If Bob Marley and U2 ever had a chance to record a song together, I'm pretty sure that rasta-rock is the direction their respective guitar strings would have roamed. But thankfully for Mojo Morgan, the creation of this genre lies in his gifted hands.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised primarily in Springfield, Massachusetts, Morgan was born into a reggae music monarchy. His father, Denroy Morgan, ascended to fame in 1981 with his hit song, "I'll Do Anything For You." Although the elder Morgan had several hits throughout his illustrious career, "I'll Do Anything...." reached Gold status, thus establishing his name as a reggae brand and paving the way for his talented offspring to show and prove their skills on the national stage.
And they did just that, as Mojo and his four siblings would form the quintet, Morgan Heritage. After being signed to MCA Records after their legendary performance at the Reggae Sunsplash Festival in Jamaica, the group released their debut album, "Miracles," in 1994 to much acclaim.
Morgan Heritage has continued to be recognized for their world touring and successful recording career over the last 15 years, with their unique vision of music enabling their status as international icons. Backed with the sustained success of his family name and an innovative task at hand, Mojo Morgan has recently released his debut solo album, "got Mojo?," on Gedion Soldiers/Keynote Records.
As Morgan prepares for a fall tour, the album continues to gain recognition independently and abroad, with his single, "Tonight," being used as the underscore for a Nike Women promo campaign. With his album serving as the palette from which he mixes his harmonious colors, Morgan's rasta-rock takes its infusion from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G., as he bleeds all of those plentiful shades into one.
What was your first introduction to music?
Growing up, it was my dad, Biggie Smalls, Tupac, Tracy Chapman, Hootie and the Blowfish, Alanis Morissette, Nirvana, and Jimi Hendrix. Eric Clapton had the biggest influence on me, musically. My first intro to music was watching my dad with his band, the Black Eagles. I remember dancing in his rehearsal one day and the next thing I know, I was at the Beacon Theatre and on the cover of Jet Magazine with him doing the same dance from that rehearsal.
When many people hear your name, they consider you a part of music royalty. How was it coming up under you father's tutelage?
It makes it easier for me to be looked at as music royalty, but it makes it harder [for me] if I fail. So, the pressure is on and I'm up for the challenge. Our father prepared us for this moment and we won't let him down. It was cool just to have a father like Denroy Morgan; now being in a group that had more international success than our already successful father, it's truly a blessing that I am grateful for everyday.
As a young man who has been in the business since you were a child, talk a little on how the music business has changed over the years. Are artists suffering or benefiting from the current state of the business?
Growing up in the industry, I noticed the major record companies started following the lead of independent labels since the early 90's. Now with the internet, fans have access to all the music they want for free. So, that hurts record sales; but if you have a kick-ass show, it also gives a boost to live concert tickets. So, technology has become a double edged sword.
You were born in and spent a significant amount of time in Brooklyn -- a place that exposed you to a healthy mix of reggae music and hip-hop. How are the two genres different and how are they alike?
Reggae is a slower beat than hip-hop, [to me] that's how they differ. Hip-hop today mostly speaks about the material side of life, and reggae speaks about the more spiritual things in life. At the end of the day, they are both speaking about life; so that makes them very compatible.
You've just released your debut album, "got Mojo?" Talk a little about the album and your experience recording as a solo artist for the first time.
The solo debut is an EP that chronicles my journey in which I make the transition from roots reggae music to alternative rock. Doing this as a solo artist was enlightening, empowering, and a learning experience all at the same time.
You are creating a genre called rasta-rock. How did your mesh of rock and reggae come about?
Rasta-Rock is conscious fun; Rasta represents the consciousness and rock represents the fun element in my music. It came about because of my multi-cultural musical upbringing. I grew up on Top 40 radio in New England, urban radio in New York and Jamaican music from my parents.
What do you think about the current state of reggae music? In recent years, we've seen names like Elephant Man and Sean Paul top the charts, but the genre seems to be in a quiet mode. Is this a perfect time for you to make your mark as a solo artist?
I think it is perfect timing for something new out of the Jamaican music scene. There hasn't been an artist with a conscious statement to submerge onto the mainstream in quite some time now. It's long overdue.
Your lead single, "Tonight," was used in a promotional ad for Nike. How did that come about?
When Nike received my record from their marketing company, they thought the record would fit well with their program. I was happy to be a part of uplifting and motivating young women to live a healthier lifestyle.
After creating rasta-rock, what's on tap creatively for you in the future?
Creatively, I would like to collaborate with other alternative rock artists. Live on tour and in the studio.
For more on Mojo Morgan and his rasta-rock, visit www.myspace.com/mrmojomorgan and www.giantstep.net/artists.