Meet Zuri Marley, the Singer Making It On Her Own Terms

Meet Zuri Marley, the Singer Making It On Her Own Terms

With a killer collaboration and hit single already under her belt, Zuri Marley may be one of the most exciting young musicians to watch in the coming year. V sits down with the rising star to talk music, personal values, and that impossible-to-ignore last name.

With a killer collaboration and hit single already under her belt, Zuri Marley may be one of the most exciting young musicians to watch in the coming year. V sits down with the rising star to talk music, personal values, and that impossible-to-ignore last name.

Photography: Alex John Beck

Styling: Andrew Mukamal

Text: Sara Zion

There’s no denying that Zuri Marley’s name precedes her. As the daughter of the famed Ziggy Marley and granddaughter of musical legend Bob Marley, it would be futile to try and dance around the fact that she carries a musical legacy with her just by existing. Growing up in Kingston, Jamaica, Zuri became a member of the island’s unofficial royal family the day she was born. However, upon turning 18, she moved out of that comfort zone to study at New York University and chase the ‘American dream.'

“I wanted to do music and acting and Broadway, so that’s definitely New York...that’s why I came; I wanted to pursue those things,” she tells me in her hard-to-place accent on set. Though she begins our conversation by telling me she is a “Jamaican girl through and through,” she admits, “a lot of the things I like to engage with weren’t there or were just different. I wanted to come and see all the things I saw on TV shows when I was younger... so I thought, ‘let me just move there and figure it out.’”

Zuri wears John Hardy Jewelry

Now, fresh out of four years spent at the NYU Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, Zuri is a young adult navigating her own path, in life and music-making alike. In this industry (far more than any other), there is an incredible amount of pressure on newcomers to find their unique voice – a pressure that applies tenfold for someone with a legacy like Zuri’s.

“I’ve never really had to differentiate myself from them because I’m just different," she explains. "I’ve always done my own thing and gone on my own path. What I take from Marley is the core of what my grandfather was saying which is freedom and love; not the Rasta, smoking weed, reggae music. That’s what people might see, but they don’t get the core message.”

Her self-released single, “Beg for It”, dropped in 2017 and, while she carries her family heritage with pride, it would be a far stretch to claim that her electro-pop beats and sultry vocals would elicit any comparisons to the reggae music her grandfather made famous in the 1970’s.

Having written the song on her own and recorded it in a friend’s bedroom in lieu of a formal studio, Zuri is passionate about being involved in every step of the process. That does not mean, however, that she can always control how a piece will turn out. “I wrote [Beg for It] and then I just was like, this is how it needs to go... I honestly wasn’t even happy with it when we were done,” she adds, “but I tried everything and nothing worked. It was just done. The song wanted to be over. So I was just like, ‘This is all this song can take and this is going to be its form.’ Then one day I just had to put it out.... If it wants to be done, your art will tell you.”

Zuri wears John Hardy Jewelry

At the same time, Zuri is also preparing to release additional songs that she says have been finished for six or seven years but just don’t have the right sound yet. When asked about why she finally let “Beg for It” go public so quickly when so many others were still in progress, she concedes, “I was tired of people not seeing me for what I do...I feel like a lot of people were seeing me for my last name or my Instagram and not seeing me as an artist, which is what I am.”

While this may be a common thread among the social media celebrities our culture perpetuates, Zuri insists that she doesn’t live her life for the Instagram likes. “I have a core like a rock. I’m from Jamaica and we don’t fake shit. Inauthenticity? I don’t even see it...everything is so fleeting. The only thing you can stay true to is your values. I don’t give a fuck about anything except being a good person, having good energy and good vibes.”

That said, Zuri’s Instagram presence has certainly opened some unexpected doors for her, including an appearance on Dev Hynes’ 2016 track “Love Ya” after they connected on the app. “I then ran into him in a teriyaki chicken shop! I kept seeing him around after that and one day he [invited me to] come record. I was very nervous about my voice and sharing that but Dev made me comfortable.” The song was essentially Zuri’s debut as a musician to the public and grabbed the attention of fans and industry insiders. “Dev Hynes has become the new Bob Marley in my life,” she says with a laugh. “Dev is one of the most talented musicians of all time. His songwriting is sick, the work he’s done on other projects, the relationships he’s built. He’s super inspiring to me.”

Zuri plans to release much more music in 2018, but just as she admires how Dev has chosen to surround himself with certain people and cultivate those bonds, Zuri also believes that in order to get some of her other songs to where they need to be, she needs to be surrounded by the people to help her get them there. “[In order to] get to that quality it takes more than one person. Right now I’m gathering those people.”

The young artist has reached a point where she is just excited to share herself and her creativity. “I do so many things; I spend a lot of time living and not sharing them. Now I’m in the phase where I’m just like fuck it. You have to get to the point where you’re accepting of what it is. Then you go from there.”

Zuri wears John Hardy Jewelry
Credits: Photography: Alex John Beck Styling: Andrew Mukamal Art Direction + Production: Sara Zion Casting: Larissa Gunn Hair: Rolando Beauchamp (The Wall Group) Makeup: Chris Colbeck (Art Department) + Hiroto Yamauchi Maincure: Geraldine Holford Photography Assistant: Ben Wentzel Digital Technician: Yasunori Matsui Styling Assistant: Jermaine Daley Hair Assistant: Andy Tseng Production Coordinator: Kaia Balcos Production Assistant: Andrew Meisel Catering: Monterone Studio + Equipment: ROOT Studios  

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