Stephen Marley: All In The Family

For more than 20 years the Marley family name has roared like a mighty lion to the world. Stephen Marley showed the family musical gene as a child prodigy. He made his recording debut at the age of seven alongside siblings Ziggy and Cedella as the Melody Makers on the 1972 song “Children Playing in […]

For more than 20 years the Marley family name has roared like a mighty lion to the world. Stephen Marley showed the family musical gene as a child prodigy. He made his recording debut at the age of seven alongside siblings Ziggy and Cedella as the Melody Makers on the 1972 song “Children Playing in the Streets.”

Over the years, Stephen Marley has grown to be known as a multi-talented musician, writer, deejay and producer extraordinaire. He has manned the controls on a variety of albums for his siblings, including Damian’s stunning 2005 release Welcome To Jamrock. He has also worked with Erykah Badu, Buju Banton, Eric Clapton and Capelton to name a few.

Stephen recently stepped out from behind the soundboard to record his debut solo LP, Mind Control. The collage of emotions, sounds and messages depict the trouble clouds and silver linings in society today. Call to arms your headphones, boomboxes, sound systems and a bit of the buddah bless from the almighty Jah as the ever multi-tasking Marley talks about his new album, resistance from the sh*t-stem’s mind control, and what makes his family a force to be reckoned with. Alternatives: You’ve been in the music industry for over 27 years. Why has it taken so long for you to finally release you debut?

Stephen Marley: I’m not sure. That’s the way that it happened.

AHHA: So it wasn’t the right time?

Stephen: Right. Yeah.

AHHA: What events or personal change did you go through while writing the album?

Stephen: Not to write the album, no. I wrote every day. Actually, when I was doing the record, I was doing a lot of things as far as music. I was still recording Damian’s album [Welcome To Jamrock], which came out already. But I mean, I was doing a lot of things. I was doing a few records at the time.

AHHA: You’re used to producing. How was it being on the opposite side of the soundboard for a change?

Stephen: It’s a little different. [laughs] Coming from the Melody Makers, I’m used to doing my little solo songs and performing. So, I have my time, but now it’s just me.

AHHA: On the new album, you’ve got a lot of guest appearances from Damian and Mos Def, to Mr. Cheeks and Ben Harper. There are obviously a lot of different sounds. What can listeners expect?

Stephen: There are a lot of people with different styles, so expect a lot of different flavors. Music that influences; its universal sound.

AHHA: Your myspace page features the video for “Traffic Jam.” You had a rapid flow over beatboxing. How did the song come about?

Stephen: It’s about a situation that happened to me and Julian. We were coming from New Orleans and driving to Tallahassee. Some police pulled us over. They found some herb. That’s how it came about.

AHHA: On the new album there’s a song called “Iron Bars” which is about the same situation that occurred in 2002. How do you feel about run-ins with the police or authorities over something that relates to your religion?

Stephen: How do I feel? That is mind control of the system. They don’t know. That is why they have it upside down. Herb is the anecdote. Them of this world, when we should be of this earth. There is no medium of that type of meditation. If that type of brotherly and sisterly oneness. It’s herb that creates that vibe. It’s not just smoking. You can drink a little tea, a cookie, or what ever. It’s not just smoking herb, but the tree. If you use tobacco or other medicines, it’s not to be abused. But them fight it for a reason, because when you check out all of its purposes of the plant. Why is it that this person, I never had a charge before or committed a crime. And now, all of a sudden, I’m behind bars. For a joint? For some herb? No, we rally to fight that system.

AHHA: Every medicine needs to be used properly, but what about those that abuse it?

Stephen: People abuse food. So everything is to be used wisely. People that abuse it, they are themselves. Just like if you drink too much vinegar. Everyone knows that it’s normal and natural.

AHHA: I heard that you’re a big fan of Ray Charles. How has he inspired you in creating your music?

Stephen: Yes. Ray Charles is a real soulful person. You can tell when he sings that it’s from the soul and I love that. I feel it. It’s in the music. That’s how I am with music in general. When you can feel it. [sings] “Don’t worry!” I can really feel it in my soul. He’s one of those people that really influenced me, not just musically, but personally as an artist. Not in the way that I make music, but the way I feel about music, the way that I appreciate music. Those artists in those days…they sing from their soul. That’s what they had. When they sing it out you can feel it.

AHHA: What kind of Hip-Hop artists are you currently listening to?

Stephen: Me listening to The Roots and Mr. Cheeks of course. A lot of different thin’s. I like what Game is doing.

AHHA: You started in the Melody Makers at seven-years-old. How have you grown from what you did then till this album now?

Stephen: There’s been a lot of growth. Every year, I see a difference in what I’ve learned in the previous, especially in how I make music. Now days, I’m growing still. There’s a difference in my production from last year, yesterday and today.

