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“Love” and “spirit.” They’re the first two words out of Skip Marley’s mouth when I ask him how he felt walking onstage tonight. “I just love it,” he tells me. “The energy I get. It’s the best feeling we can have and share.”
Just 20 minutes earlier, Skip was ending his set on his uncle Damian Marley’s sixth annual Welcome to Jamrock cruise. Underneath the spotted Jamaican night sky, the two Marleys performed their 2019 single, “That’s Not True,” a song about maintaining positivity and balance in a chaotic world. The message resonated with the cruise’s crowd of reggae lovers who have gathered onboard from all corners of the world to hear powerful words like these.
It’s only natural for Skip to be breathing hope into his music. The maternal grandson of the great Bob and Rita Marley, Skip, son of Cedella Marley, was born into a family tree rooted in political justice and positivity.
Skip is one of many Marleys performing on the cruise this year. His uncles Damian, Stephen, and Julian all brought their own flavors onboard, as well as his cousin, DJ Shacia Payne, daughter of Stephen. Yet, unlike the others, this is Skip’s first time on the Jamrock stage; furthermore, he’s been tasked to set the tone for the biggest night of the week.
Following Skip’s performance tonight are some of the biggest names in reggae and dancehall music: Christopher Martin, Popcaan, Bounty Killer, and the legendary dancehall artist Buju Banton, whose 2018 release from prison was one of the most pivotal moments in the history of Jamaican music. And although the the crowd is riddled with anticipation, the 23-year-old Marley is not one to let the nerves rock him.
Sitting in front of me, Skip exudes nothing but ease. One could say this centered nature in his blood, but it also comes from many years of practice. A singer, songwriter, and humanitarian, Skip has been making music since he was six years old and performing in front of crowds from the age of 14, when he toured with his uncle, Stephen Marley.
It wasn’t until 2017, though, that his solo career was truly kickstarted. That year, he signed with Island Records, released his first hit single, “Lions,” and stepped outside of the reggae space as a featured artist on Katy Perry’s “Chained To The Rhythm.” The collaboration, which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, introduced Skip into the pop music fold.
Two years later, Skip continues to bring reggae music into new arenas with his feature on Major Lazer’s “Can’t Take It From Me” and his recent single with H.E.R., “Slow Down.” Joining forces with the two-time Grammy-winning R&B singer on the latter track, Skip feels most at home in this upbeat earworm. Singing about taking your time with the person you love, the song emanates the universality, warmth, and simplicity that personified his grandfather’s music.
The character of the Marley legacy is central to who Skip is both within and beyond his music. As Skip’s platform continues to grow, so too does the quality of love and spirit that he carries with him. “I want to hold onto that feeling and keep that energy,” he tells me. “It’s about the music and the people. Music for the people.”
In this interview with Passion of the Weiss, Skip talks about spreading the word of reggae music, the significance of his collaboration with H.E.R., using his platform to uplift, and why we have to “be love, teach love,” and “give love.”
This is your first Jamrock cruise. What’s the feeling you have when you step on the stage?
Skip Marley: Love. Spirit. It’s all these things in one thing, that give me that feeling of only love. I just love it. The energy I get. It’s the best feeling we can have and share.
I read recently that you called yourself a love warrior. How do you convey that in your music and practice it in your personal life?
Skip Marley: It’s our groove. It’s a principle. We have to live that, we can’t just talk it. We have to be love, teach love, give love. Love will heal. Love is the almighty.
It does seem like you practice what you preach.
Skip Marley: We all can make a change. Each one teach one. We all can play a part.
I want to know about the UN performance you just did with Amrit Kaur Lohia and the PS 22 Chorus, as well as Damascus Voice, a Syrian refugee in a German camp who performed onscreen. Can you tell me about that?
Skip Marley: Yeah, it was for World Children’s Day. It’s such an important day and important topic. Nowadays, in this world, you have children without homes. Children without mothers and fathers who are suffering. We might not see it, but there’s a reality we have to all face and that is the refugee crisis. It was an honor for me to shed a light. It was an honor for me to shed a light and bring awareness to the subject. I sang a song called “Refugee” that I have. I say [in the song], “We gon’ love your people. Let’s burn one down.” I hope they took that message with them. I hope the people in power take the message. It was an honor to give that them message. Maybe they’ll listen to me.