Part graveyard-shift DJ, part chronic laryngitis sufferer, Martin’s trademark rasp is not only unmistakable, it’s kept him afloat in the ultra-unsteady world of underground hip-hop for nearly 20 years.
Starting out as a cornerstone in LA’s legendary alt-rap collective, the ShapeShifters, Martin has also made a name for himself through collaborations with some of the LA underground’s most prominent producers and DJs, from Daddy Kev to Fat Jack.
Building an extensive fan base the old fashioned way, through relentless grassroots tours and keeping the sound original, Martin is once again hitting the road to spread the word about his hoarse hip-hop. And when he makes his way to the Soda Bar on Saturday night, he’ll be premiering tracks from his latest LP, The Landmark, the third time now that’s he’s hooked up with DJ/producer Factor.
It’ll also give him a chance to do something else that the rapper seems to be doing a lot of lately -- singing.
“I think I’m getting more comfortable with it all the time,” Martin said recently from his Los Angeles home. “It’s always been there. I’ve just sprinkled it in. But I think this production is what brought it out. Factor really has a lot of different styles of beats, and this time, I was really drawn to the stuff that I could pull a melody out of. I’m a rap fan, but I also get sick of hearing the same thing over and over. I wanted to make something different.”
Not just lip service -- Martin really does like to keep things changing. His next project will be another zig in the world of zags, as he does all but abandon rap for an entire album. Teaming up with hitmaker Nathaniel Motte from Colorado Billboard charters and Katy Perry/Ke$ha collaborators 3OH!3, it’s going to be quite a departure from the AWOL One records of old.
“It’s like a straight-up pop album,” said Martin. “It’s really insane. I actually can’t wait to unleash it. The thing is full of Brittany Spears beats. But it’s still got my lyrics. It’s pretty crazy.”
For now, the veteran MC will stay focused on the topics at hand -- The Landmark, his tour with Factor and making sure to keep things fresh.
“Not that I haven’t been before,” he said. “But on The Landmark, I think I was just being brutally honest. I didn’t think about anything like BPMs or anything else this time. I didn’t worry about what my daughter was going to think, or what my mom and dad were going to say about it. Most times, I put all of that into perspective and try not to get too carried away. But I wanted something that represented my thoughts 100 percent. I made this record for me. And I’m really proud of it.”