With almost 30 years of performing experience, Marklin is a diversified Pop-Rap Hip Hop artist, that is a crowd pleaser in any venue setting, in the traditions of Will Smith and the Beastie Boys. Marklin has opened up and headlined shows of all sizes for crowds that range in all different ages and listening preferences; Live, Radio and Television. Marklin is professional and his fans are far reaching both in music and TV.
Marklin a.k.a. Marq-e has been rapping and producing since the age of 10. Marklin grew up in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara California and by the 9th grade had cut his first record and toured the US opening for Candyman, Father MC, Def Jeff, Dick Dale, Brotherhood Creed, Tone’ Tony Toni and others. Marklin is also known for his television roles and has starred in ADHDtv and Icon News.
Marklin recently opened up his mind,heart and thoughts with Rick Jamm in a n exclusive interview.
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1. How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?
MARKLIN: Man, it’s almost hard to hear myself say it, but it’s been about 28 years now since I got my start. I was about ten years old, I was in the 6th grade, the rap industry literally had about 3 white rappers in the entire world. I really got in on the ground floor of this thing and fell in love with it immediately. I had a good friend who would swap rap tapes of all the newest stuff that would come out and one day he suggested that we start a rap group for a school talent show. We did it, won the talent show and the rest is history. We sat around daydreaming of being on Star Search some day and that dream drove us forward.
2. Who were the first influences on your music and style?
MARKLIN: My very first influences were Doug E Fresh, Slick Rick, Whoodini, Run DMC, Ice-T and the LA Dream Team. Then Rakim came out with “Paid In Full” though and he quickly became my new Hip Hop hero. I wanted to write like him and be cool like him on the mic. Soon after, LL Cool J came out with the “Bad” album, which I stole out of a parked car. It was my first official rap album that was not dubbed onto a blank tape and I listened to it over and over until the tape came out of the cartridge. LL became my second hero and his versatility as a writer and performer influenced me to become an evolving artist. I began digging into my more creative side, creating songs that were more melodic rather than just rattling words over beats that rhyme in a rambling continuum. I was also inspired by Michael Jackson though and would watch hours of performance videos, so dancing became part of my stage presence. I judge the success of my shows on whether people dance and interacte or not.
3. In your opinion who is the most influential and successful artist in your genre today and why?
MARKLIN: There are 2 names that come to mind right off the bat and that’s Dr. Dre and P-Diddy. Since I am from the West Coast, born and bred in L.A., I won’t hesitate to say that Dre is #1 now and will probably go down in history as the #1 artist of all time, when it’s all said and done. When I was in 7th grade I remember getting Dre’s first 3-song debut of NWA. It was on a raggedy blank cassette that he was selling at the Compton Swap-Meet. It had the legendary “Boyz In Tha Hood” track along with “8-Ball” and Ice Cube’s debut “Dope Man.” As kids, we thought we had hit the lottery. Gangster rap had been officially coined and Dre Started it all. The entire West Coast sound along with gangster rap, as a whole, started by Dre, not to mention that some of the world’s most successful names have been discovered and produced by Dre. Guys like Eazy-E, Ice Cube, The D.O.C., 50 Cent, Eminem, Tupac, Snoop Doggy Dogg and the list goes on. Now he’s manufacturing headphones that ain’t no joke. We all look up to Dre on the West Coast for good reason.
4. How do you think music has changed over the years and what do Hip Hop fans enjoy most today, the beats, the rhyming flow or the lyrical content.
