Skip Marley Carries His Family’s Legacy Forward

On the Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise, Paley Martin speaks to the Marley Family member about collaboration and finding freedom in playing music.
By    January 7, 2020

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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.

I want to talk about your collaborative single with H.E.R., “Slow Down.” You recently performed that recently live. Tell me about that experience.

Skip Marley: Yes, at Hollywood Bowl! Featuring Lauryn Hill. She performed with Lauryn Hill. She invited me and I thought why not try and sing the song. It was for the first time. I really give thanks to H.E.R. because she decided to bring me out. She didn’t have to, but she just said, “Hey, Skip, let’s do this together.” So I said, “Of course.” It’s really a blessing. We have a vibe, we just connect.

I saw a video of H.E.R. talking about the song, and it seems like her level of enthusiasm is right where yours is.

Skip Marley: That’s what I think too. It was just meant to happen. I was like, “[The song] is good,” but something about it… it was just meant to happen. It’s like a puzzle, and she just came and put the right piece in the puzzle. She played a big part. Matter of fact, it’s like I had half the puzzle missing [before H.E.R.].

I love the concept and simplicity of just slowing down.

Skip Marley: Yes, just slow down and be in the moment. We get too caught up in [technology]. We have to be in the moment and just be in love, be love, have that connection. That’s really what it’s about for me.

You have the “Slow Down” video coming out soon as well. You filmed it in Harlem?

Skip Marley: Yeah! It was nice being in New York and hanging out with H.E.R. for the day, of course, and getting to know her. It was nice to shoot it and get a vibe. We’re going to drop it in January. I wish we could drop it now. I can’t wait for people to take it in. I feel like people are going to love it.

Had you met H.E.R. in person or had you just been communicating online?

Skip Marley: We met at this Beats 1 thing, but I didn’t get to stick around, so really the first time was the [Lauryn Hill] show for rehearsal. Our spirits just mesh well. We didn’t have to think about it. It just is, it flows.

You really open yourself up to different collaborations.

Skip Marley: We’re all in this together. Reggae music is the root, but why not bring it up new streets and new avenues. That’s always my thing, bringing it to more people. Spread the word. I’m open to all of music. I love all music.

You’ve made music in different spaces like R&B, pop, and dance. Has there been anything about these different audiences that has surprised you?

Skip Marley: No. Pop fans love it, definitely. Katy Perry and stuff. I don’t really know yet. I’m just really thankful to have the opportunity to spread the message. It doesn’t get any better than that. It’s an honor.

You have an upcoming performance in Miami. Tell me about that.

Skip Marley: It’s the 50th anniversary of Inner Circle. It’s an honor to be performing around such pinnacles of the music, such legends, such foundation artists. Me as the young man now, the young artist, it’s great for me not only as a fan but as an artist too. To listen and learn and observe and take it all in. It’s an honor to be a part of it. Pic Love and the Ghetto Youths Foundations, we’re donating all the proceeds to those foundations. Impact people, that’s all we’re trying to do. Have a positive impact.

It seems like you’re just growing that humanitarian impact as you grow in your career.

Skip Marley: Grow and grow and grow. Like a tree, planted by the water. Grow and bloom in season.

What makes you feel free?

Skip Marley: I think the music is definitely a big part of that. Music is the first time I feel that feeling. I just remember I couldn’t see nothing the first time I caught the feeling. I just love that feeling and I want to hold onto that feeling and keep that energy. That’s why I told you I feel that love when I get on stage. That’s where I get the feeling and energy from. It’s about the music and the people. Music for the people.

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