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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

DAMIAN MARLEY

By Tom Pryor
Published September 23, 2005

Welcome To Jamrock
Tuff Gong/Universal

Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley achieved something with his third recording that even his famous father couldn’t: he cracked the Billboard Top 10. In fact, debuting at number seven in September made Welcome To Jamrock the highest-charting reggae album ever.By now, of course, the record’s ominous, dread-tinged title track is as ubiquitous as Sean Paul’s “Get Busy” was in 2003, but the rest of the album holds even more treats. Under the musical guidance of his brother and producer Stephen, Damian has grown by leaps and bounds since his 2001 sophomore set, Halfway Tree (also produced by Stephen). Unlike that album, which attempted to navigate between uptown Kingston privilege and West Kingston ghettos, here Damian is strictly ghetto, sweeping away gangstas and their guntalk with a fresh injection of Rasta righteousness. But Damian is still a Marley (as his many samples of Bob’s music constantly remind us), and he knows how to pitch his message for both the sufferahs and the pop charts; lining up guests like Bobby Brown, Nas, Black Thought, Bounty Killer and Eek-A-Mouse. While there are a few clunkers here (“Beautiful”), overall this seamless fusion of urban Jamaican and American sounds is one of the best releases from a Marley in years.