Paul Marz, a first generation Egyptian-American rapper, was born in Staten Island, New York, on October 26, 1985. His love of hip-hop began at the early age of 8. Marz began performing around NYC in 2008. In 2010, he put out his first mixtape, “Welcome to Marz”, comprised of lyrics written in his teenage years. In 2013, Marz’s debut album, “Sword of Sound”, was featured on a number of top hip-hop blogs, such as 2DOPEBOYZ.com, DJBOOTH.net, RAPDOSE.com which helped to establish a platform for him to grow his fan base & begin touring. In February 2015, Marz was part of an international tour around Australia alongside The Alkoholiks, Solomon Childs, Zu Ninjas and DJ Rellik.
Amongst Marz’s music endeavors is the relaunching of the popular battle rap league, iBattleTV in New York City. Founded in Connecticut iBattle has been a leading platform for rising artists in the battle rap world. The opportunity arose after working with Toronto based league, Beastmode for 3 years & playing a critical role in the expansion of Beastmode NY. Marz’s love & dedication to Hip-Hop has lead him to take an active role in the community, using his experience to guide young artists along the path.
- Can you tell us a bit about how you got started and where you come from?
Paul Marz: I’m from Staten Island, NY. I started writing and rhyming in my earlier teenage years as a hobby. I would rhyme in cyphers with friends, but took the craft more seriously as I got involved with the underground NYC hip-hop scene.
- Who were your first and strongest musical influences that you can remember?
Paul Marz: The earliest musical influences I can remember are 90’s Hip-Hop. Wu-tang, Busta Rhymes, Biggie were just some of the greats I had the privilege of listening to at a young age because my older sister would buy their albums. I remember vividly when I was 8 years old being captivated by the 36 Chambers album. It sparked my love and appreciation for music.
- If I was to turn on your media player right now, which artists/songs would I see on your recently played list?
Paul Marz: MF Doom, Ghostface Killah, Damian Marley, 10 Ft. Ganja Plant, Styles P, Czarface, Nas
- What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners?
Paul Marz: I’m big on lyrics, being a student of the game I really try to fill my rhymes with substance. Sometimes this is overlooked especially with today’s modern styles, but that’s ok with me I will always enjoy the process.
- Could you tell us something about your latest project?
Paul Marz: My last album release was “Death of a Star, Rise of a Titan”. It was an important project for me. After 10 years of experience I really knew how I wanted to craft an album from beginning to end, and on this project I was able to clearly execute my vision. The concept of the album comes in two parts, “Death of a Star” refers to the death of your ego. It signified the point for me where I didn’t want to be a “star”. Where I would sacrifice selfish desires for logical more communal choices. “Rise of a Titan” is the reward received for killing off your ego. You can become more than ever imagined. The album signifies change and my growth as a person and artist. I like to think of it as a blueprint for others as well.
- When putting together a song, do you usually start with the beat first, or do come up with a narrative first?
Paul Marz: This can go either way for me. Sometimes I have something on my mind or heart that I really want to express. In that case, I will come up with a title and concept prior to writing and really give myself a narrative and then find a beat to fit. Other times, and this happens most often when working with others, I like to skim through beats until something catches my attention.
- Do you ever write a song with current musical trends, formulas or listener satisfaction in mind, or do you simply write what comes from your heart?
Paul Marz: It’s very rare that I will go out of my way to attempt that because it just doesn’t feel natural to me. I’m not really into trendy things that sound cool for a year or two and then become cringeworthy in the next 5. I prefer meaning which leads to longevity.
- What is your process when writing, recording and producing your music? Do you collaborate with others or outsource any of these tasks?
Paul Marz: All of the above. I write all of my own material. Sometimes I produce my own records from scratch but I enjoy working with others on beats. I work with a number of experienced engineers and producers who are always willing to give their input. If I find myself with too much work to finish, I will outsource some of the mixing process to speed things up.
- What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your career or life so far, and how did you overcome the event?
Paul Marz: It was a series of events in 2015. My cousin and two close childhood friends passed away within months of each other. At the time I had just began working on “Death of a Star, Rise of a Titan”. I was devastated the majority of the year, and each time that I felt like things were going to get better they got worse. I would think about what my cousin would want me to do (he used to always encourage my music career in its early stages and come to shows with me). I stayed focused on my work and essentially went through the motions and then eventually I was able to complete the project. The whole year just shifted my perspective on life. When circumstances are out of your control you just have to work hard and try to remain optimistic.
