Photo: Kristin Burns
Ziggy Marley Talks Working With His Kids On 'More Family Time,' The Joy Of Toots Hibbert & Bob Marley's Revolution
The GRAMMY-winning reggae legend chats about his latest music, an upbeat, collab-rich children's album inspired by—and featuring—his youngest son
The rhythms and ethos of reggae very much run through Ziggy Marley's veins. Not only was he born into reggae royalty as one of the sons of the late, great Bob Marley, he has spent most of his life immersed in it. As a young kid, he absorbed it during his father's studio sessions and, not long after, he and his siblings began making it themselves as the Melody Makers.
Back in 1989, Ziggy took home his first GRAMMY, with the Melody Makers, for Best Reggae Recording for Conscious Party. He has since earned eight total GRAMMYs to date and put out eight solo studio albums. Throughout it all, he has continued to spread messages of love, equality and unity through music, as his father did and other members of the Marley clan also continue to do.
And just as his father encouraged him and his siblings to make music, Ziggy's passing the torch to his children. On his latest album, More Family Time, released on on Sept. 18, four of his kids (Gideon, Judah, Abraham and Isaiah) contribute, along with their dog Romeo, Ziggy's brother Stephen Marley and famous friends including Lisa Loeb, Sheryl Crow, Angelique Kidjo, Alanis Morrissette and more. The lively, joyful family album was inspired by the four-year-old Isaiah and is a follow up to 2009's Emmy- and GRAMMY-winning Family Time.
We recently chatted with Ziggy to hear about all the magic that went into the album, his memory of the great Toots Hibbert, what his father's legacy means to him and more.
So, you just released more Family Time, which follows 2009's Family Time. What are you hoping that kids and parents experience while listening to this album?
Well, for this one, especially since we're in such a situation, a lot of kids aren't in school and we've been in quarantine with the COVID issue. I just hope this is some relief and some positive energy that the family can enjoy together. This is really simple, that's what it is really.
Can you talk a little bit about how your four-year-old son Isaiah inspired both the "Goo Goo Ga Ga" song and then the project as a whole?
Isaiah, since he was born, he has been around me a lot. Even more than the other kids, he was actually in the studio. And he is on the cover of my last album, Rebellion Rises and he was always in the studio during that album. So, when I'm around him, and you see him, he used to just go on and say "goo goo gaga, goo goo gaga, goo goo gaga." And so, that kicked off the process of me writing. And after that, it just kept going in that direction, so I let it go that way. To make an album for family and children specifically, it's always good to have children around. For me, it's natural. So it was just a part of the inspiration.
Ziggy Marley at home with his family | Photo: Kristin Burns
And both he and some of your other kids sang on a couple of the songs. Was it fun for them? What was it like getting the family involved?
When Isaiah first tried, I was so surprised. He just did it. The song called "Move Your Body," he just did this thing which was incredible to me. I was so amazed. He had so much expression. I was just blown away. I didn't expect him to have fun to do it. So, it's so real, what he did and how he did it. And from all the other kids, I bring them in just like my father would bring me in, I bring us in.
For the older ones, the teenagers, it was tedious because they're teens and they only want to do so much for it. But I made them do it and afterwards they got into it. We enjoyed doing it together. Sometimes they're happy to hear themselves on the record again. My daughter, Judah, is 15. She was the inspiration for the first Family Time album. She was about the same age then as Isaiah is now and she's on the first album also. So, it's just a continuation.
All of the songs on the album are really fun and joyful, but I really love the upbeat energy of "Move Your Body." And the fact that Tom Morello and Busta Rhymes are on this awesome kid's song, it blows my mind. How did that track come together?
I think that track is the weirdest track on the album, in terms of how it came about, because it started out as something totally different. And as we went along, as Tom added his piece to it, it kind of changed my perspective on it. And then Busta did it, so my whole perspective was actually changing from the original idea as the creative process went along and it morphed into this "Move Your Body" song.
