Long Live the Light: An Interview with Stephen Marley


AllHipHop.com recently had the opportunity to speak with 8X Grammy winner and the second eldest son of Bob Marley, Stephen “Ragga” Marley.

Calling in from his studio in Miami, Florida, we chopped it up about, among other things, his new album, the connection between Reggae and Hip-Hop, Rakim, and the words of silent film actor, Charlie Chaplin.

The conversation not only served as a wonderful way to hear about his new album, RevelationSM2 II: The Fruit of Life, but also a platform for Mr. Marley to share his insight  and appreciation for rap music a whole.

One idea that he mentioned throughout our discussion was “bringing people into the light,” and his spirit injects just as much of that bright positivity as his music.

Like Stephen’s legendary father, he is a man of the people who is determined help and heal the world with his message.

Whether on wax, on stage, or in print, Mr. Marley emits an uplifting vibe that enriches everyone it touches.

Bob would be proud.  So without any further ado, check out our exclusive interview with Stephen Marley below!

AllHipHop: Hello, Mr. Marley.  How are you?

Stephen Marley: Alright, brother.

First and foremost, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to speak with AllHipHop.com and congratulations on the new album.  I really enjoy it.

Thank you.

The album is Revelation II: The Fruit of Life stemming from Revelation I: The Root of Life which was released four years ago.  For as different as they are, why was it important to connect them as pieces of a two-part installment?

We were coming from a concept, two sides of the same coin.  I’m all about that.  As a producer, I’m fans of so many different genres of music so combing them becomes second nature to me as well.  There are so many different aspects.

Was it challenging as a producer to bring that Hip-Hop aesthetic to it?

It was challenging, but the more challenging thing was staying in the concept.  I’m more an inspiration and vibe type of person.  I [usually] put the album together and then name the album.  This one had a name before the album was even done.  It’s really just staying in that concept that is was kind of a challenge to me, who is more of a free-spirited person making music.

With all the Hip-Hop collaborations, from Busta Rhymes to Waka Flocka Flame, that’s a wide range.  Was that done intentionally?  Or was it just whoever suited the track best?

To tell you the truth, it was a bit of both.  My music overall is really all about enlightening people and uplifting one’s spirit and mind.  Sometimes you have to go into the dark to shine light.  You can’t wait for people to always see the light, and so I tried to cover as many boundaries and barriers as I could. Rakim is on the album and that is very important to me.  He’s part of the roots of Hip-Hop and just paying respects there.

Yeah, the Rakim collaboration was one which I noticed quickly.  He’s not one to do those very often.  How did that come about?

I met him at this summit that Damien [Marley] and Nas did about the relationship between Reggae and Hip-Hop when they were getting ready to put out the Distant Relatives album.  I met Rakim there and expressed how it was great to meet him just as a legend of Hip-Hop culture and he was just as into meeting me as the son of Bob and a keeper of the name.  That’s when we formed a friendship and [talked about how] one day we’d find the opportunity to do something together.

“So Unjust” (the song with Rakim and Kardinal Offishall) is fantastic.  It’s one of my favorites on the album.

Yeah man, thank you.

You’re welcome.  It’s very clear that Reggae has played a role in Hip-Hop.  In what ways has Hip-Hop played a role in Reggae?

The evolution of the music.  It works as Hip-Hop is at the center of pop culture now.  Hip-Hop transcends certain barriers.  It has a big influence on the youth in Jamaica, and Hip-Hop is a seed of Jamaica’s culture.  That’s our offspring, and so we pay attention.  Hip-Hop music is ghetto music and struggling people music and to see that at the forefront of what’s going on musically is also great and we pay respect to that.

Have you faced difficulties breaking through?  As far this being perceived as the musical fusion that it is, instead of just a Reggae album with rap on it?

[laughs] Well, people that know me know my music.  They know I come from the soul and the project has integrity.  I had said it before it came out that part II is going to be a venture, a cross-pollination of other genres combined with with our music and our vibe.  People love it.  If you give it a chance, you’ll love it.  If you go in thinking, ‘it’s not a Reggae album,’ then you’re not.

Switching gears slightly, I really like that Great Dictator speech that you used for the bookends of the album.  Is  there a story as to how that was chosen and why you wanted to use that Charlie Chaplin stuff?

When I found the speech, it had no visuals and so I didn’t know who was speaking at first.  I didn’t know it was Charlie Chaplin.  I just heard the words and was like, ‘Wow, this is something I would want to have said myself.’

The great irony of it of course, with him being a silent film actor, when spoke it carried extra weight and then him saying something so profound.

Exactly.  When I first did the research and found out it was him, I had the same reaction.  It made it even more special.

The world is such a polarizing place right now with countless things dividing and separating people.  This album though, like most of your music, is all about unity.  Particularly, what message is it that you want listeners to walk away with after listening to Revelation II?

I was on tour just a few weeks ago and quite a few people came to me after different shows and said that it was their first Reggae concert because of this album.  Because of this album, they came to the show.  They’re not really fans of Reggae, but this introduced them to the music in a way where there’s a familiar feel, but the spirit and integrity is different.  That’s what it’s about – shining the light and sometimes you have to go into these places to bring a vibration.

I think that’s great and believe you’ve been very successful with it.  One of the things I’ve noticed, just as listener of Reggae and Rap, is that with Reggae things are very positive and uplifting, yet they still don’t hesitate to speak on poverty and the ghetto.  Whereas with rap, some of these artists come from similarly tough circumstances, but they still seem to talk about flashy cars and money.  So, with each genre’s artists coming from the same environment, why do you think they sometimes talk about the exact opposite things?

We (Jamaicans) come from a third world county.  We come from an island.  We come from a different breed.  To me, some people say, ‘all rappers are talking about is money,’ but that’s progress.  They’re connected to people brought over on slave ships, so you’ve got to look on the positive side of things. ‘Oh, he’s talking about money.’  He’s talking about progress.  We can’t push them down for that.

That’s very well said.  I think if more people expressed it that way, naysayers of Hip-Hop would embrace it more than they do.  We’ve covered a lot of ground.  Is there anything else you want to talk about or mention that we haven’t discussed?

No, you asked some pretty good questions.

Thank you.

I’m a fan of the site and thanks for tapping in and helping me cross these boundaries here as well.

It’s a pleasure and a privilege, sir.