Many musical offspring have faltered under the pressure of trying to live up to the level of greatness once bestowed on their popular progeny. Stephen "Raggamuffin" Marley has refreshingly bucked those odds, and has in fact, become a modern-day legend of reggae music in his own right, and has done so for now more than three decades.
What has been a big influence for the eight-time Grammy Award winner is the lesson imparted by his deceased famous father, the legendary Bob Marley: "Do it for the love and not the fame," Stephen Marley says.
The third child of Bob and Rita Marley, the 42-year-old Stephen Marley has embarked on an American tour that stops at the Mesa Amphitheatre Thursday night and will unveil tracks from his soon-to-be released fourth solo effort Revelation Pt. 2 - The Fruit of Life, the anticipated follow-up to the highly successful Grammy award winning 2011 album, Revelation Pt. 1 - The Root of Life.
He will be joining Slightly Stoopid and Cypress Hill on the Summer Sessions 2014 Tour. The tour, which also includes NOFX and G. Love & Special Sauce on select dates, began earlier this month in Eugene, Oregon, and wraps up mid-August in Boca Raton, Florida.
No strangers to the live stage, the young "Ragga" and his siblings would dance on stage at their father's shows when they were toddlers. And as if his birth was part of some pre-destiny, it was to accomplish one thing.
"I was born with a mission and purpose to free people's mind and soul with music," Marley explains.
Marley has followed in his father's footsteps in creating a music that applies one basic, central theme of universal love and understanding. Marley has passed that same basic concept on to his son Jo Mersa, an up-and-coming performer himself.
With Revelation Pt. 2 - The Fruit of Life on the family label, Ghetto Youth International, Marley's latest opus has received very favorable pre-release press, as Marley continues to expand the boundaries of hip-hop-influenced reggae. Hypnotic numbers like "Rock Stone," injected with guest vocals from dancehall giant Capleton and prolific reggae artist Sissla Kalonji, and containing and EDM-infused outro, push the album into new sonic territory. And joining Stephen are guest artists such as Rick Ross, Mr. Fugee, Wyclef Jean and Busta Rhymes along with Marley brothers Damien "Jr Gong" and Ky-mani.
When you are as well-respected and known in music circles, it is easy to gather a line-up of celebrity musicians, but why this group, particularly?
"They are all masters of their art and brought different dimensions to the project," replied Marley, who worked with Capelton, Mos Def, Wale, Buju Banton, and Melanie Fiona on Revelation Pt. 1 - the Root of Life.
Though the new album leans on hip-hop and even ventures into EDM, Fruit of Life still uses reggae as the flagship for all cuts. "Part 1 was a roots reggae record, and this one incorporates different genres of music with reggae," explains Marley. "As a creative being, I enjoyed being able to bring it all together."
Not content to simply produce an album of reggae blended with hip-hop, Marley recruits Kingston dancehall singer Busy Signal on "You and Me Attract."
"I enjoy fusing music. EDM and those types derived from dub, which originated in Jamaica," says Marley, who lives in Miami and was born in Wilmington, Delaware. And despite his affinity to live in the U.S., Marley says that it has not kept him disconnected from his true Jamaican roots.
"If a lion is born in a horse stable it doesn't make him a horse," Marley says. "He is always a lion."
Marley is very connected with his siblings and onetime childhood bandmates Ziggy, Cedella and Sharon, who played together in the Melody Makers group back in 1979. The group landed three Grammys during the band's tenure of 1979-2001, thus reaffirming their inherited talents were for real.
There are many who want nothing more than to see a reunion of sorts for the Melody Makers, and Stephen is one, and certainly doesn't dismiss the notion.
"Well we are not divided, so everyday there's a union ... with that, all else is possible," Marley says, without affirming a specific reunion time table.
In the meantime, Marley continues his journey of spreading love through song and providing assistance to various charitable organizations that assist at-risk youth, the poor, and the needy. And for all the Marleys, it is a process of paying it forward.
"We love to uplift and shed light; giving is a great part of that as members of the human family," Stephen says.
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