Damian “Jr Gong” Marley (Bob’s youngest son) plans to keep on walking the “Road to Zion,” as one of his songs repeats. And with his latest album, “Welcome to JamRock,” released in September 2005, he has walked his way somewhere else too: the top of my play list.
“Welcome to Jamrock” is reminiscent of the music that is born from deep within long, sweeping dreadlocks and the smoke that curls around them. But what Marley has done to create this masterpiece is combine the sounds his father would approve of with the current splashiness of the American R&B/hip-hop wave. His song “Road to Zion” features Nas and “Beautiful” features bad-boy Bobby Brown.
Not only is this album blatantly and shamelessly political–Marley explains the reality of poverty and drug-addictions in Jamaica and comments liberally on war–but also it is deeply spiritual. In “Confrontation,” Marley touts the importance of having faith:
You see, you gave precious life to me
So I live my life for you… You…
You see, you’ve always been there for me
And so I’ll be there for you… You…
…Bless your eyes and may your days be long
May you rise on the morning when His kingdom come.
Like all Rastas, Marley believes that with Jah (the Rastafari word for God), everything is gonna be all right.
Will I seh, “Baby you’re the cleanest
The true definition of what my queen is
Nothing coulda ever really come between us
Share the same room and Jah will feed us.”
Though religion isn’t usually thought of as arousing, who said being spiritual can’t be sexy?
In “Beautiful,” Marley toasts to that and outlines the kind of passion that is all encompassing:
Now it typically became an everyday thing
Regularly, physically communicating sexually, scientifically penetrating
Until she start spiritually resonating
Ah so mi know she real and seh she ah nuh play thing.
Whether he’s wailing in a raspy reggae that’s as buoyant as a Jamaican breeze or crooning in strong, defined dancehall style, Marley proves his ability to reconcile his heritage with the direction mainstream music is moving.
But perhaps his most recognizable creed is also his most powerful. In “Road to Zion” Marley tempts us with a call of redemption and reconnection to his Creator:
Clean and pure meditation without a doubt
Don’t mek dem take you like who dem took out
Jah will be waiting there we a shout
Jah will be waiting there!
Until we get there, Marley’s reflective, free-spirited nature promises not only a successful career but also the lightness that is evoked through listening to his precision.
And who doesn’t fall for someone who spouts truths as often as he honors humanity? “Just walk the narrow pavement/And of love not hatred,” Marley says in “For the Babies.” He continues: “And if you can’t be good, at least be honest to your babies / The strength of Ras Tafari I’m hoping someday maybe / They don’t obey their parents maybe they will [obey me].”
And let’s face it, who wouldn’t?