Independently released singles, 12 inch vinyl and 'Blue Collar Sessions EP' brought the Atlanta duo to the attention of Gotee Recrds who released the band's 'Raw Material' album in 2001. By 2003 the duo were really hitting their stride and 'Backbreakanomics' is a minor classic. A press release at the time summed up their approach perfectly. "The style is organic but hard hitting in a way that amplifies an aggressive flow that manCHILD honed as a battle rapper in the (404) underground. Their combined talents forge a blue collar mentality with transparent, honest lyrics that contrast the puffed-up, blown-out, guns 'n' girls world of wannabe rapper-pimps."
In early 2004 the band recorded a new album 'Pro Pain'. It was scheduled for release in October 2004. Demos were circulated to the media. But then the release was postponed. A new date was set. And again it was postponed. Now, in May 2006, the album was finally released. Meeting up with the duo in a Nashville hotel room I begin by asking DJ Dust why it's taken a year and a half to get 'Pro Pain' into the hands of the public. "We had to tweak and take some samples out for legal reasons. The lawyers advised against it. Gotta listen to the lawyers. I think they know what they're talking about!" ManCHILD chips in, "That's the whole reason it was held up in the first place." So in order to avoid being sued down to their underwear, the duo simply changed the tracks when the samples weren't cleared and a final legal version is now out in the shops. ManCHILD observes with massive understatement, "It was a little frustrating. We joke that the name of the record is 'Pro Pain'. It was sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. All of a sudden we had to have these professional pains with it." I suggest they call the next album 'Easy Life'. "Or 'Rainbows & Butterflies' or 'Easy Street'," offers manCHILD. Dust quickly throws in, "'Takin' It Easy' or 'Releases Are Easy'!"
Dust looks on the bright side, "Even though it got delayed a few things have happened since then that will help the record ultimately. We got two videos that we shot after the delay that Gotee invested in and they look great. We got a manager that's on board now that's really a perfect fit for us. So God's timing is really perfect and that's kind of how we look at it. Even though, if I had to do it over again, I wouldn't. I would just say, 'Put it out now!' But you've got to look at it positively."
ManCHILD teases Dust because it was Dust's idea to use one of the samples that caused the most trouble. Dust admits, "Every day I think, WHHHYY?!" ManCHILD chides, "You ruined my record! It's all Dust's fault." Dust hangs his head "All my fault," he mutters. ManCHILD elaborates, "The thing is, when we found out we were on our way to a show in Chicago. Got the call that it was being delayed and there was a problem and this and that. I've never seen him beat himself up.not beat himself literally.but just the way he was. He was like, 'I'm so sorry! I don't know. Why was I so careless?!', and this and that. The thing is, it was going to happen sooner or later. It's tough for us to take because we're relatively small compared to the sales of a lot of people. And our peers on the general market side don't clear anything. I mean some of them do but a lot of guys who are selling even more units than us don't clear anything. So in certain regards we feel like it limits us, but at the same time it forces us to be that much more creative."
One of the things that I've always loved about Mars Ill is the way that they have retained a strong underground sound to their music. These days with so much R&B infecting hip-hop, there's a certain snobbery that can develop in the hip-hop community. Dust says, "Yeah, I can relate. I can be a snob sometimes." ManCHILD adds, "There's a lot of pop-rap and that's definitely not what we do. We just make music that we like. Luckily a lot of other people like it too. And I think people sometimes make mistakes about us, 'Oh, they want to be underground. They don't want to be big.' I think it's just really that I'm not just disliking it because it's R&B. There's a proper way to put a soulful singer with hip-hop, where it really works together. And then there's the whole industry thing where it's like, 'Oh there's an R&B songstress. She sells a lot of records. Let's put her on this song!' And it really turns into just a mishmash and I don't like it. So when people say, 'Oh you guys want to be underground', we don't want to be underground in the sense that we don't sell a tonne of records. But stylistically there's just things that we adhere to. That we want to be who we are, not who somebody else thinks we should be."
Dust continues, "Once you start letting the market drive your music it can really make for a mess. We've seen too many messes! We've seen too many guys that start off doing what we're doing, making music that they really felt. And then they edge their way over to, 'I'm gonna make a club song. This is gonna be my Top Of The Pops chart-bang right here!' What happens is they miss all the markets. They missed their underground." ManCHILD observes, "And they're not good at making pop music, it turns out. So that doesn't go all over for them. So they can't really go back."
I often play a game with my wife Pippa when it comes to actors. Is he an actor or star? And you can do the same thing with hip-hop. You can look at hip-hop groups and distinguish is this hip-hop or is this pop? In the Christian scene, it seems like the poppier end is beginning to make progress but that generally Christian radio big wigs in the USA aren't keen to fill the airwaves with hip-hop even though the genre is the biggest movement in the mainstream. Read More Here
The release of Mars Ill’s hip-hop triumph ProPain is the very definition of “long-awaited.” Rap fans were salivating at the dangling carrot of a new Mars Ill album. However, no one was quite sure when the CD would come out. Not even Mars Ill.
“The first release was October of 2004,” Dust tells CBNmusic. “There was a sample on there that the lawyers were not comfortable with. They decided to push it all the way to June of .”
ManCHILD adds, “Then, it was just kind of dropping the ball on getting it ready to be released.”
The Atlanta duo of ManCHILD and Dust had to “revamp some things” after the June release date fell through. ProPain finally saw the light of day on April 25, 2006, to rave reviews. Mars Ill agrees with the critics. “We prayed about it definitely,” ManCHILD says. “It’s definitely our favorite record by far.”
This could be because the setbacks and delays afforded the group more time to perfect their masterpiece.
“We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it,” ManCHILD says. “We had time to take out stuff that didn’t work.”
Mars Ill has always been a group that marched to their own beat machine, and Dust explains that, while making ProPain, they weren’t looking for something that followed the current sounds in rap.
“We’re never the type of band that makes really trendy music,” Dust says. “I feel like whether it came out in 2004, 2006 or 2008, it’s timeless.”
“It still has legs; it’s still relevant,” ManCHILD concurs.
Mars Ill’s music has always stayed fresh because of their obsession with finding the perfect sample.
“Anything that we use is meant to be anonymous,” says Dust. “We’re not going to take somebody else’s popularity and transfer it to our own. I come from the old school production where our beats are drawing from all the classic music that came before you.”
It’s an art form that is lost on today’s hip-hop world where sampling pop songs for a catchy hook is a quick way to the top of the charts.
“Sampling is a necessary evil in our business. You just have to learn how to work within the game,” ManCHILD says.
“The game” has been especially good to Mars Ill. Few rap artists can say they get respect from both the mainstream and the Christian side of the industry. However, the hip-hop press has always had its eye on Mars Ill. So how do they keep a foot in both worlds?
“Quality… we’ve never compared ourselves with what’s happening in the Christian industry,” ManCHILD says. “Of course we’re both believers but we never said, ‘We’re gonna be the most credible Christian rap group.’ Instead we said, ‘What are the artists that we grew up on?’ If we want to do this, we want to do it to the best of our abilities." Read More Here