DAMIAN ‘JR. GONG’ MARLEY / “Welcome To Jamrock”

Well when we say Half-Way-Tree, we a talk bout downtown, ghetto, ya understand? Yeah so the influence is really to know both sides. We exposed to uptown and we exposed to the ghetto. We have whole heap a brethren that come from the ghetto, so those things reflect in my music, it's not that I sing about my experience or my sufferation, I sing about the experiences and sufferation of my brethren. —Damien Marley from http://www.rastafaritoday.com/souljah/jrgong.html
Damian Marley’s “Welcome To Jamrock” is massive. If you listen to mainstream R&B or hip-hop radio, you’ve heard it. If you watch BET or MTV, you’ve seen it. Like seemingly everyone else, I can’t get enough of “Jamrock.” The hardcore roots groove, the ridiculous Ini Kamoze sample, the hyper-descriptive lyrics—all of it is addictive. But while Damian says he wrote the song to show a side of Jamaica and the Jamaican people that most outsiders never see, the song and the video leave me with more questions than answers. On the surface, “Jamrock” is an auditory tour of the slums of Kingston, Jamaica. The lyrics are meticulously crafted and intimately detailed, yet the overall effect is about as subtle as a hand grenade. Damian’s delivery is as expressive and as vivid as his lyrics. Adding to the effect—to non-Jamaican ears, at least—Damian’s patois is sometimes so indecipherable that by the time you’ve figured out what he just said, he’s hurled two or three more bombs at you. I had to hear “Jamrock” several times just to get a good idea of what the song was about. The video, which was shot in black-and-white, is every bit the equal of the song, image after image matching the lyrics in both impact and expressiveness. When “Jamrock” is over (either song or video, they’re equally intense) you feel yourself involuntarily exhaling, not having realized you’d been holding your breath. Even for those of us who were born and raised amid the claustrophobic intensity of inner-city life, “Jamrock” is one hell of a ride. But check it, there’s more to this story. gong2.jpg From the beginning, even as I was awed by the gritty, soulful feel of Damian’s new music, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was at least an undertone of incongruity at work. In other words, something wasn’t quite right. After doing a little research on Damian’s musical and personal history, and after reading several interviews and articles by those whose opinions are more informed than my own, I realize that there is a lot more to “Jamrock” and Damian Marley than what is presented in the song and video. Let’s start with the most obvious. 1. Damian is a child of privilege. Damian is the son of the most famous Jamaican in the history of Jamaica, Bob Marley. When Damian’s mother, Cindy Breakespeare, met Bob, she was a student from a well-to-do family and a nationally-known beauty queen. (Cindy would go on to be crowned Miss World, her entry into the international contest reportedly financed by Bob himself.) Both Damian and Cindy were well provided for in Bob’s will. Damian attended private school and when, after Bob’s death, Cindy married, Damian became the stepson of a prominent politician. 2. Damian didn’t grow up in Trenchtown or any other ghetto. “Jamrock,” both the video and the song, is ostensibly an ‘insider’s view’ of hardcore Jamaica. The images of the video are presented with an almost cinéma vérité-like intensity. The viewer feels as if they are literally riding through the streets of the Jamaican slum, seeing the images, hearing the sounds, smelling the smells and feeling every twist and turn of the road as they speed by. Despite growing up in an upper-class environment, did Damian spend so much time in the ghetto that he feels as if he knows the streets he shows us? Or is he himself one of the poseurs he dismisses? “Some boy na know ‘dis,” he chants at one point, “’Dis” meaning, one presumes, the ghetto. “’Dem only come around like tourist / On the beach with a few club sodas / Bedtime stories / An’ pose like ‘dem name Chuck Norris.” 3. Damian isn’t ‘black.’   Damien___Cindy.jpg If you were to hear “Jamrock” on the radio without knowing the identity of the artist, you would assume, understandably, that you were listening to Bounty Killer, Sizzla, Beenie Man or one of the other black stars of Jamaican dancehall. True, there are popular dancehall artists like Sean Paul or Shaggy who happen to be light-skinned. Also true, Damian named his 2001 Grammy Award-winning album Halfway Tree, a double-entendre playing on both his mixed parentage and his mixed social status (he claims, dubiously, that his father is from the ghetto while admitting that his mother is upper-class). Note that Halfway Tree is a Kingston street which divides downtown from uptown, the affluent from the unfortunate. The problem is this: while Bob Marley himself may have been able to convincingly claim ‘one foot in and one foot out’ ghetto status both racially and certainly economically, Damian’s claim is a little less believable. As ‘illegitimate’ children, both Bob and Damian grew up with their mothers. But while Bob was raised by his mother, who is black, in the impoverished area of Trenchtown, Damian was raised by his mother, who is white, nowhere near the ghetto. Picture this: if we could line up Damian’s four grandparents side-by-side, we would see two white men, one white woman and one black woman. Yet Damian’s voice, style, look and his overall vibe are all very, very black. 