For Damian Marley enthusiasts, the wait will soon be over. Twelve years after the Grammy-award-winning Welcome to Jamrock, Damian Marley, aka Junior Gong, is thrilling fans with an upcoming album release — in just four days. On Friday, July 21, 2017, Stony Hill hits the shelves.
This is Marley’s fourth studio album, including Mr. Marley (1996), Halfway Tree (2001), and, of course, Welcome to Jamrock (2005), for which he won the 2006 Grammy awards for Best Reggae Album and Best Urban and Alternative Performance, as well as a spot on Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Songs of the Decade list, according to Huffington Post. In the more-than-decade-long interim, Marley has been anything but quiet, having worked on many collaborative productions. Fans will remember Distant Relatives (2010), which he produced with Nas; Superheavy (2011), produced with his supergroup including Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart, Joss Stone, and A.R. Rahmanhis; as well as his single, “Make it bun dem” (2013) with Skrillex, lists Reggaeville.
Stony Hill has been in the works for some time and was first due to be released in November, 2016. Wanting to ensure his album is nothing less than perfect, however, the youngest of Bob Marley’s sons opted to postpone its debut.
In an interview with Scott Goldman, the newly named Executive Director of the Grammy Foundation, Marley was asked how he knows if a track or album is ready.
“You just let go. See how it feels. We’re perfectionists, so when the music feels right, it feels right,” he replied, adding that he ensures the song is approved by his older brother, Stephen Marley, before release.
“Yeah, I’m feeling good about where it is now. I’ve come to peace with where it is now,” Marley replied, laughing. He revealed that he wanted to include more “up tempo… energetic tracks, and hence the track, ‘R.O.A.R.'” Prior to the initial release date, he said, “R.O.A.R.” did not exist.
The album also features musical styles that harken back to “roots music,” like The Wailers, he says.
“Everybody wants to be somebody is a good indicator [of] a few songs to come from the album,” he told Rodigan. Those songs veer from his traditionally “hybrid style,” as “everything [is] acoustic,” and he sings a bit more than usual.
Marley’s message stays strong: being socially aware and conscious of your own actions.
“Nail Pon the Cross,” he said, “speaks of solidarity.” The main message is “judge not before you judge yourself.” And the video adds to that message, he said. He also spoke of “Caution,” which is “the first official song on the album,” explaining that it’s about the relationship between Jamaica’s police and “rude boys.” Both groups “are really poor, none of them are really well-off,” but “they play that cat and mouse game while the rest of society lives their lives.”
“R.O.A.R.” also speaks about Jamaica’s “rude boys.” Hot New Hip Hop featured a quote from Marley, where he described what the song is about.
“‘R.O.A.R.’ is really speaking about how, in Jamaica, what we call rude boys always had a responsibility to the community… They would be the safe-keepers — the people who keep the community safe from other areas or within itself. That’s kind of changed over the years, especially with younger kids growing up without elders. This song is about reminding them of those values,” he said.
And, as is to be expected from the one and only Junior Gong, his love for marijuana makes an appearance with “Medication,” featuring Stephen Marley.
“I love you, Mary Jane,” they both can be heard crooning 30 seconds into the song.
In a Facebook live interview, Marley told fans that the inspiration for Stony Hill is “life itself.”
“…My personal experiences, as well as experiences of friends and family members, things that you see in the news and just what we’re aware of that’s going on, you know.” He said that, in the planning stages, he couldn’t have predicted what the album would turn out to be, but he is satisfied and likes the songs.
“My favourite part of making the new album was discovering new music,” he says. “One of my favourite things to do is to come up with new ideas in the area of music and just the creation of music.”
Watch the video for “R.O.A.R” below and scroll down to see David Rodigan’s BBC Radio 1Xtra interview with Marley.
What’s your favorite Damian Marley song? Tell us in the comments below.
[Featured Image by Karl Walter/Getty Images]