Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley
Composer/diarist Ned Rorem once said (in front of Paul Valery’s son) that the children of geniuses are always disappointing because there is no way in hell they can ever approach the brilliance of their progenitors. And, just as I hope Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi’s child never touches a tennis racket, I often wish Bob Marley’s children had never picked up an instrument or sung a note. Now, in all fairness to geniuses’ children, expectations are just too high for them to not fail. Just look at Julian Lennon. However, Sean Lennon’s Cibo Matto is fun and Femi Kuti is doing a great job tweaking his father’s sound for today’s audience. However, Femi has creds, having played in Pop’s band for years, and Sean’s music nowhere approaches his dad’s sound. It’s the pretenders to the throne, like Julian and Ziggy, I find especially annoying.
Much to his credit, Damian (despite calling himself “Jr. Gong” — somebody slap his ass) doesn’t try to fill his father’s gargantuan roots shoes. Instead, the little Marley goes the dancehall route. He and brother Stephen have done everything in their power to create an enjoyable album, calling in such talents as Treach (from Naughty By Nature), “Mr. Fire” himself Capleton, Eve, Yami Bolo, Bounty Killer, and the legendary Bunny Wailer. And there is some cool music here — like “Give Dem Some Way,” “Educated Fools,” and “It Was Written.” And I can see a modicum of cross-over appeal (especially with the salsa/dancehall cut, “She Needs My Love”).
However, the genius trap has been sprung. St. Bob will always be the king of reggae — until Haile Selassie himself descends from the Amhara heavens to cut an album. Damian, however, is so far from the dancehall throne he’d need Hubbell to see it. Halfway Tref is enjoyable but too far away from being unique and all the way disposable. I admire his attempt to step out of Daddy’s immense shadow (which is oftentimes impeded by Stephen’s constant cameos, sounding “Bob Lite”), but he would be better able to do so if he would become, say, an accountant.