There’s an LL Cool J-type quality to Coney Island Emcee, Torae. Mama Said Knock You Out-type LL. Lurking behind his pretty-boy mug and humble personality lies a lyrical ferocity impatiently waiting to devastate the mic. In person, Torae is gracious and appreciative of the opportunities before him. On stage, his brolic, B-Boy demeanor and aggressive rhyme style is enough to simultaneously send chills to the eardrum and a bitter-beer-face to the grill. Add that to Marco Polo’s chest thumping, boom-bap production - that somehow feels like 1994 and 2009 at the same time - and the combination is one that immediately captures iPods and captivates crowds.
Following this year’s Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival, we caught up with Torae & Marco Polo, digging into their debut collaborative LP, Double Barrel, rocking with legendary rap label, Duck Down Records, and the Canadian/Coney Island chemistry. Read on muttaskuttas!
TCM: The-Quotable.com here with Torae, Coney Island’s finest. How are you doing?
Torae: I’m great, man. Thanks for having me and all that.
TCM: Absolutely. How do you feel about your show?
Torae: The show was dope, man. It was a beautiful thing to rock out Brooklyn. Crowd was into to it, nahmean? The packed venue - thats always my favorite. Got busy.
TCM: Thats whats up. So, I’ve been following you online. Your Daily Conversation album was dope. Double Barrel is fire all the way through. Its the perfect combination between beats and rhymes and the way I think it looks in the new generation.
Torae: No doubt.
TCM: And in all of your interviews you come across as a real real humble dude despite your aggressive flow. Where does your inspiration come from?
Torae: I mean, I love it. I make music because I love it. I don’t make it to make a million dollars or, you know, ride around in fancy cars and all that. I mean, luxuries in life, they are a beautiful thing. But, I make music from the heart, you know what I’m sayin, whether theres money in it or not. I’m always going to continue to write and get in the booth and go in. You know what I’m sayin? You know, just my personality on the mic is definitely a little different from me as a person. When I’m on the mic I’m, you know, I’m no holds barred ferocious. You know what I’m sayin? In real life I’m just a cool dude.
TCM: On Daily Conversation’s “Switch”, the video footage, the photography, the angle was dope - with the old school Apple shit poppin’ out. You’re switching flows all the way through. Where did the inspiration come from for that?
Torae: Um, you know, I’m real active on the internet. So, I would hear people say ‘Yo, I like Tor. He can rhyme but I don’t like his delivery on this record’ or this and this and that. So I decided to do something to kind of hush the naysayers and show them I can show a little versatility as far as switching up my flow. But still show that its all relative. Like, you know, everybody’s got they own style, they own niche in what they do. And the more you listen to it the more you get accustomed to it, the more you become familiar with it, and its just second nature to you.
TCM: Lets get into Double Barrel. The album’s bangin’ all the way through...
Torae: No doubt. Lets get the homie Marco Polo. Yo, Marco!
TCM: How you doin’ man?
Marco Polo: Good, how you doin?
TCM: We’re getting into a little Double Barrel right now. Props to Port Authority as well. Its still rockin in my iPod.
Marco Polo: I appreciate that. Thank you, sir.
TCM: Can you talk a little about your chemistry as a producer/emcee duo?
Marco Polo: Definitely. I think me and Torae definitely, you know, have the same influences in the stuff we grew up listening to, and what we love about Hip Hop. You know what I’m sayin? Especially East Coast influenced boom-bap. You know, like EPMD, Onyx, Wu-Tang, you know? Real beat driven like Primo and Pete Rock. We wanted to make an album that represented our taste as Hip Hop fans and thats where we connect in the studio, you know what I’m sayin? It makes it easy to work together with like minded individuals. And thats really our approach to this record. Have fun. Make stuff we wanted to hear, that we felt was not being represented right now. So, thats pretty much how it went down.
TCM: So how’d the connection come about? Was it arranged by Duck Down? Did you guys get together yourselves?
Torae: Yeah, we actually put the album together ourselves and then we got with Duck Down. And we actually sat with a few other labels as well. But Duck Down was the perfect fit. Me and Marco actually met in the studio...You know? Thats probably another reason why our chemistry was so ill - cause we met working on the EMC album. We did a skit. You know, [Masta] Ace, who was a good friend of both of ours, called us in to do two individual parts of the skit. I met Marco. We chopped it up. He was working on Port Authority. I’m sorry. New Port Authority Mixtape that promoted Port Authority the album. Um, [He] asked me if I wanted to get down with it, and I was a big fan of his beats. We knocked out two joints for the mixtape. And then we just kind of formed a bond and kept recording. And then we went on the road like, he said and all that. So, you know, we did all that and the next thing you know, we were just recording and Double Barrel in stores.
TCM: So how does it feel to be at Duck Down with the legions?
Torae: Yo, just the fact that those guys even know me is a crazy...yah mean? Like, its a surreal experience. I got everything from the catalogue. You know what I’m sayin? You see that logo, you see quality. You know its Hip Hop. You know its something that...You ain’t even got to hear no songs. You see that logo, you know what it is. And, I live my life like that for so long. Now to be a part of the, you know, part of the history and the legacy is a beautiful thing.
TCM: Specifically, when it comes to the album - looking at the video footage for “Party Crashers”. Thats an aggressive aggressive track but you went the spoof angle with the video. Can you talk about the concept and how that came about?
Marco Polo: You know, a lot of people like to take themselves very seriously, you know what I’m sayin? You know, besides the music. We take our music very seriously but we want to kind of play on the whole, you know what I’m sayin? Have fun with it. Crash the Party. Double Barrel’s gonna come into your spot and, you know, cause a little bit of havoc. And thats what we did for two days when we shot the video.
TCM: Not a bad way to spend two days, right?
Torae: Nah, no doubt.
Marco Polo: It was a giant party. Literally.
TCM: For your next single. What are you looking to follow [Party Crashers] up with?
Torae: Um, I mean the record is out there now. Its 13 tracks, 14 with the intro. We let the people decide what they like. You know what I mean? People make their own singles. You got iPods. You know, you got playlists and things. You got blogs and podcasts. So people are going to make their own favorites. They gonna pick them. They gonna select them. We went with “Party Crashers” for the video just because it was one of those songs that you we can do a lot of things visually with. And thats what sometimes people lose is they have a dope song on the album but visually it doesn’t do as much. So “Party Crashers” is one of those records that lent itself to being a good video. You know, cause on the vinyl - we got “Double Barrel” and “Hold Up” on the vinyl. And “Combat Drills” is our vinyl single. So, you know, its up to the people to decide whatever they like and what they want and, you know, thats what it is.
TCM: Well look, from my point of view, I want to see “Coney Island”. I want to see yall finish that Training Day video. I want to see that track all the way through. Thats a great look.
Marco Polo: Word. Word. Word.
Torae: [Laughs] Ha. Thanks. Good looking out, homie.