Even though Stephen Marley has been part of a musical family since he was born in 1972, he never ventured out on his own. For years he was part of the Melody Makers his brother Ziggy Marley’s award-winning band. In the 1990’s he produced Damian Marley’s debut album and also did production work for the Fugees, Michael Franti and later on Erykah Badu, dead prez, Eve and Mr. Cheeks.
An avid hip-hop fan, Stephen concocted and produced the hip-hop tribute to Bob Marley, Chant Down Babylon which featured hip-hop remixes of Marley classics and appearances from Busta Rhymes, Lauryn Hill, Rakim, The Roots,
How’d you come up with the name Mind Control?
Mind Control is a song on the album that’s speaking about physical and mental slavery. High tech slavery. Just reading books inspired it like the late Great Planet Earth and actually a book called Mind Control.
Why did it take so long for your solo album to come out?
It’s been one long effort. It was supposed to come out like two or three years ago. At the time I was producing for my brother’s, Damian, Welcome to Jamrock album. At the time his single, “Welcome to Jamrock”, just took off but the album wasn’t ready. So we couldn’t afford to lose his momentum. But my record wasn’t really started anyway. So we decided to put mine on the backburner and finish up his album. We were trying to catch up with the momentum of the single. That was one thing on why it took awhile and then after I got a chance to sit with it you know, I made some changes and redirected it and it turned into Mind Control.
Is “Traffic Jam” a true story?
Yeah, that happened to us in
Is there ever any pressure of being compared to or following in the footsteps of your father’s musical legacy?
Well, it’s a good pressure. It’s a good thing; it’s not a bad thing. Our father is our mentor, so it’s okay to be compared or be pressured to be like him. That’s our teacher, it’s a good pressure, and it’s not a bad pressure. It’s not like our father is a bad influence you know. So any pressure should be in any which way like our master musically, it’s a good pressure.
You produced the Chant Down Babylon album which merged Bob Marley’s music with hip-hop and you received some criticism for that. You think your father would have been cool with the project?
Yeah, man. Yes! I mean there’s good and bad, but he would find things that he likes.
How was it growing up as a son of Bob Marley? Was there a lot of attention or was it just regular?
It was just regular for me and where I come from is an island, and it’s all good. Everybody was cool in that sense ya know? Nobody was really in awe, it was more like, “What’s up bro?”, a cool, cool, vibe.
You have Mos Def on the album, how did you hook up with him?
Well, first we are fans of his music. Then Damian did some work with Alicia Keys, she had a concert special. That’s where Damian and Mos Def met. Then he came down to
What other projects do you have coming up?
We have a Kymani Marley album, that’s coming up in the fall. Kymani’s record is almost finished so that’ll be out in the fall. Then we got Julian’s record and then Damian’s record early next year and then after that, we’re going to do the Marley Brothers record. We’re all going to do a record together.
You got the tour launching in April, what should fans expect from the show?
Well, you know, we got the whole Marley vibe, first of all, because that is the banner that we fly. It is our crest, ya know? We’ll come out do some tracks from the old, the old stuff and some of the new stuff off of the new album. Some of my father’s stuff will be incorporated into it. Then I’ll bring out Damian, and then we’ll do the stuff that we do together and make it a nice finale. It’ll be good vibes it’s going to be a very uplifting show, ya know? Uptempo, up-vibes, up everything. It’s gonna be fire!
How are you feeling about the current sound of dancehall and reggae nowadays?
Well, you know there’s good and bad. Good thing to say, bad things to say. I can’t say that the music that is being pushed forward is… it’s not the essence of what we’re coming from. It’s our music still, but it’s a lighter side. I’ll just say that,
So who would you recommend that has that essence?
There are a number of people that come with that essence as far as youths today. You have Sizzla, you have Capleton, you have Buju, you have Spragga, all the youths that know how to balance it. Where you can enjoy the beat and dance but at the same time, they’re saying things that are constructive. So you have youths and you have youths upcoming but at the same time you have people that hustle the music and you can tell the hustlers from the difference of the real people, ya know? That is why it gets tainted sometimes because these hustlers are just in it for the hustle and don’t really have a genuine love for it, so anything goes for them. They bring all the murder into it.
What gets you in the mood to start writing and making music?
Anything. Anything, really. Life itself, of course is a big influence. So anything. There’s a song called “Dragonfly”, because he was outside looking at a dragonfly, so that’s how it is. Anyway which way it comes.
What are your top 5 Bob Marley songs, or songs you wish you would have wrote?
Come on, bro! That’s like asking who is my favorite child! Top 5… right now we’re talking about “Exodus”, because we’re getting ready to re-release that album. At the same time, where my father was musically at that time, making that album with the messages. It has “Jammin’”, that’s the album with “Turn Your Lights Down Low”, you know it was a nice balanced record. Exodus, that message, it was again, a landmark for where he was at the time. So “Exodus” is one of the songs, “One Love” is one of the songs, and then the tune “Catch a Fire”. Then the tune, “Africa Unite”. One more… “Is This Love?”
You have produced outside of the family, who are some of the artists you’ve worked with?
We did stuff with dead prez, we did stuff for Eve, Busta Rhymes, we did stuff for Guru. Guru’s stuff is coming out soon and we just did a remix with Gwen Stefani.
As far as hip-hop, who are you feeling?
For hip-hop, we tend to stick with the same people that we know until something that comes out that really just… alright, I like Lupe Fiasco. I like his style and everything.
Any last words?
Just keep supporting the conscious music and thank you for your support.