Repping Hull by way of Manchester, rapper Marx is on the rise and attracting attention with his blend of honest and heartfelt lyricism atop anthemic and hard hitting beats. We caught up with him to hear all about how he got into rap, the hip hop scene in Hull, live rap shows , his metal and hardcore influences and what he has planned musically for the future.
How did you get into rapping originally?
Me, my brother and my cousin would always mess around with rhymes when we were younger, we used to play that Get on Da Mic game on PS2 and freestyle for hours with it. I made a couple songs with my brother and performed live at a festival when I was nine, and I really wish I’d have taken it seriously at that stage. It wasn’t until I was 18 and in college that I fully started studying the science of being an emcee.
Who are some of your influences as an MC?
When I was younger it was Eminem, D12, that whole Shady/Aftermath camp. I think that’s everyone’s foray into hip-hop, especially my generation. When I decided to take rapping seriously it was cats like Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap and Mobb Deep who made me really want to be an emcee.
How would you describe your style to someone that hadn’t heard you before?
Hard-hitting, humorous and honest. I just try to be as real as possible, whether that makes me appear vulnerable or daft or whatever. I know if I try put on a front I’ll get pulled up on it, I’ve got people in my corner to keep me in my place and not let my own perceptions get to my head.
What is on your agenda musically at the moment? Are there any new releases forthcoming from Marx?
I have my debut album about 60% written, but with the budget I have in mind it’s a while away before that’ll see the light of day, so I’m going to put out some projects for free on some beat tapes I’ve leased. Me and Endoflevelbaddie have just started work on a collaboration album too, we had one session and got three tracks more or less good to go, really raw stuff. I’m calming down on touring and live performances so I can dedicate my time, energy, and most importantly budget into the studio.
What has been the reaction like to your music so far?
Very positive, I released my debut EP for free and ended up with a lot of revenue from it which I was surprised about. The most common reaction I get is “I wasn’t expecting you to be any good, but that was ace!”; people seem to be pleasantly surprised. I try to be as honest as possible in my lyrics and I think people appreciate that authenticity.
What is the hip hop scene like in Hull and are there any Mcs you could recommend to us?
Hip-hop is alive and well in Hull, it’s an intimate scene and for the most part people love seeing each other succeed. Chiedu Oraka and Deezkid have been putting in the work for years now and that seems to finally be paying off for them with the Radio 1Xtra co-signs and whatnot. Chiedu joined LIFE for their set at Leeds Fest and it’ll be a crime if he doesn’t have a slot of his own there next year. Cameo Brooks is my favourite emcee on the circuit right now, I featured on one of his tracks called True and he’s got skills way beyond his years. I’m looking forward to hearing more of Muzi Swaks and Live Lans too. Definitely a lot of heads to watch out for.
With hip hop and grime in this country gaining a larger and larger audience nowadays than in the past, do you think that it has blown things wide open for a city like Hull to get a chance to shine whereas in the past, the opportunity just wouldn’t be there or you’d have to go to London or Birmingham or wherever?
You still have to go to those places, but there’s definitely a bit more focus this way now, especially with the City of Culture status. Like I mentioned earlier Chiedu Oraka’s had Radio 1Xtra play, as well as interviews with ID and Vice Magazine, Cameo Brooks has supported Fuse ODG at a sold out show in London, I’ve been touring the country non-stop. So although you still have to expand, it throws the spotlight on Hull when we do. In terms of Hull, people are doing it on their own terms anyway regardless of whether there’s a ‘scene’ or not; the love for the music and the culture is what pushes us forward, not popularity.
Have you got any live dates coming up?
I’m always on tour! I’m supporting Klashnekoff in Manchester this month, followed by Coventry, Leeds, Liverpool and Hull. Quick break, before starting again in Hull, Sheffield, Widnes, Manchester and one in Doncaster with Goldie Lookin Chain and MC Devvo. I said I wanted to calm down on touring but I can’t help myself, it’s who I am.
