By: HipHop Journalist
Leaving his home city of
With his Port Authority album getting the nod from many of the mainstream magazines; that maple leaf is already up in the air. Yet this Italian from north of the border is only just beginning his attack on music.
Marco Polo may be the new kid on the block to many but for purveyors of real Hip-Hop he can be seen as a welcomed salvation.
HHC: How long have you been in
Marco Polo: Almost five years now.
HHC: Good move?
Marco Polo: One of the best I have made.
Marco Polo: Yeah it has some dope talent and it is so big that you just reach a point where you can’t go any further. So rather than reaching a point where you set up shop there I wanted to start a fresh in
HHC: No regrets?
Marco Polo: Definitely not, as that is the whole reason why I am where I am now. You have to hustle here.
HHC: Were there any major obstacles in your way making that move?
Marco Polo: At first it was overwhelming, just the city being so big and so crazy; everything moves so fast. There are a lot of obstacles and there are a lot of people trying to do music. It is really saturated with people trying to get on, especially producers. You have to be really good at what you do and your hustle has to be good and make sure you separate yourself from everyone else.
One of the obstacles I had at first was that I worked at The Cutting Room and a lot of cats just looked at me as an engineer or as someone who managed the studio and not a producer and that is one of the reasons I left the cutting room to try and focus on being a producer.
HHC: Had you done a lot of networking in NY before you arrived here?
Marco Polo: I did more in the sense of trying to get a job at a studio, not trying to shop my beats. It helps to know some people and I did know a few people when I got here. I had a place to stay, so I didn’t have to worry about the expensive rents.
HHC: Were you musically inclined from a young age?
Marco Polo: My Pops used to play all types of music in the house growing up; before I even thought about producing I was around a lot of good music. From Stevie Wonder to Donny Hathaway, to the Beatles to Steely Dan, so my Dad was open minded with what he listened to. I also played drums in High School for the band and when I left High School I just wanted to do as there was nothing else I wanted to do. I just decided to make a career of it.
HHC: So I can’t ask you the generic question that so many people ask ‘if you weren’t doing this what would you be doing’ then? [Laughs]
Marco Polo: [Laughing] No I would be doing nothing; I would be broke. I would be in the corner.
HHC: With you doing a stint at engineering, do you think that aids the production process; does it make you a better producer?
Marco Polo: I am not sure if it makes you a better producer, it doe help. It can go both ways. Sometimes knowing too much about the technical process can affect the music in a bad way; if you know how to make it work for you it can definitely help. A lot of the producers that are successful on the underground, like Mad Lib and especially J Dilla, a lot of their stuff sounds raw and unpolished. Because of that, that is what makes it so dope. So if you get caught up in the technical aspect of engineering and you put that in your production, its just Hip-Hop is not supposed to sound so pretty at times. We are in the era of keyboard beats and to me that is not Hip-Hop. That is not the way it sounded when I was growing up and it all depends on how you use that knowledge, so it can be good and bad.
HHC: You said with your Port Authority album that you ‘were taking it back to what you grew up listening to.’
Marco Polo: Definitely. A lot of people call my album a throw back album..
HHC: Does that bother you hearing that?
Marco Polo: Personally it is a little as I am making music that I think is relevant and good now, not ten years ago; it is timeless. A lot of people don’t say it in a disrespectful way; they are saying it in a comparison as a lot of people that I worked with were popular in the 90’s. But to me I think that the artists that I worked with are just as talented now as they were back then and we connected and made some good music. It wasn’t an ode to 1990’s Hip-Hop.
HHC: Do you think we are stuck in a place where people can’t understand true Hip-Hop moving forward?
Marco Polo: Unfortunately it is like that. A lot of the kids growing up now, it’s not their fault as they are not even exposed to it. The media will only play a certain thing and I am not saying that that [one thing] is not a part of Hip-Hop, it is just a ‘part’ of Hip-Hop; there is a whole other world that should be getting love.
