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Two years ago, Ziggy Marley released his Grammy-nominated album Wild and Free to coincide with the 4/20 date, which doubles as a marijuana holiday. His latest, Fly Rasta (Tuff Gong), comes out April 15, just in time to file your income taxes and prepare to forget what you owe just five days later.
“4/20 correlates with a good time to release music,” says the eldest son of the late reggae great Bob Marley. “It correlates with new things going on, a good date to release my music. Everything’s working together. Nature’s working with 4/20, and I’m working with 4/20.”
Like previous Marley albums, Fly Rasta departs from the typical reggae-album blueprint. Pop and rock flourishes give it a broader appeal. “This is not my father’s reggae,” he says. “Reggae is also influenced by other music. It didn’t just appear out of nothing. This is Ziggy music. That’s what it really is.”
Marley is different from his other family members and siblings, most of whom live in Florida or Jamaica. Years ago, he settled in Los Angeles with his Israeli wife, Orly Agai, and their children.
“Every king needs a queen,” Marley says as he explains the significance of the track, “You’re My Yoko,” on the album. “For John Lennon, that was Yoko Ono. I can relate to John’s changes with the Beatles, what he was going through and the role that Yoko played in bringing him out to explore himself more as an artist, a man and a human being.”
Agai did the same for Marley. Like Yoko, she, too, came between a family, encouraging him to break from his geographic tradition and relocate on the West Coast. “I’m sure some of them will complain about my wife, too,” he jokes.
On Fly Rasta, Marley reconnects with his Rastafarian roots. “For the past few albums I haven’t spoken about Rasta in that sense,” he explains. “But it is something that is deep within me. It’s very common for people to use that word — Rasta this and Rasta that. But I don’t use it that much. For me, Fly Rasta is like lifting up the banner again. It’s a celebration of my philosophy.”
Part of the Rasta philosophy is an embrace of all things cannabis, which Marley clearly does, especially with his line of Ziggy Marley Organics products that include roasted hempseeds sold under the name Ziggy Marley’s Hemp Rules.
“I’m trying to talk about the whole plant,” he says. “We’re making progress in getting marijuana legal in a couple of states. People are attuned to it more than ever. As we’re seeing the truth about marijuana, we don’t want to forget the whole story. Marijuana is half the story, because there’s another side to the plant that’s just as beneficial. With the global warming issue and everything going on, this plant is a savior.”
When Marley met President Obama, he chose not to preach to him about pot because, “He knows herb. He lived in Hawaii. I don’t have to tell Obama anything.”
Marley doesn’t get back to Jamaica, where he was born in 1968, much these days. “Right now I’m completing what I came here to complete,” he says. “I still haven’t finished what I’m here to do. I’m here for a reason and I’m trying to get that done.”
Marley also contemplates how the music industry has changed in the 20 years since his first release for a major label.
“We’ve lost some of the meaning of what music can do to the detriment of society and the world,” he says. “Artists have more freedom in the way things are now. When one door closes, another one opens. You can do what you feel more than you could before, if you have that state of mind.”
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