If you could have a cypher with any other three MCs who would you choose?
Textbook answer, but I’m gonna say Eminem first because he’s probably the best freestyler I’ve heard, Conway because he’s murdering everybody right now, and Inspectah Deck, because he’s the sharpest swordsman and Wu–Tang is forever.
As well as hip hop, you have a punk/hardcore/metal background. Was that what you were into before rap or did you get into it all at the same time?
I was into hip-hop first, I actually got into rock music through rap. I heard Ice Cube on the Korn track Children of the Korn, when I was about seven and I was blown away. I think I gravitated towards nu metal at first because it’s fairly accessible in comparison to other subgenres like grindcore or sludge metal or whatever, and it’s groove-based, it has that crossover with hip-hop that just works perfectly when it’s done right.
All of those styles of music have a rebelliousness to them, was that what attracted you to them in the first place?
Honestly, I just love any music that sounds good to me, those genres just happen to be the best ones.
Do you ever combine your rapping with punk and metal?
Yeah, I used to do that with my previous bands, one of City of Stone’s songs was actually just four rap verses I nicked on the track because nothing I wrote would fit. I stole verses from Rob Base’s ‘It Takes Two’, Jadakiss’ on ‘Put Ya Hands Up’, Vanilla Ice’s ‘The Wrath’ and Ice-T’s ‘O.G. Original Gangster’. I was really wack though, like I said I hadn’t bothered to really study what it took to be an emcee at this stage so obviously I wasn’t very good. Let’s hope none of them read this and sue me!
Who are some of your favourite metal, hardcore and punk bands?
Korn, Deftones, Black Sabbath, Hatebreed, The Chariot, Lamb of God, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Glassjaw, Agnostic Front, Madball. Way too many to mention mate, I love extremely heavy stuff, but I like really cool, atmospheric stuff like post-metal too. There’s so many subgenres that you can never get bored with it.
Can you tell us a bit about your past groups City Of Stone and Headless Hangman and would you ever get them back together?
City of Stone were kind of a progressive Rage Against the Machine, or at least that’s what we were told at the time. I was basically just a wannabe Jonathan Davis in that band. We went on tour and performed at Birmingham Arena, but we never recorded anything before breaking up.After that, me, Eddie from System Paralysis, Casey from NOUR, Rhys who was in City of Stone with me and another kid called Jordan formed Headless Hangman about five months later. I felt seriously lost not making music in that time, so I was extremely grateful to get back on stage with them, but we were extremely unorganised and unprofessional. Since most of the group were in other bands, schedules were obviously an issue, and then Rhys left the group on the day of a gig, Jordan left for dumb reasons, and we ended up adding Chris who’d also been in City of Stone on guitar and Eddie from RUNoffthestatic on bass, but never actually had a proper rehearsal with this new line-up. We did more shows than we did rehearsals.I may sound a bit cynical talking about these bands now but I honestly wouldn’t change a thing, as it was all a learning curve and helped me gain the opportunities I receive now. I’d never get any of these bands back together full-time but I’d definitely do a one-off show with either of them for a laugh. Nothing to lose, right?
What’s the best live gig you’ve ever been to?
Probably The Prodigy, just for sheer atmosphere, or maybe any of the seven times I’ve seen Korn. They’re my favourite band, and the best time I saw them was at Brixton recently. I’ve seen nearly everyone I wanna see live now, some of my favourites have been Lamb of God, Method Man & Redman, Public Enemy, Meshuggah, Jeru the Damaja. I’m either performing at a show, or attending a show every week, without fail.
As a rapper yourself how do you feel about live hip hop? It can get a bad reputation but so many of the greatest live gigs I’ve seen have been hip hop ones.
Same here, I think wack rappers give live hip-hop a bad name because they can’t actually pull off their songs live. Hip-hop is the greatest and purest art form that exists, so if you do it right of course it’s brilliant. Public Enemy are a shining example, they’re thirty years deep and still one of the best live bands out there.
