Artist Profiles: Damian Marley

Damian Marley

Damian Marley is the son of reggae icon Bob Marley and Jamaica’s 1977 Miss World, Cindy Breakspeare. He is the offspring of a union between two distinctive and disparate worlds.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica on July 21, 1978, Damian Robert Nesta Marley (a.k.a. ‘Junior Gong’), Bob’s youngest son, began performing as a child as the vocalist for a group called The Shepherds. Comprised of other well-known reggae artists’ children, including Shiah Coore (son of Third World guitarist Cat Coore) and Yashema Beth McGregor, the daughter of Freddie McGregor and Judy Mowatt, The Shepherds performed at several shows in Jamaica including the Reggae Sunsplash music festival in 1992.

After The Shepherds’ demise, Damian turned his vocal talents to deejaying (the Jamaican equivalent of rapping). In 1993 Damian’s debut single Deejay Degree was released on Tuff Gong Records (the label founded by Bob Marley) and the following year he released Sexy Girls On My Mind for the Main Street label.

Damian’s next release, 1995’s School Controversy, was featured on the Epic/Sony Wonder compilation, Positively Reggae with all sales proceeds going to Jamaica’s Leaf of Life Foundation, an organization which assists children who are HIV positive.

Although he was still a teenager, Damian was selected as the Positively Reggae spokesperson, a role that introduced him to the international press and record buying public. That same yea, Damian performed at select dates on the Shabba Ranks World Unity tour and with his brother Julian performed at Jamaica’s Reggae Sunfest and Sunsplash festivals.

Damian was a high school student when he began recording Mr. Marley at the Marley Music 48 track-recording studio. Produced by Stephen Marley (head of the Marley Boyz production team), Mr. Marley delivered a fusion of contemporary reggae grooves and infectious dancehall rhythms alongside tough edged hip-hop beats, an ideal complement for Damian’s versatile deejay-rap style.

The album included several updates of Bob Marley classics as well as the single ‘Me Name Junior Gong’ which went to the number one in Hawaii and held that position for several weeks. ‘When we went to Hawaii in 1997,’ Damian recalls, ‘we had three songs on the charts there: ‘Me Name Junior Gong,’ ‘One Cup of Coffee’ and ‘Now You Know,’ a tune from Julian’s debut album.’

Damian and Julian’s burgeoning popularity earned them featured appearances on the 1997 traveling alternative rock festival Lollapalooza which provided invaluable exposure among a new sector of music fans.

Five years after the release of Mr. Marley, Damian had matured as a performer, songwriter, recording artist and Rastafarian, his unwavering convictions reflected throughout his new album, Halfway Tree.

Stephen Marley produced Halfway Tree for Marley Boyz productions. Stephen’s innovative approach to Halfway Tree incorporates spoken word introductions and dramatic vignettes as song interludes, creating a conceptual cohesiveness lacking from most Jamaican albums. Stephen also adapts traditional reggae elements (forceful drum and bass lines, committed social commentary) to 21st century hip hop’s synthesized beats and sometimes defiant stances while utilizing the talents of Jamaican singers, deejays and musicians alongside American rappers, each underscoring Damian’s impassioned delivery.

Damian called the album Halfway Tree because ‘my father is from the country and the ghetto and my mother is from uptown so I come like a half way tree, like a bridge because I can relate to both sides.’

Discography


Mr. Marley (Ghetto Youths United, 1996)
Halfway Tree (Ghetto Youths United, 2001)
Welcome To Jamrock (Ghetto Youths United, 2005)
Distant Relatives (Ghetto Youths United, 2010)
Bonnaroo Live ’06 ‎(Modulor, 2014)
Stony Hill (Ghetto Youths International, 2017)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.
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