Even by Rasta standards, Damian Marley’s dreadlocks look incredible. He says he has been growing them since 1996 and they now reach the floor, which is not without problems: a few years back, a video went viral featuring Marley preparing to play football by stuffing his dreads into a backpack. They’re left flowing as he leaves for the House of Commons. “What am I going to be doing there?” he asks, raising an eyebrow. “You know, your guess is as good as mine.”
He is not there in his capacity as a musician, although he is, by some distance, the most successful of the sprawling Marley clan. His father Bob was not one of life’s monogamists and the number of children he had is open to debate, but the official figure stands at 11. The Melody Makers, fronted by Damian’s brother Ziggy and featuring their siblings Stephen, Sharon and Cedella, had a couple of hit albums in the 80s, but more recently it is Damian, Marley’s youngest child, who has enjoyed the limelight, thanks to a canny fusion of reggae, dancehall and hip-hop. He won a Grammy for his 2005 breakthrough Welcome to Jamrock and topped the US charts in 2010 thanks to his collaborative album with Nas, Distant Relatives. He also performed on Bruno Mars’s debut album; and with SuperHeavy, a bizarre agglomeration of rock royalty that also included Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart, Joss Stone and Bollywood composer AR Rahman; and on Jay-Z’s 4:44 album, singing a version of Jacob Miller’s old roots reggae track Tenement Yard. Marley gave the rapper a tour of Kingston. He says Jay-Z was recognised, although not in the manner he might have expected: “Bunches of girls would run up and say, ‘Is Beyoncé ’usband!’” he chuckles.
Marley is heading to the House of Commons for a debate on marijuana, and they’ve invited the right guy. Not only does he market his own strain of grass (Damian Marley SpeakLife OG, apparently blessed with a “piney taste that encourages inspiration and good vibes”) and plan to open a growing facility in a former Californian prison, he is also quite the spokesman. He offers up facts and figures, medical evidence, and a certain connoisseurship that he compares to being a wine buff: off he goes, discussing THC content, the benefits of pesticide-free farming and the difference between indoor and outdoor growing environments.