The Making of Marcberg with Roc Marciano
Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)
The trajectory of Hempstead, Long Island-bred MC/producer Roc Marciano’s career is not that of the norm. He made his entrance into hip-hop as a solo artist a decade before he dropped his debut album, working on group efforts and collaborations (yes, that was him on “The Heist” with Busta Rhymes, Raekwon, and Ghostface Killah in 2000) before he ever got a chance to officially flex his skills for self on his own project. But sometimes things just happen that way, and like the saying goes, everything happens for a reason. And by the time Roc released his first solo LP Marcberg on May 4th, 2010, he was in the right position to properly display his godly talents on the mic and behind the boards, and he ended up giving the world a fully self-produced classic that helped put real Rotten Apple rap back on the map.
Just a few days shy of the fourth anniversary of Marcberg’s release on Fat Beats Records, we chopped it up with Roc about the making of the LP in-depth, discussing the time period leading to its recording, the intricacies of his brilliant lyrics and production track-by-track, and the album’s reception after it dropped. And along the way, we touched on his adventurous digging trips in New York City with Large Professor, the night he hung out with Guns N’ Roses rock legend Axl Rose during the “Pop” mixing session, how Sean Price ended up on the “Snow (Remix),” and how he was approached by Jay Z back in the late ’90s about taking his talents to Roc-A-Fella Records. Plus so much more, including where he ranks Marcberg in his growing discography, and what the status is on his upcoming collaborative project with The Black Keys. This is the story of a modern-day classic, told first-hand by one of our generation’s most underrated and prolific rap artists. Salute.
Roc Marciano: “I was always a solo artist. I was doing records with my crew The UN at the time. I even gave some of the beats that I was gonna use for my solo album up for The UN project. A few beats that I did for that project were joints that I was holding for my solo shit. Basically, with The UN shit, we put it out, but it didn’t pop off. It’s not that it wasn’t received well. People liked it, but it just didn’t pop off. [So the members of the group] went back to their regular lives, working and doing shit that they normally do. And I decided to focus on my solo career, and start working on the Marcberg project.
“The UN was doing a deal with Loud Records before it shut down. That was actually the plan. So Steve [Rifkind] was already aware of us, and wanted to work with us, because we were working closely with Schott Free and Matty C [who both worked at Loud]. We put The UN shit out on the underground, it made some noise, but like I said it just didn’t pop. But I think in the process of making that project, dudes got to really see what I could really do, as far as my producing qualities and [organizational skills]. Everyone in the crew would have to agree that I pretty much executive produced that project and A&R’d it. I picked most of the beats, and made sure I was spearheading what the music would sound like.
“I think it didn’t work because we were doing too much collaborating at the time, with Pete Rock, and Large Professor. I felt like they should have been sprinkled in there with me and my man [Mike] Raw, and [have] just us producing most of the sound of it. I don’t think people got a chance to really hear what we could do. But as far as me coming in and adding some of my tracks [that I produced], I think that made people wake up inside the business structure we were working within, which was Jon Rifkind who is Steve’s brother, and Schott Free and Matty C. I think that they saw what I could actually do as a solo artist. If they weren’t firm believers before The UN project started, by the time it was done, [they were]. And I think that’s what helped catapult my deal over at [Steve Rifkind's new label SRC Records].”
“[Strength and Honor] was a joint I put out in support of The UN project, because I didn’t feel we gave them enough of our own sound. So I went to the lab real quick and put Strength and Honor together. If anyone still had any question of what it was, and you heard The UN album and Strength and Honor, you fully got it now.”
From SRC to Fat Beats Records
“I recorded [Marcberg after I got the deal with SRC]. He heard the album and had a first single in mind and everything. But the single he wanted me to come out with, it didn’t even make Marcberg. I forgot the name of it, to be honest. There was still some tension in the air between Free and Steve, because Loud just folded one day. People came to their job one day and found out the doors was fuckin’ locked. He didn’t let everyone know what was going on. So there was still bad blood. I don’t know if that was Steve’s problem or what it really was, I wasn’t really connected with [what was going on between them internally], but they were having issues over that. But being that [Steve] had faith in [Free and Matty], and he already saw what I could do, it was like, ‘Alright cool, to sign Roc as an artist isn’t a bad idea.’ He had success with Free and Matty’s opinions in the past, so what would be different this time? But to make a long story short, [Steve and Free had a falling] out, and [SRC] gave me my walking papers.
