1) Do you remember the moment you wanted to be a hip-hop artist?
I do, it’s a little cloudy though. I always wanted to be somewhat of an entertainer and music was something I always was into. I listened to a lot of Jazz, Soul and even some oldies my dad would play in the car.
My mom would play some Hip-Hop, R&B, and Rock, and they would do the whole, “get em Marcus”, hah, cause I’d be “grooving” out in the backseat. I’ve been writing poems since I was 11 and I use to make little fun comedic tunes when I was younger.
I also wrote a couple of songs when I was like 12, but I threw them away when I presented the idea to my mom; as she was discouraging at that time(this was out of her being afraid of me going into the music business, she’s a huge supporter now).
My big brother introduced me to Canibus and Eminem, and we’d be bumping the songs talking about things in the room. So when I was in high school one day, me and him brought up the idea to rap and it went sort of like, “hey, you want to try and write some raps and see what we come up with?”
I was heavily influenced by Canibus at the time, so I wrote some east coast influenced lines, and they really didn’t flow or anything but because I always wrote poems, they were somewhat lyrical; after my brother heard the lines I “spit”, he told me ”I think you got something here, develop a flow, and I think you might have something”.
After that I was always writing, and I kept getting compliments, so I kept writing. I was a b-boy at the time, so me and my boys had dreams of going big with the b-boy thing, so I wasn’t really into making it a job necessarily, maybe I didn’t have the confidence at the time.
While in College freshman year, I saw a kid in Math class writing some raps and rapping them under his breath, so during a break, I asked him about it, I told him I do it too, so we were spitting lines outside of class; a guy walks over who’s a producer and he hears us, and he’s like “yo, you’re dope, why don’t you come by are home studio a little later?”
The road went from there. So it wasn’t until my freshman year of college at 18 (almost 19), that I decided this was my thing, that I want to do this, that I NEED to do this; that this is my calling. I’m 28 by the way[chuckles], so that’s ways back.
2) What was it like creating your latest project – Planet Ape?
It was an experience man. It had its moments of happiness, depression, anxiety, crazy different emotions. People don’t know that while the album/EP has its fun, fictional “alien” storyline, underneath that is also a real-life story and a meaning.
I battled with the loss of my friendship with my best friend, the loss of all my other friends who moved back to their countries, and the loss of my goal, my dream (at least I felt at the time) all while dealing with depression.
The tale starts when me and a friend had an album named Demon Slayers we were trying to get off the table. As we were making this album, my friend was going through some changes.
I want to note that I’m a christian but my friend, he started getting religious crazy and he felt that what we were putting out into the world was basically hypocritical, and an influence of evil for those who were going to listen to it.
He then started telling me I was hypocritical and that I wasn’t being a true christian, and etc. It got bad man. The thing was a disaster, I had worked on that album with him for 2-3 years man; we’d record when I’d come back from work and etc, so I had my all in that.
I had sacrificed a lot and he presented me an ultimatum which resulted in dropping the project, that was the end of that. I thought because of the several times I tried this rap thing, and seeing all the failures that were happening that maybe God was telling me this wasn’t for me.
I think now, God was making my backstory stronger, giving me a new reason to keep going, new things to overcome. That’s where the idea of the “Ape” comes from, The Ape is a symbol of darkness, depression (when I thought about depression, I thought about a giant, black energy), that I used and became one with in the battle to push through everything.
A. P.ortrayal of E.motion – APE. I struggled with seeing all these artists that were out there succeeding and me just working a job I wasn’t happy with; coming home from my day-job, sitting in my room and then working the rest of the night, then looking at Youtube and Soundcloud and seeing people not even blowing up, but just being out there; then me feeling like:
- “damn, I wish I was there right now”
- “Am I moving too slow?”
- “I’m not moving fast enough”
- “Damn, why is this taking so long”
- “if this doesn’t work, what am I going to do?”
Then I’d have days where I’m happy like, “ayye, when I put this out it’s gonna be a hit”, then the next day being like “maybe this ain’t for me”. I struggled with it a lot and even in the album, I talk about pushing through obstacles on tracks like The Ape Call (The Pulse), and cApes And Wings (The Statement).
I also produced all of the instrumentals, and did all of the mixing and mastering for this album, so I also had the moments of “Damnnit, that drum ain’t hitting hard enough”, “this just isn’t good enough”, a lot of frustration mixed with anxiety.
