Louisiana artist Marcel P. Black has been grinding on the scene for years, getting close to a decade, if I’m being honest. Marcel does almost everything needs himself, promotion, touring, even in finishing this interview, this man still has a Blogspot that gets updated. With multiple projects in his discography and a hunger to still get after his, Marcel will be here for a long time. Truthfully this introduction could go on forever, Marcel does work for his community, is a family man all while pursuing and succeeding as an artist. I met Marcel last year at Columbus’ 2×2 Festival, but now coming off his EP release ‘4tha Cltr’ I had a chance to sit down with the Louisiana star and discuss everything.
Sto: For those who don’t know somehow, who is Marcel P. Black?
Marcel: A husband, a father, a son, an emcee, a facilitator, an organizer, a youth development worker. A lover of Hip-Hop as a craft and culture, and believer in her transformative powers.
Sto: Before we get into the nitty gritty, I do want to go back because you’ve been around for a minute, how did you get into music and get to the point where you know you wanted to make it?
Marcel: My father is a gospel musician, and the first person I ever witnessed create art, going back as far as I can remember. I had access to several instruments coming up, but it was emceeing that bit me after being taught the words to “I’m Bad” in 1989 by my big cousin Meche. I never really created art to “make it” though, I just always wanted be apart of the culture. I was too fat to breakdance, didn’t have access to turntables living in small town Southern Oklahoma, and I can’t draw for shit so grafitti was out of the the question. I wrote rhymes to express myself, and always wanted to touch people with my art like I witnessed my father doing when he sang at different churches. Even now, I don’t make music to “make it.” I make music because I have something to say, and I work my ass off to get it to the people in a real genuine way.
Sto: Louisiana hip-hop obviously has been around and influenced hip-hop since its inception. Can you tell me a bit about the culture of hip-hop there?
Marcel: I was born & raised in Oklahoma, came to Baton Rouge when I was 18 to go to Southern University in Baton Rouge (where I did indeed graduate from with a degree in History), and I’ve been here for the overwhelming part of my adult life (I’m 35 now). Before I got to Lousiana, I was a huge No Limit and Cash Money fan, as most southerners were in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. It wasn’t until I moved to Louisiana that I truly understood all of the nuances in the art, from the colloquialisms, the food, the history, the pain the struggle, that goes into the art. Of course the music is fun, it’s loud, it’s very provocative. It’s in your face, it’s dangerous, it’s brutally honest. A lot of people think because some of the artists aren’t super lyrical spherical that the artists aren’t’ saying anything, that’s false af. Emcees in Louisiana write in extreme African American Vernacular English that is very indicative of the history of Africans enslaved in this part of the country, as well as other diasporic traditions originating from the home continent. They speak how African people speak who were never taught their mother tongue, and alot of it goes over your head if you don’t understand those intentions, especially when u mix it with the accents. Juvenile is the best example of that sentiment in my opinion.
In terms of culture, New Orleans has lots more successful artists and much more outlets for artists because it’s a music city, compared to Baton Rouge. There’s a lot of untapped talent from emcees that are as good as anyone from anywhere on the planet, we just lack the resources due to the scenes being underdeveloped and resources.
Sto: If my memory serves me right, I think I first heard about you from Justin Ivey way back when we were writing for Kevin Nottingham, however, what impresses me most about you is you more or less do almost everything yourself in and out of the booth. What motivated you to go after this yourself?
Marcel: Yes, Justin has been a supporter for nearly 10 years, and we’ve become very good friends in the interim. I’m an only child, so I gotta do what I wanna do, and don’t have time for people who are not taking themselves as seriously about my art as I will. I was apart of a group/label situation that did work out in my early 20’s. I released my “Underground Grammy” award-winning album “Cry Freedom” on a label in ’16, got little to no support, nor did I never receive a dime for the time I spent with them. At the end of the day, I want to do what I want to do so bad that I will do it by myself every time before I let another person determine my outcome. I have no problem doing the dirty work, and honestly, I’m a better man for it, because I’m able to function as a one-man label/management company. It gives a level of value outside of what brings to the table as an artist and allows me to create opportunities for self & others, all while never compromising my art.
Sto: Doing this grassroots and by yourself, you’ve genuinely worked your way to being a prolific emcee. This isn’t easy by any means. Can you talk about some of the setbacks you’ve had to endure and how managed to overcome them?
Marcel: A. Being an underground/indie Hip-Hop ass conscious ass pro-Black ass backpack ass country rap tunes ass emcee where artists are known for club/street/radio anthems has always been difficult. I had to create my own lane, which I’m super grateful for because it made me a better emcee/businessman.