“My ego’s not big to say, ‘Yeah, [they only let me go because of] the fall-out.’ I’m sure they had trouble thinking about how to market me or whatever the case may be because of how rap was at that time. It was like big money business going on. Everything was some real shiny shit at the time. So me coming back with Marcberg, a sample-heavy album with a lot of gritty shit, that wasn’t poppin’ at the time. So I’m sure they [were] like, ‘How we gonna sell this to people?’ So giving me my walking papers probably wasn’t a bad idea.
“Being that there was still respect, [Steve] let me walk with my music. He didn’t have to do that. They paid me to do [an album], and they didn’t have one record when I signed my deal. They gave me a budget, and I kept the budget, and I produced the album [myself]. I didn’t pay producers to do the album. I took the budget, and I ate off that album. And nobody had a problem with it because they saw that I could produce.
“After the SRC deal folded, there was nothing going on. No other bidders [were] coming to the table. I was an artist with no buzz. I just lost a deal. [Laughs.] Sign me for what? There was no other reason for a company to just jump up and sign me. I was basically chilling, like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna find a lane to put this record out.’
“I took it up to Bill Sharp who was at Fat Beats at the time, and he was signing projects up there. He heard Marcberg, and he was like, ‘Yeah, bet.’ When I brought it up there, it was about 80% done. So he took it off my hands, I added a few records to it, and there you have it.”
In The Lab
“I was renting an apartment out in Queens, right in Shadyville. Queens Village. I was making the beats on the [MPC]2500. The 2500 just came out, so I didn’t even have anybody to call to help me work the damn machine. I had to live off reading the manual and YouTube tutorials, because all my homies used [different] drum machines. I had a drum machine that nobody had.
“I got it actually before it came out. Large [Professor] put me on to his man Armon, he sells a lot of drum machines and shit, right in the Madison Square Garden vicinity. And he had some early, some test models. When I found out he had one, and I saw the tutorials on what it could do, I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the machine I’m getting.’ So I went up there, and I snatched that shit up to make Marcberg. [I bought it with my budget from SRC], and [then] I went out and bought a bunch of records.”
“I always was into records, but when I use to dig back in the days, we used to snatch shit from thrift shops and spots like that. People’s record collections would be in the back, and you get them for cheap like that. But the new record spots that producers were digging in, I wasn’t hip to. So dudes like Large Professor, and my man Jyere, they would take me to record spots, and I bought a bunch of records.
“I was with Large one time out in Brooklyn at Academy Records, and me and this white dude [were] about to scrap over the record player, because I was hogging up the record player. [Laughs.] Word up. My record knowledge [at the time was limited to] the basic stuff that was in regular collections. I knew a little bit, but I was still a newcomer as far as knowing what to listen to. So I would just grab everything. You know, when you go in the spot, [you’re probably only supposed] to listen to like five records [at a time]. I’d go in there and listen to like, thirty, forty records. But this dude [wasn’t feeling me doing that], and for real, we squared up. It was about pop off. People came and got between us and shit. [Laughs.] Large was like, ‘Yo, you crazy, nigga. You about to knock a nigga out in the record spot. What the fuck?’ But it’s like, I’m not listening to the records in their entirety, I’m just skipping through them real quick.
“We’d go to Academy in Manhattan, Sound Library before they closed. I used to see dudes up in there like Lord Finesse and Showbiz going down in the basement, like, ‘See, these niggas got seniority.’ I stopped going there because it was like, ‘They lettin’ niggas go downstairs and get all the good shit, and then they throw the rest up here for us.’ [Laughs.]”
“I had my own little mic, but I didn’t do a lot of recording at the crib. I would go over to my man DOA’s crib in Long Island, and he would do my recording and engineering. We laid a lot of the verses right at my man’s crib. He had a little studio up in his attic. It would be me, my man Dino Brave when he was around, my man Knowledge. You know, my same friends [were] around. We’re up in there smokin’, chillin’. I’d come over there with my rhymes, lay a joint or two, see how they come out, and keep it pushin’. And the newer stuff I did on the album I laid at my man Ray West’s crib [who mixed Marcberg too].
