LONG TIME COMING: Damian Marley’s new album comes after working on other projects on the side
TWELVE YEARS ago, Damian ‘Jr Gong’ Marley dropped the seminal ‘Welcome To Jamrock’ album and produced a musical milestone for not only reggae, but music as a whole.
It’s taken a while for his solo follow-up to appear, but we are now ready for Stony Hill.
As we sit in an exclusive west London studio listening to the album, I asked him, ‘Why did we have to wait so long?’.
“It wasn’t intentional – I’ve been touring heavily as well as making the album (Distant Relatives) with Nas. I also did tracks for my own label compilations, Set Up Shop Volumes 1,2 and 3 and produced tracks for Wayne Marshall, Black Am I and other members of the camp. So we have just been busy, but not on my material for an album.”
Our chat comes days after yet another sold-out super tour. This one took place in Africa and Europe and finished up in London at a majestic performance in Somerset House. A perfect climax to a three-month run.
I was fortunate enough to have a copy of the album and lived with it for a while before our chat, which made me even more intrigued to find out the thought process behind some of the tracks on it. Damian provided the insight.
Intro: I always like my intros to be epic and have a big, cinematic feel. The intro on Jamrock was done by Bunny Wailer, and this time we were blessed to have Big Youth, who is obviously a legend and a pioneer in the field I am in, providing it.
Here We Go Again: It’s kinda aggressive – we put music first, and some of the artists in our genre don’t recognise the platform they have to influence the younger generation positively. Some critics also think that I get it easy because of who my family are – that isn’t the case. Music is pure – people may come to try my music out for the first time because of my name, but if they think it’s garbage, they aren’t going to listen again.
BACK AT IT: Damian Marley
ROAR: It’s based on Jamaican culture, talking about Ghetto Government – it’s a song about the streets. It’s about the role of the area Don, which is traditionally a role that looks after the community and is also a defender of the people. It seems these days the new area leaders are taking up the violence part, but not enough of the looking after the whole community part. This song reminds them of their responsibilities.
Medication: For years, we have been speaking about the medical benefits to marijuana, and now it seems the world is catching up. There are ways that it can help illnesses such as Parkinsons, MS and Crohn’s that mean you don’t even feel high off it. These are strong medicinal reasons and myself and the team recently bought a facility in the States and we intend to legally grow marijuana for the purposes of medical aid.
Livin’ It Up: This is one of the uptempo songs on the album. I grew up uptown, in Stony Hill, but my family heritage is obviously from Trenchtown. Everyone from the ghetto wants their kids to have more than they did, and to make the elevation through the system. This track talks about that.
The Struggle Discontinues: This is me doing something that I always wanted to do – real roots reggae. It has the most Wailers-sounding sound. I obviously love this style of music and it comes naturally to me.
Autumn Leaves: This is one of my first full ventures into singing. I’ve been gaining more confidence in singing over the years – this is the furthest I have delved into that side of vocalising.
Damian Marley – ROAR
Everybody Wants To Be Somebody: This was inspired by social media – some of the things people are doing just to catch attention, particularly in the music business, leaves me wondering.
Upholstery: This was produced by Stephen McGregor and also features Bounty Killer’s son Major Myjah, who is carving out a career for himself in R&B. We were working on the track in Miami and Myjah was in the studio and worked with us on writing the hook. He went into the studio to demo it and it sounded great.
Grown & Sexy: This is an opportunity for me to ex the uptown swag! It features my brother Stephen and has that smooth, laid-back Latin vibe. It’s a personal favourite.
So A Child May Follow: This is a very personal record to me as this reminds me of a friend I lost recently. It also makes me think of my nephews and nieces, as many of them are at an age where they have to make life decisions.
Slave Mill: This song was sparked by some of the crazy incidents taking place across the world. You see the police shooting people for no ap- parent reason, and it seems that in some situations, nothing has changed.
There you have it from the man himself. The album is an incredible body of work – big up Gong Zilla, and congratulations on Stony Hill.