When I picked up 31-year-old Jamaican-born Ky-mani Marley's third full-length release, Radio, I committed a cardinal sin: I judged the CD by its cover. Gracing the cover is a dreadlocked Marley, a bicep-long tattoo of his father Bob visible. The singer bears the Marley name which may be why even though Radio is clearly a hip-hop album, it spent weeks on Billboard's reggae charts. Marley himself was surprised at the reggae label. When asked if he thought of it as a reggae album, he laughed, "Not at all." He said he put out Radio to express his feelings about growing up in a Miami ghetto and hip-hop was the best language in which do that.
And Marley fits the profile of a multi-tasking hip-hop star better than that of a laid-back Rastafarian reggae singer. He's working on a new film and a new album much of which has been filmed for the BET channel reality show, Living the Life of Marley. He's also been busy recently opening for Van Halen. He said the response has been good, even from the diehard VH fans. "Every time I play," he says, "there's one fan in the front row who is not there to see me ... my goal is to have him turned by the end of my show."
Marley himself enjoys some unexpected music. He said the last two albums he bought were a Sam Cooke and Kenny Rogers' greatest hits and his own next album will reflect those influences. "It will be more acoustic-driven," Marley said, "with a more world-music feel. Really and truly for me, that's the big picture. That's my comfort zone. When I'm playing acoustic, I can really speak from the soul."
Dec. 12, 8 p.m., $15. The Big Easy, 416 S. 9th St., 208-367-1212.