MARKLIN: Man, Hip Hop and rap music have come so far and I am so proud to see where it has gone. I remember people telling me that rap music was a fad that would be gone inside of ten years. My own brother called it “Crap Music.” I would argue with him and them, that it was the world’s greatest new sound and would live on like Rock N Roll. For once in my life, I was right. Today there is literally a sound for everyone in this genre. There are deep lyrical geniuses talking about world order, politics and civil issues, then there are hard core gangsters talking about street life, there are light hearted artists out there that are just banging out beats to move club goers and there are inspiring artists out there giving people hope. It’s amazing to see what’s happening. Rap music was always a poor man’s music, it was born and bred in the streets by guys who could not afford musical instruments and therefore it was, by far, the genre to be the most effected by the emergence of home studio software. Now anyone can create their own beats and record their music at home. We see kids that are 10, 11 years old, or younger, producing music in their bedrooms and they’re good, I mean, scary good.
5. You’ve been in the game for almost three decades now, how have you been able to conciliate and keep the balance, between your family, friends and your music?
MARKLIN: It’s always tough to keep a balance between personal life and professional life when you’re a passionate and obsessive artist of any kind. I have found that I am the type of person who can disappear into my cave of obsession and not be heard of for months at a time and I have to make a deliberate and concerted effort to make those connections and divide between stage life and personal life. When I hang out with family or friends I rarely talk about my art and that works for me. I never talk shop with my kids. They get my undivided attention when we hang and their moms appreciate that.
6. Apparently due to drug abuse, you’ve disappeared and made 3 career comebacks since 1984. Are you here to stay this time? And how do you consider your life and career thus far. Blessed or cursed?
MARKLIN: Yes, drugs did a number on me and nearly destroyed everything I had. I found out the hard way that the same obsession and passion that drives my music career also thrives in a drug and alcohol environment. In fact, it overpowered my career on those three instances and I almost lost the things that I love the most in my life. It dragged me to treatment several times and jail several more times until I found peace within myself and today I do not drink or use any type of drug and for that I would have to say that I feel blessed in my life and career. The love for this business pulled me back up by my boot-straps when all else was lost and encouraged me to saddle back up and ride again. It gave me hope and now I have a deeper message to share with my listeners as a result. I feel like Rocky Balboa now. Life has had its fun knocking me down, but I keep getting back up and now my message is “Yeah, life can shat on you, but it can’t stop you unless you let it!”
7. We understand that your past experiences have made you want to give back and be a positive part of society? How did this come about and what exactly are you doing?
MARKLIN: Yes, my past experiences really reached down inside me and touched me in areas that inspired me to have a deeper sense of belonging to community and to give back. I have made it a point to make charity work a priority in my career and life plan. I made a commitment to give no less than 10% of my time, energy, message and money to charity and have found that I have encroached on 50% at times and have never felt more blessed. I started out with the Dream Foundation, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and Make a Wish Foundation because it absolutely breaks my heart to see terminally ill children who will not be afforded a chance to grow into adults and live normal lives, going outside or playing in the dirt with their friends and I wanted to give anything I had to make their dreams come true. I also got involved with the National Humane Society and other animal protection organizations because I love animals and believe that someone needs to be their voice. At present time I sit on the board of Conscious Music Entertainment, founded by songwriter Milliea McKinney and am a board advisor to The World Muzart Foundation, founded by former MCA Records Vice President Pat Melfi. These are two wonderful organizations that are ensuring that music remains clean and positive for kids and that music and arts remain in school curriculum across the country. I encourage all musicians to get involved with these two orgs to protect their art for future generations to come. I believe that with fame comes responsibility and it is wasted if we do not use that voice to make a positive impact on something.
8. Which of your original compositions is your current personal favorite, and why?
MARKLIN: My favorites are always changing, but I would have to say that “One Day” is my current favorite. It’s a nice polished track that people like to listen to and it goes off well live. DJ Naday did a phenomenal job producing that track and Hersh dropped that amazing hook. Those guys are really good. My all time favorite track though is “Simply Love.” I wrote it for my girlfriend when I was 15, rapped over a remix to Ben E King’s “Stand By ME” and people love to get down to it when I perform it, to this day.
