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Mark Deez A force to be reckoned with Georgia MC Mark Deez recently released 'The Cycle Of Struggle', on which he connected with producer Keko, a Columbian producer whom he met through Myspace. But really...

Who's Mark Deez?

Mark Deez is a true MC and a force to be reckoned with. I'm the guy who is sick and tired of this bubblegum, bullshit, pop rap. I'm trying to take it back to the golden age as far as the sound goes, but trying to take it forward as far as concepts and creativity go. So, Mark Deez is just your average guy, I don't flaunt materialism, I flaunt lyricism!

You're one of the founding members of Grindhouse Gang. Who's in it and what's your mission with this crew?

Grindhouse Gang is a group consisting of myself, Powder aka Casey Jones, Lord Lhus, and Dr. iLL. We all met doing shows in the GA/SC area and it was Powder's original idea to form the group. The earliest idea came from a show we did back in May of 2009 at the 'A Fist In The Thought' album release/Lord Lhus Birthday bash. At that time, the group was scheduled to be myself, Dr. iLL, and Powder. We brainstormed for what seemed like forever and finally settled on the name Grindhouse Gang. Sometime around October, I got a text from Lord Lhus asking if he could become the 4th member of the group, we all brainstormed about it, and now he is a member of the Grindhouse Fraternity (laughs).

How did you hook up with Keko, the producer of the album?

I heard about Keko through Dr. iLL. He was a producer who had done some work with our camp, previously, and I decided I would hit him up for beats through Myspace. I really enjoyed his production and he was very enthusiastic about doing an entire project. So basically this project was completed in the midst of me doing work on several other projects and released first.

Did you work in the 'old school'-kinda vein with one emcee and one producer locked up in the studio?

Haha. Well considering that Keko is from Bogota, Colombia, it would be a bit difficult to be able to be locked inside the same studio with him. But basically he was down in Colombia concocting those dope beats and I was in Augusta, GA at the studio, by myself, recording in the dark, just creating the proper atmosphere for this project. I thought the project had potential to be pretty dark, so what better way to record it in the dark? The only light I needed was the LED light on my Blackberry where I was reading the lyrics off while I was in the booth and the light generated by the computer monitor, so it was a good atmosphere to create this project.

Do you believe this is still the success formula: one producer one mc?

I don't think it is the ONLY success formula, but I think its a viable one. There have been numerous MC/producer duos throughout hip-hop history - Gangstarr being among the finest. But there are numerous examples of this, any Hip Hop head could tell you about the one, two punch and its prevalence in the culture. This was just an opportunity for me to experience that type of cultivation and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of creating this record.

What were you main influences as an emcee in general and for this album especially?

This might sound a bit cliche, but GOD. I would just stand outside, in the dark, gazing up at the stars for hours. Just thinking about all of those stars, all of those planets, all of those celestial bodies throughout space, and it just got me in a really spiritual, music making mood. When you look up at all that 'Heavenly Glory' and everything that exists in our universe, how can you not believe in God? So that was a big influence for me. It was like I was reaching out to the Cosmos to see if anybody could hear my cries, you know?

But musically, at the time I was listening to a lot of early Jedi Mind Tricks. The 'Psycho-Social' CD was in heavy rotation. Every night/early morning before I laid down and went to sleep, I would turn on that CD and just meditate on it for hours and hours. So it was a very good basis for the formulation of this album. I can also give some credit to artists like ATMA of Masta Buildas and other conscious/spiritual emcees who are trying to enlighten our minds through the music. Also a lot of Killah Priest. I discovered this artist named Ra-El. He had an album that was based in the future, and I thought that album was pretty original and it was in heavy rotation at the time as well.

But also my life at the time was a big influence. I was at the juxtaposition of beginning to build a buzz, but not yet really understanding my purpose, and I had a lot of setbacks - both major and minor during this time. But more or less, it was the world around me. I saw the US economy collapsing, the world economy collapsing, I saw some of my best friends die, and a lot of people just throwing their lives away for nothing. I thought to myself 'one day we all have to die so why not leave something behind worth meaning'?

