There is something to be said about the slow grind of the hip-hop industry. If anybody knows about paying dues, it’s Marco Polo. The Canadian bred producer started off as a lowly intern but used those connections to put together an outstanding album which dropped May 15th. “Port Authority” is a joint venture with Soulspazm/Rawkus and has been receiving critical acclaim thus far. Marco Polo sat down with Hiphopsite.com for a very candid and insightful interview about the producer extraordinaire, hardcore hip-hop head and recovered addict. If there was a book to follow for the up and coming producer in this day and age, Marco Polo would be the author
HHS: What up kid, things moving along nicely it looks like?
Marco Polo: Yeah man, the press has surpassed all my expectations so far. I have had some really big magazines review it like XXL which gave it an XL. For me being an indie artist that was more than I expected and I am real grateful for that.
You sound surprised at how much acclaim the album is receiving?
I’m a humble dude and I had confidence in the album. I knew I had something special, but you never really know how the public will take it.
You have been doing some many things from the Boot Camp joints to now your own album, introduce yourself to the readers.
I’m originally from Toronto and I moved to New York and now I reside in Brooklyn. I’ve been here about 5 years. I’m a producer and really starting producing once I got to New York. I never really did a lot of production in Toronto, maybe a 12″ here and there but when I moved to New York is when I stepped it up. I made a lot of contacts as an intern at the Cutting Room Studio here in New York. I was a scrub in the beginning getting coffee and answering phones and eventually got a paying gig. I met Masta Ace and a lot of people on the album through that studio. I actually took Just Blaze’s old job of night manager and assistant engineer.
Wow, that’s big right there. So what was the first record you released as a producer?
What I consider the first release was the “Shylow” 12″ on Fat Beats. I produced the B-Side “The Greatest”. Ayatollah produced the A-Side called “Moment of Clarity”
You said you are originally from Canada and moved to New York, what prompted that move to the US?
New York is the Mecca of hip-hop. Any producer who wants to do hip-hop knows that New York is the place to be. Toronto has a lot of talent up there, but in terms of being successful and working with bigger artists you are going to hit a wall eventually. I didn’t even want deal with that wall, I just wanted to start fresh in New York and see what happens. It’s funny a lot of cats from Toronto don’t even know I’m from there until I tell them.
Before we jump into the album, so many producers out there are wondering how the hell did Marco Polo get Large Professor, Kool G Rap, Sadat X and so many other legends on your album?
One thing I can tell the up and comers, it takes a lot of hard work. Things happen for a reason and I firmly believe that. I met a lot of emcees through other emcees and people that were just down to help get the album done. I had a lot of cats in mind when I was making the album. I wanted “Port Authority” to be an ode to “Soul Survivor” like Pete Rock did. I met G Rap through Jo Jo Pellegrino who is on the album. It was just a matter of reaching out to the cats and giving them the music. Once they saw the music was for real and they were feeling the beats. It wasn’t anything to just work on stuff and make it happen.
The album “Port Authority” dropped on May 15th on Rawkus, is the album a one off or you actually signed with the label?
I’m actually signed to Soulspazm as an artist. They have a joint venture with Rawkus Records. So, it’s become a joint venture with Rawkus, definitely Rawkus is repping it pretty hard. Right now it’s just a one album deal, but in the future I see sticking around with Soulspazm and Rawkus.
How do you feel about Rawkus in 2007 and what they are trying to do?
I think they have a lot of rebuilding to do. Their comeback has a lot to prove to the old school fans of the original Rawkus. Them signing me and my album, or being affiliated with my album is a step in the right direction. I really feel like “Port Authority” represents a brand and what you would expect as a fan of Rawkus back in the day.
After listening to the album many times if I do say so myself, why did you decide to shun the mainstream and do a straight boom bap album?
That’s what I like to listen to, straight up. I really ignored what was on the TV and radio over the last 4 years and just stuck with what I would want to hear as a fan. At the end of the day I am fan of good music plus I don’t feel like there is that much good music coming out right now. I wanted to make this album for myself but at the same time I represent a whole group of hip-hop heads that aren’t getting what they need right now.
