Reggae royal Stephen Marley caught the hip-hop bug in 1999 when he produced Chant Down Babylon, a remix of his father Bob’s songs with verses from rappers and singers Guru, Rakim, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill. Solo debut Mind Control followed eight years later, featuring Mos Def and Mr. Cheeks. 2011’s Revelation Pt. 1: The Root of Life added Wale and Melanie Fiona to his arsenal.
“Street music,” he says of the marriage between genres. “Both are styles of street music.”
The collaboration continues on this summer’s Revelation Pt. 2: The Fruit of Life, for which Marley’s brought in Rick Ross, Dead Prez, Busta Rhymes, the Roots’ Black Thought, and a handful of other rappers. He says each MC involved was jazzed to experiment with reggae, acknowledging the benefits of his storied surname.
“One thing that helped is the respect that the music community has for my father,” says Marley. “Not just for reggae music, but because he was a voice of the people. That respect transcends to all his kids and the way that [others] see us. It’s a continuation of that legacy.”
Twenty years after the death of his father, Marley now finds himself on the road with his own son, Jo Mersa, a 23-year-old readying the June 10 release of his debut EP, Comfortable.
“It’s a beautiful thing to be able to be here for him physically,” says Marley, 42, who produced Comfortable. “I lost my father’s physical presence at a young age, so I’m grateful to be here helping the third generation. My son calls me and says, ‘Dad, this and that.’ I never had that privilege.”– Chase Hoffberger