4. Damian is a flosser. In both the song and video, Damian positions himself as a champion of the poor, castigating the rich politicians for the lack of opportunity faced by the ghetto youth. He also talks about the way the ghetto youth turn to violence in ill-fated attempts to achieve economic status. A noble sentiment, certainly. Yet, in the video, Damian and his posse motorcade through the Kingston slums with Damian at the wheel of a 7-series BMW while his posse circles about on Japanese racing bikes. Damian’s visit (it seems safe to assume that he is only visiting) has a regal, almost Presidential vibe to it, as if Damian has come down from the hills to mingle with the common-folk. Will the sight of Damian and his German car and all of Damian’s boys riding their shiny bikes lead the ghetto youth of Kingston to renounce their violent ways? Will their glimpse of his obvious wealth sate their desire for a little of their own? One thinks not. 5. Damian is non-violent. Selectively. In an interview with journalist Clover Hope, Damian says that he is anti-war. “There’s no justification for people fighting on behalf of leaders,” Damian says. “If leaders have a discrepancy—you guys went to the highest colleges and schools and all a this thing—you tellin’ me that they can’t find an educated way to work out their problems…?” True enough. Then Hope quotes part of “Jamrock” and asks Damian to respond.
“Police come inna jeep and ‘dem can’t stop it / Some say ‘dem a playboy, a playboy rabbit / Funnyman a get drop like a bad habit.”
Damian answers: “A lot of times, police who have a problem in Jamaica can turn to violence. And then, there’s no room for nonsense, is what the rest of [the phrase] is saying. Your lickle gimmicks and ya lickle ego, there’s no room for that.” So far, Damian sounds like a true-blue pacifist. But, for whatever reason, Hope doesn’t ask Damian to expound on the last line of the quoted lyric, a line which originally (and allegedly) was: “Batty boy a get drop like a bad habit,” an obvious reference to one of Black Jamaica’s most-treasured obsessions: gay-bashing. For our tender American ears, the phrase ‘batty boy’—which translates roughly to ‘faggot’—was first changed to the apparently less offensive ‘funnyman’ and then was edited out altogether. In sum, I’m left with mixed feelings. Does all of this make me like “Jamrock” any less? No, I still get hype every time I hear it. But I guess the feeling I have now is similar to the way I felt back when Michael Jackson dropped “They Don’t Care About Us.” Great record, great message. But all I could think was ‘us’? Us?! Who the hell is ‘us’? Rich, skinny white ladies who’ve had way too much plastic surgery? Similarly, it’s a little hard to stomach Damian shouting down Babylon once you realize that he’s the privately-schooled son of a rich, womanizing mulatto superstar and a white beauty queen. Perhaps my man over at sohh.com put it best. His mix of unvarnished gushing coupled with equally unvarnished sarcasm pretty much sums it up:
Being one of Bob Marley’s children must be tough. On one hand you’re treated as royalty…on the other hand you may feel forced to try to live up to your father’s legacy. You at least have appear to be a champion of the people like your father was. It’s probably difficult to do that behind the 5% tints on your chromed-out BMW. ... Damian Marley certainly looks as if he is suffering from this internal struggle. While Ziggy has long since detached himself from the plight of Jamrock’s population…Jr. Gong tethers the fine-line between the two worlds….The gritty depictions of life in the city are often contrasted by the pomp and circumstance of Jr. Gong himself, who usually appears as a prince among paupers as he caringly strolls through alleyways, side streets and even housing complexes (flanked by security, of course). I'm not knocking the man though…I wouldn’t go to those parts of Jamaica alone my damn self.
For the rest of this piece go to: http://blogs.sohh.com/videos/throwbacks/2005/06/damian_marley_a.html Want to see the video? Try: http://www.melodymakers.de/video.html For an interview with the man himself, see “Damian Marley: Rising Son” at http://www.allhiphop.com/Alternatives/?ID=199 And go to http://www.hermosarecords.com/marley/cindy.html for an extraordinarily detailed interview with Damian’s Mom, Cindy Breakespeare. Bob Marley fans should definitely read this one. —Mtume ya Salaam Bonus track: Damien Marley - "Ghetto Youths" The harder they come           cliff 03.jpg My response to this Damien Marley tale is: Jimmy Cliff. Before I had heard of Bob, back when I was digging on the Jamaican Otis Redding, which is how I thought of Toots and his group the Maytals, back then, long time ago, I saw Jimmy Cliff in The Harder They Come. it was a revelation, you know. Yeah, man, it was violent, like all rough, down-pressed life is. Great slabs of rawness slacking your eyeballs, assaulting any sense of civility one might harbor. Under such a pressure drop, people may have had dreams, but there was no sentimentality. Jimmy Cliff didn’t