HHC: Shopping videos can be really hard when you are not in the ‘vein’ of everything else out there this has to be frustrating?
Marco Polo: It is and that is the whole point of getting an outlet.
HHC: So knowing the major channels will more than likely shut you down, not because your video is wack BUT because it doesn’t follow the same path as what they air right now, what other ways can you channel your video?
Marco Polo: I mean the internet right now. I would rather it be TV but you have to take what you can get. With the whole emergence of Youtube and sites like that you can get a lot of people watching your videos through those.
HHC: We have seen a few producer albums coming out this year; Swizz, Timbaland, Alchemist solely produced Prodigy’s album. Do you see this as being just another way of showing how relevant producers are now?
Marco Polo: That is an interesting question. I feel like producers have taken the forefront over the artists today and I personally don’t really like that. I like the love and the respect that people give producers these days but I think producers should be in the background and the artist is the face of it and it is as if it has happened naturally that producers are more of the stars and I don’t know how that happened. I definitely took on the artists’ role with this album by putting myself out there, but I would love to see it go back to the MC being the true star and the producers just handle the music.
HHC: Do you think producers have come to the forefront because lyricists are so bad? Or is it because this is just how Hip-Hop is today?
Marco Polo: I mean it is probably a combination of all those things. You know we see guys like Pharrell and Timbaland, they are maybe more exciting to people nowadays than the actual artists are. They are getting full album deals and label deals, man I don’t know; I don’t really have the answer to that question. I know Hip-Hop is wounded right now; I wouldn’t say it is dead by any means. I wouldn’t say it could die but it is going through a transition period and maybe it has to explode before it gets back to normal.
I just try to put all the negativity that people feel towards Hip-Hop into making the best stuff I can.
HHC: Was the Port Authority on 42nd and 8th the inspiration for your album title?
Marco Polo: Yes as it all ties in with the Marco Polo, the traveler. When I was coming up to
HHC: The album came out on Soul Spazm/Rawkus, is that your label?
Marco Polo: Well that is who I am signed to directly, but it is a joint venture with Rawkus Records, so it is a Rawkus release.
HHC: You have worked with the crème de la crème of the underground; Rawkus is known for housing such artists. Did you see yourself situated there before you got that deal?
Marco Polo: You know what when I started to work on this album a couple of years ago, I would never have expected to be on Rawkus. I just thought they were done, I didn’t realize they were still trying to do the label thing. Then as they emerged, to be honest, it wasn’t on my list, but it happened and it happened naturally because Soul Spazm and their relationship with Rawkus, it came to be. I definitely think now, looking at the type of album I made, it fits with the Rawkus brand and what you have come to expect from them.
HHC: Are you happy with the way your album has been received?
Marco Polo: I am. The printed press has been amazing, XXL gave it an XL which is amazing and I think I am the first Canadian ever to get an XL.
Marco Polo: It depends on what you define credibility or success on. In the underground or the independent scene, I think I get a lot of props and respect from my peers. Trying to move into the majors and work with the 50 Cents has been a little more difficult. I haven’t really pursued it to be honest as I have just been in my own zone. You know maybe this year will present more opportunities. But I feel as if I have done my thing in the independent circle over time, it took a minute to get there but when you start working with a lot of people and you get those co-signs, it starts helping your reputation.
HHC: So you not averse to moving over to the majors?
Marco Polo: No I am not against it and I would like to work with those dudes, I would love to get those checks as straight up it pays more than what I do, working with underground artists, not because they have the money. But the independent label game just isn’t that big and we all have to eat. I would definitely say I am in no rush and it doesn’t affect how I make music and I don’t feel like I have to change my style to get into that world. I think it will just happen naturally.
HHC: Do you always see yourself producing Hip-Hop?
Marco Polo: Not really as I am capable of producing anything if I want to. It is just that is my specialty right now. Good music is good music.