MCing with Marc 7
My lazy Sunday afternoon was instantly re-energized when I was given the great honor of talking to Marc 7, an outstanding musician from one of my favorite hip-hop groups, Jurassic 5. In our conversation I came to better understand how his writing process works, his musical influences, and how a devoted family man keeps connected to his wife and kids when on the road touring. I am eagerly anticipating the new Jurassic 5 album as you should if you like great music that will move your mind and body.
*This interview contains explicit language.*
CCB: When did you realize you wanted to be a musician?
M7: Probably when I was eleven or twelve. I didn’t know what I really wanted to do, but I knew I would be an entertainer. I didn’t know if it’d be basketball, sports, or music but I knew it would be in front of people.
CCB: Did coming from New Jersey influence your decision at all, being so close to NYC?
M7: There was definitely a huge Hip Hop influence growing up in Jersey.
CCB: How did you get your name Marc 7?
M7: I got the name Marc 7 from this cartoon Battle of the Planets.
CCB: What is a typical day on the job like when touring/in the studio? Is there a routine that you follow?
M7: Not really. When I write I usually like to write when I’m in the studio. Some people can write without beats, but I prefer not to. I like to have it fresh right then and there.
CCB: Is there anything else to your writing routine?
M7: When I write if it’s just something I’m writing for myself I’ll let everything stem from the chorus. I’ll write a chorus first, you can call it the title of the movie. From there you can write the words, the dialogue comes next. With that chorus I can say the title is called “I won’t stop slapping you”. I’m going to talk about this, this, that. That’s what I base my writing on. I’m doing a song right now for Cut Chemist’s album called “Addicted” off this incredible beat that he made. I’m taking the story of this cat who just met this girl. When he met this girl she had a man. He talked her into getting her number and it turned into this type of infatuation. She didn’t call him back and it snowballed into this whole big event to the point where he’s at her wedding. He’s this dude who is trippin’. I think your conversation in your rhyme is very important. That’s something that Salaam Remi taught me when we were in Miami recording with him. That’s the cat that does all of Nas’ stuff. He produced “Made You Look.” I learned a lot from that dude. It’s just different things you take from people.
CCB: How did you get involved with Jurassic 5?
M7: I met Cut Chemist through a DJ partner of mine named Marv-ski . I already knew Charlie from high school, so we hooked up and formed a crew called Unity Committee. Through that we used to go to The Good Life in South Central, in LA, and perform on Thursday nights. We actually saw the Rebels of Rhythm and they were a separate group who we wanted to do a song with them. We hooked up and did “Unified Rebelution” with them. That was supposed to be a one off single. From that it started blowing up so we were like “know what, let’s just form a crew.” Boom, Jurassic 5 was born.
CCB: How did the group decide on the name Jurassic 5? (There are 4 MCs and two DJs)
M7: That came from Charlie’s son’s mother. I guess she was messing around with him saying we think you sound like the fantastic five, more like the Jurassic 5. We thought that’s a hot name. Everybody was like, that’s it.
CCB: Was it a conscious decision of the group’s to have a positive message or is that simply where you are coming from as people and that influences the music?
M7: It’s just us being us. We ain’t gangstas. We ain’t trying to be gangstas. I’m not shitting on that. A lot of the cats I know that do gangsta some of them live that life. No beef with cats who are living it. We’re just doing us. This is who we are. We are just saying what we feel, just going to be us 24/7.
CCB: Have you had any mentors in your career?
M7: My mentors had to be who I listened to. So, I’d say my mentors were Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Krs-One, Public Enemy, Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul. Those are the people I looked up to. Those are the MCs and groups that formed my train of thought. That’s why I rhyme the way I rhyme today and what I think about.
CCB: Based on what you were listening to.
M7: Based on what I’m listening to. There’s a lot of that in the mentality for kids’ today. They hear a lot of bullshit. So, they are talking a lot of bullshit. It’s not really their fault. This is their introduction to Hip Hop, where that was my introduction to Hip Hop. You can see the effect that this music has on people and how we can direct people whether positive or negative.
CCB: How did your friends and family react when you told them you were going to be a musician?
M7: I was pretty much raised by my grandmother. As long as I was doing something positive, that was all that mattered to her.
CCB: How did you learn about rhyming, writing lyrics, and breath control? It seems you can rap for a long time on a single breath.
M7: I’m a writer at heart. I write screenplays and things of that nature. I’ve always been writing whether it’s a story or whatever. It’s one of those things that you can’t explain. You either have it or you don’t. I was able to put words together. As far as breath control it’s just a practice thing. It’s going in the studio and attempting to make the studio sound as good as your live show and your live show as good as the studio.
CCB: How did it feel the first time you performed live?
M7: It was cool. I think it was a backyard party that we did. I felt comfortable and a little nervous. I had a good time.
CCB: Do you have favorite J5 songs? Songs where you think it really came together.
M7: There have been more than a couple. “Lausd” is one of my favorite Jurassic 5 songs and that’s off Quality Control. It’s even like when we wrote “What’s Golden.” We went up to Nu-Mark’s house and he said I’ve got this beat. He played this beat and we were all sitting in a circle. One thought was, “We need to have a word in there like, something, something rollin’.” Then Nu-Mark pulled out a Chuck D sample from Public Enemy. We built on the chorus and we wrote the chorus first. We started writing lyrics and within an hour, an hour and a half, the song was done. That’s how the vibe is. It might come from a chorus, one line.
CCB: What skills are necessary to be a quality MC?
