By Nick Sligh
Ever since coming across “Thin Line” on SoundCloud as a high-schooler, I knew that Marcellus Juvann was an artist who was unapologetically honest and personal in his music. The emotional potency of every bar over the sentimental production built a great song, and helped me to recognize that Marcellus was a special talent in rap.
Quickly, I went through his entire discography at the time (“The Fall,” “The Great Escape” and a handful of singles) and found somebody who made consistently heartfelt music with a prolific finesse. The first two albums from the Houston rapper were full of soul and impressive penmanship, featuring some great songs such as “Thin Line,” “Ease Yo Mind,” “Book of Life” and “No Love Interlude.”
Since then, Marcellus has dropped two more albums, a consistent stream of singles and an EP. 2018’s “Everyone Lives in the End” saw Marcellus balance a handful of sounds, ranging from jazzy and soulful rap on some tracks to trap on others. Shortly after, the “Carpe Noctem” EP was released, notably featuring one of Marcellus’ standout tracks, “A Week Ago.” Then, “Keep Alive” took the darkest turn in his discography with hard-hitting tracks and mostly trap beats from front to back.
So far in 2021, Marcellus has released two fantastic lead singles for “Hardheaded.” The title track for the EP, “Hardheaded” (accompanied by an incredibly intense and entertaining music video), brought a dark, eerie atmosphere and an impassioned delivery for one of the more captivating songs of the year. “Down” brought an equally heartfelt, but dramatically slower and relaxed, production. Both singles have created great excitement for the upcoming release, which will be Marcellus’ first major project since 2019.
I caught up with Marcellus just ahead of the release of his new EP, “Hardheaded.”
Marcellus Juvann: “Hardheaded” (May 7, 2021)
The Stanford Daily (TSD): Who were some of your biggest influences in making you the artist that you are today?
Marcellus Juvann (MJ): My musical influences vary from Hip Hop to R&B to Soul. I love it all, I was introduced to it all very early. I would say definitely Michael Jackson, as far as song making. Lil Wayne is the reason I want to rap. And Kanye West was a great blend of those worlds.
TSD: So you were born in Ohio, mostly grew up in Houston, Texas, and have also been based out of Florida during your rap career. How have all of these places contributed to your development in and out of music?
MJ: Cleveland birthed me, so I grew up on Bone Thugs and Kid Cudi. Then Houston brought out the love for making my own music. That’s where I started recording myself in my bedroom on the family computer. Moms was mad, haha. And Florida — that’s where I perfected my craft of making music and my sound, and released my first mixtape “The Fall.”
TSD: Houston’s obviously an iconic city for rap and music in general. Do you feel like the Houston music scene really inspired you, or do you not really tie your sound too much to your city in particular?
MJ: The city definitely inspired my music. It’s just the part of the city I’m from. Northwest Houston hasn’t had anyone come out and make it major yet. So it’s a sound that no one outside of Houston is familiar with. It’s my sound and the sound of the side of the city I’m from.
TSD: This past year has been a year of change for a ton of people. What have been some of the major changes to your life as a musician and how have you been adapting to them?
MJ: Well last year, we signed with Island Records under Universal Music. So music-wise it’s been a big change. I’ve been independent since 2015, so now felt like it was time to work with a major. And Island was the right fit for us.
TSJ: Shoutout to “The Chi” for putting “Thin Line” on the show soundtrack. I was so excited when I heard that on there and really feel like that’s always a big moment for an artist to start getting their tracks on major TV/Film productions. Where do you see yourself going with music in the future?
MJ: Yeah, shoutout to The Chi for real. I’m a fan of that show and getting my song on there was huge. But I see myself just progressing. I want number 1 albums. Songs on the radio. Go on tours. Work with new artists. Everything that comes with this music thing. I’m just a fan of music.
TSD: “I’m a conscious rapper with no conscience.” That line on “Out Alive” really stood out to me and I feel like it says a lot about your artistry. I feel like the subject of the level of “consciousness” in their music is something that a lot of artists think about. I hate that there’s the idea that trap music naturally has to be less conscious, because I feel like any form of music can be conscious, but what are your thoughts on this?
MJ: I think the boundaries people put on music is crazy. It’s a form of expression and how you choose to do that doesn’t always have to be put in a category. The idea of being conscious is to be aware. Whether you’re aware of yourself and who you are, or aware of your surroundings. It’s all the same. I think we are all conscious as musicians. It takes a certain level of awareness to write or speak about how you feel and translate that to the listener.
TSD: What are some of your personal favorite songs that you have ever created or been a part of?
MJ: I would say definitely the new shit. “Hardheaded” and “Down” and this entire new project dropping. “Faith Aint Easy,” “Ain’t That Deep,” “A Week Ago.” I like all my songs where I feel like I challenged myself. That’s what I try to do everytime I make something new.
TSD: What have been the most important parts of your artistic development across your first four projects?
MJ: Pushing boundaries. I can’t make the same song over and over; that’s not the kind of artist I am. I want to challenge myself and the listeners. So with every project I try to do something I haven’t always done.
TSD: Can you walk me through the foundation for the title of your EP, “Hardheaded”?
MJ: Hardheaded is a word I’m sure we all heard when we were kids. When someone like mom or grandma thought I was being stubborn and wouldn’t listen, that’s what they would say I was being. And true enough, that’s who I’ve always been. I’ve always wanted to do everything MY WAY. So with this project, it’s almost like: “Look at what doing it my way got me.” I’m signed with a major label, and I live off of rap. I was persistent, and I never let someone tell me what I couldn’t do ever. If I wanted something I was gonna get it one way or another.
TSD: I am sure that you have been working hard on this EP for a while. When did the process of creating this album begin and what has the whole process been like for “Hardheaded”? Also, how has it been with this project being your first project that you produced entirely on your own?
MJ: The process was crazy. I started it right before COVID and had to finish while on stay-at-home orders. So I was kinda forced to produce it all on my own. That was actually never the plan, but when I finished, I felt great. Like, I did that. To me, this project is my most authentic music to date. But it’s all me. From production to writing to even recording this in my house all by myself.
TSD: What can fans expect to come after “Hardheaded”? Do you have any plans set right now for releases over the next few years or what you’d like to be working on?
MJ: At this stage in my career I feel like I’m starting over in a way, even though I’ve been here for years. So Hardheaded is the introduction to this new chapter in my life. So yeah, a lot of new music coming after this. Possibly a full album.
TSD: Thanks so much for the time, Marcellus!
MJ: Thank y’all for listening, man. And go get that new EP “Hardheaded” when it drops. God bless.