I’m a perfectionist man and I try to make my stuff sound as good as possible, but at times it works against me mentally. It’s a strength and at times a curse.
3) What are you trying to achieve with the project?
Well, as weird as this sounds, that’s a rough question for me (with so much I want to do from this). I would say though that while there is a multitude of things I’m trying to achieve with this album, the main thing is awareness.
I’m trying to make people get familiar with me; I’m trying to make people get familiar with the idea of what my name and the stories (and concept songs) are all about. I’m trying to get them to know that I exist.
I’ve been on the bench too long, and I’m ready to just have people hear what I’ve been working on all this time.I’m also trying to jump up to another level from this album, and become more than just an upcoming act, but a big name independent artist; or at least be in a higher position to do so with my next project.
4) What are your thoughts on staying independent or signing to a major label?
I’m not looking necessarily to get signed to a major label. Now, I won’t say never or ever, as in this business you should never say never, and always stay open to possibilities and opportunities.
I’m open to the idea maybe one day. However at the moment, if it comes to a label deal, I’d like to do something with an Independent label. They give you creative freedom, and give you your space to be an artist.
I’m all about a certain amount of control, the music video director David Liz who did “The Ape Call (The Pulse)” the video, will tell you. I literally co-directed it with him, [chuckles]. I’m easy to work with but I’m a very passionate creator.
I’ve been drawing, writing, and etc. every since I was little, and when I have ideas I try my best to have them executed as cleanly as possible. I want them to come out as close to my vision as they can. I might start campaigning for a shot at Stones Throw or Fool’s Gold.
They’ve always been big favorites of mine. (Kid) Cudi is someone I look up to a lot, and he had a place at Fool’s Gold (at one point in time) and is making a legacy.
Hell, Madlib, one of the dopest producers ever, and his alter ego Lord Quas are stationed at Stones Throw and are legendary; I want to make a mark in the industry someday like they have.
5) How do you feel about the independent hip-hop industry right now?
I feel like it’s at a place of being in a positive and negative light; more positive though. I’ll elaborate.
It’s great that all artists are able to be at a place to be able to promote themselves in countless ways, using social media platforms and streaming services; however the negative comes in when you think about the fact that ANYBODY and EVERYBODY can promote themselves with these platforms.
So now you have people who aren’t even trying to be professional artists, or aren’t even really passionate about there craft dropping stuff on these platforms.
They’re like “screw it, Imma drop something here today, just cause I can”; Or “man, if I get 100,000 plays I can make so much money”. So this space then becomes overcrowded and saturated with a bunch of people who shouldn’t even really be there to begin with.
It then makes truly gifted, or even just passionate artist, harder to find when the market is so oversaturated with people just trying to make bank; people just trying to go viral or just trying to have plays.
A lot of these people find outside means to get those plays non-organically or whatever, and so it then downplays things that should be spots of happiness.
So if you’re an artist who has 300 plays, the consensus should be, “wow, 300 people have listened to you”; but now because of this over- saturation, and these non-passionate people finding alternative (non-organic) ways to get plays, people are like, “you only got 300 plays? Nobody is listening to this”.
Now I’m not knocking the hustle, as you should be finding ways to get plays, I’m just trying to explain a perspective of how over-saturation can be an issue. So I enjoy the provided freedom for creativity and the platforms to promote myself, as I’m sure other independent artist are, but it also can have its negatives.
I will say though that no matter what, the Independent Industry has been a huge gift for me, where I may have never gotten the opportunities I have now if it didn’t exist.
6) As an independent hip-hop artist grinding it out, what sort of promotion and marketing are you doing to stand out from the rest?
This is a good question as I’ve strategized this from the beginning with the concept of Ape Tha Man. In order to stand out, you have to be willing to be different.
In the music industry, especially the Hip-Hop industry, people are afraid to be. Hip-hop can be very hard on artists who are different, and so people are afraid of going outside of the box and exaggerating a part of there personality in their rap personas; a part that provides a means to showcase bright parts of who they are.
I was always sort of an outcast/loner in school, and in general in life, so I’ve never had as hard of a time doing so. As I got older I got more and more comfortable with who I am, and now I just put out what’s me and what I feel showcases who I am.
