If you have been to either of the freestyle rap events over the last two weeks, then you would have become familiar with talented rapper, McMark.
At Underground Sound’s G-Funk & Cypher event, this man was a last minute entry but made a huge impact, managing to get down to the last three of an incredibly competitive event. An achievement made even more impressive by the fact he only learned about the event 45 minutes prior to his arrival and as a non-native speaker, he was limited in terms of prepared English bars for the event. Nevertheless, he still managed to smash it, and as a result, was invited to freestyle at Friday’s Tale Party.
Originally from Denmark, McMark has been in Malta for 6 months and is now ready to make his “McMark” on the scene. Although he is not new to rapping, he is certainly one of the newest entrants to the rap scene in Malta and will be sure to pop up at more events in the near future.
I caught up with him at my apartment prior to his appearance at The Tale, where we talked over Gin & Tonics and pasta, while I bled profusely from a finger wound I suffered while making said pasta. Despite a high level of alcohol in our blood, as well as blood on the table, we had a fantastic chat about his rap career, from rap battles to radio play and performing at festivals, as well as an insight into his hopes for his life in Malta.
Yo Mark, thanks for giving me your time! Can you start by telling me how did you get your name?
Well, I worked in McDonalds 10 years ago and my buddy told me, if you are going to be a real MC you should call yourself McMark, cause everyone is MC this or MC that, but you can be the only Mc.
How long have you been rapping?
I started rapping in 2006 I think, so 12 years almost
What got you into it?
I always liked rap music ever since I was like 5 years old when my brother-in-law gave me a rap record in like 96′. I listened to that shit all day long. Then when 8 Mile came out, I watched that shit like 100 times and I thought to myself, “I can do this, I can freestyle myself”, so that’s where it started.
I started making beats but had no-one to rap over it, so I started writing lyrics. They were complete shit, but I wrote them and when I got studio time in like ’07, I started going to the studio every week and just getting better and better.
Whose studio was it?
It was like a municipal studio, where you could go and book a time and get like 2 hours a week. You could come back every week, so I just kept coming back until I got my own key ’cause I was there all the time and I just sat there alone making beats.
I was just there all the time, until I got thrown out of the studio for a couple years cause we smoked way too much weed up in that place and stole from the kitchen and made pancakes in the middle of the night completely fucking stoned. Yeah, it was good times. Then I got the key back after a couple of years and started making music again on a daily basis.
What was that first album your brother-in-law gave you then?
It was a Danish one, from East Coast Hustlers, roughly translated, it’s called “Full of lies”. It’s fucking old, it’s been around for like 20 years now or something. There were only two rap groups back then, the East Coast Hustlers and another rap group. That was it until the lates 90’s.
It sounds like you started making tracks at a time when the Danish Rap scene wasn’t that big?
Yeah, when I started listening to rap it wasn’t that big, but It started evolving in the early 2000’s, so when I was like 15 and I started rapping, it was growing and becoming bigger. Especially the freestyle thing, that got really big in like 2005/06.
Freestyling His Way from Denmark to Malta
And you took part in some freestyle battles back then too right?
Yeah, I went to the Danish Championship 3 years in a row, 2008, 09 and 10.
How did you do?
In 08, I had one battle but I lost, so no-one remembered me, so when I came back again the next year, no-one had a fucking clue who I was. I met the guy who went on to win the whole thing in my first battle, I lost it but as it was the closest he came to a loss that day, so I went through to the national championship. I won my first battle but lost to the reigning champion. Then the next year, I won a few battles and got to the National Championships again. I seeded number 16 out of 16 so I had to battle number 1. I beat that guy and got through to the semis, so I was the fourth best freestyler in Denmark at that point, so I sorta quit while I was ahead.
How long had you been rapping at that point?
Yeah for like four years or something, from 06-10 I was freestyling quite a bit.
You still freestyle now?
Yeah, but just for shits and giggles, not on a serious basis.
McMark Battling it out at the Danish Championship, “Fight Night” 2010. Credit: Chrkoge.
Do you prefer freestyling or making tracks?
Making tracks for sure. I’ve made tracks for the last 8 years basically. After 4 or 5 years, freestyling about random topics and saying random shit a thousand times, you kinda get sick of it, it becomes dull.
What’s it you like about producing?
The whole process. You can have a hook stuck in your head for like 3 months and you walk around with it writing verses until you find the perfect beat! Depending on my state of mind, I can write a track in 2 hours or 2 months. My debut album was 10 tracks, but it took like 2 and a half years to make that shit. I was just like walking around, sitting on a bomb like, “I gotta get this shit out, I gotta get this shit out”, but I didn’t wanna rush it ’cause I wanted it to be perfect.
How long does it usually take you to make a tune then?
Well, way back in like 2008, I was writing a track for like 2 or three months, writing a bar or two every week. Now, if I’m in the zone, I can write a track in an hour or two, find a good beat, go to the studio, record it in a couple of hours and make a track in less than a day.
Impressive. So obviously you came to the Underground Sound event, you were there for the first time freestyling not in your native language, how was that as an experience?