Suppose your album would've been released in 2009. between which 2 other albums would you rank it in your top 10 from 2009?

Somewhere between Marco Polo & Torae's 'Double Barrel' as far as that one, two punch combination and Obie Trice's 'Special Reserve' album. I was never really a fan of Obie when he was on Shady Records, but when I picked up 'Special Reserve', I was blown away. He really took it back to the golden age, boom bap sound that we've all been missing. So I guess somewhere between those albums.

The album has a very consistent feel. It's raw, yet you keep it very lyrical. Was that a goal for Mark Deez?

Yeah it was absolutely a goal. This whole album was something entirely different for me. I always keep it lyrical, and sometimes I'm less raw than others, and vice versa, but this album was really different for me as far as the concepts and the rhyme schemes/patterns. It has sort of a 'you never know what's next'-feel to it. I didn't want to set myself in stone with this album. It's entirely experimental and it was really just to get my feet wet and get some feedback from the listeners.

Another word I would use to describe the album is "theatrical": can you agree? Is that what fits your style?

That's actually very precise terminology when describing the album. Anyone that knows me would know that I am a huge movie fan. If I'm not in the studio then most likely I am watching a movie. I love the visuals that I get from movies, so I try to do that with a narrative via my musical outlet. If you can put ink to the paper and breathe life into it, is there really a more meaningful power than that? Also Keko's production really matches your description as well. This entire album has a very theatric theme and I'm not going to say that's what we were going for, that's just what we do!

What is the meaning behind the album title: The Cycle of Struggle? Do you want to break the cycle and how will/can you?

Well, they say that our culture, hip-hop, it goes in cycles. So 'The Cycle' was basically a shout out to that belief that our culture moves in cycles. As for 'Of Struggle': our culture is in a struggle. From record sales to the music that the major labels are releasing to the artists themselves afraid to reinvent themselves and afraid to speak what's on their mind. And its not just our culture, its humankind as a whole. Essentially, unless you're in the top 1%, you are struggling in some way, shape, or form. Financially, emotionally, spiritually, morally, even musically, we are currently in a 'Cycle of Struggle' and we are at the corner of a precipice, its time to decide where to move from here.

I spoke briefly to the White Shadow yesterday who said he was working on your album - could you tell us more about that upcoming project?

That project is really my 'coming out party'. It's very epic, very energetic, very lyrical, its basically a 180 degree-turn from 'The Cycle of Struggle'. My rhyme patterns are a lot different and more structured, more stable on my project with White Shadow. The album is called 'The Oracle: Awakening of The Third Eye'. I don't want to give out a whole bunch of details on the project, but I will say you can expect production from Snowgoons, Sicknature, White Shadow, Brods, Domingo, and a few other great underground producers. That album could very well be my 'magnum opus'.

You're from Augusta: how has that influenced your style? Was there ever a moment when you wished you lived in a hip-hop capital (such as NY) or did you immediately decided to make one of Augusta itself?

Well in Augusta, which is about 2 hours or so from Atlanta, there really isn't much of a hip-hop scene. Maybe a trap rap or a snap rap scene (laughs). So it's basically night and day for me here. I don't listen to many Southern artists at all. And it's no disrespect to the artists coming out of my area, but their material is entirely unoriginal and its all been done before and been done to death. I remember hearing cats like Goodie Mob, Outkast, Scarface, etc. - th? t was Southern hip-hop. This stuff they're doing now, is obviously for the corporations to make a big buck off of it.

