Joseph “Jo Mersa” Marley’s family is renowned in the cannabis community for bringing this holy plant to the forefront of the overwhelming musical genius of both himself and the rest of the Marley clan.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Jo Mersa had an adventurous childhood, which he considers a blessing. He first indulged in cannabis at age 11 and believes beginning early can help rather than hinder an artist’s career, in some cases. Like his.
Since living in the United States for the past 18 years, it’s been slightly more difficult for this 29-year-old musician to travel back to his original island where many of his relatives still live. Nonetheless, he seems happy, like he is lovin’ everything life throws in his direction.
Herb makes you think, herb makes you feel, herb makes you more aware of your surroundings. For me, herb brings out my spirituality to a certain level. Like you get more in touch with things you wouldn’t be able to otherwiseJo Mersa Marley
By the age of four, Jo had made onstage appearances with his father Stephen (famous musician and son of Bob Marley) and uncle Damian, who is another prolific recording artist. He was famous for being a youngster who roused the audience during concert finales, while everyone in attendance chanted the lyrics of his family’s greatest hits with him.
Jo Mersa also found pleasure and inspiration while observing his dad and uncle creating music together in the studio, “Stephen’s Lion’s Den,” in Miami, FL.
Seven years later, Jo started creating his own beats and concentrating on singing and songwriting, in addition to vocal delivery. In 2014, he released his debut EP, an album with less than seven tracks, titled “Comfortable,” with Ghetto Youths International. His songs included a thoughtful blend of reggae, hip hop, dancehall, and even electronic dance music (EDM.) He has since toured in the US and EU with his father Stephen Marley, Slightly Stoopid, UB40 and J Boog.
On April 12 Jo Mersa drops his latest EP, “Eternal,” which includes collaborations with artists, including his own family members who have played pivotal roles in his own metamorphosis as a musician and whose sound remains a cornerstone of contemporary reggae. He exudes a brotherly sense of solidarity and unity rather than competition with his fellow artists.
During our interview, his humility shined through more than anything else. When you imagine speaking face to face with a celebrity, you usually don’t expect to have such a genuine, raw conversation like he and I shared. He feels real — like a grateful and spiritual man. From his childhood years and cannabis consumption to grieving over the loss of a family friend and aspirations for his career, together we covered the important aspects of his life. But let me stop and pass the mic to Jo Mersa, so he can tell you everything in his own words.
The News Station: What was your childhood like, growing up with a famous father and visiting recording studios?
JMM: I guess the best way you could say it is that my childhood was sort of like an adventure. It was great, a blessing, you know? When you get older, you start having more of an understanding of your surroundings, and when you start to look back and think, “oh I can’t believe I ran around here!” I think it’s funny.
When I met, like, Busta Rhymes and some other artists when I was younger versus now, I’m like, “oh, wow, I can’t believe they used to hold me in their arms and blah blah blah and such forth.” It is a blessing, a true blessing.
Growing up, I remember being a teenager, and we were on a reggae tour, I believe, with me and my cousin Daniel, my uncle Ziggy’s firstborn son. We thought we were lifting heavy weights, feeling macho and stuff. Toots (a Jamaican singer and songwriter) is a little bit shorter than me, and Daniel could pick us both up. I was about 160 pounds at that time, and my cousin was heavier than me, yet he still picked up both of us.
When he started to tell us again about past memories, it’s like, we are in awe of meeting this person now versus when we were younger and probably just playing around with him or something. It’s different now, but it is a blessing.
TNS: Which recording artists do you draw inspiration from when creating your own music?
JMM: My father, grandfather (Bob Marley) my uncles — Ziggy, Damien, Julian, Ky-Mani. All of them, you know? I’m inspired by all of them, I draw inspiration from Cocoa Tea. I’m even inspired by nowadays’ artists, Chronixx, Proteje, Jesse Royal. I’m inspired by a lot, you know?
I love listening to some J. Cole and Tobe Nwigwe — the latter is currently the hip hop artist who I currently listen to most. But you know, many people, many, many people. If I go on this will probably take up the whole interview [laughs.]
Photo courtesy of Jo Mersa Marley
TNS: What genre best defines your music?
JMM: I think the root of my music is reggae, but I don’t know, that’s hard, that’s hard to say. I am a fan of every genre. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what the genre is because we blend what we like from jazz, what we like from reggae, what we like from hip hop, what we like from, you know, techno and such, rock and roll. So I would say that I love all forms of music. There’s not a genre I can say that I don’t like. I even mix up a little drill, a form of trap, every now and then.
TNS: Do you think that cannabis consumption at an early age helps or hinders a person’s musical career?
Of course, of course, for me, yes. Would it benefit other people’s careers at such an early age? Wow, that’s a really good one. I don’t know how to answer that.
TNS: Well, when did you first smoke?
JMM: [laughs] First time… when I was young. I was maybe 11.
TNS: Would you say that taking a few tokes off of a spliff before heading into the recording studio enhances your creativity and productivity?
JMM: Yeah. Personally, yes. I would say it’s also different for me than some other people. I grew up around herb, but it was never forced, not around the age when I started smoking. In all honesty, me and my brothers would get in trouble if we were caught smoking. Our parents didn’t make it out to be a laughing matter or anything. Realistically, they’d speak firmly and say things like, “yo, what are you doing?” You know what I mean?
