A Conversation with Skip Marley
Cover photo ©Jack McKain
Skip Marley Island Stage interview
By Shelah Moody
”Slow down, youth man, slow down
Slow down, young girls, slow down”
-Burning Spear, “Creation,” “Rasta Business”
”The smallest change in perspective can transform a life.” –Skip Marley
Slow down. This may be the catch phrase of the current pandemic culture. While the corona virus has killed thousands and shut down institutions worldwide; it has given us a new perspective. Slow down. In social isolation; many of us have gotten the rare chance to slow down from the daily grind of accumulating wealth and social clout. We’ve had a chance to focus on what is really important. Good health. Family. Social justice. Kindness. Cooperation.
Enter Skip Marley, the 23 year old grandson of a music icon. Skip Marley rose to musical maturity during the same year as Bob Marley’s 75th birthday celebration.
A child is throwing a tantrum in Target.
“Do you want me to beat you right here in the store?” says her masked mother. “I told you I don’t have the money for that toy!”
Then, you hear “Slow down,” a vibrant duet featuring Skip Marley and Grammy nominated singer H.E.R. over the PA system.
”Slow down, and let me love yooooou…”
Aaaah! An Oasis.
Which brings us to one of the most remarkable aspects of ”Slow Down;” it found its way into the ears of the gourmet First Lady and showed up on Michelle Obama’s playlist of soundtracks for her podcasts!
If there is any artist equipped to lead us from a desert to an oasis, it is Skip Marley. Groomed by his mother, Cedella Marley and his musical uncles Ziggy, Stephen, Julian, Damian and Ky-mani, bearing an uncanny resemblance to his grandfather, Bob Marley, Skip made his musical debut with his electric single and video ”Cry to Me.”
Then, Skip Marley began to pop up in the most unlikely places; at the 2017 Grammy Awards ceremony with Katy Perry and most recently on Good Morning America and the NAACP Image Awards with his musical partner, H.E.R.
Now, in the age of social isolation and Zoom culture, Skip Marley is writing and producing tracks for his debut EP, “Higher Place” releasing August 28th.
“I think Skip Marley and his music are important in keeping Bob’s music in today’s culture,” said Oakland, CA based activist Tattiana Bennett Williams, who follows his Instagram account. “Everything that Bob Marley stood for as a person is still something that we as black and brown people are fighting for today: world peace, justice, and we need to be uplifting one another in every way possible! Skip really brings Bob’s sound back with this new generation.”
This summer, Skip Marley, cool and charismatic, recently sat down with Island Stage for a chat via Zoom.
Island Stage: It seems you have been keeping yourself quite busy during this COVID-19 quarantine. What have you been up to?
Skip Marley: Well, we’ve just been working; working towards my new music, working towards the project. I’ve been performing live on Instagram and different types of streaming services like Zoom, Facebook Live and things like that. Through performing, I’m still reaching the people during this time and that’s beautiful.
IS: How do you feel young people can take action to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus?
SM: There is so much going on with young people right now. It is overwhelming for young people. We have to band together and come up with one collective thought about this situation. Progress. We have to go forward, we can’t go back. We have to move forward towards a new future, a new way of how it’s going to be.
IS: How are you using your voice and your platform to be a catalyst for change?
SM: Well, yeah, we fight, you know, we fight the system with our music; we fight the downpressors and the oppressors. We fight spiritual wickedness in high and low places. My music is just a voice and I’m a part of that and I love it. I’m honored people use my songs and that they even link me with certain things and that I inspire hope. That is very important.
IS: Speaking of spiritual wickedness, how can the younger generation help to stop systemic racism?
SM: Well, people haffi know where dem come from, the king of kings. You have to understand, you have to search. They put all kinds of information on top of your head to try and confuse you and try to cover the truth. It’s there if you want it, because it’s inside of you. You have to fight. You can’t watch what the media and the system say—-no.
IS: As your uncle Ziggy sings, it has to start with a personal revolution,
SM: Yeah. Exactly. A personal revolution; the revolution haffi happen inside of you first.
IS: This is a significant year as we celebrate #BobMarley75. How does it feel to you that your grandfather and his work are loved by so many around the globe?
SM: It’s the best feeling for me personally. It’s an honor. Wherever we go, there’s love for my grandfather and love for the message and the music. There’s a mutual understanding. There’s no language barrier or border, it’s just love and truth inna the music and the message and I’m just so grateful and so blessed to be continuing the legacy.
IS: The relevance of your grandfather’s work is just as powerful today as it was 40 plus years ago. What does his song “Get Up Stand Up” mean to you in light of what’s happening in the world today?
SM: Everybody have a life. Everybody have a right to live. Wherever there’s a fight, people have to stand up for their rights. There’s always a fight when mi right, you see me. So yeah, we have to face the revolution and we have to face the time; we have to face reality, as my grandfather would say. I mean, “Get Up Stand Up,” there will always be a fight, so that music will always be relevant.
IS: We love your new single “No Love.” Can you tell us a bit more about what inspired this song and about working with your mentor and Marley family friend, the legendary Betty Wright, who passed away recently?
SM: Yes, the Great Betty Wright, Auntie Betty Wright. Thank you for the many things that you’ve done. We wrote the song right outside here on her piano, me and Betty. We were just saying, things are not always what they seem. (Sings) “Now she said she wants my love, when I was so deep in love. ‘Member when you shut that door, Don’t think I can stay no more…” Yeah!
IS: That’s a good segue, because we are excited that you will be releasing your debut album this August. Can you give us a sneak peak?
SM: We have a song called “Faith.” We have a song called “Make Me Feel.”
IS: Can you tell us about any collabs on the album?
SM: Yes, we have a next urban collab with an American rapper. I don’t want to give it up yet.
IS: Ah, a surprise! Ok! You have already worked with a variety of artists on collaborations. Who are you listening to right now, a young, hip person like yourself.
SM: A young, hip person. (Laughs). Well, I’m just listening to my music right now. I love H.E.R’s new song, “I Can’t Breathe.”
IS: You recently appeared on Jimmy Fallon, Good Morning America as well as at the General Assembly for UNICEF’s 30th anniversary for World Children’s Day. Can you tell us what’s next?
SM: What’s next for me? I have more virtual performances coming up, and radio.
IS: Your collaboration with H.E.R “Slow Down” recently hit #1 on the Urban Adult contemporary chart as well as Billbord’s Adult R&B chart. How does it feel to be the first Jamaican artist to top these charts?
SM: Yeah, mon, It’s a blessing, it’s an honor. For me, it’s not even about the position on the charts. It’s about people digging the music. But of course, all praises to the team and to my mother and my foundation.
IS: Island Stage has a lovely video interview with you back in 2015 at Bay Area Vybez Fest. There are close to 400 thousand views and lots of comments from the young ladies! It’s clear they are crazy about you! Many assume that you and H.E.R are a couple. Can you set the record straight?
SM: Can I set the record straight?
IS: Yes, Sir.
SM: Yeah, me and H.E.R. are cool, you know. (Laughs).
IS: Is there anything else you would like to say to your fans and supporters?
SM: Yeah, Jah Jah loves; Jah Jah rule the heart of mankind.