As the executive producer of Legend: Remixed – a modern reinterpretation of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ best-selling greatest hits album – Jason Bentley has spent a lot of time lately wondering how young EDM fans will respond to Marley’s message of peace and unity. The question took on a new urgency a few weeks ago when a shooting spree left five dead at the college campus that is also home to KCRW, the Santa Monica-based radio station where Bentley is music director.
“The original message of Bob Marley was very revolutionary,” says Bentley, who called Rolling Stone while still on lockdown in the KCRW basement just a few hours after the shootings. “We need a little more of the Marley message in the world right now.”
Ziggy Marley approached Bentley months earlier with the idea of a remix album. Bentley chose a diverse lineup of artists to put their own spin on the elder Marley’s music – from EDM stars like Pretty Lights and Z-Trip to Ziggy and Stephen Marley and My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James. “The whole point of art is to give you a different appreciation of something,” says Bentley. “Something that is powerful and unifying for people, and has a certain magic quality.”
Producers who worked on the disc say they wanted to respect and honor Marley’s legacy while adding their own styles. “I think for any group of music lovers, whether it be EDM people, whether it be heavy metal, whether it be fucking jazz – it doesn’t matter. Bob Marley’s message is universal,” says Z-Trip, who contributed a scratched-out, dubby version of Legend bonus track “Punky Reggae Party.” “I think this project is about going outside of reggae’s comfort zone, to maybe touch other people who wouldn’t normally come to reggae.”
Derek Vincent Smith, a.k.a. Pretty Lights, says he was initially hesitant to remix “Exodus,” noting that the original version is “fucking legendary.” He ended up with an anthemic, swampy jam that’s a highlight of the remix project. “I consciously chose to showcase the lyrical parts of the song with a more minimal musical background behind them, so that the lyrics were very understandable,” says Smith. “They were very effective at communicating the soul and message of the song.”
Ziggy Marley says he’s pleased with the results of his original idea – something more than just a standard set of club-ready four-on-the-floor reworkings of his father’s music. “Bob is still the singer. The message is still there,” he says. “It’s just fun, it’s all fun. It’s a joyful thing, man.”