9. Which ingredient do you think is most essential in making your music the way it is?
MARKLIN: I think that the daydreaming is always the most important ingredient to writing a great song. If I can get lost in a song and daydream about it doing what I want it to do and then imagine myself performing it live, in front of 20,000 screaming people, I usually will hit the nail right on the head. If you can play air-guitar to your song, it is most likely a hit and if I can make people lift their hands and say ho when I perform a track, it’s the same effect!
10. Which emotion mostly dominates your music nowadays? Joy, sadness, anger or passion etc… And why?
MARKLIN: I would have to say passion, because every song is talking about life as I have lived and perceived it. Whether it is a happy song, a sad song, a love song or even a dance song, there is a certain edge of passion and ownership to the story and a certain right of passage that feeds my confidence. I love what I do and I think that it comes through, that I’m just lucky to be alive and having music back is a huge bonus. I don’t want to lose it again.
11. What aspect of the music making process excites you most?
MARKLIN: I love getting in the studio when I have a track that I feel good about and I love getting people’s feedback, whether it’s on a Facebook page or at a live show, it just feeds me to continue on whether there is money or not.
12. What aspect of the music making process discourages you most?
MARKLIN: Seeing so many new artists out there makes me realize that the competition has never been tougher. There are a lot of really great unsigned artists out there and there are only so many record labels, only so many venues and only so many radio slots available. We are no longer a coveted commodity and must dig deeper to find that branding characteristic that sets us apart from our counterparts. This month I just started getting radio rotations in South Africa and the UK and I counted my lucky stars, because I am well aware that this is a tough business now and those rotation slots and radio interviews are like gold.
13. How involved are you in the recording, producing, mastering and other processes needed to produce and market your music, and do you outsource any part of this process?
MARKLIN: I like to be right in there throughout the entire producing process, however I have learned over the years to let other people play their parts. I am a great lyricist and performer and have full confidence in those talents, but I also realize that my engineer has just as many years in the studio doing what he does, as does my beat producer, my singers, DJ, guitarist and so on, so I just let everyone specialize in their area and contribute their input where they excel. I think that it makes the finished product better. I also enjoy the sense of community, being involved in a team. There is nothing like a shared hi-five when a new element emerges in a song, or the end celebration when everyone in the studio is happy with the way that something came out. As far as Mastering goes, I have just started playing with mastering and it made me realize one thing; that I will leave the Mastering to the engineers! They are much better at it than I am. I definitely outsource that aspect!
14. The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t, but now know you should have?
MARKLIN: Mickey Gilley once told me to “know who my audience is and perform to them, give them everything,” and James Hetfield of Metallica once told me to “be nice to everyone that I ever meet in this business, because the guy pushing the broom today, will be running the company tomorrow.” When he told me that I was working graveyards at the drive-thru window of a Taco Bell in Van Nuys California. During the day I worked at Fox Family Studios, as a security guard, where I was planning my great exploitation into the biz, meeting people and taking numbers nonstop! As far as advice I should have followed, that one is easy; I should have listened when people told me to stay away from drugs. In this business they are everywhere if you want them. People will give them to you just because you’re cool and you make music. I didn’t pay for my drugs for years, until the end when it was all that I was good for.
15. As an independent artist, which is the one factor you currently desire most (increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure, club performances etc…)?
MARKLIN: Oh, it’s a tight race. I think that all of these factors are running neck-and-neck in a tight race. In fact. I felt my mouth water as you asked the question. It’s kind of like the chicken and the egg thing. I guess I would love to have better production, so that I had something worth distributing and the media would want to expose me, then I would play more clubs, or maybe I should play more clubs so that more people will accept my under-produced endeavors, that the media has no choice but to expose, thus getting myself some distribution? I think you can see where this is going, lol.
16. How do you distribute and promote your music ( Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby, Your own Website, Youtube etc…) and why?
