Music — December 27, 2018
Artist Spotlight: Markdamighty
With a sound that seamlessly blends hip hop and house music, Markdamighty is making rap you can dance to. On his latest mixtape, En, Markdamighty (or Mighty for short) created music that was meant to be performed and to invoke feelings of happiness, as he was inspired by the summer and being in love. “It was a new place for me because I had never felt like that,” he explains. “I was super happy, so I wanted people to listen to it and be super happy, and still be able to be like, oh shit, he can rap to this?”
Although starting off as a funny thing to do with his friends from high school (they were all inspired to make a song based off of Tyga’s 2012 single “Rack City”), writing and making music turned into something more for him. Now 25, Markdamighty has three mixtapes under his belt and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. We spoke with him about his work with The Quest Presents - a Connecticut based collective of musical minds, record labels vs. working independently, and how the military influenced his approach to making music.
Written & Photographed
by Jasmine Jones
What was growing up in New Haven, Connecticut like for you?
It was a lot. I mean, I’m definitely from the hood. But it was real humbling because it was just like, that’s what I knew, and I made it this far, my family and I, we’ve made it this far. We made our way out of nothing. It is difficult though, in the inner city. But New Haven’s getting a lot better.
What’s different now, that’s making it better?
Well, Yale is expanding and wiping out these places, like, the places that I grew up, they’ve demolished them and they’re making Yale apartments. Yale’s expanding into the hoods. It’s ridding a lot of things out, and there’s a lot more police.
And that’s a good thing?
It’s a good thing in a way, but then it’s just pushing those people further in, or in different places. It’s not really caring for them. But, I guess it looks better for New Haven when people come to visit, or move here because of Yale.
So it’s making New Haven itself look better but for the people living there currently, it’s not really beneficial.
How was the music scene in New Haven while you were growing up?
I’m not sure. I just recently started making music because I had never thought about it, ever. I was always to myself. I’m the oldest so there was a gap between me and everyone. I was just doing production on Audacity, and other free programs. I wasn’t too sure about scenes, I didn’t start making music until I was 21.
What got you into making music at 21?
Well I was always interested in production and music. Senior year of high school I was here [in Hartford], but all of my friends had graduated already, because I had stayed back. So all of my friends were at Uconn, and I was going to Uconn a lot when the song “Rack City” came out. So my friends would call ourselves “All City,” like All City Kids. We skated and spray painted things, you know, those kids [laughs]. So when that song was out, everyone was like, yo, we gotta make a song. And I’m just like, dude, we don’t rap, we don’t do that. But everybody vowed to make this song, and nobody made it. I was actually trying to make it, but it was after that where I was just like, wow, I really want to try to make music. It just sparked me, and after I graduated I thought I’m going to try to make music. I left for the military, and when I came back, then I started.
"I was a bad kid, and the military was like, well, you can either be a bad kid or you can be a man and make things happen."
How long were you in the military?
Right out of high school for five years. I’m reserve so after about a year I came back home, so I was back at about 19, 20. Then I was like, OK, now I can make music. That’s when I started.
Did the military influence your music at all? Or was it more so a chance to write and get your ideas and thoughts together?
It did influence me, it definitely gave me a lot of discipline. I was a bad kid, and the military was like, well, you can either be a bad kid or you can be a man and make things happen.
What kind of music were you listening to as a kid? Any artists or genres in particular that inspired you?
Growing up, the earliest hip-hop I remember, I wasn’t born yet, but Eric B. and Rakim. A Tribe Called Quest, I remember vividly trying to figure out what the hell it was in my head, because they were everywhere, on TV shows and commercials. I didn’t start listening to music heavy until high school, when we had iPods. I listened to Kendrick [Lamar] a lot, Childish Gambino, Drake - who wasn’t listening to Drake in high school? Mostly rap. I like other genres too, I like rock. I had some Boys Like Girls too [laughs].
That particular type of music during that era was addicting.
Yeah, that era. That like, pop/punk/rock. I was into it.
I think most people, doesn’t matter what kind of music you listen to, heard that music and were like, yeah, this is cool. I can listen to this.
You had to, it was dope as fuck. I was begging my mom to get me a Maroon 5 CD. She never got it but I was like, I need this. But she did get me [Kanye’s album] Graduation when it came out, that was dope.
Is anyone in your family in the music world?
