I got to Pure Lounge on U Street around 7 p.m. Tuesday, sans umbrella or hat, while the listless, relentless rain poured on. A bouncer at the door informed me that the venue wasn’t open yet, so I briefly dropped by The Codmother to pass the time.
Bloc photographer Cassie Osvatics met me there in anticipation of the showcase at Pure Lounge that evening.
Before the show started, I got a Q&A session with the upstart MC from Bethesda.
Q: There seem to be a lot of up-and-coming rappers nowadays. What would you say makes you stand out in the crowd?
A: I’m really into hip-hop, but more specifically I’m into conscious hip-hop. I like to craft songs dealing with social issues and justice. I’m a lyrical rapper, so I’m always very heavy with lyrics and wordplay and everything. One of my most recent songs, “1915,” is about the Armenian genocide, which my grandfather and my great-grandmother were survivors of.
Q: What are some of your biggest musical influences, both within and outside of hip-hop?
A: One of my biggest influences within hip-hop has always been Biggie. I remember when I was five, I went out and bought Ready to Die, and it’s always been a very important record for me. More currently, I’m into J-Cole, Kendrick and Immortal Technique. And outside of hip-hop, my parents have always had a big record collection, so I’ve grown up listening to artists like Hendrix and John Coltrane. I’m also a huge Beatles head.
Q: What sort of direction do you see your music career going? I know it’s still probably in its formative stages, but where do you basically see yourself in about five years?
A: The lane that I’m going in is kind of uncharted for a rapper at this point. My song “1915” got a huge amount of success with this lyrics video that came out. A lot of big people were retweeting it, and it’s actually been worked into a few schools’ curricula. So it’s a great song to get educated about this topic, and I’d definitely like to continue in that more socially conscious direction.
Q: What advice might you give to anybody else looking to get into the rap game nowadays, and particularly, in this area?
A: First of all, I would say never give up. Never quit, despite whatever adversity you might be faced with. The second thing is always keep improving your craft. Every day, you should get a little bit better; whether that’s freestyling ten minutes a day or practicing writing, making sure that you practice in front of people whether it’s a manager that’s working with you or just a friend, and always share your music with others.
Q: Got a message for the kids out at College Park/The University of Maryland?
A: Well, shout out to you, shout out to everybody out there doing your thing, getting your degrees, having a good time. I’m excited for you guys to hear some of this new music, and much love.
After our interview ended at around 9:30, we finally got to see Marc 2Ray perform.
Like all good protégés of Biggie’s, his rhymes and lyrical flow were at once adept and adroit. Certain songs, like “Fresh Air,” had both the brightness that characterize De La Soul’s classic, “Me, Myself and I,” and with the bravado and urgency of Eric B. & Rakim’s “Paid In Full.”
When Marc introduced the heaviest song on his list, “1915,” certain members of the audience could be heard saying, “Yo, that’s dope!” The track itself proved a grave narrative of one of the least-acknowledged atrocities in history, the Ottoman genocide of Armenians during World War I. With each line, Marc 2Ray made palpable his personal connection to the event. At the end, he repeated the chorus’ idealistic refrain, “love can rule the world.”
Marc 2Ray is certainly one of the best up-and-coming rappers active in the DMV area today. He always puts on an excellent show. Give one of his tracks a listen or come out to one of his shows, and I’m sure you’ll agree.
Featured Photo Credit: Bethesda rapper, Marc 2Ray after his performance at Pure Lounge in Northwest D.C. (Cassie Osvatics/Bloc Reporter)