Members: Damian Marley
Jr Gong has been honing his skillsânot so quietlyâfor some time. He made noise early on with 1996's Mr Marley, and his major label debut Halfway Tree showcased a unique gift for blending hard-hitting reality rhymes and an uncommonly eclectic musicality; with a classic reggae sensibility at its core and run through with streams of hip-hop, r&b and dancehall, the album resonated with urban tastemakers and won a Grammy for Best Reggae Album in 2001. ("A Grammy in reggae is good," he observes. "But it will be great to see reggae win Album Of The Yearâ¦it's not about one man shut off from the rest of the crabs in the barrel." So while slow-burners like "It was Written" and "Educated Fools" became club classics, Jr Gong was laying the groundwork for the tracks that would become Welcome To Jamrockâan album that was ultimately several years in the making. Hear the album and you instantly understand it to be the work of a perfectionist; Jr Gong is not focused on overnight success. "Some songs just come. 'Jamrock' was like that," he explains. "But other songs take a lot longer. This is street music, and the streets have to feel it."
He can be sure the streets will. Following the path blazed by its title track, Welcome To Jamrock opens with the devastating attack of "Confrontation"âthis is Jr Gong at his best, rhyming with the conviction of a street preacher and the intellect of a university economist. That essence is spread throughout the album, even when he switches pace and explores different riddims. "It's like going to war. Sometimes you have to wear camouflage to really get in there," says Jr Gong of the diverse appeal of the album. "Dancehall, r&b, hip-hopâ¦it's more about feelings. We're not just trying to do a segment of the mix. We're trying to do the whole mix." This is that mixânever content to deliver a straightforward "reggae" album, Jr Gong touches on various sides or urban life as we live it today, from the smoky spiritual love ballad "There For You" to the nostalgic throwback jam "The Master Has Come Back". Hip-hop fans will bump to "Pimpa's Paradise" featuring Stephen Marley and Black Thought of the Roots as Nas rips his verse on "Road to Zion", while classic reggae heads will spark to the rugged sound of "Khaki Suit" which features the combo of Bounty Killer and Eek-A-Mouse. Taken together the songs on Welcome To Jamrock convey a consciousness that's framed by the song "For The Babies", which Jr Gong says was inspired by the idea that "we raise our children with the same lies we were told."
Welcome to Jamrock
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"â¦reggae song of the year" -- New York Times
"A" -- Entertainment Weekly
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Click here to watch Welcome To Jamrock video & a private conversation with Damian Marley