If there is anyone who truly embodies the spirit of hip-hop it’s Marley Marl. In Marley’s 15-year career he has seen it all; from his early pioneering work with the Juice Crew (Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap & Polo, Masta Ace, Craig G), to a now legendary battle with those same All-Stars vs. a then young upstart KRS-One. Not only has Marley played an integral role in molding how hip-hop sounds today, by producing the classic debuts of Kool G Rap & D.J. Polo Road To The Riches, and Big Daddy Kane’s Long Live The Kane. He also produced arguably the greatest posse cut of all time, “Symphony”, helped bring LL Cool J back to prominence with Mama Said Knock You Out, which landed perennial powerhouse Def Jam its first Grammy award (you will later read how Mr. Simmons repaid Marley for that honor). And for you young heads out there, don’t forget who helped two kids (Capone & Noreaga) from “Iraq” blow the spot with the War Report.
Though Marley’s rise to prominence was in the late 80′s and then again with LL on Mama Said Knock You Out, he is about to make a triumphant return to the scene with his contribution, Re-Entry, to the Beat Generation Series. And as Marley reiterated to me, “Re-Entry does not symbolize his return to the industry, because he never left, it is merely a Re-Entry into people’s minds.
HHS: How did you become involved in the Beat Generation Series?
Marley- Basically, Peter [Arkwadh] called me and asked me if I would like to be involved and I told him of course—hell yeah! I had to sit down and think about what my contribution to the Beat Generation Series could be, I laid out my plan and that’s how it was born.
HHS: In an age where hip-hop is very predictable, the Beat Generation Series seems to rally around mass experimentation, did that attract your initial interest?
Marley- Yeah, I like the fact that on Beat Generation we were able to have total artistic freedom with what we wanted to do.
HHS: Did that outweigh everything else?
Marley- Yes it did, cause you know I deal with allot of record companies and allot of recordings and no one wants to set trends, everybody just wants to suck off what everyone else is doing. What really attracted me to this project was the fact that, you can do what you want. If you got sessions, if you’re working on this or that, go ahead, we’ll sanction it. It was great!
HHS: Most heads do not realize that hip-hop artists have a diverse range of musical interests; it’s just not all about hip-hop. What are some of your tastes?
Marley- I listen to all types of music; hip-hop, R&B and Jazz. I just listen to all types of music.
HHS: You have been an influential figure in hip-hop for 15-years, from the Juice Crew, to producing for luminary emcees, to your radio-show with Pete Rock (Future Flavaz). What do you credit your longevity too?
Marley- Staying a fan to the game and staying a fan of hip-hop. If I didn’t stay a fan to it and check what was going on, I would probably go in another direction that wouldn’t be good for me. I credit everything with staying a fan to the game you know.
HHS: What is your fondest memory, or experience in the hip-hop business?
Marley- When I was recording LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out LL was arguing with the engineer at the beginning of the record and that was recorded by accident. He was like “come on man”, screaming at the engineer, but he did not know it was on record and that was before the beat dropped on the record. And on the beginning of that record you can hear the “Come on man.” That was a funny moment in my life right there. LL was actually sick that day and he was mad because the engineer kept rolling the tape back to far and it was taking too much time to do his vocals. He was screaming at the engineer at that point when it was already on record and it just fell right there. I just kept it. Those were the vocals I kept too because he was mad.
HHS: Much debate is made about the state of hip-hop; you have an interesting perspective because you’ve been there from the beginning, what are your feelings on hip-hop’s current climate?
Marley: It’s definitely a roller-coaster ride I’ll tell you that! I’ll call it a natural progression for the music itself.
HHS: It’s a different time, and a different era, but in your opinion has money, and greed watered down hip-hop?
Marley- Allot of people mad more money and basically you don’t have to be as good as before to get in the game. Right now, if I was Jay-Z’s cousin and I had no skills, I could probably get a record deal for a large amount of money; with the premise that maybe Jay-Z would be on my record one day. And that’s what has happened to the game.
HHS: On Re-Entry, you partner back up with Kane, did you automatically re-connect?
Marley- No doubt! That was a one-night session and what happened was, he basically heard tracks and laid vocals on the track he was most comfortable with and sounded the best on.
HHS: How does your relationship with Kane differ now, then from your Juice Crew days?
Marley- Well obviously before that session we had not been sitting in the same studio for a number of years. We got back in the studio and we was going thru some beats, but when he started rhyming I started feeling that feeling again. Kane is a very talented person; I’m very talented with what I do. When you put two talents together such as me and Big Daddy Kane, you see what can happen!