What’s funny is the things people mocked me for, are the things people enjoy about me nowadays. I’m different and I wouldn’t have it any other way, and because of that I already stand out to some degree.
I’m also hustling. I’m doing Youtube campaigns, Soundcloud campaigns, Radio campaigns, interviews with Stop the Breaks, the number one Independent digital news source for independent artist; and I plan on providing some means of ways my fans can connect with me to feel more important and more connected to me.
However in the mean time I try my best to always reply back, and show the upmost respect for anyone interested. I also made sure my music was released in the commercial stores to make sure fans and labels know this isn’t a hobby.
To let them know that I’m serious about what I do, and that I’ll put in any amount of work needed to get things done.
7) How do you currently make money as an independent artist?
Right now I’m up and coming so I still work my day job. I’m hoping that ends real soon, so I can devote my life to what I feel God has put me down here to do, music.
However, at the moment I have some licensing and syncing deals; I’m selling my music on digital platforms; lastly, I’m getting money from monetization of content on Youtube and Soundcloud, and other streaming platforms.
8) How do you feel about hip-hop today?
Hip-Hop is sort of in the same light I mentioned earlier regarding the Independent Industry for me. It’s in a very positive but also negative place. It’s in a positive place because there are so many artists right now that are different, and that are just themselves.
If there is one negative I can say about past decades, it’s that a majority of artists were all just east coast rappers, or southern rappers, or artists that made street music; nowadays, you can find dope artists with all kinds of backgrounds, and all kinds of styles.
Hip-hop is a lot more diverse nowadays and I love it. Think about Kyle, Tyler The Creator, Chance The Rapper, or Childish Gambino, I’m not sure that I saw the same kind of artists back then. Sure you had people like Eminem who stood out because of his differences, but those artists were more a rarity than a common thing.
I’m not trashing or talking down on hip-hop or the artists back then, because a lot of my favorite artist are from that era, I’m just saying, we didn’t have AS MUCH diversity back then. Another positive is the avenues to make it as a hip-hop professional now.
Back then a negative was the fact the major labels had all the control; nowadays, you have independent labels, and independent artists and producers who do it on their own. The negative comes into play when you think about the fact that mainstream rap, or what a lot of people consider Rap nowadays, IS Trap rap.
I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes or come off the wrong way; I don’t hate Trap and Trap can have its moments, and they have some artists who can do their thing; however, mainstream rap (which a good majority of what the masses listens to) is ALL Trap.
You might have a J.Cole or a Kendrick, but for every Kendrick, there is 8 Trap rappers, etc. It’s gotten to the point where a lot of the new generation doesn’t even want to hear you if you don’t have a Trap beat, or if you don’t flow in the stanza style that The Migos popularized.
It’s gotten to the point where artists who didn’t do trap, have now changed their style to Trap. It’s gotten to the place where dope artists like XV, who I looked up to a lot coming up, has stated in his raps, “music turned Trap, so I found myself trapped”; where they feel like in order to gain an audience, they have to do that style of music.
I want Trap to stay, I like Trap at times myself, but we have to have a nice ratio of all sub-genres of hip-hop ya know?
9) What artists in the game today do you look at for inspiration?
Man, rough question, I’m a fan of so much hip-hop that’s out now, and some of the artists that are still around that are not even from this generation.
I’ve always looked at Chance The Rapper as the standard of what success I can achieve as an Independent Artist if I work that hard. I still remember looking at online publications years ago and seeing Chance’s “10 day” mixtape being available; and afterwards just watching him cruise to the level of success he’s achieved, and just being really inspired.
Kyle is another one. This kid was doing his thing as K.I.D for a while underground, unbeknownst, and I still remember when “Real” dropped and started to take-Off, and now years later he’s hyper successful.
Believe it or not, I know I’m out of the audience bracket for them [chuckles], but Tyler (the Creator) and Earl (Sweatshirt); they skyrocketed after years underground. I love Tyler’s Wolf album, dude’s dope. Him being so unique, and making that part of his music then seeing the success from that just inspires me.
I also look up to Kid Cudi, someone who struggled with a lot of the problems I struggle with when it comes to his past life. Cudi became one of the greatest influences for the new generation with his music.
