End of the Road: Masta Ace, Marco Polo and Stricklin Wrap Tour [Interview]
Vancouver, BC – We’ve been creeping on Masta Ace, Marco Polo and Stricklin for a while – they’ve been sending us Instagram pictures from their Canadian tour, plus little tidbits of information about the food, the venues, the cities…a taste of what they were tasting for our Tour Tales series. When they finally got to Vancouver, we sat down with all three to have a little recap of their time travelling, plus we got a little intimate about their buddy styles. Check it out!
HipHopCanada: Let’s start with a little recap of the tour so far. You’ve been sending us a few highlights along the way but I’d like to know from each of you what was your favorite moment, place or show so far?
Stricklin: About 2 hours ago when I was snowboarding for the first time. We was up on Grouse, I was gettin’ it in. I might have fell one or two times. Laughs. Maybe three. For the most part that has probably been the highlight. Then other than that it was last night when I went to my first NHL hockey game. So, this tour has brought me two things on back-to-back nights that I had never done before. Both were in Vancouver. One of my other highlights was eating dinner at Marcos Pop’s crib. We had a off day in Toronto and we had dinner at his fathers crib. And just meeting all the nice people in Canada.
Marco Polo: I think scenic-wise British Columbia is my favorite. Starting from Banff, it was at that point that it started getting beautiful during the drive and it kinda lifted my spirits. The Prairies were dope though. Show wise, there was a lot of good shows, I can’t single one out. Obviously I’m bias to Toronto, that’s my hometown. I had a great time there, show was good and of course, I saw my fam. Those were just a bunch of moments I enjoyed on the tour.
Masta Ace: My favorite stop by far was Revelstoke for a few reasons; we had an off day there, the scenery was incredible and the hotel was really, really cool. I had an opportunity to go to the sauna in that hotel and then the sauna at the Aquatic Center. There was the hot tub, the pool and it was a whole day of just pamperin’ and recovering from all the shows that we had been doing. I got a massage later that day. It was just the perfect off day of just relaxing and treating yourself and treating your body right. Combine with the scenery it was just my favorite stop.
HipHopCanada: One thing I noticed and I hope readers have been noticing is that your personalities kind of came out throughout Tour Tales. I noticed that Stricklin liked to send in structures and buildings and Ace was more about the food and Marco was very much about the people. Is that accurate and how do you feel you personality came out through your pictures?
Stricklin: Yeah, I am into buildings and structures and scenery. That helps me remember things better. A picture that stands out is a picture I took in Kensington Market. That place was very photogenic. A lot of things happening. There was a girl playing the guitar and was singing an Adele song. It was real cultural and that’s what I’m about. So yeah, that’s my personality coming out when I take those pictures and put the colors in with an app on my phone that helps bring out colors.
Marco Polo: People person. I guess you could say I’m a people person, which is probably the Italian background; we like to talk a lot and be around good people. The food thing didn’t come out in the pictures but I’m a food guy too!
HipHopCanada: Well I know you guys like salt and pepper wings because I got pictures on two separate occasions from two different guys.
Marco Polo: I’m definitetly the dude if we have an off day I’m in the city and I go out of my way to Google top five restaurants and I go to the spots that are the best. That’s what I did today. I just seek them out and I spend the whole day at coffee spots and food spots. I love people too. People in Canada are great.
Masta Ace: I just wanted people to kinda follow what a tour is really like. A lot of the times the most of what we see is the venue and the restaurant. So the early pictures were the front of the venue and the restaurant. I felt like that could kinda be thread all the way through. In the middle, we started taking pictures of other stuff and then some of the venues just weren’t that photogenic or they weren’t that nice looking. I felt like it was kind of a way to help those promoters of those clubs that are booking hip-hop and maybe I get a little brownie points. But every city we are going to go to a restaurant and sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not good. Usually the spots that I took pictures of were spots that I enjoyed. There are probably people in those cities that have never eaten at that spot and maybe because they saw that picture they go check it out.
