The Meaning of Bob Marley’s “Rebel Music”

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    The Meaning of Bob Marley’s “Rebel Music”
    Published: May 13, 2024

    “Rebel Music (3 O’Clock Road Block)” is a lesser-known Bob Marley & The Wailers song, but one that captures his political spirit quite well. The 1974 song comes from his Natty Dread album, and tells the story of being stopped at a police checkpoint at 3am, and having to throw away his marijuana stash before he encounters the police. Then, he still gets hassled by them.

    The story serves as the visualization of the battle cry that permeates the tune, which is more of a commentary on the lack of freedom in Jamaica. Marley presents reggae music as “Rebel Music,” suggesting that it has the power to ignite change among the people.

    Ultimately, “Rebel Music” is an inspiring song for anybody who feels disenchanted with the way things are, whether in government or any other facet of society. Hence why I believe it to be one of Marley’s best & most powerful songs.

    Let’s look a little closer at the lyrics and unravel the story of “Rebel Music.”

    Bob Marley – “Rebel Music” (1974)

    “Rebel Music” Lyrics Meaning

    Intro

    Do do do do-do do do!
    Do do do do-do do do!
    I rebel music
    I rebel music

    “Rebel Music” intro.

    The song starts with a war chant, making it clear from the start that this is a political song, a battle song for the freedom of the people.

    Verse One

    Why can’t we roam (oh-oh-oh-oh) this open country? (open country)
    Oh, why can’t we be what we want to be? (oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
    We want to be free (want to be free)

    “Rebel Music” verse one.

    Bob laments on how he wishes the Jamaican people could be free to do what they want, when they want. He wants freedom, for all people, but instead, he finds himself in situations like the one that comes in the next verse.

    Verse Two

    3 o’clock roadblock curfew
    And I’ve got to throw away
    Yes, I’ve got to throw away
    Ah yes, but I’ve got to throw away
    My little herb stalk
    I (rebel music) yeah, I’m telling you
    (I) I rebel music (rebel music) Oh-ooh!

    “Rebel Music” verse two.

    Marley encounters a police road block at 3am, due to a curfew. He has to throw away his weed, and it pisses him off to no end. It makes him chant the “Rebel Music” battle cry.

    Verse Three

    Take my soul (oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
    And suss me out (suss me out)
    Check my life (oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
    If I am in doubt (I’m in doubt)
    Im tellin you
    3 o’clock roadblock
    And hey, Mr. Cop! Ain’t got no
    Hey, Mr. Cop
    What you saying down there
    Hey (hey!) hey, Mr. Cop
    I’ve got no birth certificate on me now

    “Rebel Music” verse three.

    In Marley’s eyes, the police are not just overreaching with their power, they are also violating his very soul. Their suspicion of him has them checking his whole life. If he ever doubts this, the 3am roadblock is a steady reminder, that the police are imposing on the rights of the people.

    He seems to be in a daze of thought when a the voice of the police chimes in, asking him for a birth certificate, but he doesn’t have it on him. This further illuminates his point.

    The song closes with a reggae rhythm and a few more repetitions of the war-cry-chorus. It’s most impressive how Bob Marley & The Wailers can make such a fierce song out of such a laid-back arrangement, so that it sounds excellent on the beach or during times when you need your rebellious spirit to be uplifted.

    Krayzie Bone Remix (1999)

    In 1999, Krayzie Bone of Bone Thugz-N-Harmony released a remix of “Rebel Music” that shows how the issues that Bob Marley sang about in Jamaica in 1974 are also relevant in the form of racist American cops, who pull him over for being black. This is similar to what Chamillionaire sings about in “Ridin” in 2005.

    Ultimately, “Rebel Music” is an impactful Bob Marley song that can be appreciated both for its relevance to Jamaican politics in the 1970s, but also for its universal application to marginalized peoples, unjust laws, and all other forms of oppression by figures of power.

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