Artists that possess the will to be able to showcase their skills in a musical form, aren’t too often hailed for their efforts. The power that they have to be the soundtrack to one’s daily life is a strength that isn’t praised enough. Mark U seems to know the necessary formula. Heavily influenced by both Hip Hop and Reggae, he provides what seems to be missing and then some, on a grander scale. His debut Soul Odyssey: The Raw Demo Sessions not only focuses on connecting on a spiritual level, but manages to channel the likes of Lauryn Hill, and Bob Marley with a deadly combination of hip hop involved. Growing up in the East Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, Mark was influenced by his father who was a dancehall/Reggae artist himself, that often took Mark along for his travels as a performing artist. Ultimately, this helped him decide that this is what he wants to do for a living. As he continues to move forward with his aspirations, there certainly seem to be no regrets.
In our sit down, Mark tells me what drives him to make music, his Soul Odyssey album, (which he produced the bulk of), more about his influences, and the overall message he wants to get across.
FKB: What and who influenced your tape Soul Odyssey?
Mark: Well number one i’d have to say Lauryn Hill. She’s probably one of my biggest inspirations for making music. She inspired me, as well as Bob Marley of course. I grew up in a Jamaican household. Bob Marley was prevalent in Jamaican music. Yeah I’d say those two and Stevie Wonder.
FKB: Those are three big names. Let’s talk about your “Lost in The Tide” video. I wasn’t expecting that ending at all! What made you want to send such a powerful message across?
Mark: Interesting enough, it was my director’s idea, and mine. I wanted to be a narrator in it. I didm’t want it to be just me rapping or walking around. I wanted to tell a story. He came up with the treatment after hearing the song, about a girl who’s lost and facing different trials and tribulations in her life and when he presented that to me I said it made perfect sense. It resonated with me.
FKB: How long did it take you to make your debut, and what was that process like?
Mark: I’d say it took about 2 years. It started with me just experimenting with sounds. It was my first time actually putting together a project. The first song I recorded was “Humble in the Days.” That was the kind of song where I found my sound, and wanted to balance out reggae and hip hop, but still add a portion of me that allowed it to blend. The recording process picked up at the end, because at first I was experimenting and didn’t really know where I wanted to go with it. 2011 is when I hit a groove and finished up the rest of it.
FKB: So it wasn’t a continued process?
Mark: Right, cause it was definitely about my progression as an artist. From about 21-23 years old. That’s what it’s about.
FKB: Did you put the tape in order that way? Like starting at 19, and as it progresses it matures?
Mark: Yes! Literally that’s how it is.
FKB: At this point, what drives you to make music? I know you have big influences, but what made you say “I think I can do this”?
Mark: For me personally, music is therapeutic. It’s an escape. Something that soothes my soul. What drives me to share it, is everything I see in the world. I mean when I saw Lauryn Hill win a Grammy at 23 years old for her first solo album it amazed me. The way she made me feel with her music, it invigorated me. I wanted to do that to other people when I got to her age. Another situation was my father. He’s been a vocalist and musician for 20 years. One day I was at one of his shows, and I was 8 or 9 years old. A girl came up to me and said “you know your dad stopped me from committing suicide.” It didn’t resonate with me at the time cause I was 8 years old. I didn’t know what suicide meant so when I grew up I said this is something I wanna do for people.
FKB: I actually did a write up, on Lauryn’s album recently turning 14 years old. I feel like people do forget once an artist goes through some things, why they even loved them in the first place.
Mark: Yeah and she’s still a human being. She’s still the person that gave you what you loved. Actually she’s the narrator for my project. That’s her voice breaking down the beginning, middle, and end portions of the project. That shows how much I love her.
FKB: What’s the overall message you want to send across with your music? You obviously have big shoes to fill, looking at the effect your dad’s music had on someone. What do you want to get across?
Mark: I’d like to show that possibilities are endless with everything that we go through. I wanna show young black men and women that spiritually and intellectually we can meet those challenges. I wanna show that you can be at peace with the world too. This answer may change tomorrow, but right now that’s how I feel you know? When I write songs I don’t write thinking this is how I want the world to feel. I bring it from an honest perspective. I’m trying to be true to the moment.