammy awards as a singer, producer and member of Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers, Stephen Marley has recently hit #1 album on the Billboard charts again. With his star studded new album Revelation Pt. 2 – The Fruit of Life which boasts Rakim to Waka Flocka, to Sizzla to DJ Khaled, to Wyclef Jean, Capleton plus more as featured artists.
Undoubtedly preserving the Marley legacy and spreading the reggae message world wide, Mr Marley spoke to Nick from Blatantly Blunt whilst in Miami as they discussed a range of topics from the album artwork, to Chronixx to liberalization of ganja and more!
NICK RUSSELL: Mr. Marley, how are you doing, it’s good to speak to you, first off congrats on the new record – there’s a wide range of artist on the new album, from Dead Prez to Iggy Azaelea! How did you go about selecting them?
Stephen Marley: Well I just went sound by sound you know – each sound has a different vibe, any type of artist that I felt who could complement the track I reached out to them.
NR: Yeah, for sure. You seem like you’ve got a good spiritual connection – is that something you incorporate into the lyrics or is it more the energy that you bring?
SM: Well I mean we come from a strong family, it is a part of me – it transcends into anything that we do, whether we are speaking or playing music, it’s natural the way it comes out in our music as our expression form – how we express ourselves.
NR: I love the detail and the imagery on the artwork, who did you work with on that?
SM: Some of it was my input but then the artwork was done by Neville Garrick’s son. Neville Garrick was the guy my father used to do his album covers, and his son carries on his legacy and doing the work for the family.
NR: So what’s the connection between this album which is presumably a follow on from the last, what’s the message on progression there?
SM: The first one was ‘Revelation part one: the Root of life’ which paid homage to roots reggae music, which is my roots as well. Part two is from the root to the fruit. The root is more bitter … and the vibes of the fruit now are more light. I have something for everyone.
NR: Brilliant, I love it. And I guess the hip hop is fruit of reggae music?
SM: Hip hop is the transitional music – there’s such a deep relationship between hip hop music and reggae music. Not only hip-hop music but jazz. There are a variety of styles like ska music, which started from those in Jamaica listening to American radio in the early 1960s. A lot of of jazz and blues was playing on the radio at that time, so that’s where ska was kind of derived from.
The album draws from music that influenced us as Jamaicans and then music that we have influenced after. I divert it that way because a lot of people don’t know that jazz and blues is where ska came from – Prince Buster, all of them listen to the radio and then go back to the studio and make similar sounds in music but with a Jamaican twist which came out as ska.
NR: We have a huge Jamaican influence on the music over here in London, what’s your understanding of UK music, have you been exposed to any of it yet?
SM: Not vastly but I’m good friends with Durrty Goodz…
NR: Do you think that reggae music is been reflected in the right way by ther current generation?
SM: Yeah, I like what’s going on with the younger youth and the elders feel attached. Burning Spear, Steel Pulse, Third World, all of the elders carrying that torch as well –
NR: And are you feeling what Chronixx is doing?
SM: Yeah man, all of the youth man, me love Chronixx, me love the youth and I like their togetherness. All of them support each other – that’s missing from our fraternity – reggae musicians and as music as a whole. Unity is very much needed you know, and I like how the younger generation have that unification among them.
NR: Definitely. One thing I’ve always wondered is where the ‘Ragga’ part came from in Steven ‘Ragga Marley’ –
SM: ‘Ragga’ come from when I was younger, a young rebel and me just grow up around the artists here as a younger youth and they call me ‘ragga’.
NR: Following your production work on ‘Welcome to Jamrock’ with your brother can we expect some more work with Damian or any other of the Marley brothers?
SM: Of course, of course. Right now. We hit the studio right now preparing his next record as we speak so watch out for that too.
NR: The Marley name tag is a very strong powerful one – do you ever feel that you have to fulfill a sound or is that something that’s natural anyway?
SM: Yeah, yeah, it’s natural I don’t think of it as fulfilling a certain sound – I think integrity and morals are important – I find no pressure in that. As long as we maintain the good integrity and the right values and morals then we’re cool, no matter the sound.
NR: Do you prefer doing festivals to thousands of people or the smaller venues with one or two thousand?
SM: I like them both to tell you the truth, I like playing in front of the masses and delivering the message to the masses but again I like been intimate as well … feel the energy of the people a little bit closer, it’s two sides of the same coin, I like them both.
NR: Any tips for any upcoming artists from reggae or any kind of spiritual music? Any tips to pass on to the new generation that you want to get to your level?
SM: Yeah – anything that you do you have to be focused, and knowing what you’re doing – you have to be committed as far as knowing the type of music – the integrity, you know the integrity is very important.
Music has the power to unite people – some of the fans don’t even talk English, when me go there you know we don’t have a conversation but just when I start singing them relate to the vibe and integrity of that tune. Music has such a responsibility that it is important to keep integrity and morals in music because it influences all generations. I would say remember the integrity of music and the influences that music has and the responsibility that we have as the people then that deliver the music.
NR: What are your thoughts on the legalization of ganja in Jamaica?
SM: My father said why should ganja be illegal – of course it should be legal, definitely.
NR RUSSELL: Did you ever get to jam with your father? Make music with him at all like play the guitar or sing when you were younger?
SM: Yeah man, yeah man. If you watch like Zimbabwe, we was there, we used to run around on stage, we used to dance on the last song which would be Exodus – me and Ziggy would run on the stage. Other than that the Melody Makers music that my father used to write, you know what I mean … yeah very much, very much hands on –
NR RUSSELL: That must have been amazing man. Alright brother, that’s it. Congratulations on the album I think it’s a really, really solid piece of work and it’s been a pleasure chatting to you here today so thanks for your time
SM: Yeah man and thank you for reaching out
NR RUSSELL: Peace and love!