I recently got the opportunity to interview New York rapper Roc Marciano, a fixture in the underground music seen for quite some time now. Coming off of his latest release, 2013’s Marci Beaucoup, Roc is primed to do it even bigger this year, and really make a name for himself among those who might not already know him. We got the chance to discuss his upcoming projects (yes, there are more than one), what he loves and doesn’t love about hip hop, how he relates to his fans, and much more. Roc gives an honest assessment of hip hop in it’s current state, as well as a variety of other hip hop related topics. Enjoy.
So – if it’s possible, for people who apparently don’t, you know, listen to music, and somehow don’t know, tell me who you are, where you’re from, and a little about what you do.
I’m Roc Marciano, I’m from Hempstead, Long Island. …and I’m an artist.
For someone who might be reading this, but really hasn’t started to fuck with you yet, give us a brief break down of where we might have heard you before – albums, collabs, etc.
They could hear me on my projects, Marcberg, Reloaded, and The Pimpire Strikes Back, Marci Beaucoup. My compilation projects that I fully produced myself. …and earlier works. You know what I’m saying? Albums I did with Busta, plenty of other projects, including my old crew, the U.N., just to name a few.
What do you think of hip hop in its current state? By that I mean, as someone who’s in it at the top of the underground scene, but as more of an observer of the mainstream shit, what are your thoughts on the game as a whole?
As a whole I think it’s in a good space for people like myself, because now we have more control. Like me, I have more control over what I’m doing, I can put the music out that I want to put out – I don’t have to change it up for a big company. I’m just overseeing my projects. You know, I can reach the people with the internet, on my own, so I don’t have to worry about things not looking right, because I already know I can gauge the interest in my projects from watching how I’m selling my stuff. Being that I run my own company, I can really gauge the true interest of my stuff, I don’t have a dude in an office telling me that I’m hot here and not hot there. It’s a good thing, actually, business wise. As far as the music, I think music is in a good space, man. You know, you have dope dudes, and you have corny dudes. Like in every era.
Is the goal mainstream notoriety and all that comes along with it?
I just try to make the music I want to listen to, so I don’t know if that makes me underground – just because I make the music I want to hear. I try to make music that I don’t get a chance to hear, you know what I’m saying? So I like, as far as like, crossing over, going mainstream? If it happened to me, it would be organic. You know what I’m saying? It would still be a record I stand one hundred percent behind, and wasn’t something I was trying to make for the radio.
What does 2014 hold for you?
I’m putting out my solo project. …and, you know, my next solo project is coming out on Decon. I got my project coming out with my boy Ka, my Metal Clergy project. I’m trying to finish up projects with Alchemist. I’m working on a lot of stuff. So I don’t know if everything will be able to come out in 2014, but that’s some of the stuff I’m working on.
With the stuff that you’re working on currently, do you have any projected dates for any of that? …or is it just, like, when it comes out, it comes out?
Yeah, that’s how I usually do it – like, once it’s done, and I feel, like, 100 percent that it’s done, then we start figuring out when is the next available slot for me to come out.
Talk to me a little bit about Man Bites Dog, what are you doing there?
Well, I’m Vice President of the label, so, I’m basically just bringing more talent to the label. The stuff that we already had – that we’re putting out, I’m just helping promote it.
Every artist wants to grow their fan base, but often times you have to sell yourself out to do so. Is gaining a wider audience a priority? Or is keeping your shit authentic a priority? Or do you have a plan to do both?
I feel like I have a plan to do both. You can still maintain your artistic integrity and grow.
So, I think if I don’t, you know – if I ignore other people that might be interested in my music, if I don’t make other kinds of records that might bring them to my music, then I’ll be hurting myself. Especially, if I have an interest in making different kinds of music. If I was trying to make music that I didn’t like purposely, then I feel like that’s reaching. I think even if you listen to The Pimpire Strikes Back, and even some of my older music, you’ll listen to moments of – even like on The Pimpire Strikes Back, I’m singing on a song. A lot of people listen, “he sings that?” you know? People wouldn’t expect that from me. I sung a little bit on Marcberg. You know, a lot of these people to think I’m just one of these dudes who just raps. I like soul music, R & B, the blues, stuff like that. As time goes by, you will start to hear more of my musical range, and different kinds of music that I like will start to show up in my music. So it might range a broad audience, if it does, it does, if don’t, you know, I’m cool with that too.
You obviously have a lot of versatility, you can rap over your own beats, you can have somebody else rap over your beats, you can rap over somebody else’s beats. I feel like a lot of people don’t necessarily think about the fact that you make a lot of your own beats, but what’s your preference in terms of all of those options? Do you prefer to have it completely your own shit? …what are the benefits to the other options?
