Marco Polo [Interview]
New York , NY – So you want that “boom bap” right? You want them drums right? You want them samples hooked up properly right? Hint. Yes you do. Look no further than Toronto’s own Marco Polo.
Marco Polo is a hard working man. Motivated and hungry for success, he decided to make the move to the birthplace of this culture we call hip-hop: New York City. Hustling his skills as a connoisseur of hip-hop music, he talked his way into an internship at the famous studios of The Cutting Room; a position that Just Blaze had held before making the move to Rocafella. After getting the experience he needed and the confidence to approach artists with his beats, he has become one of the most sought after producers in the underground circuit. Marco Polo is a self made man. We caught up with Polo to discuss his progression south of the border and most importantly, the release of his album Port Authority featuring an all-star cast of featured artists.
Here’s how the interview went down:
HipHopCanada: So Polo, what’s up?
Marco Polo: What’s good man, how’s everything going?
HipHopCanada: Good, great. How’s New York treating you?
Marco Polo: New York is good. It’s a hard grind down here but it’s made all the difference in my career so I love it.
HipHopCanada: No doubt. So what’s new these days? Big things are happening for you.
Marco Polo: Right now I’m just trying to ride off the release of Port Authority. I’m busy with promotion and just letting everyone know it’s out; drawing a lot of attention to it. We’re doing the typical things… a lot of press release parties, all the dues.
HipHopCanada: So we know you’re originally from Richmond Hill and now you’ve relocated to Brooklyn.
Marco Polo: Yeah, actually I was born in Etobicoke and went to school in Richmond Hill. On a worldwide level, when you see the press releases it’s just going to say from Toronto because the people don’t know where Richmond Hill is.
HipHopCanada: You are Toronto.
Marco Polo: Exactly.
HipHopCanada: The scene in Toronto is a lot different from New York but in Toronto we’re really influenced by New York hip-hop; East Coast hip-hop. How did New York embrace you when you first went out there and started running people your beats?
Marco Polo: It started off a little slow because when I moved to NY for the first year or so, I wasn’t really pitching my beats like that. I was just trying to get a job at a studio and that’s what I did. I got a job at the Cutting Room in Manhattan and I started interning; doing all the bullshit, getting coffee, cleaning up sessions, answering phones and then I finally got a paying job there engineering and managing. It took me a bit to get comfortable enough to pass my beats out to artists that came through the studio. Throughout this whole process I was making beats all the time and getting more confident with them, getting better and better. Then I got to the point where I was doing that on the regular. One day Masta Ace came in for a Beatnuts session and I gave him a beat CD and BAM! He picked one for Long Hot Summer.
HipHopCanada: Crazy. So you’re going the Just Blaze route?
Marco Polo: Yeah man. It’s funny because he had the exact same job at the same studio as me. He came out of The Cutting Room as well. He used to blast his beats out of the office and a lot of the Rocafella artists heard them and that’s how he linked up with them. He was already gone for a year or two when I started working there but essentially I had the same job that he did.
HipHopCanada: Did you go to school for Music?
Marco Polo: Yeah, I went to an Engineering school in Toronto called Harris Institute for the Arts. I took a year program there for engineering. They promise you a job in the industry and all that. That shit was so expensive I’m still paying that bitch off right now. When I graduated I was like, “What’s up with the job? What’s up with the internship?” I wasn’t really trying to wait on them so I just took things into my own hands. I had one friend in New York and he said, “You can crash at my crib.” He lived in Queens so I moved out there and stayed in his basement.
HipHopCanada: So you’re in Brooklyn now?
Marco Polo: Yeah, after about 6 months in Queens I moved into this new apartment in Brooklyn and I been here ever since.
HipHopCanada: Nice. Being a producer, you bring that “boom bap”, and you use samples. From what I’ve heard, you hook those up lovely. I don’t have to tell you shit because look at the roster you have on Port Authority. Being an early 80’s and 90’s hip-hop fan, I can tell you’re from the same era. Is that something that you wanted to bring to Port Authority? How did you end up with that list of artists?
Marco Polo: When I first moved to New York I really just wanted to get my hands in production and really start working with people. If you look at the roster and the list of names on Port Authority, I think any aspiring hip-hop producer that’s a real hip-hop head aspires to work with such artists. While I might not have thought about doing a whole hip-hop album I always wanted to work with all those artists. I wanted to work with Kool G Rap, Boot Camp, and I always wanted to work with Ace. When Masta Ace recorded that joint for Long Hot Summer he also did “Nostalgia” which ended up being the first song toward Port Authority. Once I gained my confidence and started working more, I started shopping my beats. I did a full album with Pumpkinhead called Orange Moon Over Brooklyn. I linked with Buckshot and did joints on the last Boot Camp album. Before I knew it, I had a lot of songs from artists in the trade and I just started putting them all towards this project that evolved into Port Authority.
HipHopCanada: You said you went to school for engineering and from listening to the album, it sounds amazing. Did you do all the mixing yourself?
Marco Polo: I wish. I’m definitely involved with all the mixing, but I have to shout my mixing engineer Joe Nardone; he is dope as fuck. I met him at The Cutting Room and he taught me a lot about mixing and sound. You can go to these schools for days and days, take your classes, but when you get your hands dirty and you’re working for real engineers in real situations you really learn about things. When I met Joe Nardone and another dude by the name of Dylan Margerum, both of whom are good friends of mine now, we were starting off as engineers at The Cutting Room. By the time I left, they became the head engineers there and the 3 of us used to work on shit together all day long. I mixed a couple of joints on Port Authority but Joe mixed the bulk of it.