MARKLIN: Right now you can buy my music on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon and wherever music is available on the web. I use CD Baby to distribute to those channels because of their one-time setup fees. I generally promote my stuff through Twitter and Facebook because I can reach a mass of people quickly and easily, all around the globe in one easy shot. I think I am somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 Twitter followers (@_Marklin_) now and it never ceases to amaze me that I have fans in 80 countries that I have never stepped foot in. This is all due to the World Wide Web and social network sites. I also like Reverbnation because I can put all my music stuff in one neat place where people can find everything they need about my music. It really makes things easier. This week I will be live on the radio in London UK, on Westside Radio 89.5 FM and the week after that I will be live on KMUZ 88.3 FM in Salem Oregon. In the past you would have had to live within local signal range to hear the shows. However, now through the station’s websites, with the help of Facebook events and Twitter, my fans will be listening to those local stations all over the world via the internet. It really is quite amazing.
17. How do you handle criticism? Who has been your worst critic, if any?
MARKLIN: Over the years, criticism has gotten easier to handle. I have come to the realization that the truth is much better than puff. If I want to be the best at what I do, I must be able to handle someone telling me that something I am doing isn’t working. I have had a lot of critics over the years that have ranged from family members, to friends, to girlfriends, managers, agents and other rap artists. I first assess where it is coming from and try to discern their specific intentions, to make sure that they are being honest, realistic and know what they are talking about. I wouldn’t want to get a haircut from a barber with a horrible haircut, if you know what I mean. I think my cousin, Albie Martinez, who was my manager as a kid growing up, has always sorta been my go-to-guy. He knows what he’s talking about, he’s not afraid to tell me when I suck and he’s almost always dead on. He’s not a rap fan, which also helps, because he just tells me whether he would listen to it or not amd I am generally trying to appeal to a wide audience when I write my material. He has definitely been my best and worst critic, outside of myself of course. I can pine over a song like no other and I can be brutally honest with myself sometimes, because I have to be.
18. Is going platinum or winning a Grammy important to you? Where would you like to see your career within the next 5 years?
MARKLIN: I used to daydream about going platinum or winning a Grammy and I think that would be the ultimate reward, like an athlete winning a ring and making it to the Hall of Fame. It’s the ultimate acceptance by your fans and peers and I honestly don’t know how I would react. It would be like Ed McMahon showing up on my porch with a million-dollar check or hitting the Power Ball numbers, but even better because it would have been earned by my own blood, sweat, tears and relentless efforts. For me, I am already 38, so I am at peace with myself, that I may not ever see that day, but anything can happen as long as I’m still rappin’. In the next five years I would like to see me settle into a record label, release a couple quality CD’s and go tour around and see what I am capable of, without all the distractions that derailed me before. I’d like this to be my final full-time job.
19. What in your opinion is the biggest barrier an artist like yourself, has to face and overcome, to gain any commercial success today?
MARKLIN: I think that branding has always been the name of the game. You can dump hundreds of thousands of dollars into a flashy music campaign; get national radio rotation on a song, have pretty damn good music and all that, but if you can’t set yourself apart from the other artists in your field, then people will not be able to remember you. There are just too many artists out there. I realize that I need to come up with something a little different. I need to wear something that no one else is wearing, do something catchy, so that if people can’t remember my name, they can at least describe something about me, like “I like that song One Day by that white rapper with the bald head, you know….the big guy, who wears the shiny Chuck Taylors and throws fruit around in his music video…..blah blah blah.” Branding is an art of it’s own that is very similar to writing song hooks.
20. If you were not a music artist, what would you be doing today?
MARKLIN: I wanted to be a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers when I was a kid. I was really good too. I had a mean fastball that scared kids and made them cry. When I was at City College, in Santa Barbara California, I decided to intern for the Los Angeles Dodgers doing video production because I was too old to try my hand at playing and it was like a dream come true to be on the field running a camera for a season. TV became my money making endeavor and it is something that I do alongside my music now. I hope that music will put the food on the table and help out with some of the heavy lifting soon though, so I can focus my time and effort in one place, but yeah, I’d probably have stuck with baseball.