He's Stephen, that's enough

Published May 14, 2007

He is his father's child.

Arguably more so than any of Bob Marley's other children, Stephen Marley has taken after his legendary dad. He has Bob's forehead, his lips, his gaze. He's outspoken in his defense of marijuana. And like Bob, it's hard to pin down the number of children he's fathered.

But most of all, Marley has inherited Bob's musical Midas touch. At age 7, he began his career alongside siblings Ziggy, Cedella and Sharon as part of the reggae group Melody Makers. He went on to become a behind-the-scenes success, producing award-winning albums for his brother Damian "Junior Gong" Marley and collaborating with Erykah Badu. With five Grammys, Marley has earned more statues than any reggae artist in history including his father, who died at 36 having never received the honor. All that, and Marley hadn't even released his own album yet.

The 35-year-old stepped into the spotlight with his March 20 solo debut, Mind Control, an addictive concoction of hip-hop, beat-boxing, Spanish guitar and Caribbean dancehall riddims. tbt* spoke with Marley - heavy Jamaican accent and all.

How many children do you have?

I have a lot of kids.

You won't say how many?

No. Maybe I would be leaving some out, you know? I have a lot of children, my sistah.

A lot of the reviews say, "This album is amazing," and "It would make his father proud." Do you feel a weight on your shoulders of living up to the Bob Marley legacy?

No. I am my father's child, just like my children, you know what I mean? There's no weight in being me. ... And if I must say there is pressure, it's good pressure! Because if I was to be looked up to or compared to Bob Marley, then that's a good thing in terms of what Bob Marley stood for. It keeps me in a righteous spot. I don't mind it.

How long were you in jail in Tallahassee, and what did you gain from that experience? Marley's songs "The Traffic Jam" and "Iron Bars" recount his 2002 detainment with brother Julian for marijuana possession.

From the experience, I'm put behind bars for a tree, really. A plant, that has so many purposes. I could be wearing the clothes of the plant, the hemp. My pants could be made of hemp. ... So it never feel justified for me to be here for that. ... It wasn't a bad experience, you know what I mean? It wasn't bad police. They never get aggressive or nothing like that.

How long were you in?

Couple of hours. Not long.

What did you want to be when you were little? Could you ever have entertained the thought of being something other than a musician?

I could have been a soccer player. I could have been scoring a lot of goals. (laughs)

Why didn't you become a soccer player?

Because music was most important. Music was natural, you know? ... You see your father doing things that affect the people - the way it affect the people - you just get to love it because it has such a purpose. It has such a meaning to people life, for them tell you they listen to this and it just give them a positive thing and then they was so good. You know? (laughs)

What's your favorite Bob Marley song?

C'mon ... (laughs)

Is that like asking which child is your favorite?

Yeah, you know? (laughs) Every one for different reasons, you know? And we're done now. There's no more new ones to come, so we cherish it because it has to last a lifetime. So every one.


Stephen Marley

Catch him with brother Damian on Saturday (5/19) at Jannus Landing, 16 Second St. N, St. Petersburg, (727) 896-1244; www.jannuslandingconcerts.com. Doors open at 8 p.m. doors; the show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $19.99 in advance and $25 day of show.