Bob Marley’s legacy continues to expand with the emergence of another Marley family reggae star-in-the-making: 24-year-old singer-songwriter Skip Marley.
The younger Marley, who grew up in Miami and bears a striking resemblance to his grandfather, grew up observing his family’s dedication to the craft of music. “They [my family] are perfectionists,” says Marley. He sang onstage for the first time while on tour with his uncle Stephen, who encouraged him to sing the chorus of “One Love.” In 2017, Skip released his single “Lions,” and shortly after joined Katy Perry onstage at the Grammys for a performance of “Chained to the Rhythm.” Three years later, he’s finally ready to release his debut E.P. — “Higher Place.” The tight seven-track album is being released on Island/Tuff Gong Records, the Marley family recording label through Universal Music.
Unsurprisingly, the album pulses with Rastafarian truisms and laid-back positivity: optimism in the face of conflict, pursuit of love, and a desire to reach an elevated state of togetherness. There’s also an earthly sensuality to the album, prominently displayed in his single “Slow Down” with R&B singer H.E.R. released last November. It was a hit, rising to the top spot on Billboard’s Adult R&B chart — the first time a Jamaican artist reached that milestone.
Marley sees his iconic grandfather as living on through music, and “Higher Place,” where Bob Marley opens and closes the album’s eponymous track, is certainly an example of that. The vocal contribution was pulled from a 1979 interview filmed during his “American Survival Tour.” In the archival excerpt, the late singer describes the route to revolution as telepathic — the result of “something higher than man’s own personal vexation and self-pride.” The path to that higher place is through the right vibe — and, “the right vibe comes from Rasta.”
“Higher place means a higher state of mind, a higher state of consciousness, the high road,” offers the younger Marley of the track’s message of peace and unity. “We’re on the way, there’s nowhere else to go. We can’t go low. We have to live at a higher vibration, caring for humanity, caring for your brothers and sisters. Just taking our problems, we have to solve these problems, to overcome this.”
Recent events haven’t shaken his optimism. “It’s just in me,” Marley says of his gravitation toward positivity. “These things have been going on for years,” he adds, referencing similar questions and problems his grandfather mulled decades ago. “It’s a cycle, we have to break that cycle and make a positive impact.”
Earlier this summer, the Marley family recorded a new version of “One Love” to benefit UNICEF. The song features vocals from family members Cedella Marley (Skip’s mother), Stephen Marley, and Skip, alongside other international singers. “It was an honor to sing, it’s beautiful to see people from all over the world all come together to a song of unity and one love and justice and hope,” he says. The song’s release coincided with Bob Marley’s 75th birthday, and the family is marking the anniversary all year. Earlier this summer, the family teamed with Wrangler on an apparel capsule collection, which was accompanied by a $25,000 donation by Wrangler to the nonprofit Bob Marley Foundation.
Despite his musical heritage, Marley doesn’t feel constrained by certain styles and themes. “I’m free, music is free, my root is reggae music,” he says. “Reggae is the root which extends into the tree, and branches into different things. I sing songs I like, and songs I feel.” The E.P. also features his second original single, “That’s Not True,” which was released in 2019 and is a collaboration with his uncle Damian Marley.
Earlier this month ahead of the record’s launch, Marley released “Make Me Feel,” which features Rick Ross (a family connection, via Stephen Marley) and Ari Lennox. Marley says he’s open to collaboration so long as the vibe is right and in-line with the message he wants to project. That idea is presented clearly on the track’s chorus, sung in duet with Lennox: “Let’s make this a good life/ Yeah, even through the bad times/ Nothing can kill this vibe.”
It’s the anthem that 2020 needs.