That reggae is alive and well—at least among its fans—nearly 40 years after the death of Robert Nesta Marley should be no surprise. The Jamaican-bred genre has found a welcome home as an influence on today’s hip-hop, lending much of its rapid-fire, dancehall patter, syncopated/tribal drum beats and dub-style production touches to modern rap.
In many ways, the times are ripe for a mainstream reggae revival. Sting and Shaggy have an album out (44/876) and are on a U.S. tour that ends in Santa Barbara on Oct. 29. With the wave of international cannabis legalization, and a buffoonish right-wing Trump White House as a convenient target, the moment is certainly ripe for David Nesta “Ziggy” Marley (Bob’s eldest son) to come forth with Rebellion Rises, a collection of powerful message songs from “See Dem Fake Leaders” to “Change Your World” to, naturally, “High on Life.”
Marley turns 50 on October 17 (the same day marijuana is officially legal in Canada). Rebellion Rises follows Marley’s Grammy awards for Best Reggae Album for 2016’s Ziggy Marley, 2014’s Fly Rasta and 2013’s Ziggy Marley In Concert. It’s the odds-on favorite to snag another Grammy.
Starting with “See Dem Fake Leaders,” Ziggy takes on the “Get Up, Stand Up” urgency of his father’s legacy, denouncing the wicked in no uncertain terms. “From religion to politics/[They’re] riding the wave of fear,” he exhorts, while hoping for a world of “peace and prosperity,” especially those “taken for granted” or “taken advantage of.”
“The Storm is Coming” is a similarly apocalyptic warning, with a female backing trio channeling the I-Threes and Ziggy’s own son Gideon, who adds a child’s-eye innocence to this call to arms. “World Revolution,” a collaboration with songwriter/rapper Samuill Kalonji, suggests a “peaceful solution” for the “new generation” with the lyrics, “Dem, talkin’ ’bout world war / We talkin’ ’bout world revolution.”
On “Change Your World,” he reveals over slivers of insinuating wah-wah guitar, “My name is Ziggy/And I’m a little bit shy.” The smooth inheritance of his father’s mantle has never been more apparent when he sings convincingly, “Work in synergy/Feel that energy/We’re going to change the world.”
The languid ska horns and breezy, rock-steady riddims of “I Will Be Glad” and pumping keyboard of “High on Life” offer two of the album’s paeans to herb.
While the former touts, “When the seeds of life are trees/And the fruits we eat are sweet/I will be glad,” the latter offers cultivation advice: “Already planted the seed/Now we water the trees.”
“Circle of Peace,” featuring a midtrack rap from brother Stephen, leads into the opening piano bars of “I Am a Human,” Ziggy’s version of John Lennon’s “God,” as he proudly expresses, “I’m not a Christian I’m not a Muslim/I’m not a Jew/It shouldn’t matter to you... I am a human/And I’ve been suffering for too long/Still the reasons for hope keep me holding on.”
Marley concludes in the album’s title track closer, “Love is the weakness of this system we protest/And we are its biggest threats/The wave of consciousness.” Whether that’s enough to remove Trump from power—or even dent the Spotify streaming charts for that matter—is yet to be determined. With Rebellion Rises, Ziggy Marley continues to prove he’s most assuredly his father’s son.