But yeah I would love to make Augusta a hip-hop capital, but I honestly don't see that ever happening. There are some good artists in Augusta. Most of whom I work with, most of whom are undiscovered, and most of whom do not get the proper shine and respect they deserve in our city because we're constantly being outshined by the watered down material coming out of Atlanta. But I've always wished I could live in New York. Maybe that's why my music has sort of a boom bap/golden era feel. There is nothing better than East Coast hip-hop. Nothing! And I'm not dissing the South, I love it here. The weather is great, the people are great, and I've lived here all of my life, but this is nót where people should be looking for hip-hop. Unless you're coming looking for me and my crew, or headed over to SC to holla at the rest of the Grindhouse Gang, because we're the ones in the South keeping it true to the culture, and there are others I'm sure, and if you are reading, reach out to me. I'm all about building.

You're only in your early 20's. What is your earliest hip-hop memory?

Some of my earliest hip-hop memories. You must realize I was a young child when the Golden Era was dying and the Bling Bling-era was taking over. However, I remember at a young age hearing 2Pac's'Hit Em Up' and that's probably not a record a child needs to hear, but I was blown away. So my first memories of hip-hop, even onto middle school, were delving into 2Pac as an artist and I was basically infatuated with his music. I have hundreds of unreleased 2Pac songs on my hard drive. But once I got old enough, I just began to study hip-hop. Studying East, West, South, etc. and taking the best of all worlds and combining them into my own music.

At what age did you pick up the pen? Do you remember what made you pick it up? A certain moment or anecdote?

I was in middle school. I was already a hip-hop head to the core. In my literature class, we had to write poems and the teacher would grade them. I guess my work was somewhat exceptional because I always got A's in class. In 8th grade, I competed in the school wide spelling bee. I competed against a kid from each class in the entire school from 6th grade to 8th grade, and I won. So I realized at that moment, that I had a gift with the English language and literature, in general.

At that point, I began to cultivate my craft and began writing raps. I had previously been recording on a karaoke machine with my friend Shon -who passed away in 2008, rest in peace bro, I miss you!- and I got serious with it sometime in high school. I got a makeshift studio with a computer and a microphone and began recording tracks and releasing mixtapes with horrible quality (laughs) and by 2006, I decided to start taking this art form and craft seriously and here I am today.

I asked White Shadow, who you work with right now, to jump in on the 'questionnaire' tip. Thought this would be fun, so here are his questions...

(WS) Is it true that Ol' Dirty Bastard is your dad?

(laughs) Yes. Its true. Ol' Dirty Bastard is my father. He missed all 21 of my birthdays and he never paid child support, not once. He once left a voicemail on my house phone and said something like "OOOOH BABY I LIKE IT RAW" and I thought to myself "You bastard! How could you!?" and ever since then, he never called. When I heard about his passing, I was sad. So I went out to Citi Trends and bought an Osirus T-shirt with his face on it. Been riding for Dirt McGirt ever since. I especially liked the footage of him when he was heading to an awards show and he stopped to get his welfare check, I thought damn, dad, can't you atleast give me like $10? But no, he couldn't. RIP.

(WS) How many MC's must get dissed?

Approximately 35 517.5 the .5 is for the one female rapper I will diss in my lifetime. She is not a man, so she counts as half. :P (shout outs to Powder he would love that)

(WS) What planet is The White Shadow really from, and why?

Have you ever seen 'Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back'? White Shadow is from the Ice Planet, Hoth. That's where Luke Skywalker fought the Wampa. That cave where the Wampa took Luke is originally White Shadow's home. And why do you ask? Because we all know that the scenes on the planet Hoth were filmed in Norway, and that's where White Shadow's from. That is today's lesson in Cinema: On Location Shooting Trivia.

(WS) How many packs of Newps you smoke a day?

Less than 1. Maybe a pack every 2-4 days or so. Depending on the day. Depending on how many moocher friends are around. (laughs)

(WS) If you was to be sent to Alcatraz with no chance of a return, and you could only bring one item, what would it be?

An iPod with an infinite charge battery that included such Hip Hop classics as White Shadow's Victory, and the upcoming Mark Deez - 'The Oracle: Awakening of The Third Eye', dropping on Uncut Productions.