It's just all about moving. It's an energy song to move to, really. There's not a lot of lyrical stuff, "la la lee lee lee la la lo," is actually from the Ethiopian alphabet. So some of the things that I say in that song have meaning to them, but it's okay if you don't know the meaning. It's one of the crazier songs I've done, with Tom and Busta. [Laughs.]
When you were making the song, were you like, "I need Tom and Busta on the song?" I'm also curious about the rest of the collaborations and how they all came together.
All of these artists pretty much, I've known for years. Most of them, we'll see each other, we'll talk to each other. Busta Rhymes is an old friend of ours, we've known him for years. Sheryl, Ben [Harper], Angelique, all these people, we have a comradery from working together in the past.
As the album went on and I did each song, each song kind of told me—because I know each individual—who would be good on it. I was like, "Oh, this song sounds like it's a Sheryl Crow sound." When I wrote "Everywhere You Go" the chorus reminded me of one of her songs. I was like, "Oh, Sheryl would be good for that." So each song spoke to me about who would fit in it, and that came from me knowing them and knowing their music.
You sang "Three Little Birds" with Toots Hibbert on the new Toots and the Maytals album [Got To Be Tough], which came out shortly before he passed away. What does that track and having sang it with him mean to you? And what was one of the biggest things you have learned from Toots?
I feel for me to sing a song with Toots is to understand what Toots brought in, to me it was a great interpretation, but so different and still good. I mean, sometimes you do something different, but this one was really good. I really liked it. We did it a few years ago, actually.
Toots was like a good luck charm. Toots was an angel of joy, he brought joy. He was the type of angel that no matter where you are when they appear, magically everybody's happy. He had that power in him to bring joy and happiness. I don't know anybody like Toots who has that ability, just by his energy, to just bring joy. He was a very unique spirit with a very unique gift. It was unique to him as far as I know, I don't know anybody that's like that.
That's beautiful. This year has also brought 75th anniversary celebrations for your dad, Bob Marley. What does his legacy mean to you?
My father was about being a good human, being righteous and just and fearless. And he treated people of all walks of life with respect as human beings. It's not about music, it's about humanity. That is what legacy is. It's much deeper than music, you know? That is how I see it.
That's so fitting for the time we're in right now. What message do you think he'd have for what's going on in the world right now? Or what is one of his messages you think would most apply right now?
There's a few, especially with what's happening in America and the Black Lives Matter movement here. He was very aware of the oppression of African people and people of African heritage. He had songs like "Blackman Redemption," Africa Unite" and others in that spectrum of it that was a part of a revolutionary movement. And he is that, but he was also on the side of love too. There's "One Love," "Three Little Birds" and stuff like that. So he's the balance.
But right now, in the situation that we are in, I think the tone would be more on the side of "Get Up, Stand Up" and even "Blackman Redemption," because it is important that equality is for everyone. This is something that people have fought for years, and we still have a fight for it today. We still have to stand up and march in the streets for it because inequality and injustice does exist. And I don't think we can just stand by and not put our voices towards it. His messages are a part of that that movement also.
Sometimes people are kind of look over the more revolutionary side of my father, they want to just see the "One Love" and "Three Little Birds" and forget that other side to him. I won't forget that.
What was it like growing up in the Marley family? Did you always know that you would dedicate your life to music? Or did you have other ideas?
I knew I could do anything I wanted to if I put my mind to, but music kind of came upon me because of the inspiration to write songs. If I wasn't inspired to write songs, I wouldn't be doing music. That is the only reason I'm a musician is because, for some reason, I write songs.
I mean, nobody taught me to write songs. I didn't go to school write songs. Nobody told me how to do it, it just happened. It is a gift that was given to me by nature or by whatever forces you want to call it. So, I accepted that gift and I put that gift out there so other people can get something from it too. That is why I do music, I could have done anything, but nature called me towards music. I was skilled, you know.
Part of the proceeds from More Family Time support the U.R.G.E. Foundation you lead in Jamaica. Can you share a little bit about the work that the organization does?
