The bustling Halfway Tree area of Kingston, Jamaica is the geographic intersection of the city’s uptown and downtown areas, the meeting ground of Kingston’s privileged and its poor. Damian Marley, the son of Reggae icon Bob Marley and Jamaica’s 1977 Miss World Cindy Breakspeare is the offspring of a union between two distinctive and disparate worlds. Damian calls his new album HALFWAY TREE because “my father is from the country and the ghetto and my mother is from uptown so I come like a half way tree, like a bridge because I can relate to both sides.” HALFWAY TREE is the first release from the recently signed distribution deal between Motown Records and Ghetto Youths International.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica on July 21, 1978, Damian Robert Nesta Marley a.k.a. “Junior Gong,” Bob’s youngest son, began performing as a child as the vocalist for a group called The Shepherds. Comprised of other well-known Reggae artists’ children including Shiah Coore (son of Third World guitarist Cat Coore) and Yashema Beth McGregor, the daughter of Freddie McGregor and Judy Mowatt, The Shepherds performed at several shows in Jamaica including the Reggae Sunsplash music festival in 1992. After The Shepherds’ demise, Damian turned his vocal talents to deejaying (the Jamaican equivalent of rapping). In 1993 Damian’s debut single “Deejay Degree” was released on Tuff Gong Records (the label founded by Bob Marley) and the following year he released “Sexy Girls On My Mind” for the Main Street label.
Damian’s next release 1999’s “School Controversy” was featured on the Epic\Sony Wonder compilation, POSITIVELY REGGAE with all sales proceeds going to Jamaica’s Leaf of Life Foundation, an organization which assists children who are HIV positive. Although he was still a teenager, Damian was selected as the POSITIVELY REGGAE spokesperson, a role that introduced him to the international press and record buying public. The same year Damian performed at select dates on the Shabba Ranks World Unity tour and with his brother Julian performed at Jamaica’s Reggae Sunfest and Sunsplash festivals.
Damian was a high school student when he began recording MR. MARLEY at the Marley Music 48 track recording studio. Produced by Stephen Marley (head of the Marley Boyz production team), MR. MARLEY delivered a fusion of contemporary Reggae grooves and infectious dancehall rhythms alongside tough edged hip-hop beats, an ideal complement for Damian’s versatile deejay-rap style, The album included several updates of Bob Marley classics as well as the single “Me Name Junior Gong” which went to the number one in Hawaii and held that position for several weeks. “When we went to Hawaii in 1997,” Damian recalls, “WP had three songs on the charts there: ‘Me Name Junior Gong,’ ‘One Cup of Coffee’ and ‘Now You Know,’ a tune from Julian’s debut album.” Damian and Julian’s burgeoning popularity earned them featured appearances an the 1997 traveling alternative rock festival Lollapalooza which provided invaluable exposure among a new sector of music fads. In the five years since MR. MARLEY’s release, Damian has matured as a performer, songwriter, recording artist and Rastafarian, his unwavering convictions reflected throughout his new album.
Stephen Marley produced HALFWAY TREE for Marley Boyz productions; Stephen’s previous production achievements are crowned by 1999’s critically acclaimed CHANT DOWN BABYLON featuring Bob Marley in duets with a galaxy of hip hop’s brightest stars and selling more than 1 million copies worldwide. Stephen’s innovative approach to HALFWAY TREE incorporates spoken word introductions and dramatic vignettes as song interludes, creating a conceptual cohesiveness lacking from most Jamaican albums. Stephen also adapts traditional Reggae elements (forceful drum and baselines, committed social commentary) to 21st century hip hop’s synthesized beats and sometimes defiant stances while utilizing the talents of Jamaican singers, deejays and musicians alongside American rappers, each underscoring Damian’s impassioned delivery.