(WS) Have you ever Superman'ed a hoe, and what was it like if so?

Yeah. Numerous times. You can ask a few of my friends that have seen me do it. Shoutouts to my boy Rick. He once saw me do this at a hotel to this foul slouch of a woman. Also you can ask my boy Leg what happened when me & this one girl were on a couch together. 'Superman'ing a hoe' is also known as 'The Mandible Claw' but its not the mandible that lies on a face that you're clawing, got my point? (laughs)

(WS) Where's Mark Deez at in 5 years from now?

I'm either dead from eating too much Checkers or I'm in the Billboard Top 200. Pick your poison! (laughs) I hope to be here, and in 5 years, I hope to be a successful artist starting a family - you know - gotta carry on the legacy! (laughs)

(WS's girl) I've seen the video at that Christian show like on Youtube where 'Grind House Gang' got like boo'd off stage because the lyrical content was like too shocking for the crowd, so is it true that Lord Lhus, and Dr. ILL are like Satanists?

OK. Let me verify this. I always get asked this question. First off, I'd like to say that I am a Christian. So this is a subject that I don't really like to delve into very much. I walk with Jesus every day, and I think its more or less shock value that Lhus/Doc were trying to get out of the crowd. Which of course, they succeeded with flying colors. They are all about pushing the envelope and pushing people to their edge, so I can understand their reasoning, but its not something that I, myself, would participate in. And no, Dr. iLL is definitely not a satanist. I wouldn't consider Lhus to be a satanist either. He might have some of the idealistic attributes, but I don't think he's actually worshiping Satan.

Back to me again...

What do you wish for hip-hop in 2010?

I hope for UNITY. Hip-hop is a culture. We as artists are a brotherhood or a fraternity. There is no other genre in music that conveys as much negativity against unity as hip-hop does. I think its more or less the corporate influence on America and the rest of the world, that hip-hop/rap music is now profitable and marketable, so they are going to do whatever they can to make a quick buck. I just want to see a return to real, heart felt music. I'm so sick of this 1 hit wonder, ringtone rap. It is nothing more than a fad! Hip-hop is an art form! It is a culture! I live, eat, sleep, breathe, bathe, and bleed hip-hop. So I want to see a return to the lyricism, a return to the consciousness, a return to the concepts and originality that set us apart from any other genre in the industry.

What's in your iPod and/or car stereo right now?

Lately I been listening to these albums: Canibus - 'Melatonin Magik', Brotha Lynch Hung - 'The Ripgut Collection', Tech N9Ne - 'Everready', Cunninlynguists - 'A Piece of Strange', Killah Priest - 'The Offering', Jedi Mind Tricks - 'Visions of Gandhi', Reef The Lost Cauze - 'A Vicious Cycle', Nappy Roots - 'The Humdinger', Pastor Troy - 'Face Off Part 2', Vakill - 'Worst Fears Confirmed', White Shadow of Norway - 'Victory', Bloodline - 'Let The Blood Spill', Powder - '1UP', Dr. iLL - 'Dr. iLL & Mr. Malpraktiz', Guerilla War Tactix - 'The Invasion', I'm a true hip-hop head, I listen to a bit of everything. All of those albums are currently in and out of the rotation.

Any last words/shouts?

Shout outs to Grindhouse Gang, White Shadow, B & Loco (album coming in 2010 on my label, Mr. Untouchable Music), and everybody holding me down!

Shout outs to Big G as well. Just signed a distribution deal with Famous Records Corp/Universal for an album called Bootstrap Theory. Features from Canibus, Kool G Rap, Respect Tha God, BurntMD, Tislam The Great, and many more. Coming late 2010!

Peace and thanks a lot!

Thank you for having me. I really enjoyed the interview. Thanks for your time and allowing me an avenue to express my views, opinions, and material.


POSTED 02|01|2010
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