- What would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your career so far?
Paul Marz: I had the chance to go on tour in Australia with the Alkaholiks, Solomon Childs and the Zu Ninjaz in 2015. It was always my goal when I started to be able to get on other stages around the world and this was one of the first major checkmarks on my bucket list.
- What is the best piece of advice regarding the music business that you actually followed so far, and what is the advice you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
Paul Marz: The best piece of advice I have followed: Don’t worry about what others think and ignore anyone that tells you, you can’t do something. Advice I didn’t follow but should have: Spend more time in your early years learning the business side of music, instead of catching up later.
- How do you handle criticism, haters and/or naysayers in general? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?
Paul Marz: I certainly welcome constructive criticism from valuable sources. I don’t really care for the input of someone who has no clue what I’m about or trying to do. Their opinions hold no weight if they don’t put food on your plate.
- Which aspects of being an independent artist excites you most and which aspects discourages you most?
Paul Marz: What’s most exciting as an independent artist is the freedom to do as you please. Make music how you want and with who you want, when you want. As an artist full creative control is something I highly value.
The discouraging aspect is the actual level of work it takes to accomplish even the smallest bit. I enjoy the challenge, it makes achieving your goals feel better.
- What is your relationship with visual media? Do you think videos are important for your music, and do have a specific video clip you would like to recommend that fans watch to find out more about your craft?
Paul Marz: As a fan and an artist I love visuals. I feel like it opens a window from the artist for you to interpret the music in a whole new way. I’ve always really enjoyed that experience. As well as creating the ideas behind the visuals, it goes hand in hand with the music for me. The last two visuals for my previous album were polar opposites in terms of concepts and execution “Death of a Star” took over a year to film in over 20 locations. While the closing track “Rise of a Titan” was filmed in one day in one location. I feel like it’s all about doing what’s necessary for the track.
- In general, do you consider music and social media platforms as fundamental in building a career in music today, and what is your personal relationship with the new technology at hand?
Paul Marz: In music today, absolutely. When I first started to record in a studio it was 2002 so the state of technology was not quite the same as it is today. It wasn’t cheap and there wasn’t really an effective and accessible way to be an artist the way there is now. Getting signed was still a major focus of most artists but it wasn’t for me at the time. Luckily the rise of social media and my path at an independent career paralleled each other and I was able to capitalize on that. I was able to make connections and book shows/tours that would’ve otherwise been impossible. I currently higher a company to maintain my social media in order to keep up with my work.
- For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and music maker, and the transition towards your own style?
Paul Marz: When I started taking writing seriously I was listening to a lot of Big Pun, Eminem, Lox and a whole mix of elite MCs that I looked up to. In my early stages of learning I would take notice of certain lines that stood out and analyze why they stood out to me. I’ve always had something to say but it was about learning how to say it effectively. I found out this could only be truly learned through experience. Getting on stage teaches you a lot about who you are. Being on the underground scene in NYC definitely speeds up the process of growth as steel sharpens steel. After I released my first full album in 2012 I was able to see the vision of who I wanted to be as an artist.
- Creative work in studio environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two do you ultimately prefer and why?
Paul Marz: Undoubtedly interaction with a live audience. As an MC there’s no greater sense of fulfillment than being in a room with others who are on the same vibe as you and sharing that vibe.
- Do you have a personal favorite track in your catalog that has a specific backstory and/or message and meaning very dear to you?
Paul Marz: I have a track called “Born Invincible” where I personify the feeling of quitting and then attack it in a showdown, never to be discouraged again. It’s always been one of my personal favorites and reminds me to keep going when I’m down. It’s written in story form and was one of the first story tracks I’d ever written.
- What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural and/or social vehicle – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of your artistry and entertainment?
Paul Marz: I think music is the most powerful form of communication. It can transcend borders, languages and even time. I always keep this in mind while creating, I try to capture the ideas or knowledge I’ve learned and pass it on by embedding it into the music.
- Do you have a specific vision or goal that you would like to achieve in 2020?
Paul Marz: I’ve been working with my partners and fellow co-owners at our rap battle league iBattleTV to help create a platform for the next generation of MCs to grow. I would just like to expand on what we have built and eventually create an environment where artists can benefit monetarily from their work. We’ve recently released an app available for free download and I’m excited to see what unfolds this year.