Jay-Z wants to be remembered like Bob Marley
French reporter can relate
The enduring legacy of dreadlocked reggae icon Bob Marley has clearly had a tremendous impact on superstar rapper and businessman Jay-Z. Some 40 years after the death of the reggae legend, Jay-Z said during a recent interview that he wants to be remembered just like Marley.
During what is being called “a rare interview with the Sunday Times” to promote his Puma partnership, Jay-Z was asked, among other things, how he would like to be remembered once he has passed. “I have no idea,” he is reported as saying. “I’m not beyond ego, right? Hopefully, they speak of me [with] the names of Bob Marley and all the greats. But that’s not for me to say.”
The mogul, who has been growing locks for a few years now, was also quizzed on issues such as race relations in the United States and the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted, “As a human race, we’re still on basic things. We’re still on Stop Asian Hate. We can’t sit and cry over spilt milk, but we do have to acknowledge that there’s milk, right? Are we here today? No. Are we further than 50 years ago? Yes.”
With a decades-long, highly successful music career, Jay-Z is seen as the role model for many artistes. He delivered some honest, thought-provoking answers during a sound bite-filled interview, but it was the Bob Marley comment that captured the headlines. In 2017, Jay-Z notably sampled dancehall pioneer Sister Nancy’s 1982 song Bam Bam on his 4:44 album track Bam, featuring Bob Marley’s son, Damian. In March 2018, Jay-Z and his wife Beyoncé jetted into Jamaica to shoot visuals for their then-upcoming On The Run II world tour. The hip-hop power couple was pictured riding a motorbike through the streets of Trench Town, a place Bob Marley called home.
This year, May 11, marks 40 years since the passing of Robert Nesta ‘Bob’ Marley, the artiste who Rolling Stone magazine described as “ a cornerstone of 21st-century music, covered by countless singers, sampled and quoted by just as many hip-hop acts whose artistic DNA is shaped profoundly by the Jamaican music Marley defined.”
French journalist Omar Ouahmane, from Radio France, is one of millions who, like Jay-Z, comprehend the magnitude of the legacy of Bob Marley, who brought One Love to the world, with the 1965 release of the song by The Wailing Wailers. Interestingly, entertainment isn’t even Ouhamane’s beat. His travels have placed him on the front lines in Bosnia, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Sierra Leone, but Marley magic has pulled him to Jamaica.
“I am really a war reporter, and I should be in Libya or Chad now, but here I am in Jamaica,” Ouahmane told The Gleaner. “This is my second visit to Jamaica; the first time was 20 years ago to commemorate 20 years since the passing of Bob Marley. I persuaded my company to send me here to Jamaica because it is important to get this story,” he emphasised.
Ouahmane, who is originally from Morocco, is fascinated at how much impact Marley was able to make, having lived for only 36 years. “Bob Marley was born on February 6, 1945, to Cedella Booker, a young, black girl, and Captain Norval Marley, an older white man. Bob faced two racisms – he wasn’t black enough for blacks, and he wasn’t white enough for whites. But Bob Marley was not to be defeated; look at how much he has achieved,” he said.
Ouahmane said he has been listening to the music of Bob Marley and the Wailers since he was young and noted that the message of the Rastaman was ahead of its time. “In the ‘70s, Bob Marley was talking about climate change and capitalism and so much trouble in the world. He even did the song War,” the war reporter added significantly.
“In France, we don’t know what war is. War is ugly. It makes you lose your home, your family, your livelihood and your limbs. And Bob sings about war as if he understands. I love his music and his philosophy. Bob Marley was very special. How could a kid from his circumstances become a singer whose name is known by persons everywhere, from New Zealand to Japan? That is just amazing,” Ouahmane said.
In a 2005 article about Marley, Mikal Gilmore wrote, “Marley sang about tyranny and anger, about brutality and apocalypse, in enticing tones, not dissonant ones. His melodies take up a resonance in our minds, in our lives, and that can provide admission to the songs’ meanings. He was the master of mellifluent insurgency.”
The legend that he is, reggae archivist Roger Steffens estimates that there have been some 500 books about Bob Marley, who died from cancer in a Miami hospital on May 11, 1981.