Stephen Marley

Few people were surprised when Stephen Marley’s long awaited debut solo album “Mind Control” (Tuff
Gong/Ghetto Youths/Universal Republic) premiered at No. 1 on the Billboard Reggae Album chart in
March 2007; after all, the singing, songwriting and production excellence Stephen had brought to other
Marley family projects over the years, including younger brother Damian’s two Grammy Award winning
albums, practically guaranteed “Mind Control” would be a remarkable effort. And indeed it is: “Mind
Control” is that rare self-produced set featuring a cohesive range of diversified styles, each delivered with
equal proficiency. Whether Stephen is the revolutionary roots rocker decrying mental slavery on the
album’s title cut, an outraged prisoner protesting his jail term for marijuana possession on the bluesy
“Iron Bars”, a forlorn romantic mourning a break-up on “You’re Gonna Leave” or an irresistible retrodancehall toaster flaunting his mic skills on “The Traffic Jam”, each track on “Mind Control” reconfirms
Stephen’s expansive capabilities as an affecting vocalist, a versatile lyricist and an accomplished
instrumentalist while furthering his renown as an ingenious producer.

Also unsurprising was the widespread critical acclaim that accompanied “Mind Control’s” release:
Interview Magazine called it “a quiet masterpiece, easily the best effort from a Marley progeny” while
Entertainment Weekly hailed it as “the best Marley album in a generation.” “Mind Control” was bestowed
with the Best Reggae Album Grammy in 2008 while its unplugged version “Mind Control-Acoustic” was
similarly honored in 2010, increasing Stephen’s Grammy Award total, earned from his various roles on
assorted Marley family projects, to seven, a record-setting number for a Jamaican artist.

Attaining such mastery didn’t happen overnight and Stephen is gratified by the time it has taken. “I
believe in struggling to attain greatness and it has taken a lot of sacrifice to get these things,” he explains.
“Its like exercise, you can’t just get fit you really have to work at it. It is the same thing with music, if it
come easy, it is going to go easy so we really appreciate the years, the time that it takes, the time that we
put into it; what comes out of it, I don’t take that for granted either.”

The second son of Bob and Rita Marley, Stephen was born on April 20, 1972; he began his career as a
precocious six-year old singing, dancing and playing percussion with his siblings in the group The Melody
Makers whose first single “Children Playing In The Streets” was produced by their father in 1979 and
released on Tuff Gong, the label founded by Bob in the late 60s. Just like his older brother Ziggy, Stephen
acquired his initial studio skills by watching his father. While still a teenager he assisted in the production
of The Melody Makers’ albums including their three Best Reggae Album Grammy winners “Conscious
Party” (Virgin Records, 1989) “One Bright Day” (Virgin Records, 1990) and “Fallen Is Babylon” (Elektra
Entertainment, 1998). In 1993 Ziggy and Stephen founded Ghetto Youths International as a means of ontrolling their own music and helping upcoming artists. Stephen’s earliest solo production efforts for
Ghetto Youths International includes his late grandmother’s (Cedella Booker) album “My Altar”, followed
in 1995 by the Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers single “Works To Do” and younger brother Damian’s
“10,000 Chariots”. Both singles hit the Jamaican charts and generated much excitement surrounding
Stephen’s burgeoning production expertise.

In 1996 Damian released his debut album “Mr. Marley”, on the Ghetto Youths imprint, with distribution
in the U.S. by Tuff Gong/Lightyear. Stephen played several instruments and wrote most of the songs in
addition to producing “Mr. Marley”. He also taught his younger brother how to ride a “riddim” and has
been an invaluable mentor in Damian’s dramatic transformation from an inexperienced teenaged hopeful
into a confident global adult hit-making artist.

