Words by:
Photography:Terrence Antonio James

There was a critical moment when I was maybe 12 or 13. I felt very out of place – I had a strong feeling that something was wrong with me. I didn’t really fit in with my peers. This made me feel very awkward, lonely and insecure. I just tried so hard to fit in; maybe if I dressed a certain way, or looked a certain way… but I was epically failing at that. 

So I made a firm decision that I was not going to be like everyone else. It started with the way I dressed, experimenting with wearing different things. Then there was my ear palette. My father had a large music collection, from Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix to Yes and spiritual gospel. And then reggae.

I really fell in love with Bob Marley. My father had this rare box set of his music spanning his whole career, from his early stuff that sounds like doo-wop and ska, to later, so you could dig deeper and deeper. And, of course, it was very political. My family is very Black conscious, we know who we are – but I had an extra edge on it. And I think it’s largely because I listened to the words that he was saying. It resonated with me as a child because I was looking around and realising that a huge part of me feeling awkward in the world was because I’m Black.

When I discovered Bob Marley, I was like, “Who’s this?” I’d never really seen anyone with hair like that. Black people’s hair, that’s a whole thing white people don’t know about our comfortability. It’s what makes us feel uncomfortable most of the time because of the comments. This was the early-to-mid-90s and most Black people were not wearing their hair natural, so for me, as a kid, seeing someone with locs, I thought, ‘That’s so different. That’s so beautiful.’ The music just sounded so good, too; the chord changes, his voice, the reggae grooves. I was just drenched in it, swimming in it.

I have always been drawn to artists like that – artists who do their own thing. Bob Marley was a rebel.

Requiem for Jazz is out now via International Anthem