so much 'play' Ivan, one did not get the sense he was acting, rather it appeared that he was being. Which is what I always remember about the movie: so much of it seemed to be happening in the moment, unrehearsed, one take, either you got it or you didn’t. Mtume, those questions you raise about Damien never occurred to me about Jimmy. I never for one moment thought he was slumming or identifying with something that he wasn’t, something he had never known. But, you know, that is a hard question: how does one genuinely identify with the 'other'? When you are born a have, can you ever truly identify as a have not? World religions have asked that question over and over and over again—from a Buddha born in a palace to a Jesus born in a stable—must one be born one to be identified as one? Bob said, "Who feels it, knows it." Can those who don’t know poverty (in the Biblical sense of 'know,' i.e. having experienced being fucked by the motherfuckers who inflict exploitation on the poor), can the socially and materially unfucked, actually 'know' what it feels like to be fucked-over, actually identify with that? I know we can know at an intellectual level, we can understand, but at the gut level…? Mtume, you come to no bottom line conclusion, but from your tone and the facts you selected to highlight, it is clear that while you don’t doubt that Damien believes what he says he believes, you are suspect about his lifestyle. And, I suppose, that is the ultimate difference between the poor and those who simply identify with the poor: one has options, the other has a hard reality to deal with. Or, as brother Bob sang: some have ways and means, others have hopes and dreams. The way I put it is: if you have a choice about how you live, you ain’t poor. cliff 01.jpg All of which brings us back to Jimmy Cliff and that beautiful movie, unblinking in its observance, its projection really, of the poor in Jamaica. I smiled, Mtume, when you mentioned the patois of "Jamrock," I smiled and though of The Harder They Come, even though the movie is in English, the patois was so thick they had to put subtitles on it. The first time I flew to Jamaica, in the mid-Seventies. Manley in power. I “visited” Trenchtown—I know that sounds elitist (and it was), but what else could a brief jaunt through the concrete jungle be but a visit? We were on safari for less than two hours. We motored there and motored away. I wasn’t living there; looked my curious look out the car window at people trudging back streets. As we walked the tentament yard, regardless of my skin, it was obvious from my shoes to my shirt, I was an outsider. Anyway, on that first visit to Jamaica, whenever I asked about Jimmy Cliff, most of the less affluent folk would immediately say: Bob. So I started looking out for Bob Marley. Big tree. Small axe. That incendiary album: Burnin’, that’s what I found. But I still liked Jimmy Cliff. Even when I became a Marley camp follower, still liked Jimmy Cliff. What a conundrum it must be to be Damien Marley. People keep wondering what would Marley be like if he were still alive. But, you know, nothing lasts forever. Everything that is born, dies. So instead of wanting Marley forever, why can’t we just keep pushing forward and keep producing more people like Marley? I know these are scattered thoughts and they don’t seem to be cool running in no straight line, but, I guess, my final thought on "Jamrock" is I want to hear "The Harder They Come." I want to hear not simply a description—I can look out a window and see that—I want more anthems and love songs (love as in 360-relationships, not as in momentary sex-capades), more stuff like Kaya and Survival, which is what we need right now, revolution and love. Revolution. & Love. Love & Revolution. That’s it. That’s all. —Kalamu ya Salaam               some people got...            Great response, Baba. It's funny that you quoted that line from "Survival." That's one of my favorite songs. It is a fairly common technique in both music and writing to use the specific to make a point about the general. In other words, artists sometimes use a very personal song or novel to communicate larger points about the human condition. In this verse of "Survival," Bob reverses this technique, using a larger point about the human condition to communicate something very specific and personal.
Some people got facts and claims Some people got pride and shame Some people got the plots and schemes Some people got no aim it seems
Bob recorded Survival less than a year after surviving an attempted assassination. Bob credited his survival to divine intervention. By all rights, he should have been dead. In fact, one bullet grazed his chest and lodged in his arm. Others were more seriously hurt: Bob's wife, Rita; his manager, Don Taylor; and a friend, Lewis Griffith all spent time in intensive care. Still, no one was killed. A brazen gunslinger broke into Bob's Hope Road compound in the middle of the night and opened fire. But Bob, and all of his loved ones, survived. Which his why Bob's lines about 'plots and schemes' and 'no aim' have dual meanings. One applies to all of us. The other is a defiant and specific message to an would-be assassin who may have had plots and schemes, but luckily for all of us, had 'no aim.' —Mtume ya Salaam

