Jr Gong's September milestones

Observer writer

Sunday, September 16, 2018

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“Out in the streets, they call it murder”.

That instantly recognisable line belted by Ini Kamoze on Damian Marley's Welcome to Jamrock still resonates with music lovers 13 years after its release. The track, which samples World A Music by Ini Kamoze from 1984, is the title track from the album which was released in September 2005. Marley's sophomore album, Halfway Tree, was also released in September four years earlier... 2001.

Damian Marley has never denied having an intrinsic love for music, being the son of reggae legend Bob Marley. Even though his father died when he was two years old, the young Marley developed his craft and years later inked a deal with Ghetto Youths International which gave rise to his debut album, Mr Marley in 1996. The album peaked at number two on the Billboard Reggae Album chart, but it was his second studio effort, Halfway Tree which would cement the young act as one of reggae's finest.

The album cover showcases a young Damian Marley standing amidst the hustle and bustle of Half-Way-Tree, with the iconic clock in the background. This area symbolised a central point between two worlds for Marley; he was raised in Stony Hill, St Andrew by his mother Cindy Breakspeare, while his dad had roots in the Kingston inner city of Trench Town.

“I named the album Halfway Tree because this place is almost in-between downtown, uptown,” Marley said in an interview with VLAD TV last year. “Downtown being the more, you'd say, rougher side of town and uptown being the more privileged side of town. So, because of me being like where both of these worlds meet, where my father is from and where my mother is from, I named the album Halfway Tree as a metaphor for my life.”

The 16-track set featured the collaboration It Was Written with Stephen Marley and Capleton, a conscious-themed track with a chilling feel. The hip hop-flavoured collaboration Still Searchin', featuring Stephen Marley and Yami Bolo, is also on the album, as well as Paradise Child. Released by Universal Motown Records, Halfway Tree earned Marley his first Grammy in the category of Best Reggae Album in 2002. It also peaked at number two and has sold more than 200,000 copies to date.

Universal Music released the highly anticipated Welcome to Jamrock four years later, but its title track was not warmly received by all. The single, co-produced by Stephen Marley, spoke out against social ills in society and the political corruption sweeping the nation. Speaking to Billboard magazine in 2016, Marley said he was following his father's footsteps.

“When the single came out it was criticised — why am I representing Jamaica in that way? But that is life, and if there are controversies let's talk about them,” he said. “Like our father did, we want to do more than just entertain with our music; we want to make serious statements and uplift with our music, likewise our visuals.”

The song earned Marley two Grammy awards in 2006, Best Urban/Alternative Performance and Best Reggae Album. It debuted at number one on the Billboard Reggae chart and sold more than 80,000 copies.

Other songs on the 15-track set include the jazzy collaboration Beautiful featuring Bobby Brown, the militant number Move, and Road to Zion featuring Nas, with whom he recorded the collaborative album Distant Relatives in 2010.

Marley's latest album, Stony Hill, received the Best Reggae Album Grammy in January.

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