“I had a very grounded upbringing,” said Marley, the youngest son of reggae legend Bob Marley. “My mother was adamant that school came first.”
The area of Stony Hill – where he lived with his mom and stepfather – was upscale with the best schools on the island which was markedly different from the more rugged area his father was from.
Like his older brothers Ziggy and Stephen Marley, Damian followed his family’s musical roots and began performing as a teenager.
“My mom started singing at jazz events and it just so happened I started performing publicly about the same time,” he said.
He said he initially began rapping and eventually performed cover songs including his dad’s well-loved hits.
In 2005, Marley dropped the Grammy Award-winning album “Welcome To Jamrock,” which featured songs blended with reggae, dance hall and hip-hop and featured showings by his brother Stephen, Nas, Bobby Brown and Eek-a-Mouse.
A well-known advocate of marijuana, Marley recently opened a dispensary in Denver aptly called Stony Hill. More locations are on the horizon.
“Marijuana has been a big part of our culture for many years and generations have sacrificed,” he said. “For it to be legal now I am very adamant that we who come from the original culture should be a part of the legal business of it.
“For us as Rastas, it’s been a spiritual sacrament and we’ve always said herb is a healing of a nation. We’ve said that in various songs over the years.”
Aside from smoking marijuana for the feelings it brings, Damian said that because of its medical benefits it’s a plus for humanity.
Marley is currently touring in support of his latest offering, “Stony Hill,” an 18-track album released in July. He was recently on the season opener of “Saturday Night Live” where he performed “Bam” alongside Jay-Z and also performed at the Desert Oasis Music Festival in Indio on Oct. 7.
“The majority of comments on the new album have been complimentary,” he said. “I know a year from now it will be even better.”
He will perform at Harrah’s Resort Southern California in Valley Center on Saturday, Oct. 14; Belasco Theater in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 18, and Friday, Oct. 20, and at the House of Blues in Anaheim on Thursday, Oct. 19.
Even though his father died when he was a toddler, Damian thinks about him often especially when he needs to make a moral decision. “For example I will think, ‘Should I have an alcohol company sponsor an event that I am directly tied to? He probably wouldn’t do that. Because even though I do drink alcoholic beverages, I would never want to promote that, especially to young people.”
Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley
Harrah’s Resort Southern California: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, 777 Harrah’s Rincon Way, Valley Center. $35-$48. 760-751-3100, livenation.com.
Belasco Theater: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18 and Friday, Oct. 20, 1050 S. Hill St., Los Angeles. $35. 213-746-5670, livenation.com.
House of Blues: 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, 400 Disney Way, Suite 337, Anaheim. $35. 714-778-2583