His music is so different and I take a lot of influence in my music from that. I always get inspired when I listen to past tapes from him, it’s inspiring seeing where he is now. The Cool Kids are a huge inspiration for me. Chuck Inglish is one of the beat makers I’ve always admired and looked up to.
He’s always had such a different style, and he’s always been so original. My beats are highly influenced by his style of beat making. Mikey Rocks always had this unique flow, and I always digged that.
I always digged this group as a whole because of them being independent, and them achieving so much success just being themselves. I remember the first time I saw these guys was on a Pandora commercial a while back [chuckles], guess they had a syncing deal.
MF Doom is a huge influence in my style, his wordplay, his flow, his syllable rhyming patterns, his image and etc. is just so
unique and so “official”. Him just rhyming inspires me to stay different, stay myself, stay unique. Lastly Logic, Vic Mensa, Hopsin, and Mac Miller.
I don’t want to drag this out any longer, but I listened to those four from the very beginning and to see their level of success is always inspirational.
So overall, I’m mostly inspired with the Independent artists who “grinded” and hustled for some time, and now have achieved a great deal of success.
10) Who are your top 5 rappers dead or alive?
I honestly hate top 5 lists because I don’t particularly have a top 5 per say. Maybe like a top 10. I also can’t place myself in the lists as that would be mad vain, but every MC should feel he’s one of the best; that’s just how a MC has to carry himself.
This one is also hard because you have to be careful. People can take your personal list (no pun intended) personal [chuckles]. I was unsure if I should do the top 5 lyricist or top 5 overall.
I’m going to go with top 5 overall. It’s much easier to explain why I placed them there.
These artist are in no particular order:
– The Notorious B.I.G: I chose B.I.G in my top 5 because I believe he is one of the most naturally gifted MCs to ever step into the rap field. B.I.G just had the natural tools to be a great MC.
For one, he had the voice for rap. Believe it or not having the right voice for rap makes all the difference in somebody sounding believable or even “nice”.
B.I.G. also just had a natural delivery, confidence, and cadence in his rhymes; so even when he didn’t say something that was necessarily the dopest thing, his voice, cadence, and delivery made it “pop”.
– Eminem: I chose Em, because he’s personally my favorite rapper of all time. That aside though, Eminem is just an incredible rhyme slinger. He was one of the only MCs that was able to make the transition from battle rapper to commercial success.
He also is one of the only MCs to use all the technicalities he learned battle rapping, and turn those into a style in songwriting that was interesting.
A lot of battle rappers have the technical skill but just don’t have the song writing skill. Eminem has that and more. He’s also someone I felt was able to break the racial gap between black and whites when it came to rap, he was able to just reach people in general.
Em’s patterns and syllables are insane also, in my opinion besides MF Doom, Royce da 5’9”, and Canibus, he’s the greatest technical rapper ever. I could talk about Em for days, but if I had to pick an MC who was the one who made me pick up a mic it was Em.
– MF Doom: Talk about being different and rap technicalities. MF Doom is a huge influence on a lot of the technical rappers you see today, myself included. His hidden meanings in his rhymes, and his metaphors are just so unique, and so stylized. He’s also an amazing Syllable rapper.
He’s a rapper who in my opinion has one of the greatest styles ever. I don’t think there’s too many MCs who can say they are as unique in there styles as Doom. That’s why I had to place him in here.
– Jay-Z: Jay-Z is a perfect example of how to take rapping and turn it into a career. Jay has arguably one of the greatest rap careers ever. he’s achieved so much business success in rap.
He’s also one of the rappers, (I’ll place Eminem, Lupe Fiasco,and (Joe) Budden in here too), who can take technical rhyming and turn it into rhymes about things people actually care about.
A lot of MCs have a hard time transitioning technical rhyming into topics and giving it substance. Jay’s rhymes always had technique, ill delivery, cadence, and style, but had the substance to back it up, to tell a story, or to make a point.
– Nas: Nas is a true MC. Nas holds his lyrics and technical rhyming on a pedestal above the other facets of what makes rap music great, and has stood out as a legend because of it.
He has released one of the arguably greatest pieces of rap music ever in Illmatic. Nas has always had some of the illest metaphors, similes, and wordplay. He always provided a creative view on politics, his environment, and his background throughout his raps like no-one else could.
Nas is an example of someone being great because of his focus solely on what some argue hip-hop is all about, and that’s the lyrical content.