Being the son of Bob Marley, Stephen Marley takes reggae music very seriously. It's something he showed with his last album, Revelation Part 1 – The Root of Life. "The whole album came about from me reading an article and the journalist was talking about the state of reggae music and that it was on the decline," Marley tells Rolling Stone. "That kind of inspired me to defend my root. That's what motivated the album – paying homage to the root of reggae music."
Marley proved his point emphatically, taking home a Grammy earlier this year for Best Reggae Album. And the night before we met him at L.A.'s musician-friendly Sunset Marquis hotel, he demonstrated that the music his father helped globalize is still strong, playing before a sold-out crowd at the House of Blues.
That show, where Marley played both his own songs and several of his father's and was joined by brother Ziggy onstage, wrapped up the tour for Revelation Part 1. Now he is turning his full attention to Revelation Part 2, the follow-up to the Grammy winner.
Having successfully defended the music he grew up on, Marley is taking a different approach to the sequel. "Revelation Part 2 is the growth," he says. "The root is there, and we're looking at the leaves and the branches and the stem and different veins and all these things," he says. "I knew that conceptually it was not going to be a reggae album."
He's expanding his musical vocabulary in a big way, with guests including Wyclef Jean, Rakim and the Roots' MC Black Thought, who appears on a song called "Thorn of the Rose." In the Marquis recording studio he plays us "Keeper of the Flame," the track featuring Wyclef. A soulful, spacious number with an easy, melodious hook, the song came about recently in Miami.
"Wyclef was just in Miami, and he come by the studio and put it on," he says. "Something happened there that I didn't foresee, so there are things that were supposed to cosmically happen that are happening now."
Marley estimates the new album is 3/4 done, and he expects people to hear the music very soon. "The timeline is now. I plan on coming with a few singles, give the whole vibe for people to hear," he says.
Fans who can't want can find a taste at the end of Revelation Part 1. "Now I Know" was actually supposed to appear on Part 2, Marley explains, "but I felt the need to [preview] the album with a feeling of Part 2."
Like the last one, he sees the new album as a tribute to his father's music. "His music is so eclectic," he says. "That's why you can play his records today. If you put 'Could You Be Loved' on right now in the studio, it sounds like something that was made last night."
That's a big part of the reason his father's influence stretches from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Fugees to Jack Johnson and Nas. He wants to change music like his father did.
"We need a movement going on musically," he says. "One person don't make a movement. We need a movement."