On his major-label debut, "The Journey," Ky-Mani Marley sings "Dear Dad," an open letter to his late father, Bob Marley. As the lyrics freely admit, "I really didn't get to know you," but Ky-Mani has absorbed his pop's records sufficiently to build a convincing new track atop Bob's "Crazy Baldhead" and to inject just enough hip-hop flavor to update the roots-reggae sound without obliterating it.
Even when he's not dropping his daddy's name or borrowing Bob's tracks, Ky-Mani does a good job keeping the family business alive. He doesn't have the special voice of his father or half-brother Ziggy, but Ky-Mani does know how to create a riveting vibe by mixing singing and rapping in the style of his friends in the Fugees.
Some of these sprawling songs could use some editing, but whether he's singing about driving his Mercedes Benz to a party full of blunts and honeys or about discrimination against dreadlocked Rastafarians, Ky-Mani establishes a gripping groove and raps/sings with authority.
Appearing Sunday at the Garage.
To hear a free Sound Bite from Ky-Mani Marley, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8124. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)