Q&A with Marco Pavé

2015 has been an incredible year for Memphis based rapper and social activist, Marco Pavé. On top of releasing his new EP, Perception, he also participated in two inspirational Ted talks and worked with multiple local charities to better his local music scene. Ending the year on a positive note, Pavé recently released the music video for his track, "Black Tux," which serves as his contribution to the Black Lives Matter movement. 2016 only promises to be a bigger and better year for Marco Pavé, who already has plenty of plans for the new year. 

Check out the video for "Black Tux" below and pick up Perception now!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself for any readers who may not be familiar?

My name is Marco Pavé, Hip-Hop artist and social activist from Memphis, Tennessee. I am 23 years old and I have been rapping for about 15 years (laughs).

You recently dropped your new EP, Perception. What was the inspiration that fueled this release? Were there any subjects that you wanted to be able to touch on?

The inspiration that fueled my EP, Perception, was my life up to that point of recording it. Life is all about Perceptions. Perceptions of what you should do, how you should do it, or even why you should do something. I am no exception to that rule. Since the age of 8 years old, when I began rapping, people told me to find a “backup plan.” I also grew up in North Memphis, the inner city bible belt, if you will. I was the youngest of four children in a lower-middleclass Muslim household. That practically double the perceptions that I faced growing up, it left me on the margins, but I was able to use Hip-Hop to connect with all kinds of folks.

There were many subjects I wanted to touch on, but with only 5 songs to choose from I had to narrow those topics down. The overall theme of the EP is dream chasing at ALL cost and never letting anyone tell you to stop the pursuit. I am also speaking on issues of sexism, racism, abusive parents, etc. On the song “Perception” I am talking about the views that American society and many men have for women and also the narrow views that American society has for men. I hope people get that record and understand that I am telling a story and not condoning these thoughts.

You recently released the video for your single, “Black Tux.” Can you tell us a little bit about the track?

“Black Tux” was produced by one of my producers and frequent collaborators, Kenny Wayne. It’s a song that really means a lot to me. I wrote “Black Tux” shortly after the murder of Mike Brown. For me, “Black Tux” is a metaphor for how America views black bodies and treat black lives. I considered it my offering to the Black Lives Matter movement, and I hope that it can go down in history as one of the great protest songs that are coming out around this time. There are a lot of personal things that I put into this song, like being told that I can't be a rapper, being called a fool for losing dead-end jobs. But I pushed back against that and now I'm rapping and using my voice to speak against injustices. “Black Tux” is a journey through the life of a young black man in America, and in that way I don't see it as a unique story necessarily, but as all of our story.

I love the story and the symbolism in the video. How was the filming process? Was there anything you really wanted to show in the video?

Thank you so much, I am glad you caught that. The filming process was amazing. I am so glad that I went with Andrew Fleming to shoot this video, he has a great artistic vision and we have built some great on camera chemistry pretty fast. The video came together really fast honestly. Well, after I spent weeks writing out scenarios and scenes (laughs). Then, I reached out to the actors that I felt were a good fit for the video and I prepped them on what to do. I specifically called and told everyone, “Show up on set as the character you are playing and not yourself.” I really wanted them to live the parts they were playing.

I really wanted to show my hometown of Memphis in the video. Mission accomplished with the drone shots (laughs). I also wanted to show day-to-day real life situations. Yes the overall song is about racism and inequality but I didn’t want to make a video with people rioting in the street. The problem with racism and inequality is that, it doesn’t allow people to be fully human and fully express themselves. So, in the context of racial oppression I still wanted to show that people still have to try and led normal lives. I also wanted to show something gender specific for both characters. I also wanted to show that the ideas that society places on us could be lifted and burned away. That is not how I am going to live my life based on someone’s perception of what I should be doing.

How do you feel that growing up in the Memphis music scene has shaped you as both a person and an artist?

It has shaped me a lot. Just growing up in Memphis in general, I was a Memphian before I was a Memphis artist. But, specifically growing up on this music scene allowed me to witness things that I was able to learn from and avoid the same pitfalls as artists before me. The Memphis Music scene is really underground and grassroots, there is no real infrastructure here and that causes a lot of unnecessary competition. But not having the infrastructure is no excuse to not make it, so it taught me to build my mind on the business of music as well as the music itself.

You’ve taken the opportunity to use your platform and your music to give back to your hometown. What would you like to be able to change or how would you like to benefit Memphis, even if it’s a long-term goal?

I see you’ve done a little research on me! I would love to be able to change the music infrastructure here and bring in some major labels, booking agents, and music publications to help raise the profile of a city that has such a rich history and heritage. Beyond the music, I would like our city to start tackling these issues of inequality. We have the highest concentration of black poverty in the country. I want to tackle this problem at the roots, schools; the school system in Memphis is terrible. It’s not helping grow talent and excellence, it’s only preparing students, specifically black students to graduate and become workers.

Having been so involved in the improvement of the music industry in Memphis, what is one piece of advice you would give to teens or anyone who wants to get involved or follow their dreams as an artist?

Focus on the business! A lot of artists want to say, “oh, I am an artist, I don’t want to worry about the business,” but that’s the fastest route to getting screwed in this business. It’s a vicious game, and if you are not preparing for the business side, you better be prepared to be taken advantage of. Reading is your best friend, find books on the industry and study up. There are many resources out there, take advantage. Join a PRO (performance rights organization) like BMI, ASCAP, etc. They have many resources to help artists that are starting out head in the right direction.

I normally ask artists one thing that they would like to change about the music scene, but given your involvement in not only the Memphis scene, but your involvement in charities and change in general, what is something that you would like to see change within the next year, if not sooner?

In the music industry, I would like this battle for streaming to die down. It’s hurting the artists the most. I would also like to see the streaming royalty rate be increase to match terrestrial radio. 

Beyond the music, I want to see more institutions divesting in private prisons. This year, Columbia University became the first University to divest in private prisons. If more follow suit, this could be a great way to cut down and even stop mass incarceration. I also want to see more laws in place to protect citizens from police brutality.

You’ve been very involved in many local charities, and have recently done a very powerful TEDxMemphis talk. Going into 2016, is there anything that you’re excited to be working on or supporting?

Absolutely, but first of I just want to say that 2015 was one of the best years for me as an artist and as a person. I am ready to see what is going to happen in the next year. I had the opportunity to do two Ted talks this year. I did one in Memphis and another in Nashville. Going into 2016, I am excited to continue to keep pushing my project, Perception, I will be releasing new videos for that. I am excited to working with Artspace Projects here in Memphis; they are developing a 58-unit artist live/work space and I am on the ground floor helping with developments, branding, and social media. I am excited about SXSW for 2016. I am excited to be selected as speaker for an entrepreneurship master class here in Memphis. I tons to be excited for moving forward, But I don’t want to spoil it all. Stay tuned and follow the journey.

Thank you for taking the time to talk with us! Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for having me, this was a great interview, I love questions that dive deep into situations. Please stay connected with me, follow me on IG and Twitter, @Kingofmarco. Also, subscribe to my website for updates via kingofmarco.com

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