Most would identify Skip Marley, grandson to music pioneer and legend Bob Marley, as reggae royalty. Living up to the pressures that come with having such a prestigious family can be daunting, but this Marley man is paving his own path and creating his own musical legacy—one feel-good record at a time.
Since entering the music scene in 2017 with his Island Records debut single “Lions,” Marley has managed to bang out a string of hit songs and collaborations with some of the industry’s best and brightest, including H.E.R., Ari Lennox, Wale and, most recently, Nigerian princess Ayra Starr (their new single “Jane” was just released on August 26th). And he shows no signs of slowing down, with a successful tour that is taking this third-generation Marley all around the world and back again. Marley spoke with Sweet July about how he’s making music that matters.
When did you first know that you wanted to follow in your family’s musical footsteps?
Well, music was always in my life from a youth, you know? My mom [Cedella Marley] made sure music was one of our skills, one of the arts that we studied at the time. So, from six years old, [I] played guitar and piano. When I reached around 13, I was on tour with my uncle [Stephen Marley] one night and my uncle said, “Tonight, you gonna sing.” Mind you, I never sang around him [or] publicly. And it was really after that moment, after that night, when he brought me on to sing “One Love.”
What is the best advice you’ve received in terms of how to navigate the music industry while staying true to yourself?
Well, I’ve gotten a lot of “best” advice I would say [laughter]. My uncle Stephen, when I was just starting out in the studio, said to me, “Quality, not quantity…” So that hit me from that day. And also my Aunty Betty Wright—she passed away—she would say, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” I was young at that time. I’m still young, but, you know, I was just starting out, so it impacted me.
How have you approached honoring your musical heritage while also charting your own path?
I feel like the answer is by me just being me, you know? My whole upbringing really raised me to where I am now. My music is genre-less; it is just music. I feel like the music is just in me. I feel like the messages [are] within me from my upbringing, from a child watching, learning and listening to my mother, my grandmother, my uncles. There’s too much boxing and classification…we have to get back to the way it used to be. It’s just music.
What would you say is your musical mission?
The unification of mankind—that is really my goal. Like my grandfather [Bob Marley] said, we free the people with music. We unify. We spread consciousness and upliftment, that kind of resilience, that spirit. Not saying we alone—I feel like everyone can do it. There’s things we have to solve, problems we’ve got to solve in the world. Every day, we can’t just make it seem like another day, more problems. We have to aim for solutions.
Who are some of your musical inspirations outside of your family?
Jimi Hendrix. B.B. King. U2. Smokey Robinson. Nina Simone. Kanye [West]. I listen to a lot of different music. Hip hop—Tupac, Biggie, RUN-D.M.C. Those things shaped me, really, the consciousness.
You have several successful collaborations, but if you could pick a person you still dream about working with, who would it be and why?
I really want to work with either Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole.
You’re currently on your very first solo headlining tour—what has that experience been like for you?
I love it. Every place is different. The people give us such a good vibe, I can’t wait to come play in their city again. I’m looking forward to being on the road more and more and more and keep bringing the message, keep bringing the music. That’s what it’s about. I really would love to live on the road now that everything is opening up back. I look forward to coming to a city near you! [laughter].
What do you love most about Jamaica, and how do you wish to represent it in your music?
We used to live up on the hill and would always have to drive down the hill, and I usually just loved looking out. Those kinds of things, like smelling the firewood from my youth-youth. It’s a family vibe, you know, everybody just being in one place. Everyone used to live together when we used to live in Jamaica. It was a beautiful thing. A lot of beautiful memories there, still.
We need to remember our independence. We need to remember where we’re coming from to know where we’re going. There’s corruption everywhere around the world and those kinds of things we’ll be singing about in the music. What I love about Jamaica is the people and the culture. There’s an energy in the place from where me born. As a youth, me can feel it. It’s a magical place.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.