Grammy-nominated Half Way Tree makes strong statement
IN an interview shortly before the release of HalfWay Tree, Damian "Junior Gong" Marley told the Observer that the album represented his growth as an artiste and a person. He added that the set's title was homage to the differing social backgrounds of his parents: reggae legend, Bob Marley, and Miss World 1976, Cindy Breakespeare.
And quite a statement it is. HalfWay Tree is arguably the best album by a new-generation reggae artiste since Buju Banton's spiritual 1994 piece, 'Til Shiloh.
HalfWay Tree was produced by Marley's brother Stephen for the Marley family's Ghetto Youths label and was distributed by Motown Records in September. On it, the gangly Junior Gong fuses his dancehall and hip-hop influences with socially intense lyrics that proved popular in clubs and radio in Jamaica.
The reception locally to songs like More Justice, Still Searchin' and the uptempo She Needs My Love is a stark contrast to the lukewarm response Mr Marley - Jnr Gong's debut album - received when it was released in 1998.
Stephen Marley's successful use of hip-hop stars on Bob Marley songs for the gold-selling Chant Down Babylon in 2000, also works for HalfWay Tree which has singer Yami Bolo, deejay Capleton and rappers Eve and Treach from Naughty By Nature making guest spots.
Such a fusion was geared at making HalfWay Tree more acceptable to the urban market in the United States. Released on September 11, the tragic events of that day hurt HalfWay Tree's sales push overseas but the singjay embarked on a month-long tour of the US in October, playing dates at high-profile venues like the House of Blues.
Over the years, many have questioned the Grammy judges knowledge of reggae considering that most of the winners have ties to Bob Marley. One thinks, however, that if HalfWay Tree were to walk away with the honours on February 27, not many people would question their choice.
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