RESPECT. had the chance to talk to Marques Martin about his current singles, sharing a stage with Raleigh Ritchie, the DMV scene and more. Check it out below.
We know you’ve been honing your craft as a beatmaker for years before you transitioned into being a full-on artist. What brought you to that decision (as far as getting in front of the microphone)?
What made me want to be an artist is that I just had a lot to say. I remember when I was just a producer, I would also engineer all of my friends’ sessions, too. In the sessions, I would always just talk too much and present way too many ideas to the artists. There was even a time when my friend kicked me out of a session ‘cause I said he should rewrite his verse. What he didn’t know is that I had been secretly writing songs for years so, understandably, he didn’t think I knew what I was talking about. Fortunately, I already knew how to work Logic and how to record so I just took my equipment home and I started making my own songs. So, I guess — in short — frustration, misrepresentation, and impatience lead me to becoming an artist.
You definitely take a genre-bending approach to your music (much in the same vein as artists like KiD CuDi, who we know is one of your influences). How would you best describe your sound?
Yeah, everyone wants me to be Kid Cudi so bad (laughs). He’s definitely someone I looked up to growing up as well as a few others like Outkast, St. Vincent, and a bunch of 90’s grunge music. If I had to describe my music, I’d have to say it has intention and personality. I mean just about every song is based on a true story or something I think about a lot or just some things that I’m into outside of music. As far as sonically, I like to experiment but I like to keep it within the pop formula, too. With those two things in mind, I try to make something that feels visual and clear to imagine. I’m not too keen on calling my music Hip-Hop. Personally, I just feel like there are too many stereotypes within genres to fairly call it just Hip-Hop.
We’re in awe with “Something to Do” and the more recent “About 2 Die,” two songs that help show off your versatility as an artist. Can you take us through both the creations of these two songs, and the evolution of your music between these two releases?
Thanks for the kind words. I had these songs for a while before releasing them. “Something to Do” is actually the second song I ever recorded. It was in 2014 when I heard Jill Scott’s music and I looped the sample and started writing to it in my mom’s kitchen back in Maryland. I remember, I recorded the first verse and the hook and then I had to leave to go to work at Banana Republic in the mall. I remember listening to it in my car on the way to work and I was like, “this is a lot better than the first song I did.” After I finished it, I played it to some friends and they all just said, “it’s okay.” That song was buried in my laptop for a really long time until I played it to my manager in 2017 and he was like, “this has to go on the project.” I can’t remember too much of what I was thinking when I wrote it to be honest.
Between the time I recorded “Something to Do” and “About 2 Die,” I had moved to New York and started studying at the King’s College. Although I had less time to record, I was still getting better ‘cause my perspective was broadened being in such a different place.
“About 2 Die” was recorded in my dorm room during my sophomore year at the King’s College. My roommates were gone so I took advantage of the quietness and sliced up an old Dirty Projectors track. I had always recorded sober so I wanted to try something new. I went next door to the Duane Reade and drank one of those s***ty Four Loko-type drinks and then went back to my dorm and recorded the first verse and hook. At the time, I was reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley so I think some of my feelings towards that seeped into the song. This song was a trip to finish ‘cause I actually lost the session as well as a bunch of other songs while I was working on it inside of Take a Daytrip’s studio in 2016. I remember my hard drive had just fallen on the floor and it wouldn’t turn back on! I was freaking out to Denzel and David trying to figure out how the hell to fix it. Turns out it’s $1000 to fix a hard drive so I just gave up on that track and tried to move on. About 2 months later, I was flown out to London by Raleigh Ritchie (Greyworm from Game of Thrones) and his crew to work on releasing my project. While I was there, they heard the song and really wanted me to remake “About 2 Die.” So, that Summer, I wrote a second verse and third verse while I was living in the Dolobhana and then Raleigh’s team flew me back out to London and Justin Broad and I recreated the entire song. Fast forward a year later (fall 2018) we got Greg, Drew and Louis to play guitar, bass, and synths on the song, too. That last minute addition really brought the song to the next level I think. Believe it or not, most of the songs on the project have really stressful stories to them as well.
In regards to “About 2 Die,” how did you connect with Jacky Tsai for his exhibition in London?
To be honest, I don’t really know how that all happened (laughs). Jacky really liked the show though.
How was it opening for Raleigh Ritchie in New York? How did that opportunity come about?
In hindsight, it wasn’t as good as I thought it was but I don’t regret it at all. Like I said earlier, I was flown out to London by Raleigh’s team early 2017, so we were well acquainted at the time. I found out that Raleigh was doing a show in NYC and I just asked if I could be the opener. I think they weren’t sure about it at first but they took a chance on me. It was cool ‘cause they let me pick my DJ too so I went with my friend, Caleb, and they gave us free food and drinks. The best part about it was that I made one of the singles for my project while we were prepping for the show and I performed it, too. I had never done a show in a venue like that but it went pretty well. The crowd was receptive and I got a bunch of emails afterwards so they must have liked it.While we know your base is in New York, it’s also very dope to see artists from the DMV progress in this industry (I’m a D.C. native). Given your being a part of the city’s metropolitan Rap scene, how do you feel about Hip-Hop music and culture in the DMV?
I think the DMV is the next major city for artists and it’s slowly happening. There’s so much talent from there and I’m not just talking about music either. Did you know Spike Jonze is from Maryland? [I did not!] Not to mention Retro Spectro did one of the best episodes of Atlanta, too. What’s even cooler is that most of the artists that are blowing up are around my age so a lot of us are on the same page. The support system in Maryland is getting stronger, too. I think all we are missing is a voice for innovation. But I’m sure that artist already exists, they just haven’t broken through yet.
What can fans expect to hear from you musically in the future (album-wise and other-wise)?
I’ve recently learned not to get my hopes up for much. But, s***, I’ve been doing a lot of cool stuff. I’m set to release a mixtape in 2019. Currently, I’m working on whatever album/EP that comes after that. All I can say is that there’s no other way I would want the mixtape to sound. Also, I’m graduating from college in the Spring of 2019, too. If I have a big enough fan base by then, I’ll post where you can buy tickets (laughs).
What’s your definition of RESPECT?
Respect is a privilege.
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