AHHA: So you’ve picked up some new tricks along the way?

Stephen: Yeah mon, a lot of things. We try to change our sound and music. Over a period of time, you want a different sound. We always try to learn different techniques to change it up. Like you said with “Traffic Jam” and the beatboxing and the bass line. [starts beatboxing] It gets a nice vibe going. We always try to come at music like that and it’s good really.

AHHA: How has it been wining Grammys? Does it help that reggae music become more accepted by commercial music markets?

Stephen: Yes mon. It makes a model, as they would say. The Grammys is not a GQ Award. It is from the music association. It’s recognition of achievement from the industry, the music industry. You are written, where you are from is written, and all that sort. Me appreciate the Grammys, but at the same time, we don’t make music for Grammys.

AHHA: You and your family are know for working together as a unit. How important is that to you?

Stephen: It’s really important that we survive. That’s how we live. It’s most important, second to the Almighty.

AHHA: You’ve been quoted saying, “My joy and my pain, this is me.” Can you explain the statement?

Stephen: The things that bother me. The things that bother me both as a spectator, the things that I see and the things that affect me personally. So when I say the things that bother me, like for instance, in the song “Chase Dem.” But I’m talking about political situations, especially in Jamaica. But it extends around the world. So that’s why I say, me as a spectator because I don’t believe in politics. As a person, you see the effects. That’s why I write about it. That’s what I mean.

AHHA: When you write a song, you’re putting yourself out there. You’re vulnerable. Does it take a lot for you to be that honest and open?

Stephen: I don’t worry about what people think. It’s me. I tell you from the inside. As far as I’m concerned, I’m telling the truth. The same goes for music. I try to play it wholesomely, truthfully, from the inside, a product. It becomes a product.

AHHA: Since you play from the inside, does it put you on another level as far as creating music?

Stephen: Yes. It’s like organic food and fast food. Things are different, but I don’t really think about these elements. We have to make sure that this thing is so pure that we don’t think about the negative over the positive, in that sense.

AHHA: How do you stay focused on the positive?

Stephen: Well, even the negative can become positive. It isn’t all about roses. Some people will talk about mind control and destruction of your soul. So always stay positive. You have to stay positive or we ain’t gonna’ make it. We don’t have a choice.

AHHA: Is that how people can avoid mind control and subliminal or hi-tech slavery?

Stephen: Yeah mon. The way to fight mind control, first of all is awareness. That meaning of our environment. I watch TV. I know what’s up, so I watch it kind of differently compared to the next guy that doesn’t. I watch the news or listen to the radio. I notice the differences.

AHHA: Since you say that you are informed and know what’s up, it’s the beginning of 2007. What do you think we can expect to happen this year?

Stephen: Can we expect something? Again, the Almighty controls. The man of power. Everything happens when the Almighty says so. We see it in the him. If you read books then you know what’s up.

AHHA: What are you reading now?

Stephen: Right now I’m reading a book called What The Church Doesn’t Want You To Know.

AHHA: So what doesn’t the church want us to know?

Stephen: I can’t tell you. I’m just getting into that mon, so you have to wait to hear something about that.

AHHA: With Tough Gong and Ghetto Youths International, you’ve really laid a foundation. What can be expected to come this year?

Stephen: We’re working on some things. Damain’s album was powerful. Julian’s album, which is too, powerful. Ziggy’s is also out there. Just more powerful music.

AHHA: When you first started working with the companies, did you know that they would become as large as they presently are?

Stephen: No, not commercially.

AHHA: Not even just commercially. When people think Tough Gong, they think the heart of reggae music.

Stephen: Yes. I’m not surprised, in other words. We work hard at it.

AHHA: You and Damian work together very closely. Do you ever have differences? After all, you are brothers.

Stephen: Do we disagree? Sometimes we do, but we are the same sense. At the end of the day, we are the same team. We want the best. We talk about it. I explain and he does also. We don’t let anything get in the way. I and I. We make music and as I said, at the end of the day, we have to trust in each other’s judgment. We are the same team always. That’s the way it is with all of us really, brothers and sisters. We try our best to keep the strong family bond.

AHHA: What do you think of the film Shottas and it’s portrayal of Jamaica?

Stephen: It’s a Jamaican movie. It portrays life. Those things happen. It’s not the most positive move, but it’s true. Those things do happen, but it’s just like any movie. The positive side is that it’s a Jamaican director and cast. That’s the positive side, but the truth isn’t always going to be tasteful.

AHHA: Do you think that people fear the truth and what’s actually happening in the world?

Stephen: They fear the truth. They don’t want to hear the truth.

AHHA: Is that what you mean when you talk about awareness and being conscious of what’s happening?

Stephen: Definitely. That’s exactly what I’m saying.