“We knew we [were] making good music. We [weren’t] going in the studio recording duds. I’m a professional. I don’t waste my time. I don’t need to make a hundred records to have a good ratio of songs. If you know what you’re doing, your ratio of good records to bad records should be good.”
“I’m not a rapper that raps all day. I grew into being a recording artist. I was growing up in the streets, battle rapping and doing all that stuff back in the days. But when I signed my first deal, I learned how to make records that sound good versus me just ripping a track. That was a hard adjustment to make. You have to put your ego aside. It’s not about trying to blow your mind with the rapping, it’s about fitting in the pocket and making music that people wanna listen to. That’s two totally different things.
“That’s a mistake I made earlier in my career, even by using beats by other people. I wasn’t getting my opinion across on music. I was doing more collaborating rather than putting my full views out there of how I feel my music should go. Too much collaborating didn’t help me with my MCing process. When I started doing my own beats, it made me a better artist. I don’t have to rip your beat because everybody already thinks it’s hot because such and such [produced it]. Now I have to compete on your beat so people are not saying, ‘Yeah, the beat is dope, but he ain’t doing nothing.’ When I got my own beats on, there’s no ego. I can just get right to business. It don’t matter who did the beat. So now I just gotta get in there and do what I do.”
“My man Jyere put me on to that flick, [The Cool World]. It’s a black and white film. It’s earlier, but it got a lot of the same actors as The Education of Sonny Carson. So I was like, ‘Yeah, I gotta use some shit from this.’ It’s all about a gun. Nobody used to have guns back in them days. It was rare to have a gun. These young dudes, they had little gangs. And this dude was trying to get a gun from a pimp. So he was trying to get the bread to get this gun so he could run the toughest gang out in New York. And the dialogue in the movie was dope, so I had to use some of it, for sure.
“[Using the movie dialogue in the beginning was absolutely inspired by] Cuban Linx, The Chronic, all that shit. You want to sit down, and you want the album to feel like a picture.”
2. “It’s a Crime”
“I did that at Ray West’s crib. That was a later cut, added to [what I already had done before I initially brought the album to Fat Beats]. I felt like it was a good start for the album, just the feel of it. I thought it would help you digest the rest of the project, so I put that in the front. It’s a nice groove, and me just spitting on it. It’s to let niggas know, ‘If you listen to this project and you hear that cut first, you gonna be hearing a nigga get loose on this album.’ I felt like it was a good bar song. Like, expect nothing below that.”
3. “Whateva Whateva”
“There’s about three tracks I added late, and ‘Whateva Whateva’ is another one. I just thought that beat was so crack. I thought that beat was just ridiculous. That’s one of my favorite beats I did. So I felt like that should come next. If you [weren’t] feeling like the beat [on ‘It’s a Crime’] was all that, I felt like the next one you’d be like, ‘Oh, that’s nasty.’ Just off beat choice alone, that was the next one to go.
“I wasn’t thinking I wanted the hooks to be super-fly. The hooks were afterthoughts. Sometimes I’ll do songs and I’ll put the hook first, but [this] album, I never did that. I would let the hook flow from the rhyme, and let the rhyme give me the hook. I wasn’t going into the record like, ‘The hooks gotta be fly.’ The rhymes gotta be fly, and the hooks gotta be supportive of the rhymes.
“My mental [going into this album] was—real shit—not even [financially], I just knew artistically it had to work. I had been making music for too long in my life for me to put together a solo album and niggas not get it. To me, the album had to work artistically and musically. It wasn’t about financial success, or would the radio support. I just knew it had to be an album that niggas respected. It was about my artistic contribution to hip-hop. The music had to work, or I would’ve came out as [a solo] artist, and no one would’ve understood Roc Marciano.”
4. “Raw Deal”
“My man Jyere brought me that sample, and I put it in the drum machine and flipped it that night. Put the little stutter on it, added one of the kicks from the sample, and put it all together. That’s another one of them no-brainer beats. You get that sample and it’s like, ‘Of course this got to be on it.’ Word. That’s just one of those type of joints. He was like, ‘Damn, you move fast! You cooked that up quick!’ I was like, ‘What you expect [with a sample this dope]? This is easy work.’
“All my homies [were involved in some way in the making of this album]. My man Jyere, Dino Brave, my man Knowledge, Schott Free, they [were] all around when I was making the shit. So anybody that had anything, they’d be like, ‘You should hear this.’ Skits from movies and shit. People [other than the main artist with their name on the cover] definitely contribute in order to make a masterpiece.