Yeah. I mean we love children. We have a school in Jamaica, and we help with the teachers' salaries, sports equipment and making sure to keep them on a good playground. And then we've also joined with other organizations in other areas. In Los Angeles here, we work with an organization that is an after-school program for underprivileged kids and we help them out also. We do stuff in Mexico too.
It's all children-focused. I think that is the most important part of society—if we can help the children, that is where the world will change. And so, we just focus on that.
Obviously, giving back and being of service is a big part of what you do, so what do you see as the connection between art and service?
Well, art is service. But as an individual person that does art, also outside of my art, even if I wasn't doing art, I would still be who I am. And so, what I do is just something that is in me, regardless of my art. Art in itself is a part of giving, right. I mean, it all depends on the individual. Generalizing, some people's art is for giving and some people's art as for taking. [Laughs.]
We have the art, that's a given, and we are giving individuals also, so it's like two like-minded forces coming together, me as a person and the art, coming together to give. It works in a full circle really, you get full service.
It's kind of the mindset you put in, going into creating your art.
Yeah, who you are goes into your art, right? for me, I don't pretend, my art isn't a pretending thing. I don't sing about things I've pretended to do, pretended to see. What I sing about comes out of my heartis in my art—is in my art.
Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More
The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'
In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.
"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.
Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.
"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."
Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American.
"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."
Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards
Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category
The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.
Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville
Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.
Championships – Meek Mill
In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.
i am > i was – 21 Savage
Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.
IGOR – Tyler, The Creator
The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.
The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae
Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.
Photo: C Brandon/Redferns/Getty Images
Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream
Proceeds from the event will be go toward loans to small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses, via Accion Opportunity Fund
This Saturday, June 20, artists including Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz and more will come together for Small Business Live, a livestream fundraiser event for small businesses facing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Proceeds from the livestream will go to Accion Opportunity Fund to support small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses.
“Entrepreneurs of color are denied credit more often and charged higher rates for money they borrow to fund their businesses. We need to accelerate support to underserved businesses in order to reach our full potential,” Accion Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia said. “We have to decide what we want our Main Streets to look like when this is over, and we must act decisively to keep small businesses alive and ready to rebuild. This is a fun way to do something really important. Everyone’s support will make a huge difference to small business owners, their families and employees who have been devastated by this pandemic, the recession, and centuries of racism, xenophobia and oppression.”
Tune in for Small Business Live Saturday, June 20 from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. EDT on smallbiz.live. The site also provides a full schedule of programs and links to watch the livestream on all major digital platforms. To learn more about Accion Opportunity Fund, visit the organization's website.
Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images
Rolling Loud Festival Los Angeles Reveals 2019 Lineup
Find out who's bringing the heat to the hip-hop fest returning to L.A. this December
Today, Rolling Loud revealed the massive lineup for their final music festival of 2019, Rolling Loud Los Angeles, which is set to take over the Banc of California Stadium and adjacent Exposition Park on Dec. 14–15.
This iteration of "the Woodstock of Hip-Hop," as the all-knowing Diddy has called it, will feature Chance the Rapper, Lil Uzi Vert, Juice WRLD, Young Thug and Lil Baby as Saturday's heavy-hitting headliners. Sunday's headliners are none other than Future, A$AP Rocky, Meek Mill, YG and Playboi Carti.
L.A.'s own Blueface, Tyga and Doja Cat, are slated to perform, as well as representatives from the diverse rap scenes across the country, including Wale, Juicy J, Lil Yachty, Megan Thee Stallion, Gunna, Tyla Yaweh, Machine Gun Kelly and Yung Gravy.
The lineup announcement follows the successful wrap of Rolling Loud Bay Area in Oakland this past weekend. The event's flagship Miami event took place in May this year, and the New York and Hong Kong debut editions will both take place later this month.
Some of y’all not ready for these moshpits https://t.co/3nlaudjapq— Randy (@randyt0321) October 1, 2019