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Cultivate and Create: Marley B 

Rapper Marley B explores what it means to Grow on new album

click to enlarge Tucson's own Marley B starts his album off with inspiration from the bonsai tree.

Tiks Major of Brickflicks

Tucson's own Marley B starts his album off with inspiration from the bonsai tree.

The single word Marley B chose as the title of his debut solo album carries a host of meanings.

Whether the context is artistic, personal, inter-personal or societal, the word Grow functions as an album title as well as a guiding motif that hovers over every track on the record.

Marley, who's released mixtapes, singles and the 2014 collaborative album The Tonite Show with Cash Lansky, says he chose the cover art of his cupped hands holding a budding plant to introduce a collection of songs that explore personal balance, artistic ambition and issues like environmentalism and marijuana legalization.

"My idea from the beginning was to use the plant growing in my hand," he says. "I wanted it to be like the plant is the project. It's in my hands, it's something I created, something I'm in control of. This is my first project I've structured from beginning to end, and I just wanted to talk about my growth, in my career, in my mind, body and spirit, in the world around me."

The opening track "Bonsai" draws on the tradition of cultivating miniature trees as an extended metaphor for the care, patience and determination necessary to bring a creative project to fruition. In other words, don't underestimate something just because it's small.

"One thing with 'Bonsai' I wanted to represent is this project isn't on a national scale," Marley says. "But bonsai trees represent a much bigger picture to the Japanese culture. I did a lot of research and reading on it and it's really like the process of building an album."

In the album's title song and others like "Balance," "The Middle" and "Steps," Marley's lyrics are focused on a wide-angle exploration of what growth means, while also turning the metaphor on its head at times.

"You grow in the light / I grow in the dark / I grow in the dirt / You grow in the park / I grow on your mind / You grow in my heart / We growing together / Or growing apart," he raps on the title song's chorus.

After Saturday's album release show at the Scratch Shack, Marley B will embark on a month-long tour of the Midwest and East Coast: his longest run of shows outside Tucson yet.

Growth, at this point in his career and his life, is a constant process back and forth between his personal and his artistic lives.

"The more I grow as an artist, the more I grow as a person," he says. "It forces me outside my box, to read more, to put myself in other people's shoes because I want to represent truthful ideas in my music. I still have these new concepts in my mind and it changes my train of thought and let's me step back. That's really good to be able to take in other people's feelings and other people's ideas and learn from them and transfer that into your real life."

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