Passing through the UK on his European tour recently Damian Marley took time out to speak to us about a range of topics from music to marijuana.
One of the first things I wanted to know however, was how Jr Gong felt his long awaited album, Stony Hill, released a year ago, had gone down with fans around the world.
Tracks like Medication, Living It Up and Speak Life have proved hits with reggae lovers, but was he happy? “Yeah, I’m happy,” Damian says reflectively.
“I mean, I’m proud of the body of work. It’s been received well. I would have loved to – of course, I guess every musician would say this about every project – but I’d have love to see it exposed a bit more. But I think I was away for a while – it’s been a while since I put out a solo.”
Speaking of why it had been so long since he put out his own major project (it had been 11 years), Damian said: “Well I mean, 11 years, yes – but I mean not 11 years of silence,” Damian points out, having worked collaboratively with a range of esteemed artists in the last decade.
He continues: “It’s 11 years with an album with Nas and an album with Mick Jagger and three compilation albums I produced in between. So it’s been 11 years, but with work in the meantime. Just not a solo album, because of life and being busy.”
Having had Julian Marley on these pages just weeks ago, I decided to ask Damian a question I’d asked his older brother: Is reggae music from a Rasta perspective more popular now than it’s ever been?
“Hmm – more ready then it’s ever been? I guess – I’d probably have to think about that a little bit,” he muses. “I think the world has always been ready. If you look at my father what he did with music with a Rasta message, I mean, who’s to say they are more ready now that they were then?
“No one has reached his level in terms of their success in their career. Not even outside of Rasta, in reggae music in general. Nobody has reached where he has reached yet.
“I can’t necessarily say the world is more ready now than it was then. We are ready, we’ve always been ready. We see a young generation of Rasta youth coming up with powerful messages and lot of talent. I’m very proud of that movement. I wouldn’t word it that way that you did.”
On the subject of other Rasta artists making a name for themselves in the world right now, it would be nice to see Damian and Chronixx come together for a collaboration. The two artists had arguably the hottest reggae albums in 2017 (depending on who you talk to) – a song or project together would have fans salivating, surely?
He says: “You know, we’ve been vibing together. We don’t have an official sound as of yet, but we have been vibing together. We got together in the studio the other day and just jammed. But as I’ve said we don’t have an official sound as of yet.”
During his tour of the UK, Damian took time out to attend a Legalise Medical Cannabis symposium at the Houses of Parliament to talk to the powers that be about embracing the medicinal powers of marijuana.
BROTHERLY LOVE: Damian, right, with brothers Julian and Stephen back in 2007
In 2016, Damian partnered with Ocean Grown Extracts to buy a former prison in California, the Claremont Custody Centre, to turn it into a farm producing cannabis oils, extracts and other products for medicinal use.
The music video for Damian’s recently released single Medication, which features his older brother Stephen Marley, was shot in the former prison and stars former inmates and includes testimonials from people who have been helped by the plant including US Marine Crops Sergeant Sean Major who uses cannabis for brain trauma and PTSD.
“It’s been a big part of my culture. A big part of Jamaican culture, reggae music and my faith as a Rasta,” Damian tells me.
He added: “Even before proof of the medical benefit ts of the plant, we were always endorsing the plant. We use it as a spiritual sacrament and recreational use. We have a saying in Jamaica that: ‘The herb is the healing of the nation.’
“With it becoming legal in various places, there’s now slowly more research that proves there is evidence of that.”
While he embraces the advancements in education and subsequent attitudes towards the use of marijuana, Damian does have some reservations about how the decriminalizing of the plant happens.
“Be aware of big corporations whose sole purpose is really to just make profit and money. Be careful how you have those people get involved,” Damian enthused.
He added: “There has been a whole economy built on herb because of it being illegal and the man who chooses to take the risk to sell it or grow it and can feed their family, you are putting those people out of a way of earning a living if you don’t include them. That is my concern when it comes to the bigger heads.”
Herb activist and businessman, musician and son of a legend, Damian has experienced success on a level few ever will, but what’s next for the youngest Marley?
“What’s there left for me to do? For me, personally, definitely, I would love to grow some more as an artist, as an individual, in my own career but I have a big ambition of being someone who is behind the scene in terms of like as an executive producer like, I just executive produced Kabaka Pyramid’s debut album. So things of that nature.
“To be a player, when it comes down to the label side of things, or you know, been an executive in that sense – I’ve got great ambitions to grow in that area.”