LargeUp Exclusive: Stephen Marley Interview + “Made in Africa” Live

May 17, 2011

Words by Eddie STATS Houghton


Like we told you, we got the chance to build with Stephen Marley a few weeks ago, attending an exclusive listening session for his forthcoming LP Revelation Part 1 – The Root of Life. As the release date approaches (it’s currently slated to drop one week from today on Tuesday May 24th) Stephen blessed us with some time to have a one-on-one follow up convo. As all the tributes that Lauryn Hill, Lenny Kravtiz and innumerable others put down for Bob Marley Week drew to a close, Stephen spoke with us on the ways he remembers his dad, cutting songs with Rakim and Black Thought for Revelation – Part 2 and the importance of Africa -(Wale and the cast of Fela: The Musical make a cameo on Part 1‘s first song “Made in Africa.”) Hear a live snippet along with the full text of the interview after the jump:

Q: All the Bob Marley week things going on this week and all the tributes to your father going on, How do you feel about that? Does it ever get tough to have so much Marley, Marley, Marley all the time?

A: No, it can’t be tough to have so much positive, positive, positive all the time!

Q: How were you honoring him this week, do you recognize the anniversary of his death or do youset aside another time to celebrate?

A: I mean we were here in Miami and it was very positive. Ya know, It’s a very special day but it’s a very reflective day, where as on his birthday it’s a party. We celebrate, but this is the kind of day where you remember all the things you went through. Its not a day to jump around. You play music, you smoke some herb and reason.

Q: So how does it feel to be just pushing forward this new album Revelation, Part 1 in the midst so much remembrance and tribute going on–does it feel like a continuation of what your father was doing? Does it feel like your stepping out and doing your own thing?

A: Well it’s the continuation of the work…we’ve always been doing God’s work, and we do that through our music which enlightens people through the words and the spirit of the music. It is not separate from my father’s work, he was doing God’s work and we fall under the same bracket.

Q: So what do you have going on right now. Are you touring to support the new album?

A: No. I start touring in bout two and a half weeks. I normally have a studio with me to record even when I’m traveling but right now I’m still finishing the next album, Revelation Pt. 2.

Q: Is it hard for you to be touring or supporting Part 1 when you’re thinking about being the studio and working on Part 2 also?

A: I wouldn’t say it’s hard because I would be making music anyways.  Not because I have an album finished and have fourteen songs. I continuously make music and when we done we have an idea of the second album . We already have tracks laid down, so we just completing them. So it’s not very hard.

Q: Where are you at with Part 2?

A: I am three quarters [done].

Q: I know with Part 1 when we sat in the studio and heard the whole intro track you have with Wale and the African Queens from the cast of Fela The Musical, it felt like a real strong African connection. Do you feel like the vibe has gotten some response back from people?

A: Well besides you hear it, I only put out a little snippet of it. But, yeah man. It got some good response. Some real positive response. And I did some shows with it also, where a few people said they cried with that song—the first they hearing it. They’re feeling it, the words and spirit of the song.

Q: Are you planning to follow up on that with more collaborations or travel to Africa with the tour or anything like those lines?

A: Well, we haven’t heard of anything about touring in Africa as yet. But it’s something I want to do. So when it comes together we’ll be ready to do it. As far as collaborating, what you mean, do you mean as in the album?

Q: Is that vibe going to continue on Part 2 some of the international thing?

A: A lot of international collaboration on Part 2. I already have a song with me and Rakim. I have Black Thought. I have a next song with me and Buju.  Different songs are there for Part 2. It’s a day and night body of work. We just trying to give the people medicine and a add a little bit of sugar so they don’t spit it out!

Q: Speaking of the medicine, if I look at all those people who helped you put this thing together and the themes of the songs it seems like what runs through everything from the Fela singers to dead prez, it seems like there is a sense of Pan-Africanism or some idea like that is a strong theme for both parts of the album.

A: Umm. Me nuh know bout dat.  Definitely history…which, in history we find the truth. I know history is part of it, where the Africa sound and dead prez really comes with lyrics.  But the second album is eclectic and really open. Everybody comes in, Damian comes in and does a verse my son Joseph come in and does  a verse. I have songs like that. Then we have songs about Babylon, too. It’s more eclectic. Yuh know? It’s more colorful.

Q: Do you have a personal favorite from Part 1 that stands out to you?

A: That same “Made in Africa” song really stands out to me.

Q: Its funny that you say that. I thought you were going to say “Jah Army” for some reason. I don’t know why.

A: Well you see “Jah Army” was easy for me to do. That’s just like a soldier calling out when it’s a time of crisis—you don’t have to think about it. But when you take a song like “Made in Africa” — like I say, it’s so important the history there. The song starts with Scientists now come to terms that Africa is the beginning of civilization so it’s really rich with that.

Q: Do you think that with that one you were reaching for something different, musically?

A: Well I wouldn’t say reaching for something differently, no. The song came out. There was no plan to say “ok we’re going to do a song like this.”  No, I took up a guitar and said “educate yourself on Africa, liberate yourself Africa” and then they complimented, the musicians. They just predicted the soul of what I was trying to say and complimented the spirit of the song and what was coming out of me very well.  We really never set out to say, Let it sound like this. But yeah that’s the way it became. It’s an epic sound with the harmonies and Wale’s part–kind of like a movie vibe.

Q: I thought maybe when you said that “Jah Army” came to you easily … that in some sense that’s foundation for you, that’s the kind of thing that you grew up on the rhythm and the whole feel of it. I wonder Is there a track that musically you say, Ok I want to challenge myself and do something more in a jazz vein or something that’s not so natural?

A: No. I as a producer now am influenced by SOUND. In general. I’m influenced by a cricket. In general I’m very eclectic, so that’s just one side of me. We didn’t think to say, Well let’s try and make this side come out or that side.

Q: But it seems like the guitar is kind of the foundation for you, that’s where the songs start?

A: Yes, Guitar is a close friend of mine like that. I guess the guitar helps you with melodies and such work, versus writing a song dry-hand, taking out a piece of paper and trying to just write a song with pen and paper. The guitar helps you through the feel of the song and emotions.

Q: The reason I ask is because on the album, the textures and the arrangements are so much more layered then I was expecting. Are those things that you’re translating from guitar to someone else? Or is that something that happens in the collaboration in the studio?

A: Alright. That’s a good question. On this album, we rehearsed for two weeks. Normally, some people would just arrive, studio starts on Friday. Everyone shows up to the studio on the Friday, I pick up the guitar and say this is one song “dah-dah-dah-dah” and we go on like that. This album we rehearsed the songs and went through and arranged for two weeks. Its funny, that’s what you’re depicting and that’s through preparation.

Q: When you say you want give people the medicine and put some sugar on it, It does feel like with all the eclectic sounds, there’s one strong message behind the whole theme of it. I wonder if you can put that into words, what you want people to come away with?

A: Well. What I’m putting into words really is integrity, the Integrity of reggae music. Reggae music was introduced to the world as a music with purpose. From the voice of poor people, the voice of oppressed people. I guess that spirit I’ve tried to relate it into the music with some of the songs. But the way I approached it as a music. As knowing that reggae music is come upon we as the spirit, the same purpose, the same integrity of those that were before us. We introduced the world to the music so that was more of my approach versus well lyrics. It’s a whole thing. Music. Reggae. Understand?