Being one of the living legacies of the King of reggae music, Bob Marley, is not an easy torch to carry but his youngest son, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, has done it with style and grace. With a stellar new album under his belt, Damian Marley has hit the road for a national tour that rolls into Philly on September 5 at the TLA. Before the prince of reggae graces the stage in Philly, we spoke with him about his new tunes, being Bob Marley’s son, his favorite strains of marijuana, and much more. Enjoy!
Independent Philly: You dropped your latest album, Stony Hill, a little over a month ago. How has the fan response been to the new music?
Damian Marley: Yeah, great so far. I’ve seen a lot on social media, friends giving a lot of compliments, and a lot of people have commented that they think it’s the best album I’ve done so far, so I’m thankful for that.
Independent Philly: You continue to keep pushing the envelope for reggae music, infusing it with pop and hip-hop, and always keeping it relevant. Where do you see reggae heading in the future? Would you like to see it return more towards its original roots and culture or continue to delve into pop and hip-hop?
Damian Marley: I would say, both. I think music, in general, is moving towards a space where you won’t have any pure genres in music anymore. Every genre of music borrows from another now and you can hardly hear a production of music that isn’t influenced by another genre. The world is connected now by the internet and social media, and cultures and everything are merging. I think it’s going to be hard to find a pure genre of music in the future. Hopefully, that pure influence is preserved.
Independent Philly: Being that you were only a toddler when your father, Bob Marley, passed away, how has he helped to shape you as a person and a musician from beyond the grave?
Damian Marley: Because of his life. His life is an example. My father is an inspiration and an example to basically everyone in reggae music, and music in general, let alone just reggae. Just understand that we all look up to him, and all strive to reach him someday. And of course, with me being his son, it goes without saying that I have a personal attachment to the movement, and to his music, and to him. And of course, I grew up with family members and hearing these stories of my dad and whatnot and that all plays a part in my life.
Independent Philly: Aside from your father, who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Damian Marley: Dancehall music. In Jamaica, the 80’s dancehall music was a big influence on me, namely people like Shabba Ranks, Tiger, and Super Cat. I’m also influenced heavily by people like Nat King Cole and Ray Charles. Of course a ton of hip-hop, especially 90’s hip-hop music and that whole movement, like Tupac and Biggie, and just popular music in general. I’m a big fan of music so I listen to all kinds of music. Sometimes it’s not so much about a particular artist, than a sound, you know? I’m influenced by individual sounds sometimes.
Independent Philly: You’re headed to Philadelphia for a show on September 5 at the TLA. What can fans expect from a live Damian Marley show if they’ve never had a chance to see you in person before?
Damian Marley: Our performances are very energetic. Sometimes, it’s almost like we are playing sports because I come off of stage, and I am completely drenched in sweat. We always hope that the fans go home under the same conditions. We always like to keep the energy up. We feed off of each other, meaning myself, and our band, and the audience, and we go back and forth with each other and the energy. Of course, I always play my music and I always play a few of my father’s songs. This time around we’ll be showcasing the new album so it will be new for us too. It’s going to be an interesting time on this tour because like I said, we are going to have a bunch of new songs and have to experiment about how we are going to perform them live. Hoping everyone comes out and just gets involved in that experience.
Independent Philly: We know you teamed up with ‘Ocean Grown Extracts‘ in California last year and are working on converting an old prison into a marijuana growing facility. What can you tell us about the work you’re doing there and how the project is coming along?
Damian Marley: There is a facility which was once a prison that we are renovating to become a marijuana grow. We’ve already been producing some oil, some extracts from it. I’m looking to grow some flower there soon once the renovations are over. Of course, this is a beautiful story because of what it once was and what we are doing there. I was just trying to do some marijuana business and it just so happened that we were looking for a place to grow some herb and a prison was available. Or, I should say, that property was available which just so happened to be, once upon a time, a prison.
Independent Philly: Do you have any current favorite strains (of marijuana)?
Damian Marley: Yeah, my strain (chuckles). I have a strain called, ‘Speak Life OG Kush’ which we do in collaboration with Ocean Grown. This is our ‘Stony Hill’ strain because Stony Hill is the name of my herb, so it’s the ‘Stony Hill Speak Life OG Kush’ strain that is my favorite. To tell you the truth, it was my favorite before, not just because now it is mine. The reason I wound up choosing it to be mine is because it was my favorite before, so you have to check it out.
Independent Philly: What have been your go-to ‘munchies’ snacks when you’re blazed?
Damian Marley: You know I don’t really get the munchies. I’m not much of a food junkie kind of person. I guess you could say that I’m an experienced enough smoker that I don’t really do the munchies so much anymore… more so when I was younger. When I was young it probably would have been banana chips.
Independent Philly: You have a widely popular ‘Welcome to JamRock’ cruise that you do every year (it is already sold out for later this year). Having never experienced the cruise myself, what can you tell me about the experience and the vibe on the ship with artists and fans co-mingling for several days?
Damian Marley: It’s like a very intimate reggae music festival that runs for like five days, five nights. You’re surrounded by reggae music that plays throughout the ship. When you’re walking in the hallways, you’re hearing reggae music. We have concerts in the night and we get some of the greats from Jamaica and a lot of up-and-coming talent. We stop in Jamaica and you get to come off of the boat. For two days on the cruise, you get to come off of the boat in the morning and go and explore Jamaica. Then you board again at night and we stop at another place in Jamaica and you jump off again. You have to be here to experience what it’s like; it’s its’ own little world, everyone has a common interest in that they are all fans of reggae music. If you’re a fan of reggae music, it’s like paradise.
Independent Philly: Welcome to Jamrock is the title of not just a song, or an album, or a cruise, for you. What inspired ‘Welcome to Jamrock’?
Damian Marley: Welcome to Jamrock’s inspiration was really to highlight a side of Jamaica that the world doesn’t see, and the media doesn’t really show: the day to day attitudes of Jamaicans and our life living there. There had been a song that came out in hip-hop called, ‘Welcome to Atlanta’, that was kind of talking about the streets of Atlanta to a certain degree. I kind of wanted to showcase a little bit of what it’s like in a third world country. Of course, there are ghettos everywhere, and rough spaces everywhere, and people going through a hard time everywhere, but it’s a little bit different in the nature of a third world country than a first world country. That’s really what that song highlights.
Independent Philly: Please tell us something about yourself that would surprise, or even shock our readers.
Damian Marley: I’ve done a lot of reading.
Independent Philly: What’s the last book that you read?
Damian Marley: I’m actually reading a book right now about a famous boxing trainer named Cus D’Amato. It’s a biography. This is the trainer who trained Mike Tyson when he was champ.
We are really looking forward to his upcoming show at the TLA and if you’re left wanting more Damian Marley after this interview (and we know you are), you can snag tickets to his show by clicking here!