It’s a cliche, but in MIDIMarc’s case it’s also the literal truth: He doesn’t make music for you.
The artist (also known as Marcum Core) wants you to listen, of course, and he’s more than happy if you enjoy it. But the hip-hop beats he makes these days are designed, first and foremost, for his own enjoyment.
“I like making stuff I can get in the car and drive to,” he explains. “If I don’t have a lot to do on a Saturday, I will make beats just so I can ride around the city listening to ‘em, wasting gas. Maybe I’ll go through downtown. Maybe I’ll end out in the country some place. But I will make my soundtrack for that day.”
This motivation was especially integral to his most recent EPs, the first two editions of his Deep Cuts series. Indeed, the two six-track platters are perfectly suited for a relaxed weekend cruise, gliding along with luxuriously sepia-toned soul samples, minimal but vivid melodic flourishes and patiently percolating drum machines. Roll down the windows — or crank the AC — and give yourself over to steady motion and meditative vibes.
But these Deep Cuts are just tip of MIDIMarc’s recent output. In addition to two singles released in May and June, 2019 has brought Thirty6ix, a grinning but gritty short birthday collection that introduces beats with clips from Steve Martin’s 1979 comedy classic The Jerk, as well as the fourth and fifth editions of his more sleek and propulsive Prolific EP series, of which the first three entries landed between August and September of last year.
[Update: After this week's Free Times went to press, MIDIMarc issued the new, 14-track collection Park Ave Blues.]
Core’s been making beats for more than 22 years, starting by borrowing equipment from friends and mentors and by collecting more from the side of the road in his hometown of Hopkins. He’s never slowed, continuing, among other pursuits, a long fruitful relationship with stalwart Columbia rapper Fat Rat da Czar, for whom he contributed all of the beats for his last two albums — the excellent Exposed and ETHX.
But his recent onslaught of non-rap solo material is striking, both for its quantity and consistently high quality. Core attributes the spurt in large measure to an overdue attitude adjustment.
“There’s some things I kinda let go,” he says. “Things that were kinda, over time, making me not enjoy making and putting out music as much. I think one of them was just the whole idea of selling beats to rappers or whatever. Which I’m not against at all. It’s great. But just kinda embracing the art and the creativity by itself before a rapper, before a singer gets on. This is something that can be listened to before anybody decides to write a song to it or whatever.
“I spent the first part of my career in that rat race of trying to get placements on big projects, sell beats, travel to different networking events, conferences, all sorts of stuff. A lot of that really didn’t have to do with the music. It was the business side of it. ... A lot of that extra junk that can kind of get garbled into the business and the greed and all sorts of stuff, [I’m] letting a lot of that go and just kind of getting back to being Marcum, back before I even cared if anybody listened to the music I was making.”
Core’s genuine need to create is obvious throughout his recent output, particularly in the loving way he treats his samples. None of his clips ever feel artificially sped-up or rushed by the underlying rhythms. Every borrowed old-school vocal is cushioned by strings and keys and synths that are so tasteful and organic that it’s hard to suss out where the samples end and his own embellishments begin.
“The music I love, I really love,” he says. “And I love listening to it. I listen to it all the time. There might be somebody who listens to something because they want to make a beat, but that’s just not the case for me. ... Some [songs] I’ve sampled a dozen times already. But I don’t hear music yesterday the same way I do today. There’ll be a different piece of it that stands out to me. So when it’s a song I’ve heard millions of times, but a new part out jumps out at me, I’ll sample it again.”