What do you do as a live performer to ensure your set is as good as it can be?
Murder every song on every stage 100% of the time. I make sure to keep the crowd engaged in between the songs too, with personal stories and banter with them. There’s nothing more boring than hearing “this song’s about when I did this and that and the other and blah blah blah”, so I try to keep it a bit more interesting and funny than that. I’m not afraid to poke fun at the crowd, or myself, so not only are people stunned by the strength of the songs, they’re entertained by my personality. It all depends on what type of show it is as well.
You’ve rapped alongside the legendary KRS-One and Big Daddy Kane. How were those experiences?
I just rapped on stage with Kane and in a cypher with Kris when he came to do a talk at my university. Those were incredible experiences though, after the Kane cypher I went away and wrote lyrics for hours until my train home came in the morning. I didn’t even have a hotel or anything, I was on my own in Leeds with a notebook and a pen. It was that night where I knew I had to take rapping seriously.
In fact there’s footage of you freestyling for KRS. Got to say you smashed it and The Teacher looked very impressed! Was that a nerve-racking experience rhyming in front of one of the greatest of all time or did you just take it in your stride?
I’d been sat with him for about an hour and I was able to speak with him before that was filmed so I wasn’t really nervous. He’s a really down-to-Earth guy and I’d love to work with him at some point.
Who is the greatest rapper of all time in your opinion? If you can’t choose one a top three would do.
Honestly, I don’t even think this is a question that can be accurately answered. There’s so many brilliant emcees out there that naming one would do a lot of others a disservice, but I’ll go for three that I think deserve to be put in that conversation and category, but unfortunately don’t always get the shine they deserve; R.A. the Rugged Man, Scarface & Ghostface Killah. You’d be hard pressed to find someone as dedicated to the art and craft of being an emcee as R.A.; Ghostface is one of them emcees who makes you feel like you’re sat in the same room as them with their storytelling, same as Face. They can make you laugh one minute and then strike fear into your soul the next.
And the greatest rap album? Or top three!
I’d say Wu-Tang Forever is the greatest rap album, or at least my favourite. Some serious darts get thrown on that one, people are still trying to catch up with how lyrically strong the Clan were on that record. Mobb Deep’s The Infamous is up there, if it wasn’t for that album I definitely wouldn’t have become an emcee. R.I.P Prodigy. Finally, I’m gonna say The Diary by Scarface, I get chills hearing songs like ‘I Seen a Man Die’ and you just can’t help but hang off his every word.
Who is your favourite Wu Tang member and why?
The Ghostface Killah, no one can get iller! Ghost is my favourite, followed by Raekwon and Masta Killa. I love all the Clan though, but yeah definitely Ironman. There’s just something about the way he spits, and what he says that’s so vivid but captivating at the same time. Like I said he almost makes you feel as though he’s in the same room as you, plus his songwriting and storytelling is incredible. He’s definitely been the most consistent with his output too, not one bad album.
Who would you love to play a gig with in the future?
I’d love to do a Korn, Wu-Tang and Marx tour. That’s the dream.
Any final words for us?
Thank you for taking the time to research me and give me some questions that were fun to answer. To anyone reading, come check me out my live dates and keep in touch. @marx01482 on all media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.)
20th Oct – Rebellion, Manchester w/ Klashnekoff
25th Oct – Draper’s Bar & Kitchen, Coventry
26th Oct – The Old Red Bus Station, Leeds
27th Oct – Dough Bar, Liverpool
31st Oct – The New Adelphi Club, Hull
4th Nov – O’Rileys, Hull
10th Nov – DINA Venue, Sheffield
11th Nov – Kelly’s Bar, Widnes
17th Nov – Diamond Live Lounge, Doncaster w/ Goldie Lookin Chain & MC Devvo
24th Nov – Fuel Cafe Bar, Manchester
Photos by JWA Creations & Dandrew Photography