Dancehall deejay Wayne Marshall evolves as he follows the music
Ghetto Youths International/YouTube

Wayne Marshall’s coming of age coincided with the explosion of digital dancehall in the Jamaican music scene. It was a heady time of packed dancehalls, synthesized voices and outrageous performances. A materialistic aesthetic entered into the culture in antithesis of its rebel roots. Chatting deejays, elaborately dressed, spoke of possessions, money and violence — artist rivalries sprung from that culture.

When he was a teen, Marshall (born Wayne Mitchell, Marshall is a stage name) and his family moved three doors down from the Kingston studio of Lloyd “King Jammy” James, who is widely regarded as the king of digital reggae. Marshall was heavy influenced by the music there. He hung out with King Jammy’s sons, which gave him an insider’s view and first listen to the recordings of his main influence, dancehall star Bounty Killer.

“I used to study him, rap like him in high school,” Marshall tells MTV in a 2010 interview, “and eventually got to meet Bounty through the whole King Jammy set up.” Unlike Marshall, who grew up in the Uptown side of Kingston, Bounty Killer rose up from the Ghetto. His style of dancehall incorporates hardcore hip-hop, violent lyrics and a confrontational tone. This influence is evident in Marshall’s first album Marshall Law, released in 2003. The album opens with the characteristically hip-hop boasting intro and smatterings of bling.

Throughout the 2000s, Marshall released nearly two dozen singles, a couple mixed cds and toured the U.S. with Bounty Killer’s Ghetto Dictionary tour. He dropped out of the public eye for three years, 2005 to 2008, to “ground” himself, as he told MTV. By that time, he was a father, his son Giomar was born September 2005, and Marshall felt he needed to grow as a person to be a parent. He spent the time studying music theory, researching and writing. He viewed his hiatus as a talent-building time and returned to the scene a stronger artist.

He married Jamaican singer Tami Chynn in 2009 and the couple had son Jaxson in July 2013. The thirty-something Marshall had matured into a family man, and his music matured as well. He signed on with the Marley brothers (Stephen, Damian “Jr. Gong,” and Julian, son’s of Bob Marley) record label Ghetto Youths International, a move he tells Boomshots TV in a 2012 interview, was a “natural progression” for him.

Marshall is unabashed in expressing his admiration for the Marleys. He says their work ethic, their focus on the music (rather than all the material goods success can buy) has pushed him to expand himself as an artist, learning to play instruments and dipping his hands into producing. His 2014 Tru Colors on the Ghetto Youths label is a strong collection that includes an all-star cast — Aidonia, Assassin, I-Octane, Bounty Killer, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Vybz Karte —on the track “Go Hard.” A live performance of “Go Hard” at the 2013 Reggae Jam Fest brought down the house. There was no room for artist rivalries with all the energy emanating from that stage.

He tells World Magazine Jam that when working with the Marleys, he continually goes back to dancehall/reggae roots — “We never stay far, Damian and Steve always taking it back from the roots forward.” Marshall says he keeps open to all genres, “We are here to do music. We’re not here to close ourselves and be one-track minded …We’re here to do music and we’ll go where the music carries us.”