Rap is an art. But this is often dismissed in discussions surrounding the image that this genre of music supposedly has. Rappers shouldn't have to prove themselves to anyone however, they find themselves having to defend their chosen method of expression. The theme of prejudice and being judged features prominently on Growing Pains, an EP released by TooRareToDie member and London-based artist: L Martin. The intro sees L talk about both the mental and physical aspects of dealing with growing up through a monologue as he recounts his formative years. He notes the change in behaviour of people as he grew in height and how he adapted to the changes around him by "picking up a pen."
We're excited to have had a chance to chat to L as he breaks down some of the meaning behind his music.
What phrase do you think best describes your music?
That is a very good question. I could sit here and try and think of the one fancy word that encompasses everything but it would take me forever to find just one word. I guess the one thing that can't be denied is that my music is always honest.
How do you come up with concepts for your projects?
It's strange actually; I have never come up with my concepts first. I always make songs and then get rid of some and start grouping the rest together through underlying themes. Depending on what is going on in my life at the time when I'm writing those songs, I'll hear concepts in the different songs I've made that relate to each other, and tie them all in towards the end with a few extra songs.
Last year, you released your debut EP: Growing Pains; the intro begins very introspectively looking at the double meaning for you of the phrase: Growing Pains; why did you feel you wanted to tell your story to the world?
When I first started writing lyrics I never really planned to or thought about sharing my story with anyone. I enjoy the act of telling stories, putting words together in different clever ways that gives every little detail to the person who's listening. It's also therapeutic to talk about things I'm going through or have gone through and also just for venting as well. I didn’t really think people would relate or necessarily understand the perspective of where I'm coming from but I'm glad people do.
"I guess the one thing that can't be denied is that my music is always honest."
On the second track “Be Somebody” you repeat the line “Imma be somebody” - have you ever felt that people didn’t believe in your vision of where you want to be?
If I'm honest, I've always had really good support from the people around me. Mostly my close friends and people I've gone to school with or that have stumbled on my music over the years. I've never really cared enough about what other people think though. I've always just thought 'this is what I love doing and I'm going to keep doing it regardless of whatever else is going on or what anyone thinks'. I think the only people that I've sensed didn’t fully believe that I can go far are my parents. That's where the inspiration for the chorus on 'Be Somebody' came from really. I don’t take it personally. They like the music and support me but they obviously don't want me spending all my money and time in to something that could ultimately fail.
“I ain’t slotting in with these labels cos I’m a gamble” - this is a line taken from "Apply Pressure" the 4th track from Growing Pains. Talk us through what was going through your mind when you wrote this line?
I'm always aware that my style of rapping isn’t necessarily what the masses are into. There is a very strong hip-hop culture over here, but not strong enough really to have record labels breaking their necks to sign the next UK Hip-Hop star. So from the start I've known I will have to do this independently with the rest of my team, as well as working on my sound to make it as global as it can be, whilst staying true to myself. So that's why I class myself as a gamble that won't just slot in.
Let’s talk a bit more about your music-making process: do you write the bars first and then match to the music or is it the other way round?
I usually have the instrumental first. Sometimes I start to think of an opening line or just a mood or vibe that suits the song. Then I just go from there and start writing. It takes me a long time to write some songs because I'm very hard on myself when it comes to lyrics. However, I have been learning to let go a little more and not always try and find the most clever play on words but learning that sometimes just the way you say things can have the same effect.
You’re part of the collective Too Rare To Die which includes Casscade, MonroeJoe, Stash Peso and Maine - how important is it to have a support network of your peers with you as you continue to grow with your music?
It is essential for me to have my people around me focused on the same goals. There's so many advantages to it. I mean if I had nobody around me, I'd still be doing what I'm doing now. I have just always been someone who bounces off other people to create and to innovate. Those guys are like my brothers and it helps to have that support when life gets a little tricky outside of music.
"When I first started writing lyrics I never really planned to or thought about sharing my story with anyone."
Shifting focus a little, what do you think about the current state of UK Music?
I think fun is the right word for the state of UK Music in a nutshell. I feel like people want feel-good music to listen to, and labels want feel-good music to make money from. Whether it's afro swing, or comedians rapping or pop songs, I feel like there is a lot of opportunity for people now who never thought they could have a music career, to be very successful. I don't listen to as much of it as I should be, but I'm glad doors are being opened and connections overseas and higher up are being made.
Who is on your radar?
Any one I make music with really. I collaborate with people I like who have similar work rates and ambition. There's a whole underground scene of us brewing so it's very competitive but also very motivating. Also there are so many artists out there that I'm late too. Look out for my personal curated TOORARETODIE spotify playlist coming out soon for a better answer to this question, it's too difficult.
Who do you look to for inspiration?
My team and within myself.
Alive: Andre 3000
Lastly, what does success mean to you?
Being respected and paid for doing what you love to do at the highest level.
A huge thanks to L for sitting down with us to talk through more of his world as an artist. Growing Pains isn't the only musical offering from L Martin. Feel free to check out his Valentine's Day release: Pussy Powers.
Keep up with L as he navigates the world around him through his rhymes