This entry was posted on Sunday, October 9th, 2005 at 12:02 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

33 Responses to “DAMIAN ‘JR. GONG’ MARLEY / “Welcome To Jamrock””

Vicki Meek Says:
October 9th, 2005 at 3:03 pm

This is such a great concept, breath of life. Kalamu, I love your insights and now I am loving Mtume’s too. I guess it really is true: the apple don’t fall too far from the tree! Thanks for giving this wonderful website to us!

hardCore Says:
October 11th, 2005 at 12:52 pm

i think you miss the point (on the Damian Marley thing)…

only in hip hop have we become so preoccuppied with street credibility, that we can’t enjoy the brilliance of good art without it. the point of the artist, any artist, is to not only represent their own voice, but on a larger level, be the voice of the voiceless. to articulate those things, emotions, feelings, thoughts, that the common folk cannot express themselves. damian marley writing about the ghetto, is no different than a gay song writer writing about a heterosexual relationship. (it happens all the time) if the guy is a skilled writer, if the song is strong, people will feel it. i think the biggest myth about writing is, you can only write about what you’ve experienced first hand. some of the best writers in history have brilliantly given second hand accounts of things far from their personal experience. there is a thing called observation, and research, that allows one to write about things outside of themselves, as honestly and brilliantly, as they’d write a first person narrative. i love this site by the way. one luv.

rylan Says:
October 11th, 2005 at 2:17 pm

Revolution and Love. Love and Revolution. Yes, yes.

Part of my affinity for Damian Marley is that his early music captures some of this vibe. For example on his track, “It was Written” … with Stephen Marley.

“Your bodies just a vehicle
Transporting the soul
It’s what’s inside people
Is beauty to behold”

This song steps with a revolutionary spirit that rings true with righteous rage and spiritual strength.

“Well did you know the pen
Is stronger than di knife
And they can kill you once
But they can’t kill you twice
Did you destruction of di flesh is not di ending to life
Fear not of the anti-christ
Did you know that I
Exist before the earth
And did you know my eyes
Are windows to the world”

I really hope that Damian keeps true to these themes.

I would tend to agree that the Jamrock track has moved him closer to the ‘rude bwoy’ camp though the revolutionary fire is clearly there.

Most disturbing for me about the whole Jamrock phenomenon is the BMW / motorcycle footage on the video. The last thing we need is more bling, bling. Especially from someone who is in such a position to be a positive role model for the youth.

I suggest that Damian has a responsibility to be true to his ancestral lineage and come correct with postivity, love, strength, and a spirit of revolution.

I would hope Damian’s music comes to fully reflect an extension of his father’s message into the modern world – adaptated for the time we live in. True, it must be authentic and from his own heart of hearts; but I feel that the potential is there with Damian to bridge these worlds.

For example, I love the fact that Damian has taken to dancehall and hip hop – that is not the compromise as I see it. The compromise is in the message he presents both with his allusions to violence in his words and his glam images.

To be fair, I have not heard the entire Jamrock record, and I am inclined to be a bit harder on Damian than most artists because of his great potential. Stay close to Source.

– rylan

Lynn Says:
October 11th, 2005 at 4:21 pm

Mtume & Kalamu.

Loving your back and forths as always… I found an interesting dichotomy in your responses about race here. in Kalamu’s response to the white guy who commented under the classic selection, he insists that race, in terms of the colorline, holds very little value as it relates to whether Bob Marley was 50% white because he was 100% black both culturally and politically. But Mtume insists Damian isn’t “black” because he’s only one-quarter black and was raised by a white mother… Is it his affluence (and his insistence on identifying with an underclass that he clearly doesn’t belong to) that makes the percentages of his racial make-up count more than in his father’s case?


ashley aka stoney gurl Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 6:34 pm

dat song is da shit i love it i can sing it ova and ova again well i gots to burn a jont!!!!!!!!!!! pc out

M.P Says:
October 21st, 2005 at 12:32 am

if you are prejudging just by the video you will always critiize it
its true thats the first thing came to my mind when i saw the vid-the bling he has
his lineage with a legendary father and his mother probably gave him good education skills
but it takes an artistic depth/talent to be a professional singer
this album is really good but some of the songs are synthesized i dont like that
it deprives the true sense of reggae music but if hes still trying to build his own style
its pretty creative
about his racial background it doesnt matter even if he’s mix
his points are set across
we must learn to appreciate not hate
hes trying to point out the things in jamaica we normally do not hear about
its good to know there is a person who speaks about it as a kind of speaker for all the people
it may or not be true
b.marley was amazing & still is
in the hearts of many he will be still alive but we have to move on & see whats next
With good practicing skills he can live up to tremendous comparison that everyone puts up him to his father
he did a good job on this album however some songs were just too much
thats my thoughts….

jaron Says:
October 22nd, 2005 at 11:03 pm

I think that damian’s new CD is great my favorite is the road to zion I think that you should go out and buy the cd because it not just ot of those CDs were you find one good song the disc all the songs are great

Ebisu Says:
October 23rd, 2005 at 2:42 am

Regarding the “bling” in the video, Bob Marley also drove a BMW.

I thought this part of the “Rising Sun” interview was relevant:

AHHA: It’s interesting to see the contrast in your video for “Welcome to Jamrock”, with you as basically Reggae royalty along with the rough conditions in Kingston.

Damian: It’s a real contrast because, you know, those things are there also. People in Jamaica—it’s not like that’s the first time a BMW rolled through.

AHHA: You said you named your last album Halfway Tree because your father is from the ghetto and your mother is from uptown so you’re kind of like a bridge between the two. How do you think their upbringing has affected your political perspective of Jamaica?

