Luckily for San Diego reggae fans, Ky-Mani Marley is indeed a man of his word and rescheduled his Feb. 8 show at the Belly Up -- in fact, the show is tonight.
Ky-Mani is the youngest son of Bob Marley. While his brother Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley has that “it” factor, if you will, Ky-Mani has the strongest potential to mirror his father’s success and crossover into mainstream music. The 34-year-old possesses panache with his hip-hop infuse reggae, he remains true to his cultural heritage, delivering lyrics with a Jamaican patois accent. Defying critics and fans alike, Ky-Mani has stayed true to his love of hip-hop. He explained his musical style choice in an interview with me.
“Well for me, [hip-hop's] important, because it’s something I gravitate to," Ky-Mani said. "Not everyone listens to reggae, and not everyone listen to hip-hop. So I feel as though if I’m blessed with the talent to really express my views on these different genres of music, that I shouldn’t limit myself and I should try to make sure that the word is spread on every platform necessary and available.”
Ky-Mano also discussed what fans should expect to hear on his new album, The Evolution of a Revolution, which is due out this fall.
“It will be a double album, but there will be a hip-hop influence with a dancehall groove underneath it," Ky-Mani told me. "The Evolution album is reggae kind of meets soft rock, meets jazz and blues. Almost the same kind of formula my pops used, only within my vibe and my energy.”
The Grammy nominated artist discussed “New Heights,” the first track on the album. The single was released in March and was recorded over a successful Don Corleon riddim.
“It was the vibes at the time, and it was what was going on at the time,” Ky-Mani said.
Also on the bill tonight at the Belly up is another artist who understands the pressure to succeed with a famous name. Roy ‘Gramps’ Morgan took a few minutes to discuss his solo career, the band Morgan Heritage and his views on religion. He released his solo album, 2 Sides of My Heart, in September 2009.
“My solo career started in 2008 -- we started recording ''Wash the Tears,' " Morgan said. "What I wanted to do was work with producers who I didn’t work with. We have a history of working on albums -- as Morgan Heritage -- with Bobby Digital, King Jammy and Don Corleon. I wanted fresh blood to help to build the next generation and brought in new faces who people never heard of before."
Religion and love being the main subjects of Morgan’s lyrics, we discussed his views about his interpretation of the lack of religion in his music.
“Never was in a choir, never sang in church," Morgan said. "The thing where I try to tap into is the powers of healing through music. So it is a musical ministry, but not by the way of any church or religion. I don’t believe in religion; I believe in spirituality. If we can be from any walk of life, the most important thing is love. All that other stuff is bureaucracy and ideology.”
On the track “Wash the Tears,” Morgan belts out a beautiful lovers-rock reggae ballad filled with heavenly melodies backed by eclectic harmonies. Morgan explained the introduction lyrics -- “My songs are not smiling songs” -- to me.
“I wrote the lyrics to this song -- actually I didn’t write it down," Morgan said. "I went into a recording studio in a booth and got behind a mike, and the words just came to me. One of the angles I wanted to take with this album is that is not about giggly, bling-bling culture and talking about the kind of car you drive. It’s about addressing real issues and telling people to be strong and hold on, have a sense of strength within themselves when times get rough. It’s nothing to smile about; it’s about recovery and healing each other. ”
I asked Morgan how he and Ky-Mani coordinated the tour.
“It’s always been a dream," Morgan said. "Never in the history has a Marley and Morgan toured together; we’ve always worked on albums together. It’s two very large families to just say no.”
Catch Ky-Mani Marley and Gramps Morgan at 9 p.m. on July 19 at the Belly Up. Tickets are still available.