HipHopCanada: What have you done in this industry that is really different or that people have picked up?
Stricklin: Well, I’m kind of a different person in hip-hop because I have a full-time job. Sometimes I don’t feel like I have the drive or the love for it that I should. If I’m not doing this then I know I have a job to fall back on. A lot of times a lot of people that I’m around, that’s all they do is full-time music and I’ve influenced some people from my home town to have something stable but still pursue your dream. Music is something you do because you love it but a lot of the times if you’re not Diddy or Jay you’re not gonna pay a lot of bills and there’s gonna be nights when you wonder how you’re gonna keep the lights on. I never had that feeling because I’ve always had a job. I think that’s what I brought to hip-hop, a different side of it. Trying to hold down a full time job while still pursing my dream.
Marco Polo: I think for me what I bring to the table is my stubbornness and desire to make music for myself no matter what trends change things and how hip-hop has changed since I started making beats. I make exactly what I want to hear. I think that for a lot of purists that like to sample records and this is specific to the production side of things, you can still make beats that way with samples you don’t have to change cause the stuff on the radio sounded electronic. You can just do pure hip-hop and still be successful and there’s still a market for it. Just grassroots sample-based hip-hop production.
Masta Ace: I think my contribution is the notion that you can be yourself in your music. So many rappers come into this game and they basically just try to follow this trend of whatever’s being said on records with whatever the popular sound is. Whatever the popular thing to be said is. Like, he’s rapping about cars and money, I gotta rap about cars and money. I think from the time that I first started making records my mentality was to go against the grain of whatever everybody else is doing. It maybe a little bit to my detriment but I always just kinda wanted to be me and not follow a trend and not be the same as anybody else. I think there are some young artists out there that need to take some lessons from that.
HipHopCanada: With that openness to being yourself do you feel like you’ve also offered a critique to parts of hip-hop that aren’t that?
Masta Ace: Yeah, I think I’ve been criticizing hip-hop at least since my second album. My debut was just trying to show that I could rap when I started the second album, SlaughtaHouse from that point its always been a commentary of this thing we call hip-hop and what’s going on around you. SlaughtaHouse was just about how the gansta-rap thing had just gone too far. Sittin’ On Chrome spoke about how east and West was divided and there needed to be some kind of reconnecton between them. Disposable talked about how disposable this music really is and how major labels don’t value our music the way they should and they can so easily move on the next guy. I think I’ve been critical about the fans as well.
HipHopCanada: Can you tell me what you respect about each other most?
Sticklin: I guess what I respect most about Ace and Marco is that they don’t have to try and fit in to what’s going on. What’s the name of this music we was just talking about Marco? Dubstep. Ace’s partner Rich is always trying to get us to do this, or do a dubstep album. Its all fine and good but I like that Ace is firm and you know, we do what we do, we do what we love and we feed the people the things they like about us. Yeah, we might do some different things but I like how they are rooted. They stay in their lane and they perfect their style in that lane. Marco stays in his lane with the hard beats and Ace stays in his lane and I respect that about both of them. For Marco to do these trendy beats he might make a more money but he’d rather just stay in his lane doing what he’s doing and same with Ace.
Marco Polo: You touched right on it. I think as a crew, that’s why we get along. We are like-minded when it comes to being creative we just stick to our guns in doing what we do. That’s one thing about Ace, every album progressed and got better and better but it’s still him. The production selection is top notch, he knows how to make an album and he’s never affected by what’s going on and that’s what’s contributed to his longevity. Both these dudes are extremely humble and they treat their fans correctly and that’s something I see a lot of newer artists who haven’t even earned those stripes yet being so disrespectful. When you come to our show we defiantly put the time into showing love back with our performance and after the show. We’re tired after a show and sometimes we don’t want to do that but we always make an effort. That’s one thing I learned from these guys being on the road years before I was. When it comes to Strick and his music, he does what he knows represents him; where he’s from and he speaks about things he’s done. That’s what we do. Our music reflects us.
