If you get a free moment — make that a good 30 minutes — to comb YouTube for vintage Bob Marley interviews, you’re likely to see a guy who is fairly pleasant, soft-spoken and most definitely unapologetic. You’ll also see that Marley wasn’t fond of doing interviews. Friends close to the man who earned the nickname “Tuff Gong” as a rude-boy teenager growing up in Kingston, Jamaica’s Trench Town, will tell you he had no ego — and hated talking about himself.
During one such interview, a reporter asks Marley, “Are you a rich man?” Marley, taken aback by the question, answers, “When you [say] rich, what you mean?” The reporter, as reporters do, asks the question a second time, but a different way: “Do you have a lot of possessions … a lot of money in the bank?” That’s when Marley lets him have it: “Possession make you rich? I don’t have that type of richness. My richness is life, forever.”
You can tell that Skip Marley, the legend’s grandson — whose mother is Cedella, Bob’s oldest daughter with his wife, Rita — has studied his grandfather in every way. Only 20 years old and green in the music game, Skip Marley’s answer to the question about his musical style, reminiscent of Bob Marley, couldn’t have been better.
“I think it’s in the DNA, you know?” the youthful-sounding musician said. “I can’t even explain it any other way.”
Based on that answer alone, the kid has a bright future. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, and raised in Miami, the music bug bit Skip Marley early — and he bit back, teaching himself to play the piano, drums, guitar and bass.
In 2015 he released his first single, “Cry to Me,” and a second single called “Life” under the Tuff Gong label, showing off a smooth and raspy sound that’s oh-so-undeniably Marley. He later signed with Blue Mountain Music and joined his much-more-famous uncles Damian and Stephen on their Catch a Fire tour. In a family blessed with abundant talent, Marley said he feels no pressure to outdo anyone — even as journalists pepper him with the “carrying on his grandfather’s legacy” question ad nauseam.
“There’s no pressure,” said Marley, whosigned to Island Records this year and released his debut single, “Lions,” in February. “It’s within us. We have each other: my uncles, my mother. We’re in good hands, with the past.”
“The Grammys was a great experience,” said Marley, who turns 21 in June. “To be up there with Katy Perry, who is very conscious, spreading the word to the masses on such a stage, it was really great. But my biggest performances … I actually have two, were the Hollywood Bowl with my uncles Ziggy and Stephen, celebrating my grandfather’s 70th birthday, and a show in Jamaica on my grandfather’s birthday where I closed the show. That was a nice vibe, with everybody being there. That was special.”
Of his genre, Marley hesitated to put himself in a box.
“It’s just music, still, you know?” Marley said, his Jamaican accent coming through. “It’s just the inspiration. It stems from the roots, of course. But it has all types of new branches, you know?”
Marley said his summer will likely include a tour and other to-be-named collaborations. But his immediate plans include prepping for the inaugural Kaya Fest, a show on April 22 in Miami whose lineup is a who’s who of Marleys — including Stephen, Ziggy, Damian and Ky-Mani — and other familiar names on the reggae scene, including Sean Paul and Inner Circle.
“Performing with my family is special,” said Marley, who is a month from earning his associate degree in business from Kaplan University. “At a certain age you realize the impact that my grandfather had on the world, and my family continues to carry the torch.”
Understanding his own role in that family dynamic, Marley mentions his biggest support, his mother, revealing that the first song he ever wrote had to have her blessing.
“Definitely … she’s been backing me 220 percent, you know?” Marley said of Cedella Marley, whose own musical career goes back to the ’80s, when she was a staple in the family group Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, headlined by her brother.
“He’s a good kid,” said the proud mom, who also has fashion designer, actress and entrepreneur among her titles. “To see him find his own voice while being fearless but still guarded is really nice to see as his mom.”
Asked what he might ask his famous grandfather if he had the opportunity, Marley’s answer was as thoughtful as the legend might’ve been.
“I’d ask him to come on the stage and come sing with me,” he said. “That would be the first thing I’d ask, you know? I would have to watch and learn. I’d be in class, you know? Up close and personal.”