Skip Marley: “I’m not trying to fill his shoes” | Own words

Twenty-one-year-old Skip Marley, grandson of the legendary Bob, on growing up in Jamaica’s musical royal family, his hopes for stardom, and the message of his songs, for his own and every other generation — as told to Nazma Muller

  • Skip Marley. Photo courtesy Meredith Truax
  • Refugee

I think I always knew who my grandfather was, because my momma told me. But the first time I realised the significance of the impact he had, I was twelve. I realised that I wanted to be a musician about a year after that — when I was around thirteen years old.

I have always loved music, but I was shy about my singing voice. But one night, while on tour with my uncle Stephen, he pushed me on stage during a concert and prompted me to sing “One Love” to a crowd of hundreds. He gave me the microphone, and from that moment on, I felt music. I remember coming off the stage and seeing everyone crying. They said they never knew that I sang songs. Finally, they had the next one.

Am I claiming Bob’s throne? Maybe. He’s living through us, in all the choices we make every day. But I’m not trying to fill his shoes. I just want to be the voice of the next generation.

On “Chained to the Rhythm”, for example, I sing about walls, truth, and greed. We’re about to riot / they woke up the lions. And on my single “Lions” I send the message that my generation will not have their rights taken away or be told how to pray, and will instead start a movement.

It’s different times, but it’s the same fight as my grandfather’s. But it’s not a physical fight — it’s a mental battle. When I say “my generation” or “this generation,” it’s to reassure people that when we come together and stand strong, we’re people, and we’ll outnumber those who wrong.

I enjoy working with and being around all my family — they are some of the best in this business. Last year I toured with my uncles, Damian and Stephen, and this year we were all on Kayafest together in Miami. I’ve also performed with my great-aunt, Marcia Griffiths. There is so much experience and wisdom among everyone — any new artist would be happy for the chance to learn and soak up some of that. I’ve always been Cedella Marley’s son, so I don’t really have anything to compare it to. But, having her for a mom definitely influences me to work hard, have love and respect for people and the planet. Music is art, and it sends a message. So I want people to enjoy the art in the music, but also get the message.

 

I was born in Kingston, and I love being there with my family as much as we get the chance. I am blessed to travel to many places in the world — Sweden, Ethiopia, and other islands in the Caribbean. Jamaica has a unique energy that people won’t feel anywhere else, which is one of the reasons I love it. The best thing about living in Miami is my family and the sunshine.

Right now I am in the studio working on my EP, and so what’s next is — more music. Who would I like to collaborate with? Some of the best collabs can be unplanned and unexpected, so I don’t really keep a list. One of my first collaborations was with [Riddim Twins] Sly & Robbie and Spicy Chocolate for their Reggae Power 2 album. This year I worked with some great artists and producers — from Katy Perry to Supadups. Right now I am featured on this cool track by SEEB called “Cruel World”. Collaborating with each one came with its own vibe, and we created something unique. Based on the experiences of the last couple of years, I would like to keep an open mind and just see what opportunities come.

I don’t get stressed out. The one time I got a little bit stressed was when I was on the [2017] Grammy stage with Katy Perry. It was surreal. You always see these people [on TV], and being in the same room with them, that’s huge for me. Katy gave me free range to do whatever I wanted. And we really meshed well. I’m so thankful for the opportunity, you know, to reach so many people. It’s impactful. Katy’s message is powerful, we all need to listen. She is a creative person. I’ll remember her and the experience forever.

I like a lot of different music and artists. Lately we’ve been focused on finishing up my project, so mainly I listen back to the tracks that I’m working on. Besides that, I have been listening to Burning Spear and Steel Pulse. I also listen to the Melody Makers’ albums.

My songs are expressions of thoughts and reactions to life, and what I observe happening in the world. I wrote songs all through my teens. The same way that you see events in the news or around you that make you think and feel a certain way, that’s how it is for me too — I just put it into music and lyrics.

The message for my generation is one of love, equality, and the unification of mankind, you know. I think that it’s something for every generation, not just my own. We all need to live with more respect and freedom for people and our planet.

I wouldn’t get involved in politics. My grandfather once said, “Never let a politician grant you a favour. They will always want to control you forever.” I don’t need to be a politician to help bring about change. We have the power — not the other way around, so we need to be doing things differently.

People can live in love and harmony, and come to an understanding, so we all grow together. But it has to come from within.