Damian: Well, I mean, in that sense I have no reason to really be partial to any side. So I just accept what I think is the truth. Growing up, my stepfather was a politician, so I know that a politician is not somebody who’s just a demon walking around. He has good parts of him too, he is a human. But, I mean, we just need to start facing the facts and stop trying to save face.

LadiDami Says:
October 23rd, 2005 at 5:46 am

First of all…you really don’t know what the fuck you are talking about…Since you wanna act like a historian on Damian Marley, why don’t you do some REAL research…talkin about Damian isn’t black…do you know how ridiculous YOU sound…Bob Marley’s youngest son isn’t black….?Do your research for real…instead of some Scooby Doo detective shit…then publish an article….ridiculous…Or maybe…you should perhaps clarify what you meant….

abarr Says:
October 25th, 2005 at 10:18 pm

I thought the “commentary” was interesting but I think you should definitley do research. Damian Marley’s mother is 50% white/50% black. That would make Damian 50% black. I cant even believe I just stooped to your level, but it had to be clarified. The man lives in Jamaica and was raised there. It is a small island so even if your are from “upper class”, you know what is going on around you. My parents are from Jamaica, and I have spent many summers there. I cannot even tell you how many people either do not believe or cannot fathom when I tell them what “Jamrock” is REALLY like. You can dissect him all you want, but the fact remains he is shedding a very important light on the many problems that plague Jamaica. Sometimes it takes someone with affluence to obtain access to the world’s ear. Lord knows the people there have tried. I am saddened that you feel the need to criticize Damian for something big reggae stars like Sean Paul, Beenie Man, or Shabba Ranks either couldnt or wouldnt do. P.S. Try listening to Mr. Marley and Halfway Tree and REALLY LISTEN to what he is saying. You actually should have done that before you wrote your piece.

Nkem Says:
October 28th, 2005 at 7:03 pm

I concede that it would be difficult to swallow if Damian were to adopt fiery rasta overtones perhaps like Capleton or Sizzla, given his status; it may sound a bit hypocritical given that he was reared in ‘western’ privilege. However, I share the opinion of those on this page who see no reason to criticize Damian for relating the suffering of the ghetto element. I am pleased that Bob Marley’s militant spirit lives on in his offspring. By virtue of his heritage alone, I think Damian is well qualified to chant ghetto-conscious lyrics with a credible voice. He never claims to be a ‘rudeboy’. He is throwing light on the political and economic malaise in his native country which he is affected by directly or indirectly for his father and his father’s relatives are/were subject to it, and so are his brethren in virtually every third world country, however you spin it. We need more conscious voices. Blood is blood. Let’s not attack the messenger for speaking the truth. If a certain rudeboy connotation is subtly insinuated by his delivery, which I submit enhanced its urban appeal, so be it. It helped put the message out there, so did his status and position, as abarr pointed out. It seems nowadays not a lot of people pay attention to a style unless it sounds hard. I know for a fact that, although its not their main platform, Sean Paul, Beenie Man and Shabba (Shabba in particular) have spoken with similar conscious voices and so have hordes of entertainers but the songs themselves may not have gained any attention (To wit: Shabba – “heart of a lion”, “System”, to name a few). I think the question of how black or white Damian is should be irrelevant. If people listen to him and judge his appearance based on his “style and overall vibe” so what? How exactly is a “very black” reggae entertainer supposed to sound? More like Shabba, less like Supercat? The issues the song deal with don’t recognize such nuances. Respect to Mtume and Kalamu for encouraging the debate.

alice Says:
November 6th, 2005 at 9:17 pm

I like the fact that Damian tells us upfront that he is not from the ghetto. That is what the Halfway Tree title to his last album is meant to do. Unlike most other multimillionaire rappers, he doesn’t feign authenticity he does not have. That is better to me than feigning authenticity that you may have had at a certain point but now want to pimp out without really believing in it. (Not you Mtume., the collective you.) Skin tone or “blackness” has no place in this debate indeed as plenty of people with four black grandparents pimp out their brethren all of the time, and without the message. Whatever his racial makeup Damian is Jamaican and if he can’t comment about his country, then neither can you comment about America.

The WTJ album is not just about the title track. The whole album is political and serious. It is also musically good –except for “Hey Girl” which he must have recorded in an hour– but that’s besides the point. I have already listened to the album a hundred times and I still can’t get enough of it. The music is fresh and sounds like nothing else out there in reggae even though HWT is still my favorite album of his.

I like his message for the same reason I like your site: depth of analysis and freshness. I wrote a review of the album and his Virgin Megastore–okay not ideal as a venue, I know– performance recently BTW if anyone wants to check it out.


Bohwe Says:
November 12th, 2005 at 12:55 am

I think your article was very childish and lacking merit. How dare you attack Damien Marley ethnic background. And for the record, his mother is not white, but half white, and half black, just like his father, Bob. So, get that fact staight. He is has black as the majority of our forefathers. Damien can’t pass for white, even if he tried. So, get over it.