“That’s Richard Pryor and Max Julian in The Mack [at the end of the song]. It’s some funny shit [I snuck in there] to give [the album] some humor.”
5. “We Do It” ft. Ka
“I linked with Ka from the joint that I produced on the GZA’s album. It’s called ‘Firehouse,’ on the Pro Tools album. I rhymed on [that album] too, but not on that song. Dreddy Krueger was bringing producers to the table to help Genius put his project together, that’s how I got the call.
“He told me that they used one of the beats for the project. He played me some shit, and I’m expecting to hear the Genius, and he’s playing Ka, and Genius is just on the hook. And I’m like, ‘That nigga ill.’ Word up. I understood Ka immediately.
“Sure enough, after they put the record out, Ka reached out because he had liked the production so much on ‘Firehouse’ and he wanted to do some more records. I was like, ‘I ain’t got many beats besides the ones I’m making for my album. So we started kicking it, and I had a couple of joints I wanted to record to finish up the album, and ‘We Do It’ wound up being one of those cuts. We [were] at Ray West’s crib, niggas heard the beat, went back to the crib, wrote their rhyme, came back to the studio, and we knocked it out like that.
“Some people you meet along on your musical journey [and they become] family. You just understand [each other], you’re on the same page musically. Ka just happened to be one of them people. That was just a no-brainer. I’m a big Ka fan.”
“I wrote ‘Snow’ at my mom’s crib when I went over there for Sunday dinner. I wrote it on her couch, and my mom was cooking in the kitchen. I had ‘Snow’ on an iPod—all the beats I would make I’d put them on my iPod to ride and listen to them, or to be able to listen to them whenever I wanted. I wrote at least the first verse and the hook, and I was like, ‘This gonna come out aiight.’
“Even if people didn’t feel a certain way about the rhymes [on ‘Snow’], I knew for sure that I made a classic beat. When people started coming to me for production, they’d be like, ‘Can I get a beat like ‘Snow?’’ But it’s like, ‘’Snow’ don’t happen every day in the studio, my G.’ Every time you turn on the beat machine, it ain’t gonna pop off like that.
‘I remember I found that record at Academy. When you hear shit like that, it’s like, ‘I don’t care what it costs.’ Luckily, the price on the record wasn’t crazy. $25, $30 record. But when you hear a certain sample [that you like], you’re like, ‘I’ll buy it.’ When you hear some fly shit, you don’t care if it’s $150, $200. You immediately look at the price, and be like, ‘Okay, that’s feasible. I’m buying a classic.’”
7. “Ridin Around”
“I thought the beats [on the album overall] just had to be fire. I had something to prove as a producer. When I found the record and heard the switch and everything in it, and took the loop and put drums to it, I was like, ‘Aiight, this is definitely one of those feelings that the album needs in order for it to be well-rounded.’ It wasn’t necessarily gritty. It had a soulful sound, and an uplifting feel. It wasn’t that dirty, like, ‘We out here fucked up’ kind of beat. It was one of those beats that make you feel good. But it was still hard. A full album needs those moments.
“That’s my man Lisaan’dro [who raps at the end of the song]. He’s one of my homies who I grew up with, one of my good friends. A good guy. He was around, in there chillin’ and shit, and was like, ‘Yo fam, let me take the end away.’ I was like, ‘Go ahead, nigga. We all in here together. Take it away.’ So he hopped on the end. It was one of them organic moments in the studio, up in there high, smokin’, drinkin’. The record’s coming out good, niggas is feeling good, like, ‘Go up in there, nigga.’
“He spits every now and then. He ain’t a dude that’s rappin’ to try [and make it professionally]. None of my niggas are trying to be rappers actually. I make music, and some of them just happen to have talent, and if they feel like letting off a shot, they’ll let off a shot and say what they wanna say.”
“I was running around, and me and my man ended up in Guitar Center. He was looking to buy something. I went over to the microKORG, it’s an analog keyboard, and it has an old look. So I knew I would get some good sounds from it. I was in there just playing it, and I was like, ‘Yo, I’ma buy this shit.’
