By Pat Gunther
This past weekend, Baton Rouge by way of Oklahoma rapper Marcel P. Black launched his latest fight-night style rap show, Country Rap Tunes 2: Baton Rouge vs. Jackson, Miss., at the Library at Northgate. While the show saw some impressive MCs going bar-for-bar, the head honcho took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to DIG about the event in general and what it means for the hip-hop scene here in the Red Stick.
DIG: What are you trying to accomplish with the MS vs. BR hip-hop show?
Marcel P. Black: Trying to be something exciting and different to the city. Most shows here are for up and coming local artists; this show showcases some of the best acts in the region competing to see who can rock the crowd the hardest.
DIG: Will the show be a battle style format, or will it be a concert?
MPB: It’s somewhat both. Imagine a heavyweight title match between the seasoned vet (Mr. Franklin), and the title contender (me), and all the other acts make up the undercard. Not saying they are lower than us, just painting a picture. One act from Jackson goes, up, then one from BR. Both teams are trying to rock the crowd harder than the other team. All the crowd has to do is enjoy the show.
DIG: What’s the biggest difference in the styles of MS and LA rappers in your opinion?
MPB: Jackson has a more established underground scene that we do. Their styles are more “country rap tunish” and soulful, blues/gospel influenced, while the artists I’m bringing from BR may bring records that range from more traditional to more contemporary.
DIG: What do you think makes the Library an attractive venue for artists nowadays?
MPB: Because they have a great space, and they are always welcoming to local talent. They are invested in cultivating the Baton Rouge local music scene.
DIG: Why did you choose the library for this particular event?
MPB: I’ve been doing shows over there for nearly three years, I frequent the bar pretty often, they show me a lot of love.
DIG: Tell me about Baton Rouge Hip-Hop
MPB: The most recent incarnation of the Baton Rouge underground Hip-Hop scene is pretty young. Our sounds vary from turn up to straight up boom bap. Very talented but still very raw.
DIG: How did you get in touch with Generation Next and what do you think makes BR hip hop similar or different?
MPB: Mr. Franklin, or “Coach Kaz” as I call him, is someone I consider a mentor as it pertains to navigating the waters as an indie artist. Five and a half years ago he began an event called “GenerationNXT” to give up and coming emcees in Jackson a platform to hone their crafts, network and learn about the industry. I was the first Baton Rouge emcee to be a part of this event, and we build our relationship from there. He pretty much cosigned me in Jackson and other parts of Mississippi, so when he told me he wanted to bring his artist to BR for this show, it was a no brainer. I think our similarities are in the fact that our scenes are often overlooked, and that we all share the passion to get our talents seen and heard by the world.
DIG: What do you try to focus on before you perform for a crowd in such an intimate setting?
MPB: I pay attention to what works and doesn’t work for other performers. If something is working, I’ll put my own spin on it. If there’s something the other guy isn’t taking advantage of, I’ll do it. If a person is stinking it up trying do something, I won’t do it. I just try to figure out what’s the best way to entertain the crowd.
DIG: What do you hope Baton Rouge concertgoers take away from the experience?
MPB: For them to be blown away by the indie/underground/unsigned talent that all of us has to offer. I want people to leave feeling like they shoulda paid us $30 as if this was a cage fight at the Belle of Baton Rouge. Don’t get me wrong, our pride and ego’s are on the line here. I personally have been challenging Coach for an emcee showdown for a year now, so I gotta lot to prove here, but overall, we are doing this to give the fans the best show ever. We want people to know that the underground scenes in our cities and regions have emcees to be reckoned with.