Classics: Marco Polo
There are many producers I love, for a lot of different reasons, and you may look at this guy as just one of them. …and you would be right, he is one of them, but what he offered up in this interview was something that gave me respect for an artist I already had a lot of fuckin’ respect for. Enjoy.
So, for people who may not know, which seems unlikely, but whatever, tell us who you are, where you’re from, and a little about what you do.
I go by the name of Marco Polo – producer, originally from Toronto, Canada, now residing in Brooklyn, NY. I produce for people such as Scarface, Pharoahe, Masta Ace, Large Professor, Boot Camp. I’ve released many of my own albums including Port Authority back in 2007, Double Barrel with Torae and eXXecution with Ruste Juxx, and now the Stupendous Adventures Of Marco Polo on Duck Down Records dropping this Tuesday (TODAY! COP THAT!).
Mmmm, Canada huh? That sucks. I mean – nice! So, given that producers aren’t always the ones getting notoriety over the tracks they create, tell us where we might have heard some of your beats?
The biggest song I have to date is with Masta Ace called Nostalgia – one of the singles off Port Authority. The video got like 1.2 million views so that took on a whole life neither of us expected. On Double Barrel people might be familiar with the self titled track, or Hold Up feat. Sean Price & Masta Ace. …or Party Crashers. With Ruste Juxx, you might be familiar with our single Nobody – had a video out recently. Or Rearview – you know, I’ve done a lot of work with Duck Down and Boot Camp and Heltah Skeltah.
So, you do some hard ass beats. The albums with Ruste Juxx and Torae were straight up and down grimy. Even though I know you vary it, especially with your solo shit, do you feel like that’s your strength, making these really sort of aggressive beats that work well with a really aggressive flow?
I definitely have a knack for making some hardcore street shit. Which is funny because when people see me or meet me in real life, I’m like this skinny white kid from Toronto – then they hear my music and they’re like ‘WOW. You’re music sounds like a monster truck holding a knife with a gun and a genrade.’ – it doesn’t match up. You know? It really depends on how I’m feeling that day, that’ll dictate what type of beat I make. I definitely love that sound, I really did two albums back to back of that type of hardcore, aggressive sound with Double Barrel and eXXecution and I really got it out of my system. Now with Port Authority 2 which I’m working on, it’s gonna be definitely more of that, but definitely a mix of some other styles too. I like to try and be as versatile as possible. The drums are always gonna smack you in the face – that’s one thing I never really stop doing, but you might have the melodic, more storytelling beats, or some more mellow shit mixed in with the real dark, grimy street bangers.
Who are your favorite producers? Current vs. all time.
Currently – well some of these guys aren’t brand new, I consider them to be part of the new school. DJ Khalil, who’s definitely not new, but he’s definitely on a major label getting the shine he deserves. Jake One, Kev Brown, those are some of the newer guys that really – when I hear their stuff I’m like ‘wow, I need to go make some beats’. Truly inspiring. Then you know, the legends – I feel like a broken record because I say the same people all the time but I don’t eve care like – DJ Premier is honestly like number one to me of all time. That’s just a personal preference. Then there’s all the legends like Marley Marl, The Bomb Squad, the Beatnuts, Large Professor, Pete Rock, and of course, J Dilla. The whole diggin’ in the crates – you know, Buckwild, Diamond D, Showbiz, Lord Finesse. I was raised on that East coast sound.
People say you chop a sample like Primo – I can see it. …how does something like that make you feel? I’ve read Primo is a huge influence of yours, and, you know, you just said that so…
Yeah, I’m a Primo fan boy, which is weird, because he is one of my best friends. At this point, it’s crazy having my number one influence being a regular acquaintance. I have to step back sometimes – it’s hard not to just be a fan. I’m definitely influenced by him. I’m totally fine with giving him his props – cause he deserves it. You know? Everyone’s so concerned with being cool – not dick riding. It’s not dick riding, it’s paying homage to the greats. He’s the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing now. He definitely inspired me to learn how to chop samples and really freak shit, you know? Every day I learn something new so, if people give me props on that, it’s much appreciated.
So what do you have on deck? I hear there is new shit comin’ soon, tell me about it?
The Stupendous Adventures of Marco Polo dropping June 29th (TODAY! COP THAT!) on Duck Down Records, and basically, that album is a collection of real solid material that I have in the stash. It was all stuff recorded in between the last four albums that might have missed the album deadline. It might have been a remix, or a b-side, was only released on vinyl or not realeased at all – I put too much work into this stuff for those songs to just sort of slip through the cracks so. I wanted to compile them all, get them properly mixed and mastered and put together a project that kind of documented all the music I was doing in between albums, cause it’s good stuff. And for the humble fan base I have, they have the opportunity to get it all in one shot now – and really have everything I produced. I’m excited to give it to the people, and all the artists on it are great. I’m lucky to have the outlet with Duck Down to be able to put out projects like that, so definitely you should check out that.
Then I’m working on Port Authority 2 right now – everything’s going into that album, which is a pretty big task. …because, when you’re not dealing with just one MC it kinda slows the process down, and I have like, instead of one MC, I’m working with 45.