M7: A good train of thought, that’s all it really takes. You don’t even have to have a really great voice. It’s all about your train of thought and your composition. There are a lot of good MCs but sometimes there are MCs who don’t really have the composition or know how to formulate a song or set it up with a beginning, middle, and an end. You might get a lot of MCs that will spit all day, but when it’s time to get into the studio and write they are lost.
CCB: How do you create songs as a group?
M7: There’s really no formula for how we do it. It’s the beat that really anticipates what we do. Most of the time it starts with the beat and that will initiate the whole thought process. We can do this on this. Cut brought in the track that we did with Nelly Furtado. There was this beat and we’ve got to have a girl on it. We thought about it. We’re going to make a song about a girl, but let’s not do what everybody else does, the typical. We want to do one about a girl, but let’s do it the way nobody has ever done. Boom, Thin line.
CCB: Once you have the beat and you’ve bounced things off each other, how does everything come together as a song? Whose going to rap here, what’s going to go here?
M7: We really don’t decide. Say for instance with that particular song, we’ll know within those bars there might be eight bars. Say Akil wrote like a four or six bar line. You know I might be like, “I’ve got something right now.” He’ll kick his and I’ll kick mine until we get to the chorus. After the chorus Soup and Charlie are going to come in. It follows suit and pretty much lays it self out. We’ve been doing it so much with four MCs, that it’s easy now.
CCB: Have you been able to work with any of the people that you looked up to? I remember seeing you with Big Daddy Kane at a concert in NYC a few years ago.
M7: We did get to work with Big Daddy Kane. That song “Day at the Races” is probably one of those songs, top of my list. LL, Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Kurtis Blow, Method Man, Snoop. When you are in this game you run across so many people because you are doing so many things. Nas, The Neptunes. I could keep naming people all day.
CCB: Are there any musicians the general public should be looking out for? That you’d like to collaborate with?
M7: This cat Aesop Rock, who I think is really talented and would like to do something with. Mos Def. My list is really short, probably some singers. That’s really it. Nothing has been exciting me in hip-hop lately.
CCB: Do you think that will change soon, going back to the real lyricists?
M7: You can see that coming with Kanye blowing up the way he is, with Common coming out and selling the way he has. Even with the Black Eyed Peas, though I don’t really listen to them. Something should be said when they go and sell seven million records though I would not consider their target audience Hip Hop, but still a break through. It’s the same thing with Outkast who I owe a lot of respect to. They break so many barriers because they can go and have a song like “Hey Ya” being played on urban stations. Definitely give props to them. It’s slowly changing as listeners become more aware. It’s expecting a lot more now than getting albums with just one song on it. It’s slowly turning around.
CCB: Are there certain things that inspire you to come up with rhymes?
M7: It depends on what I’m listening to. I may see a concert or watch a video. I might hear a song on the radio; it might be an R&B song. It might inspire me to write something. What if I had this beat, what would I do to it?
CCB: Have any advice for people interested in becoming musicians?
M7: The number one thing is to be self-sufficient. I have a lot of respect for the South, from Houston, from Memphis. All these MCs out there because the number one thing they do is they don’t wait, they put their records out. You can call them wack, you can call them whatever you want. When it comes to their business, their independent mind state, they are probably the best on the planet. If you go to any one of these states and go to independent stores everybody has their own record out. Each one puts out their own stuff and generates their own interest. That is one of the reasons the South is blowing up now because it’s been put to the side for so long and they have been building their own clientele and so and so is selling so many records at home. That’s really the blueprint that we took, it’s the same thing. Put it out ourselves. We are self-sufficient. That’s what I would say. Don’t wait on the label, do it yourself, put your own record out. You have to blow up in your own backyard first.
CCB: What is the most difficult part of your job?
M7: Being away from my family is the hardest part.
CCB: Can you talk about family life and being a musician, especially on tour?
M7: That’s probably the roughest thing but I do things to make it a little closer at the house. I bring my laptop with me. I have some digital camera setup so I can actually see my family when I’m on the road. I can see my wife and kids. That helps a lot. More than a phone call, so it’s those little things that you can do.
CCB: What has been the most rewarding thing about the job so far?
M7: Being able to go all this time and support my family. We haven’t had a record in maybe two and a half years or a little more and still be able to sustain. We constantly are getting calls to do shows and tours since the last record. So the demand is still there. That itself is a blessing. There aren’t that many people who could go without a record this long and still sustain themselves and a group with as many people as we have. We’ve built something so I’m proud of that. But, I’m itching to get this record out.
CCB: People would be surprised to learn what about your job?
M7: It’s not as fun as you might think it is. It really is work.
CCB: What surprised you the most in getting into the industry?
M7: That it really is work. (Laughs) I thought it was all fun and games, but after a month on tour it’s like, “If I see this little bunk again I’m going to go crazy. Somebody get me a hotel room.”
CCB: What can we expect from you in the future? Apart from the new album, is that coming out soon?
M7: A release this year hopefully if not January.
CCB: Are you working on anything apart from the group?
M7: I actually have a video company. I just wrote a movie that I’m trying to get made, distributed. The movie is called The Building. Aside from that I ghostwrite a little bit. The Cut Chemist album is coming out and that’s going to be really dope.
CCB: What are the challenges in putting together a new album? Is it creating a new sound?
M7: We never come at it with the pressure of the last album was this. It’s more like once again let’s make a quality record, a full length. Our goal is to really press play and leave it alone. The less you can skip over the better, that’s really how we judge it. Quality albums.
CCB: Are there things you hope to accomplish before you stop performing whenever that may be?
M7: Honestly I’d like to put a platinum plaque on my wall. I think we deserve that. We’ve worked hard enough.
Check out Marc 7's music here: https://soundcloud.com/marc7music