“I wasn’t using it [much], but I made a few beats with it. ‘Panic’ was one of those beats. I had the sample [I wanted to use], and one day I started playing with the microKORG with that little sample. I don’t play keyboard, but I caught some good keys. [Laughs.] Word up. I was playing along to the sample, looped what I was playing, and it was like, ‘This is ready to rhyme to.’”
9. “Thugs Prayer”
“I found that record when I found ‘Snow,’ same spot, same day. I knew I had found two definites. I was playing that record, and I knew immediately, ‘Oh, that’s gonna be on the album.’ When I heard that, I was like, ‘Damn, I was looking for that!’ That shit resonated with me. It was one of those moments where you feel like the universe is coming full circle. That record brought me to times in my life that needed to be expressed on the project.
“That was about a dark period. I had lost my best friend. Me and the homie [were] kicking it real tough at the time, and he just passed away. It was a dark period, and I figured I’d share a little bit of that on the record.”
“I remember when I found that loop, I was like, ‘I got some drums that could go with that.’ I thought the loop was real sinister. That’s another standout in my eyes. We [were] all at my man DOA’s crib, and my man Kenyatt was there. And when I was done, he was like, ‘Damn man, that’s some hard rapping.’ [Laughs.] I felt like it was more of that Ice Cube, storytelling shit. That’s where it brought me. It’s some of that old school, storytelling rapping over a real hard beat. It was a good fit for the project.
“Axl Rose [from Guns N’ Roses] came to my session at Electric Lady when we [were] mixing ‘Pop.’ My man Vegas who’s a club promoter used to run with him, and he brought him to the session, and he was vibing to ‘Pop.’ He gave me some love for it, said he liked it. He was real cool, just one of the dudes hanging out in the studio that night.”
11. “Jungle Fever”
“I wanted to make sure I had a concept record on the album. I wanted something slick and conceptual that people would have to really listen to, like, if you don’t listen close you might miss it. I really don’t remember how I came up with the idea of that being the concept actually, it kind of just happened. As I was writing the rhyme, it came to me. I don’t remember going into [it with that concept in mind].
“When you’re on that coke, you’re on that girl. When you’re on that dope, you’re on that boy. So it’s that white girl, so I started finding a niche on how to play it [where it sounded like the song was about a white girl but I was really rapping about cocaine]. Then the concept started growing as I was writing it, and I was like, ‘This can actually stretch the length of a song. I can get a song out of this.’ It ended up being my concept record on the album, but it happened organically. Once the concept was coming to me, and I had the full direction, I was like, ‘To call it ‘Jungle Fever’ is a no-brainer.’”
12. “Don Shit”
“Honestly, I don’t really remember much of when I laid ‘Don Shit.’ The homies [were] around I know that. But one of the moments that sticks out about making ‘Don Shit’ was the drive home, and I was playing it in the car, and that shit was knockin’!! That shit sounded crazy, like something I had never heard before. It was definitely a keeper. On the low, ‘Don Shit’ is one of my favorite cuts off that album.”
“I added [the skit and the last verse] to it. [Me getting arrested] actually happened, but the recording wasn’t actually me in jail, [it was a reenactment]. It was art imitating life. [Laughs.] I did get locked up on the way to the studio. Smoking weed in the car, driving too fuckin’ fast. Got caught speeding, cops smelled the bud. Had to sit in jail and wait ‘til morning to get out, and I missed my session.
“But, I already had the verse. It was actually a verse that I did at the crib on my own mic, and it had a distortion to it that sounded like I was on the phone, so that’s what gave me the idea [to spit it like I was on the phone rhyming from jail]. I recorded it at the crib, and it wasn’t a good recording. But it still sounded ill—it was still a keeper. So I [added the skit of] me getting locked up on the way to the studio to record to that verse. Voila.”
14. “Hide My Tears”
“[We had to pull 'Hide My Tears' off the album after the first pressing because of] sample clearance [issues]. Somebody found out we used it, so I said, ‘Give them their little cheese, I’m not trying to be in court on no suing shit. And to make sure we have no further issues, take that bitch off the album.’ We paid them for it, but we couldn’t continue to use it.
“People who already heard the album knew what the album was, and that it was [meant to be] on the album. That’s gonna be a special edition. People who got that got the real album. But, I don’t know. Other people that don’t have that, they got ‘Scarface Nigga.’ So you’re still getting [a quality product] either way.