I’m not saying it’ll be that many, but it’s a ton of artists and I’m trying to do more posse cuts on this record. You know? I wanna change it up. I don’t wanna make Port Authorty 1 again – I did that. I wanna use that concept, that vibe, and take it to another level. It’s gonna involve a lot of work, because I’m proud of the first one, but I have to literally shit on that one with this new one.
(intense laughter breaks out)
If you’re not gonna get bigger and better, then there’s no point.
Okay, you have the shit with Juxx and the shit with Torae – who’s another MC that you would love to team up with?
Masta Ace. …I been buggin’ the crap outta Masta Ace to do an album with me – I think that would be really special.
It’s definitely something that could happen, but not any time too soon. He has some projects he’s working on and me as well. …but that’s someone I’d love to do an album with. Besides that – there’s just a lot of MC’s I’d like to work on an album with. Roc Marciano is another guy that – we’re supposed to do an album, but it’s just all a matter of timing. I gotta do Port Authority 2 so, that’s gonna take me a minute. …so before I can even think of another project, I gotta knock this one out.
I’m just gonna throw in my bid for Sean Price – cause your beats and his verse sound amazing together. …just throwing that out there.
You know I actually just spoke to him today over e-mail and I got a beat on Mic Tyson – you know, he’s a really picky dude. That’s family. Just for the record, of course I would do that in a heartbeat. Sean knows the deal – I’m ready.
I’m just sayin’. …that’s what I’m laying in bed at night thinking about – that collab, so, if that ever goes down.
Next time you see him in person you tell’em!
Definitely. (…never gonna happen. Retraining orders and all.)
How do you feel about radio hip hop? Do you wish it was something it’s currently not? Is it not even on your radar?
Ummmmm. …well, if we’re talking about commercial radio, there’s not a ton of it I can relate to – doesn’t mean I hate it, it’s just my opinion, I don’t connect with a lot of the stuff I hear on commercial radio, especially in New York. Especially knowing all the types of hip hop that are made in New York, it would be nice to hear more of a balance. I think there’s room for everything – there used to be room for anything. With the Vanilla Ice’s, and the Young MC’s, you would still hear A Tribe Called Quest. It would be nice to get more of a balance. But then radio could also mean college radio, where there are shows dedicated to playing really underground, independent stuff that I make – they definitely help get my name out there and show a lot of support so. …yeah.
How does Port Authority compare to Stupendous Adventures of Marco Polo?
The Stupendous was not an album that was created to be – like all those songs were made in different times. …like, people wanna call Port Authority a compilation – but I disagree, because Port Authority, to me, is an album because I recorded everything with a certain project in mind. If you were going to throw the term compilation around, the Stupendous would be more of a compilation, because it’s different time periods. None of those songs were meant or planned to be all together on an album, it just ended up that way – and that’s exactly what it is. A bunch of songs that are really dope that I compiled together to give to the people. The Port Authority albums are crafted to all flow together from song to song. It’s like one listening experience that was meant to be that way – everything will connect.
So, the name of the site is yourtasteinmusicsucks.com – now is your chance, tell the world (or at least the assholes who read this site) who you think makes garbage music.
(laughter breaks out)
WOW. …you know what? I’m gonna have to pleas the 5th on that one.
I’ve never been big on being a negative person. All I can do is focus my energy on – if I hate something, I take that energy and put it into making my music extra dope. So, all I can say is, if your music is wack, then step up your game, but I’m not gonna mention no names.
Tryin’ to throw me under the bus!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a very opinionated person and, you know, but. …there’s a difference between opinion and hate. I try not to hate anything, that’s just a wasted emotion.
I feed off of it a little bit. Nah, kidding. …sort of.
It’s fun, I’m not gonna lie.
What do you want the world to know about Marco Polo – the beat maker, not the explorer.
I guess the first thing I want people to know is that I’m a fan. Every day I’m trying to learn and study where it (hip hop/music) came from, where it’s going, and how I can be part of the future. You know what I’m saying? I definitely keep in touch with the internet and peoples comments on my music, and I see people calling it throwback or old school, and that kinda bothers me a little bit because I’m not trying to take anything back. I’m not trying to resurrect the 90’s or the late 80’s, I’m just trying to be myself and take influences from that area and move it forward into 2010 and beyond. It’s almost like being influenced in that area with my personal updated twist on it – with my little stamp. I’m definitely trying to move things forward while paying homage and showing respect. It’s really important, even with the young kids now, to do your research, you know? I didn’t grow up in the park jams in New York, I was like 3 years old, so obviously I can’t be faulted for that, but once I got into hip hop and started listening to it, I made sure to go back and do my research and see how it started and where it came from. I’m still learning. It’s really important, and not even just for hip hop but for all the genres, cause if you, if you look back into all the beats – I know I’m going on a tangent right now so pardon me
Don’t worry about it. …you’re good
You have to, you know – all the producers that I looked up to, they’re open minded to all genres of music because those are the samples they used to create the sound that have made classics. So, you talk to someone like a Marley Marl or Primo – they’re big rock n roll heads just as much as funk and soul and jazz. As a good producer you gotta be in tune with all genres of music – new, old. You gotta absorb that energy and find the sounds that you love and incorporate them into your own style and be unique. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing because we always have that, that’s already there. Don’t worry about what they’re doing. What are you gonna do that’s gonna make you stand apart from them and do something unique? We gotta Primo, we gotta Nottz, we gotta Dr. Dre, what are you bringing to the table?