Damian “Jr Gong” Marley
Damian “Jr Gong” Marley, once known as the “The Youngest Veteran” by his fellow artists, is now an elder in the game who’s not afraid to speak his mind out of respect for the music and culture he loves—and for the divine spirit of humanity in all of us. The lyrically profound and largely self-produced 12th studio album released in 2017, Stony Hill maintains the element of hardness from “Jam-Rock” to “Stony,” and arrived at a moment when the rhythms of the Caribbean were and still are all over the pop charts—with mostly light-hearted lyrical content.
“No punk can finish where Bob Marley started…we have to stand for the integrity of the music,” Marley says of the inspiration of his album. “It’s good to get some music out there that points to the foundation, the spirituality of it,” says Jr. Gong. “You don’t have to turn into a clown to sell the music,” Damian continues, chastising those whose appeal is based on stunts and gimmicks.
His recent album Stony Hill takes its title from the Kingston neighborhood where Damian grew up, a relatively well-to-do residential neighborhood just a short drive away from Half Way Tree, the city crossroads that marks the dividing line between uptown and downtown. The young Gong grew up seeing every side of life. “Some people were critics of a song like Jamrock,” he admits. “They say ‘Well, you didn’t come from the ghetto.’ But it’s not about where you come from. Coming from uptown doesn’t mean you can’t care about people who don’t live where you live. Furthermore, Jamaica is so small that nowhere is far.”
“It’s definitely not just a collection of songs,” Damian says of Stony Hill, “where like we just grab a bunch of singles and we’re finished. It’s a body of work that we focused on. But then again it wasn’t too super-premeditated either. It just so happens that this is how I was feeling and what I felt like saying at that time.” Though a handful of tracks date all the way back to 2008, Damian says he locked in on the album in 2016 and had worked nonstop since then to complete the project for its release in July of 2017. So much has changed in his life and in the world since he first began.
“It’s easier to be a critic than to be a visionary,” Damian continues. “It’s easier to criticize the path that we’re on, and much harder to try to carve out a new path to follow. When it comes to conscious reggae music, a lot of the songs that you listen to tell you to Bash Babylon! But not a lot of them tell you what to do after you’re finished bashing Babylon. Bashing Babylon—how would I say now? —that don’t make you successful. Where to go after there?”
The youngest son of Reggae legend Bob Marley, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley garnered his own place in music history when he became the first ever Reggae artist to win a GRAMMY outside of the “Reggae” category, taking home an award for “Best Urban/Alternative” performance for his title single, “Welcome To Jamrock”. The acclaimed 2005 breakthrough disc Welcome To Jamrock, also won a GRAMMY for “Best Reggae” Album. Marley has been shaking up stages all over the world for the past few years, first in collaboration with Nas on their Distant Relatives project, and then when he went on to partner with Skrillex for their groundbreaking track “Make It Bun Dem,” which Rolling Stone called “a monster mash up of dubstep and dancehall. ”Marley’s latest album Stony Hill won the 2018 GRAMMY Award for “Best Reggae Album.” Additionally, Damian appeared on Saturday Night Live alongside Jay Z to perform their stand out track “Bam,” and he is also featured on Ty Dolla $ign’s acclaimed track “So Am I” with Skrillex. Most recently, Damian released the remix and music video for his single “Medication” featuring Stephen Marley, Wiz Khalifa and Ty Dolla $ign, in addition to releasing other visuals from his Stony Hill album including Living It Up, Speak Life and Autumn Leaves. He continues to tour internationally around the world and has also been busy producing other artists such as Kabaka Pyramid and Third World.