Besides your lack of knowledge when it comes to Damien’s racial identity, the mere fact that you would attack this artist song is ridiculus. i understand your anger, towards Damien for the motorcycles, bling, BMW, but he didn’t grow up poor, so why should he front like he did. He appealed to the masses, to sell his product, and how many times has 50 cent, or JaRule sport expensive items in their videos? I’m sorry but our article appeared to be filled with alot of jealousy towards this artist, you seem to hate his ethnic background(btw: Blacks that live in the western hemisphere are mixed with many ethnicities), you hate the fact he didn’t grow up poor. how sad that this young man is trying to follow in his father’s footsteps and you are hatin on him.

Peacemaker Says:
November 15th, 2005 at 11:20 am

Mtume ya Salaam,
Your fixation on what you percieve as Damian’s lack of blackness is in keeping with the same ignorance that Bob encountered while growing up poor and “unfortunate.”

“People call me half caste or whatever…Me don’t dip on the black man side nor the white man side…me dip on God’s side….the man who create me and caused me to come from black and white.”
— Bob Marley

Bohwe Says:
November 19th, 2005 at 12:38 am

It’s amazing how some Jamaicans, and yes I’m going there, criticize the Marley clan. Let’s not forget that before Bob Marley blew up, the same people who embraced him in the ghetto were the same people that called him caste, and treated him like lower than dirt. Because he was 1/2 white among the poor, many hated him for that. Yet, when Bob blew up, those same people went to his door step every day to be fed. The same Jamaicans that ridiculed him and belittle him, and called him caste were the same with their hands out, but when Bob blew up and hooked up with Cindy a woman that was bi-racial as he, and produced the sexy Damian , some want to ridicule him for being blessed with living the life, his father wanted him to have. And now people are complaining that isn’t poor and making a mockery of the poor, please, he’s trying to let people know the facts, so they can help, so maybe the masses can get their hands out of the Marley’s faces, and let someone else do the work. Damian and his family do alot of work for the poor, but not in a grand scale like their father. Leave the man alone. No wonder Bob’s kids spend most of their time in the states, where people don’t criticize them for being successful.


Gel-Ns Says:
November 22nd, 2005 at 1:58 am

I think that just like artist like Tupac who spoke in 2nd party forms quite often, so did Damien Marley with the song Jamrock. An artist is the voice of the masses, he ( Damien) is a representative of Jamaica, as representing the masses at the same time. Also what does him having a good upbringing have to do with him kicking the real and breaking down what are the actual facts goin down at this present and past time?. So what were u trying to say that in order for him to shed light on the situation in Jamaica that he had to be a dark skinned brother who grew up dirt poor??. Does that make it??. Plz. Big up Damien. Two dumbs down the author of this article. Bob lives thru all his kids. And the message of truth can never die. One luv.

Rosalind Says:
November 28th, 2005 at 11:37 am

Well you two have started somethin’ now! This is truly a touchy subject for many of us but I feel compelled to point out the relevancy of the issues raised. Many think that Damian’s color and privilege have nothing to do with his music and in a fair society, it wouldn’t. The reality is that Jamaica (and most of the Caribbean) has always been a very class-based and therefore, color-conscious society. Strol through the villas and guest houses of Treasure Beach, Mandeville and Ochi, who owns them? What do they look like? They look the fair-skinned, wavy-haired people who have been in power since emancipation. But what do the people who work in the places look like? If they are at the front desk, or in some public position, they will be light to brown-skinned. If they are maids or hard laboroers they will most often be dark. Access to power and privilege has everything to do with skin color in the Caribbean. Damian can’t be held responsible for it, but it’s a reality. As a very fair-skinned man, Damian would naturally be afforded privilege regardless of his family name, which would make his claims at speaking for the masses a bit suspect. However, I love the album too and believe that he has chosen to uphold his father’s legacy of being a voice for the voiceless. I think that Kalamu and Mtume raise relevant points that need to be examined. The specter of color and raise consiousness is an ugly vestige of slavery and it still influences some things, not just in the Caribbean but everywhere. (don’t get me started on New Orleans color conssciousness) This fact doesn’t take anything away from the power of Damian’s music but it must be filtered though awareness.

Amber Says:
December 1st, 2005 at 11:52 am

THis is ridiculous..what is wrong with you…like Junior Gong says…”…people will always be what they want”. I can not believe with all the negative music going on you can find such negativity in such a positive person…not black —who the hell are you?…he is black-what is he if he is not black?—-he gets respect in the street cause he knows what is going on politically. Just because you do not grow up in poverty does not mean you do not feel the struggle of your people in your soul….I love him–I think he will be a LEGEND

…..HATER!-what are you doing with your life?-this man is a positive influence for millions!

