In-Depth Interview with Hip-Hop Pioneer Marley Marl

Marley Marl
There’s been a lot of talk over the last year about how producing is a great way for DJs to take their careers to the next level. The idea isn’t new, though, and in the early 1980s, legendary hip-hop DJ/producer Marley Marl was working hard behind a sampler to differentiate his sets with “tools for DJs.”
The main difference is that Marl didn’t aim for fame as a producer. In fact, the New York native admitted he was “bugged out” upon seeing his first production credit — worried it might tarnish his reputation as a DJ. Despite that, Marl revolutionized hip-hop when he pioneered the practice of sampling drum sounds. His production for influential artists such as Eric B. & Rakim, Biz Markie, Big Daddy Kane, and LL Cool J established him as rap’s first super-producer.
Last month, Mr. Marl sat down with Red Bull Music Academy for a three-hour lecture that contained many insights on the history of hip-hop and sampled based production. The video is not only a must-watch for rap fans, but any DJ looking to take their game to the next level.

Topics covered:

0:01:10 – Starting as a DJ and becoming a producer later
0:02:20 – How his early productions were intended as tools for DJs
0:06:00 – Producing LL Cool J’s “The Boomin System”
0:08:00 – How James Brown’s music led him to sampling
0:08:50 – Growing up in Queensbridge, New York
0:18:30 – How recording bands got him into producing
0:22:30 – How he stumbled on sampling by mistake
0:25:50 – Triggering samples before there was MIDI
0:27:50 – How Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” (produced by Giorgio Moroder) changed his life
0:35:40 – Meeting MC Shan, producing his classic track “The Bridge”
0:54:40 – Producing Eric B. & Rakim’s breakout record, “Eric B. Is President”
0:56:50 – Tragedy Khadafi’s influence on Queensbridge rappers Nas, Mobb Deep, Cormega, etc
1:02:50 – How the Juice Crew and Boogie Down Productions beef started
1:12:20 – DJing on Mr. Magic’s legendary “Rap Attack” show
1:21:50 – Producing Big Daddy Kane’s “Raw”
1:28:30 – How his production on “Nobody Beats the Biz” influenced DJ Premier’s style
1:31:10 – The importance of owning your own publishing and masters
1:35:40 – Hiring Pete Rock to DJ on his “In Control” radio show
1:38:40 – How remixing LL Cool J’s “Jingling Baby” elevated his career
1:51:40 – Giving advice to Nas
1:56:00 – Recognizing Jay Z’s talent early in his career
2:05:50 – Focusing on your dreams and letting go of people who don’t understand your path
2:07:40 – Q&A session

Related: Which Hip-Hop Producers Have Used the Most Samples?