B. I’ve been told by at least 5 venues that “we want rap music without Black people,” and different variations of it. So I started doing shows at non-tradtional venues such as art galleries and barbershops to put on for the community that sees me as the leader. For myself as an artist, I just hit the road to stay in touch with fans I’ve amassed over the years, and creating new ones. My “sensai” Cesar Comanche told me, “you sleep where you live, but always rap where your fans are.”
C. I live by a code that says “don’t let things you can’t do impede the things you can do.” I’m told no often, but I never let anything stop me. So for every set back, I have 10 more successes.
Sto: I only wanna stick with this for one more question, setbacks are inevitable, as humans we’re pretty much guaranteed to make mistakes. Sometimes with artists though when some of these mistakes and setbacks pile up, they end up giving up. Why is it important for artists to go through some of this?
Marcel: Because that’s how you learn. Lawd knows I mess up, often. Every slim show, failed call & response attempt, every unsuccessful album rollout is all lessons that I not only learned how to turn into a win, but it gave me wisdom an character. I’m battle-tested, decorated war vet at this point in my career, and I’m still hungry as I was when I was 22. My biggest fear has never been failure, my biggest fear is what am I gonna do with myself when it no longer makes sense for myself and/or family to be outchea hustle like I do. You know how Mitch felt about hustling dope on “Paid In Full?” That’s how I feel about hustling to create dope Hip-Hop and monetizing it. That’s how much in love I am with her.
Sto: A few months ago you released “4tha Cltr” with M.Slago, what brought about the collaboration between you two to make a project together?
Marcel: For the last 2.5 years, I’ve been touring the country heavy. Like, head first in this super duper underground/indie Hip-Hop streets. In terms of intention, I’m a backpacker all day. I just hadn’t been making boom-bap style beats for a while, even though that’s mostly what I listen to on the daily. I’ve been so inspired by that type of music that made a call for “boom bap” styled beats on Facebook, and my guy tagged M Slago in a post. Slago and I link up in 2011/2012 in Dallas, but kinda fell out of contact. Slago immediately responded saying he’d like to do a full project, and “4Tha CLTR” was born. He sent me 7 beats, I picked 4, and we went for it.
Sto: You’ve always talked about serious social topics throughout your career, whether freedom, or the effects of racism. It’s obvious we need these songs given the current situation. Do you feel it’s our responsibility as artists to cover these topics & issues and why?
Marcel: I’m a career conscious rapper. I’ve really been working in the hood with real people in the struggle for 17 years. I can’t speak to why other people create, I just know why I do what I do. Though secular and profane sometimes, I 100% look at my art as an extension of a very specific spiritual gospel that preaches Black Freedom, and humanity for all. All I ask is that emcees make art that is true to them. We don’t need anymore niggas like Kanye making statements if they don’t know what the fuck they are talking about, or are just saying shit to go viral and sell records. The people who know better should show better. If not, just do what you do, and don’t impede the progress of folks doing real work in both actions and song.
Sto: I might be trippin’ but I’m almost certain you’ve planned a tour around the majority of your releases. How in the world do you go about doing that and do you ever deal with burnout in working so hard?
Marcel: Because I truly love and believe in what I do, and I’m starting to get me some good money lol. The wackest thing about traveling is the time away from my family, but I’ve been working very hard to be home more and spend more quality time. Dieting/sobriety also give energy on the road.
Sto: How do you balance all of this, you’re not just an artist, you do a lot of work in your community, you’re a husband. How has your head not exploded yet given all the pressure you’re under from multiple fronts?
Marcel: I have a great wife who is much smarter and just an all-around better human being than me. We plan all of this stuff out months in advance, and when I’m home, I’m home. I going to the park, the movies, dropping off/picking up my kids daily, I LOVE being a family man. I guess when you love what you do it never feels like real work. My daddy was a touring musician as well, every other weekend he was performing somewhere in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, etc., all while having wife and child and being a juvenile probation officer. This lifestyle is highkey all I know.
Sto: 2019 is only halfway done, can we expect anything from you to close out the year?
Marcel: I’ll give you the scoop on the digital front. I’m now working very closely with Dojo Dreamers, the company responsible for representing Clear Soul Forces, Noveliss, Da Illaz, and many more Detroit based Hip-Hop artists & entities. I’m dropping my next LP in the fall, and going on the road hardbody with CSF and more. Doing my first ever sponsored tour this summer titled, “Real Emcees Dont Rap Over Vocals” in July which spans 7 states/10 cities, mostly in the Midwest. Tryinna drop another 40 lbs before the LP drops, so I’m spending a lot of time in the gym so I can beat this diabetes and become the illest fat dude you’re ever gonna see live. More podcasts, more videos, more blogs, more merch, more culture.