Lately, I’ve found myself both thinking and writing about the core tenets of hip-hop. As we drift further into the digital era, artistic lines are being blurred and defining what makes someone “hip-hop” is becoming harder by the day.
In the face of 1,001 sub-genres and new musical movements popping up every week, my definition of what is or isn’t hip-hop has been reduced to a visceral feeling, a sensation of familiarity and a deep connection to authenticity. Maybe the initial definition never mattered in the first place, as art has no need for categorization, but when I think of hip-hop, I think of a very specific set of feelings, and Hell's Kitchen, NYC emcee Marlon Craft’s music elicits those feelings from me.
Marlon quickly became a Booth-favorite after appearing countless times on TeamBackPack, including an absolutely fire contribution for our TPB-assisted Audiomack cypher in February. Admittingly, I was personally late to the Marlon party, not having been introduced to his work until last week, when I saw a preview of “he looked like nothing,” a short film from Marlon and his visual team No Idea's Original based on his recent project of the same title.
Today (March 7), Marlon released the short film, which blends music from his latest project, cinematic scenes and some surprising insights into our relationship with music as human beings.
From the very beginning of the film, two things are apparent: Marlon’s passion for music and the undeniable influence of his East Coast heritage. In fact, it’s an exact mix of those traits that seem to be the driving force behind his material.
"I have so much pride in being from New York, but it’s because of the people that live here—the people make New York what it is," Craft explained via email. "I want to be an artist for the people, that as many different kinds of people can appreciate, and that speaks to things that we all care about and understand.”
It’s this kind of enlightened balance that informs Marlon’s music as well as his outlook on his career.
Marlon can indeed rap his ass off, but it’s his wise-beyond-his-years approach that will ultimately act as the rocket fuel for his career. He’s well aware of the preconceived perceptions he’ll garner as a white kid from Hell’s Kitchen, but it’s his vision of a landscape where those descriptors mean nothing that inspired his latest project.
“That’s why I called my project, he looked like nothing," Marlon explained. "I think a lot of people interpreted it as ‘Oh, Craft is saying he was a skinny white boy that no one expected much from but then he spit crazy and got some fans and now he’s doing his thing.”
He elaborates, “But that wasn’t what it meant. he looked like nothing is me envisioning a utopia where we interpret the art based on its own value and not on its packaging—where you literally can’t describe what he looks like because he looks like himself. And I think that’s a hard point to get to as an artist, but that’s what I aspire to."
In his comments and throughout his music, Marlon displays the kind of sage-like vision and focus that has produced some of hip-hop’s greatest voices. This young man is a rapper’s rapper, someone who has plenty to say and a deep desire to be the best, but with an ethos of authenticity and originality that he’s not willing to part with, no matter the price.
If he looked like nothing is any indication, Marlon has a long career ahead of him, and I’m here for all of it.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Zach.mov