Damian “Junior Gong” Marley Interview – Perth, Australia 2011
By Mumma Trees
Ed. Note: In Australia for the 2011 4-day Good Vibrations Fest, Damian Marley, along with his latest collab partner Nas, were featured artists on a stellar festival lineup that included Faithless, Ludacris, Janelle Monae, and Erykah Badu. Prior to the show, Perth radio personality and journalist Mumma Trees caught up with the young Marley in Miami via phone. Featured photo by Jan Salzman. Watch the Damian & Nas video “Nah Mean” below or on our YouTube channel.
Early Days & Inspirations
How did you start, Damian, what made you get up there and do what you do?
Well, I mean I think it goes without saying that I have an obvious influence from my family, you know my father, and of course, my older brothers and sisters are all involved in music. But growing up as a child, I used to go to a lot of concerts in Jamaica and watch some of my personal musical heroes, which would be people like Shabba Ranks and Supercat, who are some of the earlier Dancehall artists. I used to watch them perform and that’s really what got me into wanting to perform myself.
That’s interesting because your brothers are singers, but you have chosen the deejay style.
Yeah. And that’s definitely because of that same influence… like the first music I bought for myself was Dancehall music.
Are there any current Dancehall artists who are doing things that you admire?
Yeah, I mean, lots of them, I am a big fan of music in general, you know wha I mean, so I try my best to keep up-to-date with what’s going on, especially in Jamaica. I mean lots of them, you have Mavado, Gyptian, Tarrus Riley, Wayne Marshall, Vybz Kartel, you have loads of them, and I am a fan of their music.
You mention Vybz Kartel, what’s your opinion of the slackness in Dancehall music coming out in the last few years from artists like him?
I mean, the music I bought as a child was slack also. And I am a big advocate of freedom of speech. You have to be free to say something negative, to be free to say something positive. So I am a big advocate of that. And realistically, you know music is an honest way of making a living. You know, somebody could be out there doing something that isn’t…. Music don’t really hurt nobody. So if Vybz Kartel is making an honest living for himself, you have to respect that.
Were you close with your brothers and sisters growing up?
We were very close growing up. Every vacation, summer holidays, I would always go and spend a few weeks with them, and you know, we were very close from when I was a child.
When you have performed with your brothers, it has been as the “Ghetto Youths Crew,” are you still working together on that?
Well, we still are a team, but performing as the Ghetto Youths Crew, we haven’t done that in many years now. But we still definitely work as a team. We have a whole lot of new young artists we are working with and getting ready to release some projects next year.
Collaboration with Nas
Your latest collaboration with Nas has been a huge worldwide hit. Can you tell me about the album title Distant Relatives?
It’s called Distant Relatives because of different reasons. Nas and myself, being that we are ‘distant relatives,’ Hip-Hop and Reggae as two genres of music being ‘distant relatives.’ Then on a bigger scale now, all of humanity, because the album itself has the concept of Africa intertwined throughout the whole album. We are trying to say that all of humanity comes from the same birthplace, Africa. So, all of us as humanity are ‘distant relatives.’
Speaking of Africa, I have seen videos of you and your brothers performing in Ethiopia. Have you performed in any southern African country?
I have performed in Ethiopia and Ghana, but those are the only places in Africa I have visited so far. But for sure, my father’s song is the national anthem of Zimbabwe. So, that’s definitely a place I want to go and visit.
You had a couple of big tunes a few years ago produced by Baby G, The Mission and One Loaf of Bread. Are you planning to do any more work with Trevor Baby G?
It’s funny you say that because he is actually here in Miami. We have been doing some work together over the last few weeks. We’re trying to get a few Dancehall tracks together, so actually, I have a few tracks with Baby G being released in the next few weeks.
You are coming to Perth as part of the Good Vibrations festival, a great national festival, what can we expect from your performance here with Nas?
You can expect the best of both worlds. You can expect a great coming together of two genres of music. We do some of the tracks together that we have on the album, then the both of us give a little bit of our own catalogue of music. You gonna get a nice mix of Hip-Hop and Reggae.
Do you have a message for the Perth people?
Nas & Damian “Zilla” Marley – “Nah Mean” from 2010’s Distant Relatives LP