I like – the way I do my albums is pretty much like my solo projects, where I produce like the bulk of it, then I have people come in to help on pieces that I probably – I’m not a beat maker first. I know people, like producers, like for instance, like the dudes that I work with, they don’t rap, they just do production. So, when I get their beats, I’m dealing with somebody who’s only focused on production, so their beats might have something different to bring to the table because they’re really focused on the beat alone. Meanwhile, when I make beats, they might sound, like, minimalist, a little naked, because from the time I finish up, I’m ready to rap, I don’t want to do nothing else with the beat. I’m good. So, I bring in other producers to help fill up the album so you just don’t have my sound only on the album. I have different stuff, so I can reach different people who might want to hear tracks with more thicker drums, a bass line added. Stuff that I don’t really do so much in my beats. So I try to keep that formula so I can really get my point across on the tracks I make, and then I bring my people in, whether it be Alchemist or other producers I work with. Pete Rock or Large – they can help me round the album out. Now, do I prefer to make the beats all by myself? I’m kind of like 50/50 with that. I’m 50/50 with that. It really doesn’t matter to me as long as I’m keeping my sound on the album.
Who do you want to work with that you haven’t yet? Either a producer, or rapper.
Producers? That’s a tough one because I’ve pretty much damn near worked with everybody I ever wanted to work with. Producers. That’s a tough one, because, on the producing tip, I’ve done so much work with so many people. Primo! I’ll say that. I haven’t worked with Primo yet. As far as rappers – who would I like to work with. Damn that’s a tough one too, cause I’ve pretty much worked with everybody I like as far as rapping goes too. I’ve always wanted to do a record with Black Rob. I’ve always wanted to do a record with Black Rob. Let’s try some of the newer dudes – I like Curren$y. I would like to jump on a track with Curren$y. There’s a few – I like Curren$y, I like Schoolboy Q. Besides that, that’s pretty much it, that I can think of from the top of my head.
What are your thoughts on rap stereotypes?
Rap stereotypes, you know how life – rappers are always doing what dudes in the streets are doing, so it’s just really art imitating life. They want to stereotype rappers who just are doing like normal stuff that people are interested in in the streets – trying to get money, trying to get cars, having nice women and stuff like that. So, you know, as far as stereotyping rappers – that’s like stereotyping black culture. You know what I’m saying? Dudes came up from the streets. They know street life. People that live in the ghetto. Rappers ain’t doing nothing but what them niggas do. As far as stereotypes, for me it don’t bother me none, because I feel like, what’s the problem with liking nice cars? You don’t like women? What, you gay? We like women and nice cars. Niggas like jewelry. You come from nothing, you want to have things, because you didn’t grow up with having anything, so. Stereotypes – I welcome them. …and I’m saying like, I feel good walking around with my big ass chain on. I don’t give a fuck how you feel about it. I always wanted one. So, I made sure when I could afford things, I made sure I had things that I always wanted. Real shit.
No chain tucking for you, huh?
Nah, fuck all of that. I’m going to keep my stereotypes. I’ll keep them. But the one thing – don’t think that we stupid out here, don’t get it fuck up.
What’s at stake for you? At the end of the day, what’s it’s all for? What’s the bottom line with your music, with your art?
My music is to create a legacy – and just have something that my friends and my family can be proud of. Something that I did with my music, that I’ve left behind. To leave something behind that matters to people – help people get through their lives. That’s what it’s all about to me, it’s about contributing to the art. It’s not about how much money I can get from the art, and be like, “fuck it, I made my money”. Like nah. I want to make money, but also leave a legacy behind, something where my children can say, “yo, my pops left a mark on the earth”. …and they can – I’m leading by example, so they can do the same things with their lives. Not necessarily with music, but contribute to society. Be creative. Don’t be scared to follow your dreams, so I feel like my music and how I live is a testament to that, cause I’ve beat so many odds. So that’s what it’s about.
What would you call your legacy at this moment? Could you title it something? Could you…
It’s still a work in progress, because I feel like it’s crazy, like, I’m a veteran in the game. But it’s like, I still haven’t peaked. It’s crazy because I’m still like on the up rise. As of right now man, I feel like my legacy will be a rich one. I can’t say what it stands for exactly besides the things that I just told you that I want from my music. I just know that it’s still in progress and when it’s all said and done, I think my catalog will be very much appreciated by the hip hop community. At least, I hope so.
I want to be like Guru – like Guru and Premier. When I’m done I want people to be able to say like, “Damn, this nigga got…” a lot of niggas ain’t got one classic album. I would like, when my shit is all said and done, for motherfuckers to be like, “Damn, this nigga got like 5, 6 classics.” Shit, if I could give them 10 classics – I’ll try. That’s what I’m going for.
You’ve certainly gotten a lot of positive reception in terms of people reviewing your work. How do you feel about that? …and if you know of any, how do you feel about any negative reception you’ve gotten?
