If you did not know about Skip Marley before you heard one of his tracks being played on the radio, you would probably think you were hearing a remixed Bob Marley classic on a more modern beat. That is the extent to which the 24-year old has mastered his grandfather’s cool and deadly delivery style, which he shows off in his debut project Higher Place.
Skip’s seven-track EP was released on Friday under Island Records – the British-Jamaican recording label that was largely responsible for taking Reggae music to the world from as early as 1959. It is the artiste’s first major collection of music since he broke onto the scene in 2015 with the hit single Cry to Me.
For 22 minutes, the leader of the third generation of Marley musicians takes the listener to a higher place with seven songs that have one thing in common – love. Love for the holy herb, love for a woman, and an undeniable love for life despite the challenges.
“It’s something higher. I mean, is not what we a deal wid. The reality of what goin’ happen, is something higher than man own personal likkle vexation and pride self. This is something weh no man can stop…” Bob Marley says in the opening soliloquy. Skip then comes in with the line “Oh, I’m lost I need a map…” to deliver a soulful hymn highlighting the holy herb, and how it takes him to a Higher Place.
Throughout the next three tracks, all of which tell the tale of a groovy romance in different stages, the young Marley shows off more of his generation’s youthful exuberance. Though he plays around with the contemporary hip-hop-fusion instruments that are more familiar to this era, he does not stray from the strong bass-line kick that helps to define Reggae.
Make Me Feel invites Rick Ross’s unmistakable husk and Ari Lennox’s shea butter-smooth voice onto the album for a song that won’t necessarily jump out as a favourite on first impression, but grows into a comfortable warrior love anthem. Skip then takes cruise control as he slows the beat down with H.E.R, for the groovy old-school lovers’ jam that everyone knows by now.
My World runs in the same flirty vien, but turns the tempo up a notch, as Skip courts a new love interest after one dance.
The fifth track, Faith, delves into the uplifting, positive vibrations that Reggae music is known for, as Marley blends yard sounds with afro-beats seamlessly. He sings, “Hold you close, hold me close at the bottom…Sometimes life can kick you when you’re down, but we got that we got that faith…” on a gem that serves as the perfect soundtrack for overcoming even the greatest obstacle.
The two closing tracks make a strong case for Skip’s lyrical versatility, and ultimately his viability in today’s fast-paced musical landscape. He changes his flow dramatically in No Love, which could only have been rivaled by his uncle Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley’s verse in That’s Not True. The former reflects on healing from a lost love, while the latter celebrates the lessons learnt in the process.
Released just a few days shy of the submission deadline for the 2021 Grammy awards, Higher Place is anticipated to be a top contender in the Best Reggae Album category. However, it will have strong competition from the likes of Protoje and Tarrus Riley, who also released solid albums on the same day. Buju Banton’s Upside Down 2020 is also in the running for a Grammy nod.
Nevertheless, with then 19-year-old Koffee winning the coveted award with her five-track EP earlier this year, it is a positive sign for this generation’s penchant for pushing genre boundaries and playing around with the sounds. It’s not the quantity of work, but the quality that counts, and Higher Place has definitely earned Skip his seat at the Marleys’ table of Reggae Royalty.