KingJosiah Says:
December 5th, 2005 at 3:05 am

Waku.Its sad to still see Willie Lynch’s srategy prevail but mtume shows the struggle even educated, people have with something as simple as the financial status lineage of a messenger who happens to have a very useful message (black demons are prevelant). If you even had a small percentage of right knowledge you would know what you are preaching is ignorance and you are missing the point.Everything happens for a reason Jr.Gong happened for a certain amount of people ready to recieve his message.Peep the message not the messager. And if that is really what u got out of it laaaaaaaaaawd hae mercy

cliche Says:
December 21st, 2005 at 1:35 am

I want to thank you for your work, but I’m coming for you on two or three items. Let me imagine the scene: you’ve been feeling “Welcome to Jamrock” in a strictly aural context; then you check the visuals and this Damien cat looks too vanilla for your pallete—lighter than Bob; and so you say, let me pull the story on this youngest and lightest of the Legend’s youths, and then let me knife that cat for being too-near white. Now, whether my intimate fabrication of your thought-process is right or wrong, you can surely understand why I have to get at you like that. Your critique is strong and necessary on so many fronts but you seem to hinge it upon this assertion that Damien is not black. To me this is some quaint (and insidious), played-out, pointless garbage that potential trailblazers like yourself need to get through. (If you have not already guessed it from the passion of my denunciation—I am a half-breed myself.)

Kalamu has pronounced it correctly by saying that we need revolution—in art, in politics, in being. Surely, there is no revolution in some antiquated discoursing about the number of white grandparents in the family portrait. In fact the pointlessness of the exercise is brought home when, acknowledging the correction of some earlier respondents, we adjust the melanin in that portrait and find ourselves with two white grandparents rather than three. Now what? Is Jr. Gong black enough with two black grannys? Or, must he have two black grannys and one half-breed granddaddy? I’m sure you overstand the point—soon we are counting drops of blood using the illustrious model of the oppressor. This is nothing more (and nothing less) than a replication of the Babylon system that the Babylon programmers programmed into the Babylon system.

I’m not trying to call you out as some brainwashed baldhead agent, because I respect your powers of assessment and critique. They are needed for the revolution. As you have pointed out, we need to check potential warriors like Damien when they begin to get it twisted and ride their beamer and cycle crew through ghetto desolation as a sign of material accomplishment. (Bob may have had a BMW but he didn’t imagine it as a symbol of power meant to differentiate him from, and vaunt himself above, the Kingston massive.) And—although I’m not sure that Damien is doing this—we do need to reject anyone who pimps the sufferation of the people for purely personal aggrandizement, however “authentic” that person’s own sufferation may be. (See: Lil’ Kim’s “Jamrock” parody, “Lighters Up”) But, we don’t need ridiculous and arbitrarily designed divisions that make the bucket taller and the crabs more crabby.

What I’m saying is: Mtume, lead us by calling attention to the moments when our potential heroes fall into Babylon iniquity, but leave off the quest for racial purity and authenticity—that’s counterrevolution. I know that shade matters, but race is constructed and blackness is mystical. So, bring the fire to Rome, but don’t burn up your fighters on the way. Get at me.

(Last thing: “a rich, womanizing mulatto superstar.” Is that just incitement or what? I mean, if that is not blasphemy, it sure is reductive.)

One Love

Shwanz Says:
January 19th, 2006 at 8:28 am


      Mtume says:      

I asked Shwanz to translate his comment to English. He wrote:

i’m not good at english but i’ll try

this record got this thing, it’s worth to hear. if JAMROCK GUY will made hip hop record it will be brylliant at technic. he  got this FLOW you know fonetic star. it means that i am from Poland and i don’t understud much of his lyrics but some i understud and i fell it. Jamrock music takes me like the surfer man on waves. AND RESPECT for "we gonna make it" it’s make me up and i’ve got the power to scratching hehehe

As Shwanz says, his English isn’t very good, but it’s a hell of a lot better than my Polish. emoticon

Thanks for commenting, my man. Later….

ruff_gong Says:
January 26th, 2006 at 1:37 pm

As a Trinidadian growing up in the caribbean …….. i understand the prophetic prose of Jr Gong ….. i never looked at the bling ….coming from the hood doesent mean u stay there likewise u dont have to be in the sewer to know shit stinks ..we see the plight of the poor and social dilemas alraound us…. One thing i love about this generation of the Marley Clan is that ….. the embreace their father’s mission : – To be the voice of the “Sufferah”… and to alll those who feel there kats were born with a gold spoon .please go read Catch a Fire by Timothy White …….. its jus the other day through proper marketing and reclaimation of rights …. the Marley Estate has risen out of the red into the Black!!! …………. One love Jah Bless usa ll Till Shiloah

Sine Says:
February 3rd, 2006 at 3:17 pm

Being mixed has nothing to do about wether you can “pass” for one side or the other. So what if Damian can’t pass for white? That still doesn’t discount the fact that he is half white, and beautifully so. As a biracial woman myself, I’m proud of him for not trying to “pass” for black by totally denying his white side. He mentions both because that’s who he is: but he is Jamaican first. His songs are hard-hitting, ethnicity aside. The Caribbean is made up of mixed individuals, and it doesn’t make them any less west indian. Get used to it people!