The positive and the negative, I appreciate it. I appreciate it all, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not making the music for critics. Like, it’s not for them. If that’s what you do, I ain’t make it for you. I make it for me and mine. So, as long as the people that I want to understand it, understand it, I’m fine with that. So as far as the hate and the love, it’s all good. I try not to get involved in any of it, because I don’t want any of it to change how I get in the studio and change my mind frame. I don’t want people to be like, “you know what? I’d love when you be doing this…” Now I go to the studio, and I’m just trying to do this shit they like. If I do something that people say, “Yo man. I hate this record on your album. Why did you do that?” If I still wanted to hear that and everybody hated that, but I feel like I want to do that in my heart, I’m going to still do that. But I try not to listen to any of it. I just try to stay hungry and listen to my inner voice. So, it’s like the hate and the love, it’s all welcome. It’s all welcome. I’m still going do what the fuck I want to do.
You’re so funny.
Oh really? Word up.
In your opinion, who is your fan base, and how do you relate to them?
I’m just an approachable man. I’m just regular, like my fan base. I don’t like to call them fans, but I just feel like the people who help me to continue to – I just call them supporters. As far as how I relate to them? I don’t know. How do I relate to everybody? Cause everybody’s in a different place, but for the most part – music is the common denominator, and they fuck with the music. So, obviously they can feel my pain and my story and they understand it and they want to continue to support me and help me create and continue to create. It’s all appreciated. It’s all love. I don’t know how to relate to everybody. I’m still – if you regular like me, put your pants on one leg at a time, and you like good food. You know what I’m saying? Just trying to live and enjoy life and we all relate, because I relate to people on that level. Because that’s the level I’m living on.
… you and food. Oh my goodness.
Hey, I love food.
Do you think of yourself as a New York rapper? …and what do you think New York is bringing to the table right now, in terms of what’s happening in other areas like LA and the South?
I do think of myself as a New York rapper. Obviously, I’m from New York. As far as what does New York bring to the table? What New York brings to the table is still some of the most successful artists ever, past and present. As far as musically, what we putting together right now, we have some of the best MC’s in the game. New York is in a great space. Greatest – we got people like myself, we still got all the OG’s, got my man Action out there, got my brother Ka in this thing. Hip hop is in great shape. Everybody that I’m doing music with from the East Coast, I’ll put us up against any niggas, anywhere. Why not? I’m confident. Nobody got nothing on New York. Other niggas doing they thing, but New York’s still doing they motherfucking – we doing our thing. We ain’t hurting. We always doing fine man, because I said so. I love it. I love the position we in. New York’s finally in an underdog position, and I love it.
What’s been popular recently that you can’t fuck with?
Man, I don’t even know everything that’s going on. You know mama, I’m going to keep it a hundred, I think everything is needed.
I think everything is needed. I love the South. I feel like there are so many people who are like – who want to try to put the North up against the South. Everything is needed. Everything is needed. You know what I’m saying? Even Lil B, with his strange brand of hip hop – which, I like Lil B, I’m a Lil B fan. But people get mad, and they feel like this shit, that “I’m Gay” album – all of that shit, they say. There’s room for all of it.
Do you call it all hip hop though? Some people try to re-brand certain types of music when they don’t like it or they don’t agree with it, or whatever. Do you call it all hip hop?
It’s should all be broken up in genres. Because when it’s time to hand out accolades, it should be broken up in genres, you know what I’m saying? It should be broken up in genres cause certain people deserve their accolades too, so you can’t just put all of it as – you know, hip hop. Macklemore – look at the Grammys. He’s already saying Kendrick should get that award – because there’s probably some guilt for that. …but the fact that – not guilt in a bad way, but more or less because, he’s knows he’s probably getting more attention for a project where he knows people probably put more rap into their project, more of the basic elements of hip hop. It’s not pop music at all – you know what I’m saying? He’s probably feeling like, if he gets this Grammy, it’s kind of undermines some of these dudes who really put in some work. He put in some work too, congratulations for your work too. Other dudes, shit, should get some love too. Just because it’s not pop rap – what’s the song called? Thrift Store or something like that?
Just because my album don’t have Thrift Store on it, that don’t mean I can’t get love. Another dude who have a great album but just didn’t have a pop crossover hit, should get some accolades too.
Who are you listening to currently, and how does it influence the music you make. …if it does.
Damn. When I’m making my own music, I don’t listen to much. I listen to music when I’m in the car – might bust some moves. What’s in my car right now is – I’m listening to an early G Unit mix tape. I been listening to that. I’ve been listening to Cormega – The Realness. What else am I listening to? I’m listening to Makaveli and All Eyez on Me. That’s it. That’s what I’ve been listening to recently.
When you’re listening to that stuff, does it influence your sound at all?
