The relationship between Reggae and Hip-Hop culture and music has been well documented over the years so when the son of Reggae royalty Damien ‘Jr Gong’ Marley bigs up and states that Hip-Hop is an important influence on his musical career, such statements only cement and make the bond between the two genres stronger.
Damian says “I remember hearing The Fat Boys and Biz Markie, but in those days, it was my cousin’s music, American music. When the dancehall era kicked off, we got a sense of Hip Hop in a way. But I liked artists like Mos Def, Tupac, Biggie, and LL Cool J – LL Cool J’s album ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ was one of the first Hip Hop albums I had and it was given to me as a gift. What I remember about the LL Cool J record is I was impressed by the storytelling and lyrics. He was very lyrical, you know? Again, of course, growing up listening to dancehall music, which is somewhat similar to the nature of Hip Hop, it wasn’t really anything life changing. When Snoop came out, that’s when I really, really got into Hip Hop, more so when Snoop came out, especially Doggystyle.”
Jamaican culture is often synonymous with marijuana, Marley identified with the lyrics on albums like Dr. Dre’s The Chronic and Snoop’s 1993 solo debut, Doggystyle, which revolved heavily around the ‘sticky icky icky icky.’ “Of course, as teenagers in those days, we were smoking herb and stuff like that,” Marley says. “That was part of our culture. That was a common ground I think for us, and we started to relate to Hip Hop because we were like, ‘Ok these guys are talking about smoking weed.’”
On a professional level, Marley’s relationship with Hip-Hop stems back to at least 2005 when he linked up with the QB wordsmith Nas on the collaborative track “Road To Zion” on Marley’s 2005 gold-selling album ‘Welcome To Jamrock’. In 2010, the duo reunited for a proper album, ‘Distant Relatives’ and continued pushing their Hip-Hop/Reggae sound.
Over the years Jr Gong has also come to understand the direct lineage from Jamaica to the birthplace of Hip-Hop the Bronx in New York City. In Jamaica, “toasting” was the locals’ version of rapping and when Kool Herc emigrated to the Bronx, he brought it along with him.“While doing my research, I come to find out there’s a direct link to Jamaica through Kool Herc,” he explains. “Like I said, Jamaican dancehall culture was very similar to Hip-Hop.”
Damien Marley has continued his love for all things Hip-Hop in 2017 as the 38-year-old Kingston native is on Jay-Z’s new album ‘4:44’ where he joined the Hip-Hop mogul on the track “Bam.” He’s also getting ready to release his first solo album in 12 years, Stony Hill, Friday July 21st, which features his older half-brother Stephen Marley on three of the 18 tracks.
“My brother Steve is definitely one of my huge influences growing up,” he says. “All of my brothers and sisters were influences, but Steve was the one who kind of would rally everyone together ever since we were young. He was the older brother that would pick us up from school or come see you on the holidays. He was the one to bring it in to the group, you know what I mean?”
Bob Marley’s musical influence is integral to the family and is running through generation after generation. Damien Marley’s 7-year-old son is already showing a love for the drums. Jr Gong is now fully equipped with knowledge of the music business and recognises he may have to pass his experience onto his Son.
“Yes [the music business] can be rough,” he says. “But he’s very much into music. He can play stuff on the drum set that I can’t do right now. He actually does play them. For me, I’m going to try to encourage him in whatever he loves to do. It’s definitely his choice — not mine — on whatever he wants to be. I’ll support whatever he wants to do. Of course, there is advice I can give him if he does decide to go into music that I’ve learned in my experience. For example, things I regret not doing. Like, I never learned how to play an instrument properly. Now that he’s young, I like that he’s doing lessons, so if he does decide to do music, he’ll have a good foundation.