The first project that brought Stephen’s production capabilities widespread attention was “Chant Down
Babylon”, where he audaciously manipulated his father’s original vocal outtakes from the 1970s Island
Records’ sessions, splicing them into duets with hip-hop and R&B artists, while updating the Wailers’
richly textured one-drop rhythms with an assortment of samples, loops and overdubs. The results ranged
from the late Guru’s heartfelt take on “Johnny Was” to Busta Rhymes’ street version of the reverential
“Rasta Man Chant” to Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry’s hard rocking raucousness on “Roots Rock
Reggae”. “Chant Down Babylon” achieved its objective of bringing Bob’s music to a new generation of
fans, earned a Grammy nomination, was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America
and has sold more than one million copies worldwide.

Stephen’s hip-hop infused dancehall beats were far more fluid and complex on Damian’s 2001 album
“Half Way Tree” (Ghetto Youths/Motown) with spectacular growth displayed by both the producer and
the artist. Stephen demonstrated equal dexterity in creating rugged roots reggae rhythms, which
supported the well-crafted, substantial lyrics and the seamlessness of Damian’s vocal flow. “Half Way
Tree” yielded several hits in Jamaica, and internationally, including “More Justice” and “It Was Written”
(featuring Capleton) and won the 2002 Grammy for Best Reggae album.
Stephen produced and contributed vocals to Damian’s single “Welcome To Jamrock”, the biggest reggae
song of 2005. Anchored in a blistering bassline courtesy of Robbie Shakespeare, sampled from a 1985 hit
by Ini Kamoze, “World a Reggae Music”, “Welcome To Jamrock’s” haunting, gritty portrayal of Jamaica
became an anthem throughout the island and on urban radio all over America. Stephen was nearly
finished with “Mind Control” at the time of “Jamrock’s” release but to maximize the momentum of the hit
single within the international marketplace, the completion of Damian’s third album now took precedence
on his production schedule. Released in September 2005, “Welcome To Jamrock” (Tuff Gong/Ghetto
Youths/Universal Republic) entered the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart at No. 7, a record setting
opening week for a reggae artist; it was certified Gold and won the 2006 Reggae Album Grammy while the
single was honored for the Best Alternative Hip Hop performance, another first for a Jamaican artist.
Meanwhile, the success of “Welcome to Jamrock” increased the anticipation surrounding the release of
Stephen’s solo effort and when “Mind Control” finally arrived; it merited more attention than any Marley
family member’s album in recent memory. Recorded at the Marley Music studio in Kingston and the
Marley’s Lions Den studio in Miami, Mind Control’s organic blend of eclectic elements defied
categorization, surprising many listeners who exclusively associate the Marley name with reggae. “Mind ontrol is an enlightening album, it is an uplifting album for your thought and for your spirit,” said
Stephen, reflecting on his debut. “To me it is a balanced record because you have some social messages in
there, some spiritual messages and some personal messages so there is something there for everyone.”
In early 2010 Stephen contributed vocals to two tracks on Damian Marley and Nas’ lauded album “Distant
Relatives” (Ghetto Youths/Universal Republic/Island Def Jam), the hard hitting “Leaders” and the
devotional “In His Own Words” and produced a third track, “Patience”. Damian primarily steered the
album’s production but Stephen played what both Marleys describe as a “big brother role”. “Well, that
means I am the teacher but Damian is his own man, so basically if I hear something, that don’t sound too
right, I would say that have to change,” Stephen offered regarding his involvement with “Relatives”. “It
was just being his bigger brother and guiding him same way.”
While Stephen has built a formidable reputation handily navigating between genres, his second album,
Revelation Part 1 : The Root of Life due for release May 24, 2011, marks a return to roots reggae, because
“that is just the way the songs came out of me,” he explained. “Having to tour and having been out there
for the past three years, I have been writing a lot of new material and to me and to the people around me,
this album is very strong, with some very strong political songs. I wasn’t as excited about “Mind Control”
as I am about this album,” Stephen enthused. “We didn’t plan it, it just came together naturally and
sometimes things just work out better that way.” In 2012, Stephen Marley plans to release a follow-up to
the Root of Life entitled, Revelation Part 2: The Fruit of Life, which will lean towards more of what
Marley describes as an “eclectic feel”.

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