Young Marley continues father's mission

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— He epitomizes the Rasta people of Jamaica: long dreadlocks, a heavy accent, reggae chants and a name that puts him a step above other reggae artists Marley.

Damian Marley, the youngest son of reggae icon Bob Marley and 1977 Miss World Cindy Breakspeare, has only the spiritual guidance from his legendary father and his plethora of siblings, but music and the message remain a facet of the Marley mission stand up for what is right.

"That's the greatest thing his music has taught me," Marley said of his father.

Although Marley's music is reggae, he considers himself a chanter and more melodic than a regular DJ.

And this chanting, melodic style won Marley and the Ghetto Youth Group the Best Reggae Album at the 44th annual Grammys for "Halfway Tree."

"Halfway Tree" is Marley's second album but the first on Motown Records with a host of guest artists that was released Sept. 11.

Marley had been to the Grammys before when he performed with the Fugees on stage, but seeing the show from the audience was great, he said.

Halfway Tree is a roundabout in Kingston, Jamaica, that separates the rich from the poor.

"It's the midpoint of the posh areas and the ghetto. My mom is uptown and my father is from the ghetto. I'm a bridge where both worlds meet," Marley said.

That tells the story of Halfway Tree but the CD, much like his life, brings together his support system that began even before his birth nearly 24 years ago.

Brother Stephen produced the album and other brother Julian plays on the album.

"Everyone's really involved with each other. I'm not really on my own," Marley said, adding about one-half of the Marley offspring entourage is in the music business.

The Marley family reunites at least once every year for the Bob Marley Festival in Miami.

Marley will continue his nationwide tour until he leaves for Europe in April. His next projects include working on a remix with Wyclef Jean of the Fugees and assist brother Julian on his new album.

While Marley continues to celebrate the success of "Halfway Tree," he also is in the process of talking with his family about doing a Marley Boys album, but no specific details have been discussed, he said.

Marley, aka Junior Gong, received his nickname through his father's. Bob Marley's nickname known throughout the world is Gong and it was only a matter a time before his youngest son would acquire the name Junior Gong.

Marley visited the Bob Marley Museum in Jamaica one day when security guards outside the gates began calling him Gong Junior.

"Usually rappers or DJs use an alias and I was in search of an alias," Marley said.

Bob Marley died May 11, 1981, in a Miami hospital from a cancerous brain tumor. His youngest son would celebrate his third birthday two months later.

Marley doesn't enjoy talking about death and would, in fact, rather not speak of his father's.

"We have a father and son connection. I look up to my father. Now, I'm trying to influence my generation toward righteousness," Marley said.

A song that stood out in Marley's mind when he speaks of righteousness is "Where is the Love?" The song is about sex, but more than that it speaks of his generation that doesn't know a thing about respect and love.

"There's so much lust. Like in my grandmother's generation, you had to knock at (a woman's) gate quietly, wait for her mother to come out and ask if you could have a word with her," Marley said, almost astounded at the generational gap.

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