How does one stay true to themselves and the culture they grew up in as an alternative POC? Well, you combine the best of both worlds. While Hip-Hop has always been an array of eclectic styles coming together, one could say being a “quirky” Hip-Hop artist is rather new.
I got the chance to speak with Martin, a rapper that uses his quirks, love for anime and cyber-punk aesthetics to give his listeners an old school Hip-Hop feel. Martin’s creations have no limitations. With his own original characters, sidekicks and attributions to classics like AKIRA, this artist is not only making his mark on the Hip-Hop community, but the nerd community.
Lo: So you’ve cited anime, Tyler the Creator, BROCKHAMPTON, and more as influences, stating you and they “attack the game” from a different perspective and that Hip-Hop is more than just music. Do you mind elaborating?
M: Definitely! I think that much of what makes Hip-Hop so great as an art form is that it’s so deeply rooted in the individual’s own unique experience, story, and overall way of looking at the world. Along with the experiences, they’ve lived through a person’s interests like the movies they love, the art they enjoy, and in my case, the anime shows and flicks that got me through high school all play a role in developing their story and outlook on life. The artists I’m most inspired by like Tyler, BROCKHAMPTON and Tobi Lou aren’t afraid to do something different with their music and visual content. You can tell you’re stepping into their own unique worlds when you’re listening or watching and those artists are masters at weaving their own realities. Sometimes I feel like Hip-Hop artists can be really hesitant to move away from what the majority is doing but just like there’s no one rigid way to appreciate Hip-Hop, there’s no one rigid way to create it either. I can’t imagine making music that didn’t feel like it was me. Part of making it my own is integrating the things I love into my sound, look, and feel whether it be anime films, nostalgic games I grew up on, or 2D entertainment in general.
Lo: What makes your particular style important to the community?
M: First things first, I think it’s vital that people like myself who are passionate fans of both Hip-Hop and anime culture have something within the genre to call their own. One reason I originally started releasing music was because I wanted to create the content that I would most like to see and enjoy. Outside of the 24/7 Lo-Fi Hip-Hop Beats to Relax/Study To community, the crossover of Hip-Hop and anime culture is relatively underrepresented. Although a few mainstream rappers like Lil Uzi Vert and even Kanye back in the day with the “Stronger” music video have looked to anime for influence, I always wished there was an artist out there who could combine sick bars, catchy lyrics, and an anime-inspired aesthetic that went further than just one or two videos or songs. I think my music and live action/2D hybrid visuals can appeal to anyone who’s into good Hip-Hop but my central emphasis on the combination of rap and anime culture offers a breath of fresh air while remaining true to both communities. So often, hardcore fans of anime and Hip-Hop have a hard time finding something that speaks to both those passions and relating to the artists they listen to along those lines. If 14-year-old Martin had found a rapper out there with an entire song about AKIRA and a cast of animated characters surrounding their music, I know he’d have been instantly hyped.
Lo: What would you like to see change within the Hip-Hop community and why?
M: You know that moment when someone says they like an artist or song and someone else immediately comes for their life in all caps? As simple as it might sound, I think closed mindedness is a huge problem within the Hip-Hop community right now. If we take the example of fruits, I might like apples and you might like oranges and we each have our well-thought-out reasons for that. There’s not really much to be gained from getting heated at each other or assuming we can’t be friends over that difference of opinion. For example, this huge rift between fans of “conscious rap” and “mumble rap” is one commonly noted phenomenon within Hip-Hop. Its important to allow each other to enjoy the music that connects with us the most and having respect for the art form as a space for all kinds of creators and fans. I might not be the biggest fan of Lil Peep for example, but if that’s what floats your boat, feel free to set sail.
Lo: Tell us about your sidekicks. What purpose do they serve in your music and storytelling?
M: The animated characters that appear in my videos and IG content are at the core of my visual world. Each one represents some aspect of my own personality, with the main character Cloud, a white mouse who wears a blue backpack and a red bow tie, representing the sum total of those aspects. He frequently stars in my videos and is a reflection of my own experiences and thoughts illuminated in each song. While Cloud is the most commonly recurring character in the group, there’s also Copper, the orange cat and Cloud’s mischievous rival, Luna, a female mouse who’s cold on the surface but warm deep down, Fila, a green female cat obsessed with labeling music either fire or shit, Skye, a White-Eared Sibia bird who loves money and has a dream of flying around the globe, Luna, the spicy one, and ???, a shadowy rat with many more secrets than he has facial expressions. During my string of bi-weekly singles, most of these characters made brief cameos in multiple songs’ live action/2D hybrid visualizers. There’s definitely a lot more in store for each of them though so I’m extremely excited for things to come.
Lo: Tell us about your favorite piece of music that you’ve created and why.
M: This is a hard decision. It’s been amazing to be able to create and release material at such a consistent pace and SpydaWebs’s beats have provided the perfect backdrop for my lyrics. If I had to choose a favorite release though it would have to be “Pill Jacket.” AKIRA is my favorite anime film and has been for quite some time so it was great to be able to release a song in its honor during the week of its 30th Anniversary. As much as I love Studio Ghibli’s films and Ghost in the Shell, AKIRA’s beautiful animation, awesome character designs, and hard-hitting storyline take the cake for me. “Pill Jacket” was special for that reason but also because I was able to work with an awesome Kaneda cosplayer, Glo Shtick, who I happened to meet by chance on Instagram before the release of the song. His cosplay complete with the titular pill jacket is featured in the visualizer for the song, which is easily my favorite one so far. It was great to see the AKIRA fan community come out in support of the single and it definitely made the 30th Anniversary of the film that much more special for me.
Lo: What else is going on that you would like to share?
M: Now that I’ve released a decent amount of bi-weekly singles, I’ve decided it’s time for something bigger. Those will be stopping, but I’m incredibly excited to announce that I’ll be devoting my time and energy towards crafting my debut studio album, which will be the first ever of its kind. There’s not too much else I can tell you about that right now but I’m very hyped about what’s in store. In the meantime, I’ll be kicking off a Freestyle Series on IGTV titled IGStyle and looking to perform shows in and around the Los Angeles, CA area.
You can check out more of Martin’s music on SoundCloud!
This article was originally published for Quirktastic, Inc., 2018 and has been edited/updated for accuracy.