HHS: You have contributed to some of the most influential LP’s in hip-hop history. When you were making Road To The Riches with Kool G Rap & Polo, or Long Live The Kane with Big Daddy, or L.L.’s Mama Said Knock You Out, did you have any inkling they would influence so many artists and fans?
Marley- No I didn’t. Actually, the thing about me is I never made records for popularity or fame. I just did it because I had the studio and I love the game. I can still go into the studio and make good records, just off the strength that I’m a fan of this. I like to contribute to what’s going on. When I did these records back in the day, I never expected them to be such classics, cause I was doing it from the heart. I wasn’t doing it for the money. I wasn’t like, yo, I want to be the richest person in the world; it wasn’t like that. It was actually, I was having fun doing what I was doing, that’s why those records came out like that! That’s probably why people can feel those records from the heart.
HHS: Your latest project is called Re-Entry, but it seems as if you have never left. What’s the meaning behind the title?
Marley- It’s not a Re-Entry back into the industry; it’s a Re-Entry back into people’s minds. I didn’t go anywhere, I been making records, I still drop something, a hot remix every year. It’s just a Re-Entry back into the mind.
HHS: The production on Re-Entry makes it very obvious that you still have beats galore. Why have you taken a step-back from producing for other emcees?
Marley- Basically, when I did the Mama Said Knock You Out album, when I left Cold Chillin’ and wasn’t under good terms, I felt that I could balance out my career by working with Def Jam and doing Mama Said with LL; which was a great album, I believe it’s 7X platinum. But, since Russell Simmons kinda jerked my money [laughs] and I never started seeing residuals from a double/triple or quad, you know what I’m saying Quad-triple Platinum (at that time) album, it really discouraged me about the business. So, before I would go and hurt somebody to get my money, I just backed up, I backed up from the scene and lived my life a little.
HHS: Considering you helped bring the first Grammy to Def Jam, did getting jerked bother you more from a respect standpoint, or from a business standpoint?
Marley- Everything! It fucked my head up really bad. I knew I was a talented person and I know I’ve seen people who did less then me in the music industry get much further. I know that I am one of the most talented producers in the whole game. I understand and know that! By me knowing that helps me keep my cool. If you got talent you always rise. Somebody with no talent is going to be a flash in the pan, a one hit wonder or whatever. That’s not going to be me! I know I have talent, I know the structure of the whole music industry hip-hop and R&B wise, everyone is copying what I laid; I already know that. So I just decided, well let me sit back, and plus I wasn’t even happy with how the industry was going. I did not want to be a part of all that bullshit. I did not want to be one of the main producers during the “Puffy” era [laughs]. I don’t want to be that…
HHS: Did you ever repair your relationship with Russell?
Marley- No… I don’t even know how I would act if I saw him in public to be honest—and you can print that too!
HHS: Who are the illest emcees, and producers you have ever heard?
Marley- Emcee; Jay-Z’s phenomenal. I like Jay-Z, just off the strength that I worked with him on a Shai remix and we just gave him the subject, it wasn’t written down and he went and spit the vocals. We tried to throw a little bone in the game, a little monkey wrench and we gave him another subject and he just went in and knocked out the sixteen-bars without anything written down. That’s talent to me! Producers; Pete Rock, Large Professor, Alchemist, Timbaland sometimes, Swizz Beatz is cool sometimes, and a new cat Mike Heron (Kool G Rap, Screwball).
HHS: No DJ Premier?
Marley- Primo too of course, did I leave him off? Primo is like one of my students, he told me that every record he makes is based off of “Nobody Beats The Biz”, from the cuts [Marley cutting up "Star Of The Show" with his voice]. He said yo, that’s where I get that from! When Primo cuts up three and four different things on a record, he told me that he is pattering all these songs from “Nobody Beats The Biz”; and the way I did the intro. I’m like oh thanks, put that in your interviews you know [laughs]….
HHS: Considering you were involved in the Juice Crew disses back in the day, what do you think of all the growing beefs that are going on now?
Marley- It’s not healthy! It’s a different time in hip-hop and people have different attitudes. First it starts off emcee vs. emcee, then project vs. project, then housing projects, then borough vs. borough. It’s just unhealthy at this point and time.
HHS: Let us know what you have going on, the floor is yours…
Marley- Pick up Re-Entry on Oct 23, and check me and Pete Rock out on www.futureflavazonline.com. You can check us out doing our show live, and we have an extra hour of underground and uncensored music after we finish the Hot 97 broadcast called the “Future Flavaz Afterparty”. It’s a fun place to be so come visit us.
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