Asked what it's like to follow in the footsteps of his famous father, Bob Marley, a man who comes as close to deification as our popular culture will allow, Stephen replies with only a sentence fragment: "Rastaman vibration positive."
That response could be taken a couple of ways. Maybe by quoting one of his father's songs, he's showing reverence for the man. Or maybe he's annoyed about being asked a question he will never escape, no matter his own accomplishments. And during Stephen Marley's multidecade career, there have been many proud achievements.
At age 8, a year before his father died, Stephen sang lead vocals on the song "Sugar Pie" for his brother's band Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers. He has produced albums by his brothers Damian and Julian. And, of course, there are his own solo recordings, beginning with 2007's Mind Control, continuing with 2011's Grammy-winning Revelation Pt. 1: The Root of Life, and culminating with the forthcoming sequel, Revelation Pt. 2: The Fruit of Life.
"The Fruit of Life is a natural extension of the root," Stephen says. "It features more collaboration work with some of the best hip-hop and reggae artists." Those collaborators include big names such as Wyclef Jean, Rakim, and the Roots' Black Thought. There is also the already-released song "Bongo Nyah," featuring his brother Damian and dancehall DJ Spragga Benz.
With music being such an integral part of the Marley family and with Stephen becoming a musician at such a young age, it seems he had almost no choice of career path, which is fine with him. He wouldn't want any other way of making a living. "Music is my foundation and way of life. Only thing comes close is soccer."
As with much of the rest of his family, Miami has become one of Stephen Marley's home bases. "We love the sunshine," he muses, "so the light reflects in our music."
That makes him a natural headliner for the Miami Reggae Festival, especially because he appreciates what organizers Alfonso D'Niscio Brooks and Rockers Movement have developed. He hopes his music will be worthy of the headlining spot and leave fans with "positivity, power, and inspiration to continue on life's journey."
So this Rastaman, with his vibration positive, continues to do his father's work, spreading The Root of Life and sharing its fruit. He's even happy to see reggae versions of songs by non-reggae bands such as Radiohead, Pink Floyd, and the Beatles becoming so popular.
"Every artist should be reggaefied, even once throughout their career."
Where are you?
I'm in Miami at the moment. It's about 5pm. I'm just rising. I record all night and sleep all day. It started because you're excited about the music and you want to stay up longer, but over 15 years it's become a habit. In my circle I think a lot of musicians operate like this. When the place is quiet you're more creative. I have plenty of people I can call at 4am and know they'll be up. The Marleys had a family base here even before I was born, but everyone's developed families now and my brothers and sisters live in the surrounding blocks from me. It's become a home away from Jamaica.