Marco Polo Jumps “In the Mix” [DJBooth Interview]
Unless you were sleeping, ditching (our number one choice), or simply zoning out in your high school history class, you would have learned that Marco Polo was one of the greatest explorers of all-time. About 700 years after his death, his name lives on, not because of all of his great accomplishments, but because the Marco Polo our generation will come to love is an explorer in the world of hip-hop, a producer with a story fit for any history textbook. That’ll be a history lesson you definitely won’t want to ditch.
Right now, though, whether they be underground, mainstream, made for radio or made for the streets, summer jams have been hitting us from every direction as of late, which means it’s time to start sifting bangers from bombs. Since Marco has consistently made his way into the exclusive “banger” file with albums like his 2009 collaborative project Double Barrel with Brooklyn emcee Torae, we can only expect that the Torontonian will deliver yet again with his upcoming project The Stupendous Adventures of Marco Polo. In preparation for the album’s June 29, release, Marco has journeyed to the home of hip-hop (DJBooth.net, if you didn’t already know) for an exclusive, five-question interview.
With success on his mind and Stupendous Adventures on deck, Marco Polo steps into the Booth to chat with us about what being a good producer entails, and how he plans to stay on top after the release of the new album.
Back in a 2007 interview with DJBooth, you said a producer’s level of involvement in the creative process separates him from a beat maker. What does it mean to be a producer?
Producing goes beyond making a beat. It involves coaching an artist in the booth. Helping them get the best performance possible. Mixing, recording, arranging... Being involved in mastering. Every step of the way you must be involved and you should want too. It’s your creation so take pride and follow through on completing it properly.
When crafting beats for a particular emcee, how do you try to capture both the artist’s personality as well as your own?
I don’t usually craft beats for specific artists. I just sit down and create something daily. I usually compile my work at the end of the week with Shylow and we pick what beats we should pitch to certain artists. Really listen to see what style goes with what beat. Never just send hot beats to anyone. Send hot beats that make sense for the artist your pitching them too. Rappers will most likely pick the wrong beat if given the opportunity.
On your '09 emcee/producer collaborative project with Torae, Double Barrel, you aimed to deglamorize hip-hop and venture back to its roots as a raw art form. Do you feel it made a real impact?
I feel like people are still discovering that album for the first time which is cool because better late then never. I’m so damn proud of that project and I know Torae is as well. It’s honest music. It’s Boom Bap-influenced with an updated touch. We didn’t try to take it back, we just wanted to make an album we wanted to hear.
Many of your beats on The Stupendous Adventures of Marco Polo are gritty and aggressive - is that a reflection of your mood when you were making the project?
Well, that album is a collection of songs as far back as 2005 till the present so you’re hearing many different moods of mine on there. I definitely like to channel emotion into the music. It’s important to feel something when you hear a beat. MC’s respond better to beats with a strong emotion.
In what ways do you hope to grow after the release of this new project?
I hope I can continue learning how to make better music. I learn new stuff everyday and I continue to study the history of all music. Keeping an open mind is really important. Especially with all the new production tools and technology. It can be very overwhelming but as long you keep it funky it don’t matter what you’re using. Having expensive gear doesn’t impress me but making great music does.
Final thoughts? Shout outs? Confessions?
Peace and love to anyone reading this that’s supported my music. If you've never heard of me check out some of my stuff, I think you might dig it.