M.Will is the son of legendary producer Marley Marl whos’ one of rap’s greatest beat-makers, and he’s been entrenched in hip-hop since birth. Marley Marl’s debut album In Control, Volume 1 celebrates it’s 25th year anniversary this year. When Marlon Williams Jr visited his dad’s house on weekends, it was a hive of musical energy, with rappers showing up constantly. Whether to record in the House of Hits home studio or to do a show on Future Flavas, which was broadcast on Hot 97 and one of the first internet radio shows.
If you’re picturing legendary artists snatching pieces of toast out of M.Will’s hand or drinking milk straight from the bottle, you’re probably not far from the truth. Craig G, Common, Pete Rock, 9th Wonder, Evil Dee, J Dilla, Jay-Z, Black Thought, Raekwon, A Tribe Called Quest and many more recorded in the house. Despite being surrounded by famed artists and a multitude of talent, M.Will says his upbringing was balanced and it didn’t scare him away from making his own music.
The 20-year-old has recorded at least half a dozen beat tapes including 2012’s As Above So Below and definitely has his own sound with influences from Alan Parsons, Dexter Wansel, Kanye West, the esoteric and golden age hip-hop. We talked for almost an hour and M.Will gave thoughtful answers about growing up around music, living with his dad’s legacy, cultivating his own sound, his first production credit with LL Cool J, turning down working with Joey Bada$$, and too much more to list.
By Jimmy Ness
PIMB: You started playing piano at five years old?
M. Will: Yeah, that’s about correct. My school was an elementary school as well as a graded music school. It was really cool, I liked it a lot.
You use a lot of piano loops in your music?
Oh yeah, I think piano and keyboards in general are one of the greatest inventions or instruments that humans have ever done.
You’re also classically trained, but didn’t enjoy the music at first?
Initially when I was really young, you always rebel like “oh this stuff sucks,” but it gave me the integrity that I needed to understand the full spectrum of music and it’s just really something I enjoy to this day and I have a great appreciation for it. I didn’t know as much about hip-hop or popular music or anything else besides what was immediately in front of me.
Who enrolled you in the music classes?
I think essentially it was my mum’s idea, but my dad saw that I was pretty interested in music at a really young age and just being around the House of Hits and around keyboards, I was always really fascinated by them.
How was it being in a family where hip-hop was such a large part of your life? What was your childhood like?
It was really balanced. There was a time for everything. There was a time for hip-hop, but there was a time for practicing and just doing different activities, so it was pretty structured. There would be a time to enjoy good music or when music was going on, and that was something I really appreciated and admired about my upbringing that I guess it was very balanced and structured. The premise of course was hip-hop that was something that would never go away so it was just like what else do we have to take care of?
What are your earliest memories of growing up with rap music?
I grew up in Flushing, Queens and that’s when I was old enough to understand everything. Around elementary school I remember just cool cars and loud music – BMWs and just hearing some good music like Biggie Smalls or something. Like okay, there’s something going on, there’s a powerful force here, just something way beyond my comprehension. I never really even quite understood what my dad did until I was like seven or eight years old, it was just something we were so submerged in. It was like, this is life and we are just living before it gained some sort of definition.
You were growing up while Future Flavas, the first ever online rap radio show, was being recorded in your house. There must have been a lot of energy in the air, at the time.
Oh my gosh, I was so fascinated but I never knew how powerful what was going on was, it’s the ripple effect of the things that would go on from there. The topics that were being discussed, it was always up to date, always on the money, on everything that was going on. It was fascinating just to know so many people were connected at the point. I could never fathom the concept during that time period, it was way before everything is now like how the internet, you can’t live without your computer. This was during that transition and it helped propel the understanding that we have now with music and the internet. It was totally ahead of its freaking time. It was so sick.