“I take what the beat gives me. My job as an MC is to flow on there and not fuck the groove up. So I went in there, and I wrote the rhymes and laid them like that because it felt natural. It wasn’t about having a double-time song on the album, because a lot of people [were] doing double-time rapping. But that beat was so hard—that was the best way to flow on it.
“I’m definitely gonna put my own shit on it, but it was a double-time beat. You can’t use certain cadences on a double-time beat. You can, but I just wanted to make sure the record sounded good. And I thought it came out aiiight for me rhyming in a double-time cadence. I had an ill Pete Rock double-time joint on Strength and Honor [too called 'Pimpin' Ain't Easy'].”
“I did [the singing on the hook] in the studio with Ray. I had the melody in mind, and Ray was like, ‘Yeah, run with that.’ So we put it together, and then we killed ‘em with the shoutouts at the end. No one was doing shoutout records anymore. So I was like, ‘If we feel it’s a classic project, why not end it in a classic way. Do a little rhyming, and then at the end it’s just shoutouts over a dope beat.’
“What’s crazy is, I caught that loop when me and my man went upstate to see this lady who was selling her collection. It was on the way to some other shit we [were] doing. We went up there, and the lady had a bunch of bullshit fuckin’ records. But this bitch had like two crates of CD, but not new CDs, like ‘80s, early ‘90s. Just a bunch of shit that was foreign to me. And that sample was in that CD case. I went through a bunch of CDs, and I caught some good music listening to those CDs. Sometimes people miss what happened between like ‘89 and ‘91. You still had a lot of musicians making music [even though we were probably busy listening to all the new hip-hop that was coming out]. I wasn’t listening to all the alternative rock groups at the time. I don’t know what kind of music it was, but I know I got [the loop] out of that CD case.”
*Bonus* “Scarface Nigga”
“Marcberg was done, but I was still making music. I felt like there was no need to stop. I still had leftover tracks, and ‘Scarface Nigga’ was one of them. ‘Scarface Nigga’ and ‘Pop’ have the same drums, so that’s why I didn’t want to [use both beats for the] album. I just used [the drums differently]. It was around the time that we were re-pressing it, and ‘Hide My Tears’ was coming off, so I wanted to replace it with something. And I replaced it with that. The track alone hit so hard. You can’t miss that one. It’s one of those powerful sounding songs, the same way ‘Pop’ is. Those drums pick everything up.
“I got better with the rhymes [by the time I did ‘Scarface Nigga’]. As I was recording Marcberg, I was getting better and better, and more comfortable as an artist.”
*Bonus* “Snow (Remix)” ft. Sean Price
“P just reached out like, ‘Yo fam, send me that ‘Snow’ beat.’ I was like, ‘Aiight nigga, here you go.’ I didn’t know P like that. I was definitely a fan of his music, so I knew of him. I just respected his music as an artist. I was like, ‘If P wanna get on it, I ain’t mad at that.’ I wouldn’t have sent that record to anybody just because they [were] somebody that had a name. But I respect P. When he asked for it, I was like, ‘Damn, that makes sense.’ It’s kind of weird how that happened. He was the man for the job. He killed it. And I didn’t expect nothing less. I knew he was probably reaching out because he felt like I felt about the beat. That beat is crack. That’s murder.
“I wasn’t even [at Southpaw] that night to [perform] the record [with him]. I was just there. I came through chillin’. I was backstage, way behind the DJ. I wasn’t on stage where the people could see me. He turned around, and he peeped me. And I was like, ‘Yo, this nigga gonna pull me out.’ [Laughs.] Sure enough, he was like, ‘Yo put that ‘Snow’ shit on.’ That shit was funny. That’s peace [that he pulled me out and showed love like that, though].”
“I shot that in Queens. I took the picture in this alleyway with mad graffiti. And my man Charlie Edmiston visually imposed some the city behind it. I liked the picture that I had, but I didn’t feel it was for the cover of the album with the [graffiti] backdrop. I don’t know where the fuck [the new backdrop he put in] was at. But he put that shit together, and that shit looked dope. I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the album cover.’ I wanted it to be simple. Just, me. Then the fire and all that shit was added to the reissue.”
