When Kendall Jenner announced she was going to star in a Pepsi ad, some thought she would take the Cindy Crawford route, starring as a hot and bothered model who quenches her thirst with an icy soda. But this political climate calls for something deeper, and Jenner’s ad is an attempt.
In her clip, she forgoes her modeling duties to join a protest outside her studio and share a Pepsi with the policeman at the demonstration, in an effort to demonstrate unity. The model finds herself among a diverse crowd, along with two supporting characters — a hijabi photographer and a male cellist — in the three-minute-long commercial. Some viewers have already pointed out the ad is questionable, and called out Pepsi for co-opting protests (which we’ve seen in recent months to fight big, real problems like gender inequality, Islamophobia and systematic racism) for the sake of selling soda.
But what it does get right is the music. Skip Marley‘s “Lions” soundtracks the video. The uplifting power ballad is an anthemic call to arms to take action and make a difference while promoting strength and togetherness. “We are the movement, this generation / You better know who we are, who we are,” the chorus rings.
This commercial is just a jumping-off point for 20-year-old Marley. (And yes, if you couldn’t tell by his last name, he’s Bob Marley’s grandson.) He released “Lions” in February this year, has already collaborated with Katy Perry and plans to release an EP this summer. Before the ad premiered, Marley talked to HarpersBAZAAR.com about writing the song and being inspired by his grandfather’s legacy.
He’s glad Pepsi chose his song for this commercial.
“It’s such a good way of spreading a message, a gathering of unity. So the music really goes hand in hand with the message of unity in this commercial. I was happy that I could be a part of the new movement. I was excited.”
His message in “Lions” is about coming together.
“The ‘Lions’ inspiration was unity. I started with a riff on the guitar, and I was playing the riff in the studio. I knew the drums and then the song really fell in hand in hand. We knew it had a power, a message, so it was really natural.”
He believes that uplifting message is all the more necessary at this political moment.
“We’ve always needed it, but right now we need it more than ever. Well, it’s a constant need of unity and togetherness. So I just added onto that. I’m happy that this generation grabbed onto it.”
The ad focuses on a lot of young people participating in a protest and making their voices heard, which is something Marley relates to.
“Young people are the future of the world. It’s a new generation, a new start. We can do it better. We’re growing; as people, we’re supposed to grow, we’re supposed to learn, and the next generation grows and learns, you know? It’s our time now.”
This probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard from Marley. He was also featured on and co-wrote Katy Perry’s comeback hit, “Chained to the Rhythm.”
“One day Max [Martin, the producer] was playing my song ‘Lions’ in the studio and Katy was there and she overheard it. She was like, ‘Who’s that? Wait, wait, wait!” And next thing I know, I’m getting a call that Katy Perry wants me on her next single. Just like that. I went into the studio with Max and we were working. It was good. Katy came in too, that was the first time I met her. It was nice. Smooth. And I’m happy that she chose me as she wanted to put that message out there of having a consciousness.”
He’s dipped his toes in the pop realm with that Perry collab, but his reggae roots are strong, and so are the other influences in his music too.
“My music stems from reggae of course, but it’s an influence of everything. My music doesn’t even have a genre right now, it’s more of an expression. All of the influences I get in each song that you hear are little influences of everything—freedom in music, in my music.”
But perhaps the biggest influence is that of his grandfather, Bob Marley.
“He’s the leader. He’s the teacher. He’s shown me so much. So it’s a continuation really of the same message because the world needs it.”
Though he was born 15 years after his grandfather’s passing, he still has a powerful memory about his legacy.
“I’ll tell you one memory from 2005, I think, in Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa, for a celebration of my grandfather. That was the most people I had seen at a concert at that time, at such a young age. It was all in celebration of not only my grandfather, but also a continuation. That really showed me the power of the music.”
His musically talented family are huge supporters of his music career, from his mother Cedella Marley, whom he first consulted with writing songs, to his uncle Stephen Marley, who brought him out on stage for the first time.
“It’s like they knew. My Uncle Stephen, he gave me a chance first. He brought me on stage to sing ‘One Love.’ They’ve always been there for anything I need, any questions.
“My first creation of music, my first songs, was with my uncle. It went to my mother first. They’re family; they’re always there to encourage me—any questions, any worries and experiences. We’re dedicated to music. We live music. For me, now, to come in is natural.”
He actually started writing and performing in his teens.
“I started writing when was probably 15 or 16. I got put on the stage when I was 14 or 13.”
Be on the lookout for a full EP from Marley later this year.
“Hopefully in the summertime. But I’m probably going to release another single. But the EP is definitely coming out.”
Here’s what we can expect from that project:
“Message. My music is like food: food for the ears, food for the mind. So it’s a consciousness and a look on today.”
From: Harper’s BAZAAR US