By Ashley Zimmerman
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Wayne Marshall is known in Jamaica as a singjay.The term comes from his ability to croon and DJ on a single track. Dressed in jeans, a T-shirt with Miami mob boss Tony "Scarface" Montana silk-screened across the front and Bob Marley-brand boots, and wearing one of his many trademark bandannas, he exudes youthful verve while describing his debut album, which was recently released by local reggae giant VP Records. He describes the album, Marshall Law, as everything that he's been doing from the early days to now. "You can hear the growth in the sounds and professionalism on certain tracks," he gushes. "This is just a groundbreaking effort to represent Wayne Marshall, the musician and the singer, to the level that I've reached so far."
Born Wayne Mitchell 23 years ago in the Barbican area of Kingston, Jamaica, his early influences were singers such as Sade, Ini Kamoze, and Jimmy Cliff; however, it was after his family moved to another part of Kingston that Marshall got into the whole music-making business.
"My family moved three doors away from Lloyd 'King Jammy' James, who we called the father of digital dancehall, because of what he was doing musically back then," Marshall says. "I became friends with his sons who were my age, and their Dad's studio soon became a second home for us."
Marshall recognized that to succeed in the music market, he would have to be original with his material and delivery. He learned this from Bounty Killer, who was his biggest dancehall influence and who became his mentor and friend. "His levels of meditation and the standard of his lyrics made me realize it was something that I should be a part of," Marshall says. "As a matter of fact, Killer took me to 26 states during his Ghetto Dictionary tour, and it was a priceless experience. I saw the artistry and the professionalism needed to sustain this shit on a high level. It was from that point that making music stopped being a hobby for me and I started to take it seriously, you know what I mean?" questions Marshall, who had originally imitated the Killer's style. "When you do that many shows in a different country, it was an incredible feeling to know that people knew my songs."
In a bid to keep it real and to highlight what's important to him and his peers, Marshall's lyrical content is limited. The catchy party track "Hot in the Club" is followed by a seemingly out-of-place subliminal message to jump ship on "Captain" -- his ship being Jamaica, the captain being the prime minister. Then there's "Purple Skunk," a paean to puffing nothing but high-grade marijuana.
When asked about his numerous lyrics that glamorize ganja and songs about bettering oneself such as "Overcome," Marshall is thoughtful: "There's going to be a lot of stuff that we do in our spare time, and there's going to be times when we focus on what's going on around us. It wouldn't be right for me to express my party life and not the real things that touch our brain or touch our soul," Marshall reasons, while shifting uneasily in his seat. "For example, if we drive past the youths on the street and we see that they're hungry, then we're going to talk about the victims of the system. But then on the other hand, Killer may call me, or Ele [Elephant Man], and they'll say where the hot party is that night. Just because I'm writing conscious music at times, it doesn't mean that I won't party. There's a time and a place for everything, and I'm still young. So I'm just living life, having fun, and trying to send a positive message along the way without dampening anyone's spirits."
Of course, Marshall still has a long way to go before gaining the respect of serious reggae fans. "My aim is to keep on improving," he says. "Right now, I know that I'm young and I know that I still have a lot of things to learn, but I'm just looking to get my music heard."