“I didn’t mind putting the instrumentals out, because I’m proud of them. I wanted those instrumentals to be out there so people could hear what I did. That was my production debut, and I wanted to not only make my mark as an MC but also a producer. And I felt like what I did with those songs was strong enough that even if someone [else] raps on them, people know where that shit came from.”
“Damn man, that shit was so many blunts ago. I just know the reception was good, but it was slow. Eventually, it seemed like a lot of people reached about it. It wasn’t happening like back-to-back, with the phone going off every day. But every other month would pass, and you’d hear something, or this person would say this. I can’t really put my finger on one particular thing, I just know that it opened infinite doors for me. It really cleared up any confusion about who I was as an artist, as you can see with all the fuckin’ features that followed up. [Laughs.] I ended up making music after that with pretty much everybody.
“But still, a lot of people are not convinced with one [hot album]. But to follow up with Reloaded was like, ‘Okay, he ain’t no fluke.’”
Questlove and Jay Z Debating About Marcberg
“Hell no [Jay Z never talked to me directly about Marcberg, I just heard via Questlove that they used to debate over the album]. [Laughs.] I had other run-ins with Jay [earlier in my career]. There was talk with us in the past about doing some business [with me] as an artist. But I had a deal, I couldn’t just come over there. This is the Hard Knock Life years. He’s an intelligent dude, so I’m sure he remembers. But a few times he had stepped to me about doing something with Roc-A-Fella, and it didn’t pan out. I had a deal already, so it was what it was.
“As far as [Questlove’s] debates with Jay over Marcberg, maybe he feels like it’s not as hot as Questlove feels it is. Who knows? If they’re talking about it, I appreciate it. In my opinion, [it’s all about] people wanting to share good music with each other. If [Quest] loves it, he’s probably putting Jay on to it, and they’re talking about it. Either way, if people are listening to it, I appreciate it. That’s what I put it out there for. I ain’t put it out there to keep it a secret. I’m glad people fuck with it on different levels. I think more than anything, I’m just surprised when people I don’t expect to like the projects like the projects, like singers like Mayer Hawthorne or a guy like John Mayer, or [like when Axl Rose complimented me on 'Pop']. That’s when you’re breaking down barriers.”
“[If I could put Jay Z on a remix of any of the songs on Marcberg, it would probably be] ‘Raw Deal’ or something like that.”
Four Years Later/Discography
“Marcberg is the foundation to the house. It’s that simple. That’s the framework. It’s the first brick. It’s the blueprint. The original stone that started it off. To me, it’s kind of been a tug of war between that and Reloaded [in terms of fan favorites]. I’ve heard people say Reloaded made them appreciate Marcberg even more. It’s different. It depends on the person.
“I don’t have a favorite [project], but I have favorites for different reasons. I like Marcberg for its production. I think by Reloaded, I’m a better rapper than I was on Marcberg. And as a producer, I love how Reloaded is on the beats, too. That’s a tough one. If you wanna say for rapping, I’d say Reloaded. If you wanna say for production, I’d say Marcberg.”
“They’re fans of my music, and I’m fans of their music, so there’s mutual respect. I ended up linking up with them to do one record, and they expressed that they wanted to do more than one record [and] do a project. I respect their music so much that [I was] more than with doing a project. So I’m gonna keep building with the brothers, and keep making music.
“We haven’t been in the studio [together] yet. We’ve just been exchanging files. They send me stuff, and I arrange it, rhyme where I feel I need to get in, and then get out. I’m three songs in on it. It’s all about the music. If the music is right, as long as [we’re] hitting it right, that’s all I care about. I don’t care about names. Black Keys, or whoever. Even me. If it ain’t right, it ain’t right.
“So far, I love what I have [from what we’ve done]. But they’re busy, and I’m busy, so who knows how it will continue to evolve. I’m not in a rush, and neither are they. It’s more for the art than, ‘Let’s wrap this up and get this to the people.’ We both respect each other’s craft, and we’re both committed to continuing to create more music [together]. In due time, we’ll see what we build up, and make a good project out of it.”
Special thank you to Jazz!!
Previously: In The Lab with Roc Marciano | Roc Marciano’s 10 Best Songs of 2013 (So Far) | The Making of Gangstarr’s Hard to Earn with DJ Premier | The Making of Stress: The Extinction Agenda with Organized Konfusion | The Making of No Need For Alarm with Del the Funky Homosapien
Catch up on all previous NahRight features HERE.