Do you think that if more producers/artists would just ignore trends we might see some better music come out in 2007?
Absolutely. I feel like a lot of the artists I love are in bigger situations now and putting out commercial records and selling more units, but overall the music is suffering. It’s a tough situation though, it’s either the money or the music and to some people it’s a no-brainer and they go with the dough. (Laughs)
Speaking of cats that ignore trends, you brought Copywrite out of the woodwork for “Get Busy”, you guys working together on a project?
I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag or make a definitive statement. We are definitely working on music right now and will it lead to a full length, who knows. That would be great if it did because I’m a big fan of Copywrite and always have been. We have been working on some things.
On a personal note, it’s been said that you are straight laced, no drinking, no smoking, nothing. Why that decision at such a young age?
I would love to say it was a decision, but when I was real young I got into a lot of shit. I was messing with a lot of hard drugs and alcohol I was a wild kid. I messed myself up pretty badly and I had to get a handle on that or I wasn’t going to make it. Luckily with the help of supportive family I was able to go away to rehab and to this day I remain clean and sober. That was like when I was 16 and most kids seem to relapse pretty hard at that age where I haven’t. That’s why on the album cover you see me rocking the Newports and coffee real hard because that’s all I have left.
Bottom line is at a young age you are going to do stupid shit and that’s ok. But, in the end don’t be afraid to ask for help when you get in a situation you can’t handle on your own.
Of all the people who did you enjoy working with the most and why?
Straight up it was a pleasure to work with everybody. If there was one stand out moment it had to be working with Large Professor. Having him at my home studio and being such a fan of his production and his emceeing was amazing. I am a fan of Main Source and remember this is the dude that brought out Nas and work with Nas. He has done so much for hip-hop and being able to collaborate with him was monumental for me.
Revolution did the cuts on the track if I’m not mistaken, was he there as well?
Naw, I wish. The song was done and I sent the track out to LA and Revolution did some of the craziest cuts I have ever heard. At the end he just goes off for 30 seconds and your jaw drops.
Is there a song that didn’t make the album that you want to tell the readers about?
There were a couple of songs that potentially would have been on the album. One was a remix with Scoob of Das Efx called “How I Get Down” which ended up on the Mick Boogie “Newport Authority” Mixtape but didn’t make the project for whatever reason. One track I was disappointed that didn’t make the album, but once again made it to the mixtape was the Brooklyn Academy joint with Mr Met, Pumpkinhead, and Block McCloud. We recorded the song and it was dope but Block’s vocals didn’t come out as clear as we had hoped and he never made it back to the studio to relay them, so I was disappointed that one didn’t make it onto “Port Authority”. Those are cats are who I worked with when I first got to New York, especially Pumpkinhead since we did a whole album together.
The album is getting a lot of critical acclaim and it’s not even out yet. Any calls from the majors for some Marco Polo bangers?
I’m not going to lie. So far no, maybe that will change now that the album drops. A lot of people are calling me throwback which is some ignorant shit. My sound is definitely hip-hop but it has an updated twist and I’m capable of working with anybody. I just finished a song with Rosco P Goldchain.
You got a lot of people on the album, anybody that you just couldn’t make it happen with this time around.
Absolutely, there are a lot of people. Specifically Elzhi from Slum Village, Heltah Skeltah, Freddie Foxxx, Blaq Poet and Teflon. Maybe they will be on the next one if I ever decide to do this again. We’ll see what happens.
So what’s next, who are you working with in the next year and what plans do you have for yourself?
Right now I’m doing a lot of work with Superstition and my man Torae who just dropped a 12″ with Skyzoo with over a Premier beat. I’m working with OC, of course Copywrite. I have joints on Heltah Skeltah’s new album, Large Pro’s album, J-Live’s new album. Let’s see, Special Teamz, Edo G, Masta Ace. What I’m really trying to do though, is start a group. My version of Gangstarr, I love producing albums top to bottom. I’m looking for that certain emcee.
Shouts to hiphopsite for the interview, I have been a big fan of the site for years now. Go cop “Port Authority” because if my album tanks it’s just going to be harder for artists like myself to represent the real shit to keep doing it. So support it.
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