For his own peace of mind, Marques Martin remains comfortably existential. Characterized by surreal videos and gender blending clothing; Sci-Fi, Art Rock and Hip-Hop; a richly mixed race of Puerto-Rican and Black American heritage; and madcap creativity with seemingly infinite influence. Marques heralds an ability to make the uncomfortably unique sound immediately familiar and necessary. A young life proudly rooted in P.G. County, Maryland, but further developed in the caustically nurturing soils of New York City, he knows who he is and what he expects from himself. And collaborating with other innovative creatives in varying spaces, such as KeithCharles, Skinny Macho, and KAMAUU, he firmly and reverently exhibits, without genre constructs, what contemporary black music could be.
The producer, instrumentalist, and rapper has become known for a mixed style of unique low-end sounds and fluid melodies. He arrived in 2019 with a series of critically acclaimed singles supported by the likes of tastemakers Annie Mac, Ebro, Complex, I.D., and Highsnobiety. A bold vocal presence and delivery showcase a prescient ability to portray heft with levity, garnering recognition as one who creates “some of the best music in and outside of the culture.”
His first album, Brave & Afraid, is due for delivery later this summer. Influenced by Aldous Huxley’s dystopic fiction, A Brave New World, the young artist creates a coming of age experience song by song with what has been described as, sometimes serious, sometimes cheeky self-awareness.
He reflects on his position in continuum with a delicate balance of loneliness and audacity. Alone, within his circle of family and friends, and within the larger realm of existence as a young mixed race man, he explores themes of freedom, impulse and happiness with risk-taking artistry. And with influence in alternative music, he connects culture. Re-engineering the influence that black music has on all forms of art, he signifies its influence on others in his musings. “About 2 Die” recalls a noteworthy sample of a Dirty Projectors song of the same name. In “Dance Songs,” an almost balladic and familiar feeling Hip-Hop classic, he challenges 2020’s positioning of music in the current landscape, quoting examples of over-saturation, commodification, and the resulting irrelevance that comes from ubiquity.
Born Marques Nieves in Prince George’s County, Maryland in 1995, Martin was raised in a musical family. He learned to play classical guitar at a young age and also included the saxophone within his sphere of musical studies; what’s more, his great-grandfather was Ramon “Moncho” Usera, an acclaimed Puerto Rican multi-instrumentalist and musical pioneer.And when Marques discovered skateboarding—and the likes of videos such as Bag of Suck and Lakai Fully Flared—he got into the underground scene and punk. It would also be what got him into making beats from his iPod on Beatmaker as a teenager. His early compositions and current thread of multi-textured music took influence in old school East Coast riffs, mainstream rap production, and a hint of funk and pop.
As he developed his craft as a producer and lyricist, Martin raised his profile through local collaborations. He started following Maryland rapper and artist KAMAUU, talking over Soundcloud and eventually going on to record songs together.
Ambitious even then and looking for a plug, Marques showed up seven hours early to a Kanye West concert at the Capital One Arena, DC, snuck backstage to try to personally deliver him beats, meeting Kacy Hill in the process. He continued to keep up a hustle that would get him in front of the likes of Theophilus London, St. Vincent, and Andre 3000.
Eventually relocating to Manhattan, New York, after gaining a scholarship to college in the city, he continued his friendship with a similarly relocated KAMUU and took residence within the latter’s creative collective, the Dolobhana. Marques would study by day, work as an artist by night, and grow to expand his creative community to include fellow Dolobhana artists like Siimba Selassiie and 88 keys protégé, Robert Akins III. Jazz impresario, BigYuki, Columbia Records’ darlings No Wyld and Brandon Black, creatives Morian Thomas and Lou Palace, and the production power-house, Take A Daytrip, would come to the fold.
Now a New York mainstay, the 25 year-old marks his peers as well as the likes of Kid Cudi, St. Vincent, Outkast, Kanye West, Sonic Youth, and The Beatles as serial influences—showing a supremely broad palette of musical taste that’s clearly manifested in the scope and sophistication of his music.