Leave it to the Marleys to upend the existing reggae order, charting a new course based on their keen musical sensibilities and an unwavering sense of duty to influence the course of popular music history. The upending occurred on Tuesday, February 3, 2017 just after noon when Island Records revealed through a press release that they had inked a deal with Skip Marley, grandson of legendary reggae figure Bob Marley, whose career skyrocketed after he was signed to the label in 1973. As part of the deal, the label has already produced a debut single titled “Lions.” The lyrics video recently debuted on YouTube and of to date has garnered more than 112,000 views.
Skip Marley is the first of a third generation of Marleys who are dedicating their lives to evolving the style of music created and championed by their elder patriarch. Son of Cedella Marley and grandson of Bob and Rita Marley, Skip Marley is no newcomer to music, having taught himself the piano 10 years ago, later adding guitar, drums, and bass to his repertoire. He was only 15 when he first performed live onstage, while on tour with his uncle Stephen.
Skip Marley, while born in Jamaica, was raised and schooled in the U.S., and was heavily influenced by U.S. radio. Although reggae forms the foundation of his music, Skip said of his sound in a 2015 interview with Teen Vogue, “I’m coming from a new generation, “blending influences and letting it come out organically in the music.”
He he cites musical influences as diverse as the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, and John Mayer. Of course, he is heavily influenced by the music of his family, who he still spends a lot of time with on the road. As a musical artist, he is not one to limit himself to one genre of music.
David Massey, the President of Island Records, noted that Skip’s “talent is extraordinary and his music reflects what the world needs right now. For Island to continue our history with the amazing Marley family is an honor. Skip’s unique style and point of view is going to set the world on fire.”
For those who are familiar with the evolution of reggae and the role that Island Records and its founder Chris Blackwell often complicated and controversial story, this announcement is nothing short of staggering. Blackwell and Island Records believed in Bob Marley and invested heavily in his career, financing eight studio albums, two live albums, and multiple world tours between 1973 and 1980. Artists like Inner Circle, Toots and the Maytals, Burning Spear, Ijahman Levi, Jimmy Cliff, Dillinger, Gregory Isaacs, Max Romeo, Sly and Robbie, Steel Pulse, and Third World all enjoyed the support of Island Records during the golden age of reggae.
As swiftly as the company had come along to support the emerging industry in the early 1970s it divested just the same several years after Marley’s passing, severing ties with Black Uhuru and Ini Kamoze in the early 1980s. However, although the company had made a business decision to move away from reggae, Bob Marley was still good business and Island Records would continue to enjoy a fruitful relationship with the Marley estate, reissuing old material, issuing unreleased material, and successfully collaborating with the Marley’s to build a rich and enduring legacy that embodies the spirit of Marley’s message of “One Love, One Heart” for all mankind.
So why has Island Records decided after more than three decades that now is the time to reinvest in reggae?
The answer is, quite simply, they haven’t. I knew that the first time I listened to the new single. At least they aren’t investing in any sort of reggae sound that I’m familiar with. They are simply expanding upon their long-time investment in the Marley brand and Skip Marley, with his unique musical talents, multicultural appeal, and a last name that is held in high regard throughout the world, is the perfect messenger to build this new movement around.
Island Records is at the forefront of a revolution in popular music characterized by an explosion in the discovery and development of new and diverse talent. Their current roster of successful popular music artists include Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez, Shaun Mendes, Katy Perry, Mike Posner, Sean Paul, and Jimmy Cliff.
The brand new single “Lions” is part unrepentant pop anthem, part impassioned appeal for justice, and part message to the current established order: “We are the movement.”
The song was written and recorded in L.A. in early November 2016. Marley collaborated on the song with two of the most prolific and successful songwriters/record producers in the music industry today: Savan Kotech and Ilya Salmanzadeh. Between the two of them they have sold more than 500 million records worldwide working with popular acts like Ariana Grande, The Weeknd, Ellie Goulding, Usher, Maroon 5, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, One Direction, Demi Lovato, and Jennifer Lopez.
It is clear that the Marley’s are making a bold move from the reggae world into the world of popular music with the full support of Island Records. So the question is, will this be a successful move for Skip Marley? They have a saying in Jamaica, “When coco ripe it muss buss.” It basically means, “the proof is in the pudding.” So you have a listen to the new track and tell me, is that the sound of success? I think the answer is undeniable.
But, when you get right down to the root of it, only “Time Will Tell.”
Music video by Skip Marley performing Lions. (C) 2017 Island Records, a division of UMG Recordings, Inc.
Skip Marley “Lions” – Available Now
Apple Music: http://smarturl.it/amSkipLions