HipHopCanada: When you listen to Port Authority it sounds like it was mixed by a hip-hop head and not some random studio engineer.
Marco Polo: And that’s the thing; that’s the advantage of having that engineering experience because you could mix for days and still not know how to engineer hip-hop. There are different ways to mix different genres of music but with my knowledge of making beats and their knowledge on the boards and sound we made the shit bump.
HipHopCanada: What’s up with Beat Society?
Marco Polo: Good question. I mean I’ve got love for Beat Society. They put me on in my earlier days in New York. They gave me a chance to rock beside J-Zone, my man Slop and Brainstorm and since then I’ve done 5 Beat Society shows: one in Toronto, two in New York, one in L.A. and one in Philly. Right now we’re definitely trying to organize some more shows but because there are a lot of people involved with Beat Society sometimes it holds shit back and doesn’t move as quick as it should.
HipHopCanada: Yeah, everyone has to eat.
Marco Polo: Exactly. To have that many creative forces working together sometimes kind of brings shit backwards instead of moving forward. I’m doing my part to bring the Beat Society actually on tour across Canada to open up for Masta Ace this summer. We’re planning all that out right now.
HipHopCanada: Speaking of creative forces, what about hardware? What are your weapons of choice when making a beat?
Marco Polo: I keep it old; well not old, but when I got my student loan from Harris I bought my first and only MPC2000XL. I use the same one to this day. It’s really just my MPC, my records and my turntables. That’s it.
HipHopCanada: If you didn’t have your MPC what would you use?
Marco Polo: Oh man, shit I have no idea. I’d be fucked.
HipHopCanada: You have Kardinal on your album. Are there any other projects with Toronto artists coming?
Marco Polo: Actually, for the record just so that cats know, I reached out to BrassMunk, Frankenstein and Saukrates to do a posse cut for Port Authority. For whatever reason it didn’t happen, but besides that I’m definitely with other artists. I have my man Shylow’s album that’s about to be finished. He’s a dope emcee. He’s part of a collective called The Bomb Shelta. He has an album coming with beats from myself, J-Zone, Jake One, Kev Brown. I did some shit with my man 9thUno from Bomb Shelta also. I have been building.
HipHopCanada: Any up coming projects? What’s on the menu? What’s next for Polo?
Marco Polo: I have my outside production for all the usual suspects. I have joints with Boot Camp, the new Heltah Skeltah album, Large Professor, Edo G, Masta Ace and his new group, Supastition, J-Live, Torae, Skyzoo… What I really love is doing albums from top to bottom production. I don’t know what the next project is going to be or whether it will be with just one artist or even a Port Authority 2, but it’s definitely going to be something where I produce the whole thing top to bottom.
HipHopCanada: So you would do a whole album with just one artist?
Marco Polo: That’s exactly what I’m talking about. I would love to start a group with my DJ, DJ Linx from Mixtape Massacre (88.1 CKLN) and an emcee and really just do that. Maybe something like the Canadian version of Gangstarr or something.
Marco Polo: It’s definitely possible but right now I’m not in a super rush to jump into anything until I’m ready. I’m really just trying to promote this album, make new beats and see what happens in a couple of months.
HipHopCanada: I find that you use a lot of samples and I’m noticing when I listen to any of your joints that you tailor your drums to the sample, like they were born from the same song.
Marco Polo: Damn, that’s a huge compliment because that’s what I spend a lot of time doing. I’ll make a beat and have the drums going until they feel like they’re in the same room as whatever loop or horns I’m using. If it sounds natural I’m happy. I spend a lot of time focusing on my drums because that’s the center of the whole beat.
HipHopCanada: So Port Authority?
Marco Polo: Yeah. The album dropped May15 th. It’s out right now everywhere in North America; Canada and the U.S. I was just in Toronto, downtown HMV, and they have a lot of albums, so you can definitely get it there. We’re trying to get a lot more copies in store but you can get it there. It’ll be available in most spots downtown Toronto [and soon on HipHopCanada.com’s Online store!]
HipHopCanada: Cool. You have anything to say to the people Polo?
Marco Polo: Absolutely. If you’re not familiar with me go and download the mixtape I have out called Newport Authority. I did with Mick Boogie who is killing it right now in the U.S. You can download that for free at http://www.rappersiknow.com and if you’re not familiar with my work that mixtape will pretty much brief you on my whole history of production in New York. So check it out, it’s free. Joints with Boot Camp, Masta Ace, Sadat X, Pumpkinhead, Skyzoo, Torae, Grand Daddy IU, Large Pro and once you sit with that go and buy the Port Authority album. You won’t be disappointed. That’s were I’m at right now. I feel I’m representing Canada with all this you know.
HipHopCanada: And represent you do. You’re an honor. Any shout-outs?
Marco Polo: Definitely want to shout-out my man Shylow and DJ Linx because Port Authority would not be possible without their creative input. Also, shout-outs to HipHopCanada and you for the interview.
HipHopCanada: You deserve the coverage. One.
Marco Polo: Thank you.
Editor’s note: For more information on Marco Polo, you can visit him on MySpace at http://www.myspace.com/marcopolobeats.
Written by Stepfather for HipHopCanada