My grandmother, I never met her but everyone always tells me stories about her singing. My uncle, he plays guitar. He was in a serious band called Essence band, he’s really good.
"...With my projects I let it all come to me. I normally have an idea and I just try to chip away at it."
Can you tell me more about The Quest Presents? How did that get started?
The Quest Presents is Mooncha, DJ Fife, Chef the Chef, and me, MarkDaMighty. I’m actually the last person to join, so I wasn’t there for the origins of it, but Chef and Fife created it. Chef and Moon were going to Southern [University], that’s how they met each other. Chef was doing radio, and he was calling it Quest Presents and bringing people in. So I believe that’s how it started, and then they started to try and solidify the group. A few years ago, I was doing shows in New Haven at Soul de Cuba Cafe called Soul Sessions. I had heard of Moon, because I saw her videos and I was like, I gotta get her here, she’s great. But she actually invited me to a show first, which was funny because I don’t know how the hell she knew who I was. It was my first show in New Haven at Cafe Nine. After that, I did Soul Sessions and I invited her and Chef as well. They asked me to join after a couple of Soul Sessions and I did. So I’ve been a part of it since then and they’re great, I love them.
What kind of things do you all do together?
They all produce, they’ve produced some of my songs. We all perform together, we hang out, but mostly perform and practice. All of us together is definitely better than all of us separate.
Based on your experience with The Quest Presents, do you think it’s freeing to work independently and with your friends as opposed to being signed to a label and having to work closely with them and what they want?
In this day and age, being independent is definitely more powerful than it used to be. I think it depends on the label, what type of label they are and what they’re into, because there are so many different types of labels now. But I do feel that you have the most power as an independent, because now you can literally do everything. The main thing that everyone’s missing is the money, that funding is really what the labels have. But I think having a label would change things, it would be more pressure and less artistic creativity.
So you’re not in any rush to get signed? Or does it just depend on the label?
Yeah, it depends on the label. I’ve been thinking about labels, of course [laughs].
It’s hard not to. It’s kind of ingrained in our heads as the next step.
Yeah exactly, but I’ll definitely do as much as I can by myself. But you know, it all depends when it comes to labels.
Do you have a process that you follow when creating music?
I let it come to me. I’m trying to get better at that, because I have attention issues, so I’m just in the air all of the time. Like, oh I’ll do this, and then that, and then this. My girlfriend is always like, you need to slow down [laughs]. So when people ask me to do features I drill it in myself to get it done. That’s where the military definitely helped me to sit still, do something, and get it done. So when people send me things to work on I try to get it done as soon as possible, and to be professional because that’s important. But other than that, with my projects I let it all come to me. I normally have an idea and I just try to chip away at it.
Tell me about I.N.D.I.E. TAPE. Was that the first full mixtape that you’ve put out?
Yeah, this dude Jovan gave me the breakdown of that, and it was great because I was already going to name it I.N.D.I.E. TAPE. It stands for Icons Never Die, Icons Evolve. Making this mixtape, it was heavy. It was like, you have to get this finished and be serious, right. So once I actually put it out I was so relieved that it was done, but then things started to happen and I just felt like, finally, I’m out there. So it was good, I got a lot out that I wanted to say. I was definitely rapping differently at that time.
What’s the difference now between that mixtape and your latest mixtape, En?
Theme-wise, I’m being a lot more free and more experimental to things. I’m trying to push things, being into different genres as well. I love house music so my last project was house, hip hop, experimental. I wanted to make something for performing, and it was summer. I drop all of my projects in June. I try to do more but I normally drop things in June because my birthday in June, so they usually have a summer theme. I was real happy in En. With I.N.D.I.E. TAPE, I felt like I had something to prove. Now I’m just chilling.
En came out June of 2017. What inspired it?
Summer and being in love. It was a new place for me because I had never felt like that. I was super happy, so I wanted people to listen to it and be super happy, and still be able to be like, oh shit, he can rap to this?
"My goal is to show people that you can be free, and you can be yourself. You don’t have to conform to the radio or any specific sound because great, black artists have been really innovative."
I want to go track by track just to get a little background information on each song on En.
