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Arts and Entertainment

Marco Polo: The Man Behind the Mixes

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With the current state of hip-hop constantly being under scrutiny by critics and fans alike, it has become perplexing to determine which side of the controversy to take. By talking with the movers and shakers in the industry, clarity can sometimes be found. It is often interesting in looking into the background of upcoming artists to learn more about the direction of the industry, and the influences that business have over the music.

Upcoming DJ Marco Polo is relatively new to the music industry, taking root in Brooklyn and teaming up with the remarkable Rawkus Records, the label known for some of the hottest underground emcees in the industry. Marco Polo’s latest release, Port Authority, shows Marco Polo’s growth as a DJ, while teaming up with some great emcees to produce the first of the next generation of Rawkus Records. A short chat with the man behind the music gives insight into the album.

LAist: You got off to an interesting start at producing. What influenced you to make the move to New York?

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Marco Polo: Well, I’m actually just a producer. I leave the rapping to the professionals! I made the move to NY to make connects and get my beats heard. Toronto is a small city, we got dope talent but you can only get so far before you hit a wall.

How did you get your start with Rawkus and in the Brooklyn hip hop scene?

I met Brian & Jarret (Rawkus) through Jim at Soulspazm. They have a joint venture situation for my album and are both involved in the release of Port Authority. I've been living in Brooklyn for almost 4 years now, love it and recorded most of the album here in BK.

A line in the song "Get Busy," "Man in '95 I though that music was loosin' its touch. Compared to now that was a golden era, who would have thought?" What artists or songs do you attribute to the loss of the hip-hop culture in back in '95 and now?

Well, Copywrite was actually the one rhyming on that song so you'd have to hit him up to get the goods on that one. But I agree with everything he said.

Aside from "Get Busy," you make quite a few references to the changing hip-hop culture. Many people blame record labels as being the main reason why hip-hop music has lost its touch. Although there are some artists that prove that the evolution of hip-hop has not been completely dreadful, with you being a prime example of that, who do you think is largely responsible for the change?

The labels definitely have to take most of the responsibility for that one. Somewhere along the lines they lost focus and really started putting out bullshit. I'm not opposed to any style of Hip Hop but lets have more of a balance in the mainstream.

Who are your biggest influences, both in production and lyrically?

Production influences include the usual suspects: DJ Premier, DITC (Showbiz, Buckwild, Lord Finesse, Diamond D), Erik Sermon, Pete Rock, Marley Marl, J Dilla, The Rza.

How have you seen yourself change since you first entered the hip-hop game in NYC back in 2002?

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I'm definitely made more darker music in the last few years and stepped up my overall skills in the studio via being involved in the mixing and song making process.

What collaborations have you done, and which ones are your most memorable?

Large Professor, Kool G Rap, Boot Camp all amazing experiences...

What do you see yourself doing musically in the coming years?

Marco Polo: Hopefully growing as a producer and working with bigger acts without selling my soul to do so.