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Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley Interview

1 June 06 interview: Michael Frearson

"Be an honest critic of yourself. Build up interest in your local area. You need to get the industry to want to invest in you"

Damian ‘Jr Gong’ Marley is the son of a very famous man. His father, Bob, is a household name across the world. A cultural icon and the face of popular Reggae for the last two decades, Bob Marley’s image adorns posters on bedroom walls throughout the land, synonymous with Rastafari, Reggae music and reefers. In the public eye the legend of Bob threatens to overshadow his offspring, but Damian is also a respected artist in his own right and is heading to the Rock City to play for Camouflage in June.
Damian made noise early on with 1996’s Mr Marley, and his major label debut Halfway Tree showcased a unique gift for blending hard-hitting reality rhymes and an uncommonly eclectic musicality with a mix of classic reggae, Hiphop, r&b and dancehall. The album resonated with urban tastemakers and won a Grammy for Best Reggae Album in 2001. This interview is an abridged version of an hour-long discussion that took place in Birmingham as part of BBC 1Xtra’s Dancehall After Dark events.

What advice do you have for any budding UK artists?
Be an honest critic of yourself. Build up interest in your local area. You need to get the industry to want to invest in you. Build yourself up in the community through mixtapes and concerts and keep growing as an artist.

Where does your inspiration come from for performing?
I simply love music and I love performing. I give it my all.

Do you feel under pressure to succeed because of your famous roots?
No. If anything I feel support from my family. My big brother produces for me, and our work is all about the vibe and feel of what we’re doing, what’s all important is that we’re making music.

Reggae artist Sizzla has been banned in this country because of his lyrical content. Does this affect your lyrical output?
No. I write my true feelings. But any publicity is good publicity. A feature in the media over lyrical content is better than none at all.

Do you feel responsibility to represent and positively influence today’s youth?
Yes. It’s my most important goal. I don’t have any negative comments about genres. It’s all about communicating a message. We need people with the right intentions to become involved in education. I hope to use music to influence people.

A lot of people feel your presence and your roots. How important is your spiritual side in your music?
Very important. It’s a way of life. When I eat, move, when I deal with people and music, it’s all connected to my spirituality. It’s where my morals and values come from.

But there’s commercial pressure too. Where’s the balance?
What you see is what you get. It’s all natural, I don’t pretend, I don’t meditate on those kind of things. It’s just true feelings.

How do you feel Reggae is perceived in the world these days?
There are a few artists coming out at a time, we’re pushing the barriers and Dancehall is getting bigger. But it will take more than one person to uplift the genre. The biggest tool to help us is exposure.

Do you feel that you’re compared to Bob?
Yeah, but I’m compared to the best, so it feels good.

What was touring in Africa like?
It was a joy, especially Ethiopia. There were about 300,000 people there. Africans embrace us as we embrace Africa; we feel love. It means a lot to see where you’re coming from.

What are your views on the state of Jamaica?
Jamaica’s destiny is in its own hands. Some things change, some stay the same. A lot of people are waiting on handouts. It’s about personal responsibility.

What is your advice on education to these kids?
School comes first when you’re growing up. I can see how education helped me to reach where I am now. Knowing about business and things like that is important. The system uses knowledge to beat people, and the world is run by this minority who hold the knowledge.  You need to keep your body healthy. If you eat shit you die early. Look after your vessel.

Damian Marley plays Camouflage at Rock City on Sunday 25 June

www.damianmarleymusic.com  
www.ontheone.net  

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