But eventually we grow and make our own decisions, whether you want to smoke or drink or whatever. It’s your choice at the end of the day, and that was part of my brought-upsy. So I would say that you know, for me and for everyone really, each situation is different.
TNS: Do you feel like your brothers and sisters in the ganja world are brought together through the use of weed?
JMM: Of course. Of course. I strongly believe that. The reason I strongly believe this is, I mean, herb makes you think, herb makes you feel, herb makes you more aware of your surroundings. For me, herb brings out my spirituality to a certain level. Like you get more in touch with things you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
Marijuana brings us together from that alone, in my opinion. The important part is enjoying smoking, like food. We come around and unite together in the same way. When we light a spliff, it’s like food for thought. We get to express how we’re feeling. So I think it does bring us together, it plays a lot. I mean, I’m here speaking to you right now about weed.
TNS: Can you share any hints about your upcoming album, perhaps other artists you collaborated with or a song that showcases a profound meaning of the life you have lived?
JMM: I’ve collaborated with some people that I’m friends with, who I look up to. I recently collaborated with Busy Signal, Kabaka Pyramid, Black Am I, Tifa. Me and my brother, Yohan Marley, did a remix to “Burn it Down,” a dub version I should say, not really a remix.
I would have to say that the song “No Way Out,” which features the artist Black Am I, speaks about the way we strongly believe in, you know, there being no way out — the inability to escape Most High’s judgement. I’m trying not to make this sound too preachy, but we do believe that you will have to answer to Most High at some point. He sees and watches all, and it’s something we’ll always send a message about, uplifting and fighting down Babylon, reminding people that everyone will eventually answer to the Most High for what they have done. Don’t feel like you’ll get away scot-free with stuff.
And then the next one song I want to mention is “Yo Dawg,” because we constantly think about music — we love music, but it still is a business. We’re constantly thinking of ways to make new songs, new ideas, new everything. We are also always trying to keep things fresh or bring back a vibe. We stay on our toes at all times, we’re always moving. So “Yo Dawg” is showing that side of constant motion and constant growth.
TNS: Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) tend to have higher incarceration rates, while white people get a slap on the wrist for the same nonviolent marijuana offenses. How do you feel about this?
JMM: How does that make me feel? Well, I’m not someone that’s happy about it. In all honesty, I can say I’ve had one or two run-ins with the law. I’ve gotten into some trouble with marijuana, having it, but you know, it’s crazy.
And then what I also believe is that yeah, I’ve gotten into trouble, yes, but sometimes you find some good people who are like, “Oh no, them? Those guys, they smoke a little pot, they’re not into any other criminal activity or anything else.” You have some people that will do that. It’s very few, but we’re thankful for those people we’ve met or supported us.
But at the end of the day, we will still hear that someone else had the same offense as us, like you said, and they get a much lighter judgement. I don’t think that I need to answer that, you know? I think it speaks for itself.
TNS: What are your favorite strains of cannabis?
JMM: Right now, Runtz. It’s nice, it has a little fruity taste to it. It tastes just like the candy!
TNS: Yum! Jo.
TNS: I’m sorry to hear the death of Bunny Wailer. I know he was a reggae pioneer, part of Bob Marley and the Wailers. Considering how recent his passing was, how are you holding up?
JMM: It affects me, it affects me because he is someone who I called an uncle. When I was growing up, he was all about football and food. You know, health and exercise, always. Overall fitness, and when I was younger and Bunny came to visit us, he would take me outside and showing me some tai chi or stuff like that. I was very close with him when I was younger and well, we’re holding up. We’re sending love. I haven’t posted anything on social media yet because it’s still a shocker to me.
When I was younger, me and him were closer, but when you get older and both live in different places, things change somewhat. Plus, my career took off, which made me less available. Every now and then, the two of us linked up and made a song together or whatever, but this was less frequent than the years before.
TNS: I’m so sorry for your loss. In five years where do you aspire to be?
JMM: I think what I would want is for my music to relate to you, speak to you, to that energy, to what you feel, what you’re going through, what’s going on today, and what we all are going through as well. I’d like my music to bring people closer, so they can look within and discover how to become one with themselves. I really just want to spread the message of love in the next five years. That is what I hope to continue doing as a reggae artist. Also, more music, more shows.
TNS: What advice do you want to share with your teenage fans?
JMM: Teenage fans? My teenage fans, in all honesty, I would tell them to make sure they know what they’re doing. Herb is my number one choice, so that would be my first thing. I don’t want to sound like I’m telling kids to go do this or go do that, but before they go smoke crack or sniff coke, why not go take a draw off a spliff? Try CBD, something else! It doesn’t have to be THC. But just the overall point of the herb — I would hope that my teenage fans don’t do any destructive things to their body and betterment.
TNS: Do you use CBD products?
JMM: Yeah, I use CBD. I use CBD. Right now my cousin, Nico Marley, has a brand Lion X Wellness. I’ve been on that for a minute.
TNS: Are there any final words you want our audience to hear?
JMM: Let love live. And live with love. I want to say, check out some of my music as well, man, you know? Continue to praise God, praise the Most High, give thanks and praises that we are here. We have life which is the greatest thing.