Beyond 'Bust a Move'
Why Young MC is better than today's chart rappers
I wasn't expecting much from my conversation with Marvin Young, a 41-year-old rapper better known as Young MC. I had no idea what to ask him about other than his party anthem "Bust a Move." I've owned the same cassette copy of his 1989 debut, Stone Cold Rhymin', since elementary school, but Young's clean-cut, no-cursing lyrical approach had me worried the MC wouldn't have much to say off-mic. Wrong.
Young was highly engaging as he discussed problems with current rappers, the one-hit-wonder tag, and why his performance at the Freestyle Explosion alongside such acts as Tone Loc, Coolio, Naughty by Nature, Lisa Lisa and Club Nouveau will be better entertainment than going to see whatever MC is topping the charts this week.
How often do you play?
Maybe once a month. I make sure my publishing is straight, so I'm not doing shows to make rent. I looked at how others were doing it and made sure my new stuff doesn't have samples and a ton of guests.
Why is the current trend to have albums with so many guests?
This is the OC Weekly, right? You guys get a little edgy? Okay, I have a theory. The rap industry is treating artists the way the Constitution treated black people as two-thirds of a human. Rap artists need to have half the rap world on the record, like we're not capable of doing it ourselves. Now you need big collaborations to come out. It dilutes the strength of the artists. Rap artists aren't trusted to do the entire record. It makes no sense to me. Now, when I'm making records, people ask, "Who did the tracks, and who's on it?" I did the tracks, and I'm on it. A lot of these cats are great, but they can't get through a whole 16 bars by themselves. That's a joke. If you took the artwork off a lot of albums, you would not be able to tell whose record it is.
The live show suffers when you have a record full of guests.
You can't bring every person out, and when you play, you can only do portions of songs. That forces package tours, which benefits guys like me. I'm 20 years removed from my hit, and I can still run out and get shows quicker than guys who sold more records than me.
Tell us about the Freestyle Explosion show.
It's a dozen one-offs around the country. The guys from this era are the best performers because we were raised to make entire records and spit 16. Everybody on this show is between 15 and 22 years removed from their hit. That's cream rising to the top. If you're brought up in a studio and your way to get to 16 is doing four bars and punching four times, then onstage, it's a joke. Don't even get me started on the hype man. The day I need a hype man is the day I quit.
People use the term pop-rap as if it's a negative.
If you know hip-hop, you know I can flow. That's really all I care about. People who talk shit ain't done shit. Anyone who considers me a party artist either makes another genre and is not doing as well as they'd like to, or they tried to make a party record and it didn't do as well as mine. It's a lot easier to criticize than it is to create. Ask them to put something on the table, and they get quiet.
How does having a college education influence your rhymes?
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It helps, and it hurts. If you use a word that a hardcore person doesn't know, they'll criticize before they admit they don't know the word. I make sure to extend my vocabulary and use as much of it as I can. You'll never hear "celibate rope" in a record again.
"Bust a Move" is my karaoke jam.
Thank you, man. The second eight bars of the third verse is wrong because I never printed it. I've done it in a bar once, and that was a cringefest, but I've also done it at karaoke rooms for 10 of my friends. I look at it like, I'm a kid from Hollis who's in a karaoke machine.
Young MC performs with Tone Loc, Coolio, Naughty by Nature, Club Nouveau, Klymaxx, Stevie B, Lisa Lisa, Trinere and Nocera at the Honda Center, 2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 704-2400; www.hondacenter.com. Fri., 7:30 p.m. $36-$76.