Watching Skip Marley perform live on stage at New York City’s Gramercy Theater on Monday night (March 28), the spirit of his grandfather, the late great Bob Marley, was palpable in the air. Or was it that the weeds were blatantly smoked by many in the audience? Either way, the two go hand in hand and gave rise to an overwhelming sense of history, roots and culture.
Physically, the 25-year-old artist wrongly favors his “grandfather”! Skip’s mother is Cedella Marley, the first child born to Bob and Rita Marley. However, the similarities between Marley’s two men are far deeper than just appearance. Beyond an intrinsic connection based on genetics, Skip fully accepts his musical lineage and acknowledges Bob’s influence in his craft without hesitation or shame.
“It’s my inspiration and my rock,” the Jamaican-bred Miami-born artist told VIBE exclusively.
Although Skip belongs to the royal family of Reggae music; he plays guitar, bass, drums and piano, the latter taught him himself; He grew up touring with his uncles Ziggy and Stephen Marley, never getting on stage until he was 15 years old. After Stephen persuaded him to sing the chorus of “One Love” live on stage during a show, Skip discovered, “Wow, this is my thing, this is what I like to do.”
In 2015 he made his professional debut with the release of the single “Cry to Me” on the family label, Tuff Gong. The release of his seven-song EP of 2020, Top placemade history when the funky, soul-assisted track HER “Slow Down” peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Adult R&B chart, the first for a Jamaican-born artist.
Having not even released a studio album, Skip is currently leading The Change’s tour of US cities. During the stop in New York City, to enjoy the live show, fans struggled with cold temperatures of up to 24 degrees Fahrenheit, a stark contrast to the sun and warmth of Kingstonian’s homeland.
Backed by a full Wailers band complete with two choreographed background singers reminiscent of I-Threes, Skip performed a full set of Top place, including “Make Me Feel” and “That’s Not True.” Her waist-high locks fell off the front of what looked like plain denim, but as she turned her back on the packed auditorium, customers’ eyes were pleasantly surprised to find her family patriarch stamped on the back of the jacket.
When asked about the importance of paying tribute to Bob during his live performances, Skip told VIBE: “It’s important for me to honor my grandfather at my shows. The issues my grandparents used to sing about they are happening, his words are needed now more than ever.He continued to share, “I will always honor the gramps, The Gong.”
Skip’s interpretations of what he described to VIBE as “some of my grandfather’s classics,” including “Redemption Song” and “Could You Be Loved,” had the crowd, a mix of ages, races, and ethnicities, standing. Still, there were groups of Jamaicans easily identifiable by their idiosyncratic reactions to music, especially Bob’s versions. Yaady’s crowds are notoriously critical and vocal, so with or without nepotism, it’s not easy to get sincere big names. But the Reggae star received a lot of love and deservedly.
“A live performance of Skip is me giving it my all, all of me,” he told VIBE.
Citing musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, BB King and John Mayer as influences, as well as successful collaborations with non-reggae artists such as pop star Katy Perry (“Chained to the Rhythm”), as well as rapper Rick Ross and soul singer Ari Lennox. (“Make Me Feel”), Skip’s catalog is already quite eclectic. Maybe that’s why when we asked her to share her favorite song to perform live, she replied, “There really isn’t a favorite song, because every song gives me a different vibe, it takes me to a different elevation, you know ?”
The audience’s enthusiastic reaction to Skip’s latest single, “Vibe” with Dancehall Popcaan’s deejay, demonstrated its ability to perfectly balance the afrobeats aesthetic, now popular for its crossover appeal, though it still incorporates the features of the traditional Dancehall. “She Wanna Catch a Vibe / She Wanna Free Her Mind”. Like the enigmatic aura that filled the Gramercy Theater, the sexy subtext of the song asks listeners to find a corner or a wall to make a nice moan.
How does the man with the charismatic smile misrepresent his ideal setting to “catch a vibration”? Her answer was simple: “Well, you know, Jamaica, the sea, the air, the medicine and the family, and some nice women.” What else do you do really need?
Learn more about Skip Marley’s The Change tour here and watch the “Vibe” video below.