bowgy09 Says:
February 14th, 2006 at 7:41 pm

this is madness. only the ppl who actually see race try to decifer it. i am mixed with indian, chinee, african, scottish and venezuelian. all my life i wasn’t black enuff, or white enuff or spanish enuff. i ended up limin wit a bunch of racial outcasts who werent ‘enuff’ or ‘two much’ and we’ve had the best times. exposed to all different kinds of music and limin spots and food and everything. i remember the first time someone asked me ‘how she’s look? she dark?’ for a description of a friend. i tellin evryone here tonight. race was invented by man and only those who believe they are different and understand that ignorant concept can categorize ppl.

don’t get me started on on who should and shouldnt say the ‘n’ word!

damn nonsense. no one should say it. justifying it? embracing it? please. it makes you no better than anyone else. where in the dictonary it says ‘owned by africa’?

Caribbean Gyal Says:
May 7th, 2006 at 4:58 pm

(Last thing: “a rich, womanizing mulatto superstar.” Is that just incitement or what? I mean, if that is not blasphemy, it sure is reductive.)

I think that Bob was a complex person and in addition to being a truly gifted musician, a voice for the voiceless and by all accounts, a very spiritual person, he was also a rich, womanizing, mulatto superstar. How can it be blasphemy if it’s true?

There’s frequently a huge chasm between art and life. Bob may have sung about people’s suffering, of the world’s unfairness and cruelty and in doing so, he moved millions BUTon a personal level, he seems to have had a less than exemplary attitude towards women.

Of course, the characterization of a “rich, womanizing mulatto superstar” is by itself, reductive and unfair. However, it is part of the truth.

siney Says:
June 15th, 2006 at 3:18 am

As much as wat u say i true, da true fact is dat Bob is a legend, he was an extremly talented man and i believe da whole marley family is brilliant, everything the marley’s touch, turns in2 platinum

Simplicity Says:
November 14th, 2006 at 10:44 am

OK, so I’ve read all of the lovely comments above and I think it can safely be summed up as this, Damian Marley , indifferent to his ethnicity, is a performer, a good one. He claims to be nothing more. At last count he wasnt claiming to be anything other than himself. What difference does it make if he’s black , white, or purple? I mean seriously, if we want to dissect the Marley family, are any of them black? And who cares? Wait, I forgot, you have to be 100% to be one or the other, In that case, I doubt any of us are either. Get over yourselves. Is everything based on what colour someone is? What ethnicity they claim? If you want to bash the boy about his music, fine. If you want to dispute his validity on something important, fine. Otherwise, no, he isn’t black, no he isn’t white. BIG DEAL

jennifer burkett Says:
June 12th, 2007 at 2:43 pm

i love Damian Marley every since he has came out. I think he is just like his father and so love his culture, thats way i say he is so strong with his beat and words in his music. just love his music and makes me every time i hear it i have a postive attiude and postive thinking …..

i just love his music so much i love all of his cd’s…

Jamaica Says:
June 30th, 2007 at 12:47 pm


Blaise90 Says:
July 5th, 2007 at 2:03 am

“until the white man stop calling himself white, and the black man stop calling himself black, we will see nothing”
-Bob Marley

why cant you people understand that the color of a man skin is not in anyway important

“until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes”

-Bob Marley/Haile Selassie

I am a huge bob marley fan, and know everything about him, but i think damian is going in the wrong direction. (so sad that he says that “batty bwoy get dropped like a bad habbit”) do you not notice that that line is full of hate? bob wouldnt like that. Ziggy however is carying bob’s message very well.

blade gal Says:
February 5th, 2008 at 12:01 pm

get ur facts 2gether and all ur ducks in a row before u starts blasting…HATER. Both of his parents are bi racial blackand white so he is the same. Do ur research…HATER!!! He must have fucked with one of ur bitches of something since u trying to run his dick in the dirt!! I am a true Marley Fan, of all of the Marley boys and I know the history, unlike u, Get Real!

          Mtume says:           

There it is. Somebody finally found me out. Damian fucked my ex, um, bitch. That’s why I hate him so much. I guess the truth had to come out sooner or later. emoticon


Peter Akenuwa Says:
March 22nd, 2008 at 5:37 pm

That was a great comparism. Do u know till date nothing out of any other artist have equalled nor excelled the “harder they come” Jimmy Cliff still remains the greatest out of Jamaica, musically and otherwise.

Blaise Says:
August 6th, 2010 at 11:13 pm

Bob Marley was not raised by his mother for very long in trenchtown before she left for the US,

and welcome to jamrock is a comentary on the current happenings in jamaica, batty man get dropped like a bad habit… unfortunatly it happens every day in jamaica

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