It’s hard to believe this is the first solo album from Stephen ‘Raggamuffin’ Marley. A seasoned performer for the last 27 years, Stephen joined The Melody Makers at age 7 and has been writing, producing and performing ever since. I was stunned to discover Marley has won five Grammy awards for his efforts, more than any reggae artist in history. After co-writing and producing much of brother Damian’s 2005 release, ‘Welcome to Jamrock’, Stephen has been recording and producing his own tracks in his Miami-based Lion’s Den studio.
I love this album. Each track is executed perfectly and relates to the next, holding together coherently as a well-rounded and tasty offering. The underlying message of title track ‘Mind Control’ is reminiscent of Bobs’ Redemption Song, ‘emancipate yourself from mental slavery’. The influence is unmistakable, Stephen’s voice having an uncanny likeness to his Dad’s. The legacy lives on yet Stephen has written and produced a totally original selection of songs.
The beat-box-driven dance floor favourite ‘Traffic Jam’ featuring Damian Marley and Spragga Benz and ‘Iron Bars’ recount the true events when the brothers were briefly imprisoned for possession of marijuana in 2002. ‘I’m a prisoner, locked up for what?…Let me out let me out, I’m an angry lion!’
This is an uplifting album with some sweet and intimate moments – check out ‘Hey Baby’ featuring Mos Def. Stephen used to sing this song to his kids when he went away on tour with the Melody Makers. ‘Fed Up’ has more of an R’n’B flavour with some nice acoustic guitar solos. ‘Chase Dem’ is a big stadium reggae tune, with backing vocals from Cedella Marley and 70s wah wah guitar effects. ‘Ina di Red’ features Nyabinghi percussion and draws on Rasta philosophy. Ben Harper plays some slide guitar making this a contemplative track to end on.
‘Free I from this state of mind, Jah give I strength’. The Raggamuffin has produced a modern day classic. Make sure it’s in your collection.