Masta Ace: What I respect about Marco is that he’s a different person now then he was when he was a teenager. I didn’t know him as a teenager but I learned a little bit about his history growing up in Toronto and to see as far as he’s come in his life and the way that he conducts his life, other than smoking cigarettes, he lives a clean life. We’re on this tour and there’s no weed smoking, there’s no drinking, no drug taking. We have a drink here and there but not Marco, he just isn’t having it. I just respect that about him. It would be so easy around all these people smoking and drinking, handing you drugs, to just fall back into that cause its all around you but he’s smart. He has integrity. He just doesn’t and he’s not pressured or anything. He’s probably tried everything in the book but he doesn’t do that anymore. Stricklin is humility; there’s no ego. The level of talent he has as an MC, he has the right to walk around like a cocky asshole, he raps that good. You would never know it if you just sat down and talked to him and then he gets on stage and starts spitting a verse and you’re like, damn! This guys dope. I like guys who are unassuming and have talent but don’t have to bang you over the head with how talented they are.
HipHopCanada: What’s coming up for each of you and what about your upcoming projects are helping you stay relevant?
Stricklin: What’s coming up for me is hopefully getting this album done and put it out. Relevant, just good rhymes. I just hope to rap well; I hope everybody likes it. I know the cliché is “there’s something on there for everybody” and I don’t know if it is or not but I’m gonna continue to do music. If they like it, so be it but if they don’t, oh well. And just step my game up and rapping well.
Marco Polo: I’ve got a few projects coming up. A follow up album to my first producer album, Port Authority. PA2. I’ve been working on it for 3 – 4 years. I think one of the things that keep me relevant in the indie scene is not caring about being relevant in the indie scene. Sticking to my guns and not stressing about who’s hot at the moment and just reaching out to the same people I always have and that’s to artists and MC’s that I’m a fan of. If I like what they do and they wanna work with me, that’s important. The best records get made that way.
HipHopCanada: Who’s your closest network, Marco?
Marco Polo: I mean the New York scene. Ace and the EMC crew. I’ve done joints with everybody. And Duckdown, they are defiantly a big family to me. Shawn, Smif-N-Wessun, Buckshot, Dru Ha. They put out my last three records and to be able to always work with legendary people in the New York scene and up-and-comers too. I think the moment I start to care about what’s going to keep me relevant in 2012 is when I’ll start to lose everything I’ve built thus far.
HipHopCanada: I heard they were opening up a Canadian branch to their label, is that true?
Marco Polo: I cant confirm if that is or isn’t true. I know they were working with Promise from Toronto. But they definitely check for talent in Canada all the time, that’s one thing I can say.
HipHopCanada: Ace, what’s the latest and greatest coming up for you?
Masta Ace: For me, the MA Doom: Son of Yvonne album. The album where I’m rapping over beats by MF Doom. I also have a documentary about my life that’s still in the very early stages of being made but eventually will get done. Made by my company and I’m pretty much directing it. I’ve never tried to chase being relevant. I think when you try to do stuff that’s relevant that when you screw it up. Just be good, that’s it. The word relevant doesn’t even enter my thought process when I’m doing a record. Its not even part of it. I’m just trying to do good music that hip-hop fans say “that’s dope, I like that, I’m buying that and I’m going to see him when he comes out to do a show”.
HipHopCanada: I often ask that question and get the answer that an artist will work with or tour with an up-and-comer and it this partnership of the foundation of old school but with new talent. What do you think about that?
Masta Ace: When I put Stricklin, Wordsworth and Punchline and Apocalypse on my album Disposable Arts, that new young energy is what re-fueled me and kept me just wanting to write and rap and make sure I’m good. There are a lot of dudes coming up and you don’t want to seem like this old guy who cant rap so you gotta make sure your raps are on point. That keeps you sharp, I don’t know if its relevance necessarily but it definitely keeps you sharp.
HipHopCanada: Alright, thanks!
Interview conducted by @AmaliaJude for HipHopCanada
Photography by @KassKills for HipHopCanada