1. May June?
This song [features] Ravyn Lenae. I don’t know her, everyone’s like, oh my god you know Ravyn Lenae? I don’t. The song was called May when I found it, and it’s about my transition mentally during the summer from May to June. Since June is when my birthday is, it’s really my new year, so that’s when I start to think about my goals for that year and try to get serious and focused. So in May I’m like, woooo! And then June I’m like, ok, time to work. The song was directed at June, the month, but I still tried to make it personal, as if it was a person.
I made this song for my significant other at the time, that’s why I was dropping specific dates in it. She inspired me to do the whole project, because she was there for the whole thing - the good, the bad. I used to work at Soul de Cuba, before I was doing shows there I was a waiter, so I made up the scenario of me seeing this girl while I was waiting and just listening to her and being in love with her. The end of Somebody was actually a piece that someone wanted a feature on, but the song sucked so bad [laughs]. My part was good, and I made mine on the spot when I was sitting in the room recording with them. I was mixing the song too, so I had all of the files and I was just like, yeah I’m not going to waste this. So I put it at the end of the song because it was an Aaliyah thing, so it worked.
3. Liquid Lava Love
Liquid Lava Love is just this happy, uplifting women, kind of song. I wrote a verse in the song a while ago and I found it going through my notes, realizing that I had never used it. So I used it when writing this song, which really is a dance, hype song while still glorifying women and wanting to put them on a pedestal.
DJ Fife produced this one. We were literally in the studio that day, me, him and Chef, just chilling while he was playing these old beats. He said they were for Chef but he never did anything with them, and when he played this beat, I was like, yo, send me that beat. The beat alone made me think about the whole song. In rap, people do a lot of tributes to the person that inspired them, like Kanye’s Big Brother, and I think J. Cole did a Last Call as well. Big Sean, he did a lot of Kanye tributes too. So I was like, ok, Kanye’s great. This was before Kanye was saying crazy shit, and doing crazier shit [laughs]. I wanted to make this song because we were always performing late night, [the lyrics] ‘last call for alcohol’ is catchy, it works out, and the beat is crazy. So I said I’m going to rap really well, keep it hype, and keep it catchy.
One of my best friends James, he would always tell me that I need to make more songs with a current sound, something that could be on the radio. And I’m really stubborn so I was like, nah, I do what I want to do. But then I thought about Gelato and I thought, this is the easiest, hottest song, and the beat bumps. So I made it and showed it to him and he was like, you did it. But it’s about gold diggers, which rarely gets talked about. I mean, car notes are expensive. My car note is expensive. So I thought it would be funny to say you’re expensive as my car note. Like, you’re expensive, what’s up.
6. Devil’s Food
Devil’s Food is random, it’s another one that I made after hearing the beat. Towards the end when I got more serious the message is don’t waste your time, because it’s important. I like to be fun, but I also like to be serious because that’s what we are as humans. The duality of it, we can be fun but we need to also be realistic. Moon helped a lot with the ending, because she said I should add some flame sound effects, which I did and I thought it sounded great.
7. Iphone 5
Moon has so much music, and you’ll never listen to it [laughs]. She’ll show some and be like, what about this one? What about this one? She creates all the time. So, we were in Meriden and I was helping her record a few songs. She made this beat and the song, I just mixed and produced it and then put it on my project, asking if it would fly as a bonus. And she was just like, yeah, because I’m not going to do anything with it [laughs]. Everybody fucking loves that song, it’s a great song. I said Moon, you’re a genius. So that’s why I put it out there, people needed to hear it and I wanted to listen to it too.
To wrap things up, I want to ask, what’s your goal as an artist?
My goal is to show people that you can be free, and you can be yourself. You don’t have to conform to the radio or any specific sound because great, black artists have been really innovative - James Brown, Michael Jackson, Prince, Beyonce, they’ve all done trailblazing things and we can do that. We don’t all have to be like any specific person; We can be ourselves. And you can still use your platform to make people become aware of things, because that’s important. It’s part of the job of being an artist and being viewed as such. If you’re not saying anything you’re on the other side; you’re on the wrong side. I just really want people to know that they have power, and to utilize it.
Do you think that’s the most important aspect of being an artist?
It doesn’t mean that every song has to be super deep or serious, it just means that you shouldn’t portray certain ideals just because it sounds cool. Like, you shouldn’t bash African features if that’s not how you feel, just because it rhymes with something. If that’s how you are, then that’s disgusting. But you have to really be an example for your audience.