I’m not going to the studio and trying to rap like 50. Just when I’m driving – listening and driving. That’s really what I’m – for me, the most I would probably let somebody’s music influence me, is probably to go harder. Because I’m listening to the G Unit CD and it’s like, probably them at their hungriest, you know what I’m saying? I’m listening to Pac, and I’m listening All Eyez on Me and Makaveli – to me, in my opinion, that’s Pac at his best. So I’m just trying to take away from what a dude was doing at his best, to see what I’m supposed to do to reach my level, so I’m at my best. So that’s pretty much all I’m taking from that.
What’s something that you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview, but never have been?
Damn girl. That’s a tough question. I feel like the release of Marci Beaucoup has been helping people just wrap their minds around the fact that I’m a producer also. So, I feel like I would probably like it if people asked me more about my production.
Some people think – some people don’t even know how much I’m involved in the production. So, that’s probably it.
I did some reading and saw that you produced a bunch of stuff that’s probably going to be used, like flow over, to your next projects.
Oh yeah, definitely, yeah. I made so many beats when I was out in the Bay. I made a lot of beats. I got beats from that time when I was creating Reloaded, that was on Marci Beaucoup, that’s going to be on my next project.
What do you love about hip hop? …and what do you not love about hip hop?
I don’t love that a lot of people don’t respect the fact that it’s work. Some people are like, just to give you an example, the dude that hit you up and is like, “Yo, I want you to jump on the record,” or whatever the case may be. They act like there ain’t no business that come with that. It’s business. It’s work. When we’re in the studio and I sit down and spend some of my time to write a record for you, you need to pay me. As far as what I do love, I love the music. I love the fact that now a lot of labels have failed and stuff like that, and the internet is popping so much, we can get the product straight to the people. We don’t have to deal with the middle men anymore.
So, it’s more grass roots? You love that aspect of it?
Yeah, I love that. I love the fact that you cut so many middle men out. I used to see that when I first got my first deal. I couldn’t believe that I would see so many people who didn’t even like give a fuck. They were just in the office, they didn’t give a fuck, they just want their check. They don’t care about the music. Even still to this day, you got a lot of people working up in radio stations and doing a lot of stuff. People got DJ’s that don’t give a fuck. They just trying to please the crowd. They don’t necessarily love the music.
So it’s just all business to them. I would still make music even if I didn’t make money off it.
Because you love it.
Yeah, because I love it. Because it’s not all about the money to me.
What project do you have coming up that you are most excited about, or most focused on?
All of them. I don’t want to say I’m more excited about one more than the other. But if I had to pick, I would definitely always say my next solo project. My solo project is an adventure.
What can you tell me about it?
Oh, it’s going be – it’s going to definitely have more risk taking on this. I thought Marcberg and Reloaded were solid, and yet progressive at the same time. Different styles and different sounds of hip hop. …and I’m definitely trying to push the envelope even farther on the next one. Just as far as my solo projects, not many guests, might be two guests on it. Two or three at the most.
I mean, if you listen to my other solo albums, Marcberg has one feature.
Yeah, that’s true.
Reloaded has two.
I’m looking at your last piece.
Yeah, okay. So as far as like, this year, and this pass, I wanted to put out my compilation to show my range as producer, and, you know, just work with other people. Even with The Pimpire Strikes Back, I put homies on a couple cuts on that, but as far as like, when I do a solo project, I really try to lock it down and make sure my voice stands out the most.
What do you want people to know about you?
When you support and artist like me, you definitely – I’m somebody that really loves the craft, and put a lot of time and put a lot of love into what I do. I hate to say this is like the – I hate the term “real hip hop”, and “fake hip hop”. Like, over here, we really love this music, you know what I’m saying? We’re just not trying to make records to make money. It’s not all about that. If that was the case, I’d be rapping on trap beats. If I was just literally just out there trying to make business tracks. I’d make business tracks. I try to keep it NYC, keep it authentic, keep it true, so it’s not all about business with me. …and a lot of people in this business, it’s all about business. It’s not all about business for me. It’s all about the music first and expressing myself. It’s real, true art.
Tell me a secret.
Tell you a secret?!
Damn. You going to ask a private motherfucker like myself a secret? As private as I am. Fucking secret. Damn. A secret? Damn I hate to say anything is a secret, because it ain’t really no secret. I’m like an open book to my people. Secret. Man you’re really killing me.
Damn. A secret is I – people might think that I always drink Henny, I only drink Henny at my shows. I don’t drink much at all.
If that’s a secret then that will do.
I will let you go with that.
I will give you another one – I don’t smoke every day, I’ll give you that.
I don’t know if you consider that a secret but…
That’s a message I would like to be out there anyway. I usually only drink Henny at my shows, and I don’t smoke every day.
The kids can follow that. Don’t smoke or drink. Don’t get lost in that shit.