Damian “Junior Gong” Marley celebrates 50 years of Jamaican independence at the 20th annual Reggae Sum Fest in Montego Bay, Jamaica alongside Trey Songz, R. Kelly, Beenie Man, Shabba Ranks, Lady Saw, Tesanna Chin and many more.
Damian “Junior Gong” Marley was in rare form on his 34th birthday while performing at the 20th annual Sum Fest in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The three-time Grammy award winning reggae artist and youngest son of the late Bob Marley performed his usual hits like Trouble and Welcome to JamRock to a crowd of over 12,000 amped concertgoers. The smell of ganja filled the air in a ubiquitous fashion and with a Rastafarian flag in tow, the reggae artist known for his militant and conscious lyrical content laid into newer songs like, Miracle Worker. After which he performed some of his fathers greats like We Don’t Need No More Trouble and Could you Be loved.” Vibe.com joined Junior Gong named after his father—Tuff Gong—back stage for a talk about singing Bob Marley’s Music, Jamaica’s 50 years of independence and naming Nas’ newest album, Life Is Good.
VIBE: Your father’s music has a spiritual tone to it, when you perform his music do you feel like you’re channeling him in any way?
Wow I don’t really think about that to tell you the truth. I’m a big fan of his music. I love to sing his music. It’s fun to me. On a spiritual level—lyrically when you listen to it—I believe the words. It’s like I’m singing something of my own because I recognize. So I just believe the words.
VIBE: This performance is very special because you’re celebrating not only 34 years of life today but also 50 years of Jamaican independence. How does it feel to perform at such an important moment?
Fifty is no more important than 49 or 48 or 47. The greatest thing about this year to me is that its raising awareness among especially the younger generation but every year is important. We’ve done it quite a few times [on my birthday]. Sum Fest is always on that same weekend close to my birthday, but it feels good. For me—as a man that never work, it always feel like “me work on me birthday so you can’t tell me no work hard.” You understand? I work hard.
VIBE: Your son was watching the show on the side of the stage tonight. How does it feel to have him here at this moment? Do you hope he will do music also?
I hope that he does anything that his heart desire. I hope that his life—he enjoys it
VIBE: You and Nas spent a lot of time together working on Distant Relatives. What made you two collaborate?
Well we had always talked about doing something more from when we did Road to Zion together. We wanted to go on the road together at some point. It wasn’t like we set down and plotted out the whole thing. What really happened is that I had some tracks that were based upon Africa, that were supposed to be for my previous album and didn’t make the album. So we wondered what should we do with these tracks. We [thought] do an EP based on Africa but once we had started working together in the studio, we were so excited that we decided to make it be a full-length album. I think that even in terms of artist out there that I could have done that with in the hip-hop genre, Nas was really the best candidate. We have so many parallels in terms of our lyrics and ways of thinking. You know?
VIBE: You were around for the conception of Nas’ Life is good. What do you think about it?
I’ve heard some of the tracks in the studio. I’m not sure of all of what made the album as yet. The phrase “Life is Good”—he use to say that all the while when he was on tour. He would walk up to me and just say ‘life is good.’ And I said, ‘yo you should make that your album title,’ until he really did. And I said you’re joking, and he said no, you’re right, life is good [laughs]. So me love it!