This Is Marques Martin
We caught up with the up and coming musician and Rowing Blazers team member Marques Martin.
Marques Martin is a young upcoming musician in New York City. He works at the Rowing Blazers Clubhouse and recently released a new single called “Dinner Date.
We sat down with Marques to discuss his upbringing in Annapolis, how he got into the music world, and where he gets his inspiration.
Location: New York, NY
RB: Tell me about growing up in Maryland.
MM: I grew up in Maryland. That's where I was born, in PG County. Originally Largo but I grew up mostly in Maryland. It’s the richest African American community in America, but don’t let that fool you, it’s still not that impressive. There's some big houses, but like there's still really shitty places too. I went to a private Christian school with a graduating class of only five kids. So yeah, basically I'm trying to say that I knew nobody before I was doing music. I knew nobody who did music at first. I didn’t know anyone at all.
RB: Why did you start doing music?
MM: I didn’t start rapping at first. I started making beats and I had a friend who was like, “No you should just make beats because I rap.” I was like, “Yeah, okay cool.” He had just started rapping at the same time I wanted to start rapping and he already was popular in his school. He had a rap group called “Black and Mild.” It didn’t really age too well. But yeah, he had a rap group and I was the producer of that group for a little bit.
RB: Did you teach yourself how to produce?
MM: Yeah, self-taught. But like I said I didn’t know anyone at first. Then I got a mentor who was in Canada who heard my beats and was like, “Yo this is sick.” We didn’t meet for like a whole year until he flew me out to Canada when I was 17. We met and started with the beats.
RB: How did he find you?
MM: He found me on SoundCloud. And then the next year I met Kamau who is on my latest song. He's from Maryland too. I did a show with him that was like 2014, 2015.
RB: When did you move to New York?
RB: What made you move here?
MM: I wanted to use school as a stepping stone to make music. I wanted to make music so I got accepted to The King’s College in New York. They offered me a scholarship and I used that as a stepping stone. Any other school I probably would have never gotten into though. I was just at a community college getting ugly grades and to be honest I don’t think I really experienced Maryland as much as I wanted to because I just didn't know that many people. But I did know a lot about what goes on there with music.
RB: Did your music change when you moved to New York?
RB: How so?
MM: I think before I was just rapping about stuff I didn’t like and when I got to New York I started getting more deep. Even back home in Maryland, since I wasn’t involved in music, I was just spectating. My song topics were third person. I didn’t really have it. And when I came to New York I started experiencing things and I got a better perspective. I was able to tap into the relatable aspect of music, of creation.
RB: What do you look to for creative inspiration when you’re making music?
MM: People always say it's just experiences. But I feel like it's a developing period when you experience something. I couldn’t just experience something and go write about it immediately. I think relating things to other things like movies and films to music, or like art to music, cooking to music, anything you can kind of relate back to music. I think that’s been very inspiring to me. Clothes, even… Like the way I see Rowing Blazers, it’s kind of like music. Perspective is a big thing: being able to understand from someone else's shoes. And storytelling. But I think a good film always inspires me. I think out of everything, I’ll watch a movie and be like, “Damn, I could make that but with music.”
RB: Do you have a specific film you can think of?
MM: I think one movie from that collection that I really like and that inspired me: Eyes Wide Shut. Oh, and I just saw this Beach Boys film not too long ago and it's about Brian Wilson and how he went crazy after The Beatles put their album out and he made “Pet Sounds.” And so because he was getting jealous or he was upset and going crazy, he made “Pet Sounds.” Seeing all of the reenactment studio footage really inspired me to make this song called "Candy" and I think it's one of my favorite songs that I’ve made so far. So that's a film but it’s also a film about music.
RB: Did you listen to hip hop growing up?
MM: Hell yeah. In the community I grew up in, if you listen to anything outside of rap—up until I was about 13 or 14 years old because that's when things started changing and people started getting into skateboarding and rock and roll—until then in my community if you listen to anything outside of hip hop you were called white, you were called oreo, whatever you were called all of that. So, at first it was strictly hip hop. I listened to nothing else. And then I kinda started low-key listening to — maybe like 5th grade I started getting into skateboarding. This was like right before The Pack did “Vans.” So I want to claim that because people are like “so you heard ‘Vans’ and then you became a skateboarder right?” and like no I was before that.
I think one of the biggest things was the skate park that opened up by my house. There was this skate shop called Velocity Skateboards and I just went home and I started watching a bunch of skate videos. I would think about those skate videos all the time. And in those skate videos, they were putting in all types of music. So I’d be thinking about this dude doing a kickflip down stairs and then at the same time he’d be playing like The Animals and that’s actually why I started listening. Everything started with hip hop but then I started listening to 60s music because at that time that was a trend, like they’d put 60s music, The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun.” That’s one of the first songs I heard. I remember that I’d just keep thinking about that and I’d Youtube it, like oh what’s this and that and then The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, Donovan, etc.
RB: Those soundtracks were where people were discovering music back then.
MM: The first Johnny Cash song I heard was from that underground thing, “Ring of Fire.” So, it started there and then that started my curiosity for other types of music and now I’m a huge Beatles fan, I know everything about The Beatles and The Beach Boys. I think those are some of my favorite influencers but you know I’m mostly influenced by artists like, the obvious, Kanye, Kid Cudi, Lupe, Kendrick, Drake, whoever else.
RB: How would you describe your sound?
MM: I can't really describe it in one sentence. But like I said, perspectives and relating everything to each other. I can be watching a movie I’m like how can I do that. But yeah I feel you like sometimes it’s none of that and it's just me doing stuff and I’m not thinking about anyone, I'm just like I feel this way you know.
RB: Do you think about it as hip hop or do you just think about it as your music and it doesn't have a genre?
MM: When I'm making it I don’t think about any of that stuff but I know that hip hop is like my heart, that's where I came from, that's where I started. And I think no matter how I do music it’s going to come from the perspective of hip hop, the soul of hip hop.
I’ve been in sessions where I do something and they’re like “why are you doing that” and it's like, “why not.” But, the heart of hip hop is doing that. Hip hop started because people didn’t have the resources. They couldn’t afford a saxophone or guitar so they took their mom’s vinyl and they started scratching and then they made loops and they started rapping on that. I try to take the same approach. Whatever I got, I work with it. If you call it hip hop you call it hip hop. If you don’t, then you know.
RB: Describe your personal style
MM: I don’t know I guess I’m just like kind of sampling everything. There's a little prep in there now cause it’s free. But, whatever’s cheapest and if they give me some free clothes then I wear that. I guess I don’t really think about that at all. I mean I like clothes. I like wearing stuff that that doesn’t look like I tried too hard. But I also want to look like I tried, ya know. I think just some kind of a comfortable—which sounds cliche—“comfortable relaxed fit.”
RB: What are you working on? Do you have any upcoming shows?
MM: I just put out the new single “Dinner Date.” It’s everywhere on streaming services.
RB: Do you have an EP coming out or album?
MM: Yeah, we’re working on it. I actually have a couple of projects in the works. I have this project that I started in 2014. It would’ve come out but just with the way the industry is and how it all comes along, people try to take advantage of you. It's a long story. But, yes, I am working on some projects: EP, mixtape, album, and more singles. The “Dinner Date” video too!