Well, it was kinda funny, ’cause I didn’t know it was happening. I was told about the show earlier but I forgot about it, so when the day was there, we were drinking some beers and someone said we should go there and so I had like 45 minutes preparation. I didn’t know how much freestyle was involved though, so it was kinda funny going on stage and just knowing I had to pull a topic out the hat and freestyle in another language. But it was a good experience for sure.
And you would do it again? With more practice maybe this time?
Yeah, yeah yeah, if I had more preparation next time it would be good.
Reckon you could take it next time?
Oooo, that’s a good question. I always think I’m the best rapper at the event, so should be able to.
Being the best rapper in your head as a confidence thing, how much do you have to believe you’re the best to win do you think? Or, to even succeed in rap at all?
Well actually, when I beat the guy who was seeded number 1 at the freestyle event, I played the battle out in my head like 99 or 100 times and I lost every time, so I don’t think it’s that important, but it’s like a good thing to tell yourself. ‘Cause a lot of people get nervous when they go on stage. I’m more excited than I am nervous. I wanna kill that shit, I’m not afraid I can’t do it, I’m just excited to do it.
Do you ever get nervous then?
Well, I’ll admit, I was pretty nervous about freestyling in another language, but then again, I tell myself, you’ve done it a thousand times in Danish, so of course you can do it in another language.
Festivals, Radio, and Album Drops
Talk me about what else you were getting up to in Denmark?
Well, after participating in the national freestyle championships in 2010, I made a song for the Danish national team and it was a big hit. It was fucking weird, ’cause I made that track in like a day or two and it was basically just a letter to the Danish team about how much they were gonna suck at the World Cup. It got played on the radio a couple of times, but I was at the Roskilde festival so I didn’t know. Then I came home and fucking Facebook was booming and I was like what the fuck is this shit? My song had a hundred thousand views on YouTube, I was like fuck!
You released an album too right?
Yeah, it took me like 2 or 3 years. It was a good album, but I was kinda angry back then. Angry at everybody, that was kind of the whole concept for the album. It was like my Tupac period, me against the world. Some people loved it, some people hated it, so it was a 50/50 thing.
Is it just the one album you released?
Yeah, one real album called “Dear Denmark”, roughly translated. I’ve got a couple mixtapes and EPS as well.
Maybe you can you tell me a bit about that festival you did with Shabba Ranks we were talking about earlier?
Well, it was kinda loco cause we found out like two days before the festival and we didn’t know anything, the guy was just like hey you wanna play here and we went for it cause we just said yes to basically every gig that could get some money in our pockets. Then we came there, and there is like Super Cat and Shabba Ranks and all kind of fucking big names, and we were like “wooooah”. We were like the smallest name there, but we just went on stage and rocked that shit! Was a fucking great reggae festival!
How many gigs were you doing back then do ya think?
Pfft, in Denmark man, like close to four digits definitely, somewhere between 500-1000 man. We had a time where we played every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and just moved across the country, even at weddings and shit.
And the best gig you ever did?
Probably Nibe festival, where we were playing with a couple of famous rappers from back home. We were like 5000 people packed into a little tent, just smoking weed everywhere, yeah that shit was great.
Your boys rap back home too then?
Yeah, I had a whole crew. We called ourselves, “TUFU” Crew, “Toke Up, Fuck You Crew”. I had my Dj, my backup rapper, and my producer, as well as a couple other rappers. Shout out to my boy Lord Siva, Danni Toma, and Bulut LOC, those guys man!
Does it tempt you to go back to Copenhagen to make more tracks?
Nah, I’m not that kinda guy. I’m never gonna move. If I’m gonna move, It’s going to be abroad. I’m not going to move around in what I call “The Bubble”.
What’re your thoughts on rapping in English?
I’ve always liked it, but I just never had the opportunity to use it for anything. I wrote English bars 5 years ago, and I just had them on my phone waiting for a day to use them. I always knew I could do it, I just never did ’till I moved and it was the only option I had.
Can we expect more English bars on the horizon?
For sure, I gotta write some more. I can’t use the same all over and over again.
You reckon you will keep writing Danish bars?
I think I’ve kinda hit the limit with my Danish bars, so I think I’m gonna concentrate on writing English bars instead. But then again, it’s about the state of mind, if I find a good topic or a good starting point, then I’ll just fucking kill it.
Ok, so, you’ve not been here for long, but the hip-hop scene here, how does it compare to Denmark?
Well, it’s like ten times as small, but it’s kinda the same thing. You gotta know someone who knows someone and start from basically scratch to build a rep. It’s not like someone is going to come to you and be like “yeah I’m gonna put you on”, you just gotta participate in an event and then another event and another event.
So you got your eyes set on making your name big here in Malta?
I’m gonna give it a good go, for sure. It’s the only thing you can do. Give it a go and see how far it leads you. It’s kinda the same back home. I started rapping out of nowhere and no one knew who I was and I remember that feeling like 10 years ago, leaving the venue and no one was recognizing you, giving you a high five or a well done. Then you come back the next year and they are like “hey fuck man, you slayed it in there” and that’s a whole different feeling. That’s kinda the weird thing, when you go from no expectations to high expectations it kinda your whole mindset about it.
Anything else you wanna say?
Just, shout out to TUFU Crew, the realest guys in the fucking business.
Sweet man, thanks for chatting with me!
Words by: William Macmaster
Photos Courtesy of: McMark