Marco Pavé is a name you're going to be hearing a lot in 2017. At the age of 24, the Memphis rapper has already recorded an EP in Los Angeles, started his own record label, and gained the attention of hip-hop's Holy Bible with an interview in The Source. This year he's dropping his debut album in addition to working with Opera Memphis on a hip-hop-centric opera. I sat down with Pavé to learn more about his politically charged debut album Welcome to Grc Lnd. — Chris Shaw
The Memphis Flyer: How long have you been working on your debut album?
Marco Pavé: I guess I would say since about 2014. I did the EP, flew out to L.A. after I set up a GoFundMe, and dropped the EP in 2015. After that, I was finally able to get enough inspiration that led me to think I had enough content and ideas to start on the debut.
Who's putting out the album?
I started my own label after I recorded the EP, so the album will be independently released through my label Radio Rahim Music. I've been recording the entire thing at American Studio in Memphis.
You're known for your social activism in addition to your music. Where do those two things intersect?
It's hand in hand in a way — that's how hip-hop was created. I grew up studying how hip-hop came to be, and it's always been used to talk about social ills and things that are happening within the community. I try to put my own twist on it by not being categorized as a socially conscious rapper. As a human being, when you recognize what's going on in the world, you have conversations with your friends about Donald Trump. It's really just using the music to express a full range of emotions.
On a scale of one to 10 of being political, I think [the new album] could be a 10 if you're conservative. If you're open and know that music has a deeper meaning, it might be a six or a seven. It's specifically about Memphis, what Memphis has gone through. The inspiration for the album was mainly the I-40 protest that happened last year.
I wanted to create the album because at that time there was no soundtrack for that movement. People like Yo Gotti and Young Dolph represent a certain lifestyle, but they don't represent the anger and the feelings that people here are feeling.
You haven't done a lot of collaborations or features. Is that still the vibe for Grc Lnd?
Up to this point, I have been a solitary lead vocalist. On the album, I've stepped out of that and brought a lot of people into my world to make the album a lot more representative of Memphis. It was so crazy coordinating everyone to come in, hitting up everybody to coordinate in three 10-hour sessions. Everyone that was featured had to show up and do it in that small window. A wide range of folks made it: Tamika Goodman, Jason Da Hater, Juju Bushman, Al Kapone, up-and-coming artist Idaly Maceano, who is an amazing woman, and MC Dutchess are all on the record. The interlude and storyline is done by Jamey Hatley.
You're currently working with Opera Memphis on a project. Talk more about that.
Me and Ned Canty met in 2015 after my EP dropped, and we were trying to figure out how to collaborate. He reached out last year and asked if I wanted to write an opera about Memphis in my hip-hop style. He was trying to broaden the scope of what opera could be. He reached out, and it went very, very slowly because of the internal changes they had as an organization. The opera will drop in 2018, but I have a show at the playhouse on April 6th, where we will introduce what we have been working on.
With this Welcome to Grc Lnd dropping later in the year, how do you feel you fit in the current local hip-hop scene?
I'm 24, but I've been on the local hip-hop scene since I was 16, from doing open mics to sneaking in the club. I've seen a lot of people come and go, and I feel like I've paved the way for a lot of up-and-comers. From tours to amazing videos to being on MTV to being featured in The Source magazine, I've made my path and I'm firmly in that path, and I really just want to lead the way for other hip-hop artists.
Preorders for the first single "Sacrifice" are available now. The single will be released on February 10th. Welcome to Grc Lnd drops in May.