Sup mayne, welcome back to the Beat Suite. Our next hit-maker to step into the mix is a young boss coming straight out of Chicago, and he is definitely paving the way for our future generations. His music has been heard underneath the raps of everybody from Action Bronson, Sir Michael Rocks, Boldy James, Curren$y, Topaz Jones, Kids These Days, and the list goes on. His Tastemakers family, and the Closed Sessions recording studio have supplied a firm foundation for this talented producer to make a massive impact on the music industry, early on in his career.
As Pretty Ricky once said, age ain’t nothing but a number – and Thelonious Martin comes to us at the tender age of 20 years old, but his sounds resemble those of someone way beyond his years. Right before my trip out of the country, I was fortunate enough to get a hold of the busy composer, and break bread with the homie over Skype while in-studio. As you will read later on, I’ve been a fan of Thelonious for a little bit now, so I was more than happy to hear about how his entire career has come to fruition to this point. Although still somewhat of a rookie in this game, Martin has put in countless hours of studying to master his craft, and develop his own niche.
Being a young cat myself, it is always a joy of mine to work, and speak with other ambitious gunners who are looking to make a lasting impact in the future as well. Not many producers his age can say that they have accomplished the same feats early on, but Martin still understands the importance of staying humble, and staying relevant. Constantly working on new projects and great music, it’s always a pleasure to hear a craftsman speak on his work with such passion as the kid does.
Although we experienced minor difficulties getting a hold of each other, Thelonious and I spent our time together talking about everything from his upbringing, to music, the Homme Team, working with Curren$y (one of my favorite artists), his feelings towards the music industry, new projects in the works & a whole lot more. The people in this game can be very fugazy at times, so it was great to chop it up with a genuine dude who is strictly focused on his business – and making it the absolute best. Without further a due, jump in below and enjoy our full interview.
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What’s good my G, why don’t you do the quick introduction process for everybody. .
Alright, so I’m Thelonious Martin. Producer. Chicago, Illinois.
I wanted to tell you a little bit about how I first heard of “Thelonious Martin.” Last summer I was in LA working for Warner Bros., and I met a film director who put me on to this artist named Topaz Jones…So he played some music off a mixtape called 106 Miles To Chicago and I was like “Damn, he can rap – but who is doing all the production on these tracks?” Long story short, I looked you up and did some research on the name, and I thought to myself, “wow, he would sound great on a Curren$y record.”
Well, come to find out a few months later – you had some records out with Spitta. I was like ahh man this guy is the truth, I gotta link up. With that being said, how do you know Topaz?
Me and Topaz actually went to high school together. So we’ve been working since like our freshman year, he heard my first beats. We’ve been homies making music ever since then.
What part of Chicago are you from?
Well, I was born in Chicago, but I went to high school and stuff in Montclair, New Jersey.
What do you think about everything that went on in Boston? Are you from a part in the citywhere it’s real crazy – not like that, but still?
Yeah, it’s type crazy…As far as where I am at – I can’t tell you man. I stay downtown on campus at the school I go to. You know, you still see or hear stuff going on everywhere.
True. When I come out to Chicago though, what are some things that I should get into?
Ummm, eat deep dish pizza? Go to the record stores, go to a Cubs game – or a White Sox games. Just experience Chicago. It’s like any other native city, you walk around with your people, you walk around, and you will feel like you are a part of the city. We definitely don’t try to make you feel like an outsider here.
Okay word. Lets talk about your squad then. How did the Homme Team originate?
Ahh man, that’s my creative brand G – that’s my branch out. It lets me do all the creative things I wanna do.
How did that concept come about, or originate?
Probably my love of sports, my love of luxury…It’s like, “the home team”. Kids come out and represent from where they are from, and at the same time it’s like yo we can put our own spin on it like this.
How did you link up with Closed Sessions?
I was working really closely with them last year where they would bring artists in, and I would just knock out incredible production for anybody they brought into town.
Was the opportunity with Closed Sessions how you “broke into” the industry?
I wouldn’t say that is how I got my break or whatever, but I mean it definitely helped me progress in general, just getting placements hear and there.
How long have you been taking this seriously?
Well, I just registered for BMI (haha). I’m a registered writer and composer, so now I start collecting royalties off that. You know, just making sure I take the right steps so I can have that publishing company straight – just knockin’ out certain necessary business moves so that I’m not just another producer, but someone to be reckoned with in the game.
What is your opinion on the industry as far as the business aspect of things?
People don’t know how to conduct business (lol). Both of my parents are like business/economic majors, so from day one I’ve understood supply and demand, life cycles of products and stuff – so in the back of my mind you know, whenever I’m involved, there is always a business aesthetic to it like “how can we make this last longer, how can we make more people see this, or how can we sell this.”
See I mean business is business – sometimes it’s slow, and sometimes it’s good. But you have to
capitalize on what you do know, and not worry about other people.
Word, that’s definitely the truth. Did you have a job before music?
Hah. I used to play basketball real serious in high school, before I started taking music super seriously. So my first two years of high school I was like making beats but playing ball foreal, foreal. And when basketball season was over, I’d be making beats foreal.
But I had one job, or two, I was a parking lot attendant (haha), where the car would pull up and I’d let them out…And they would pay me, and I’d park the car or whateva – some times the people gave you tips or whateva, so that was humbling. And then I was an intern at a sneaker store like my senior year.
On some typical hip-hop producer type…
Yeah, sounds like you just walked right into it – you’re kinda young though right?
Yeahh, I’m only 20 now, I turn 21 in September.
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Damn! You’re still younger than me – But let’s talk about some of the artists you work with. Do you try to keep a common theme as far as the type or genre of artists?
Not really, I wouldn’t say a common theme. But I would say more that I make sure whatever canvas I give to an artist, they can paint the picture, or be able to tell their story, and kinda leave it open. Then later we add on to it, kinda sprinkle some extras and all that after they paint their picture – just to add more detail to it. You know, just making sure everything is tight.
I don’t really know how to explain it G, it’s kinda weird…
It’s really whatever fits right…
Yeah, it’s not necessarily like “okay I’m gonna give you this beat.” It’s more like “iight, you rap or tell stories like this, so I have this idea if you wanna go off that.”
Everything is just flowing in that vein…where it’s almost more of a read and react. I quarterback the situation like okay, they finna blitz so let’s dump it off to the running back. Or they pressing, so let’s throw it deep or whateva…
Nah, it sounds like you are definitely more of a hands-on producer, opposed to just sending beats out and letting niggaz go off on it…
Definitely man. Definitely hands-on.
I don’t wanna seem corny or nothin’, but who is your favorite person to get in the studio and work with?
Ummm… Out of the big names, my favorite person I’ve worked with so far is definitely Curren$y. Yeah, he’s like – I don’t wanna say “easy” to work with, but everything is real laid back and it’s a very good atmosphere. It’s like, alright – You like it? Cool. We go right into the music and stuff. So you know, everything goes real smooth when I’m working with Curren$y.
And when you’re in there, if you hear something you don’t like or think is wack- will you say something and be like, “nah I don’t like this, or change that?”
Oh nah, definitely. Since working with Topaz, we had a whole crew in high school, so if someone’s verse was wack – we would tell them. I’ve seen people just crumble up verses, because it hurts when someone else’s verse is real hot. So in fear of not making a song, they would exchange everything. It was a real competitive atmosphere. So whenever I’m in the studio I challenge whoever I’m working with – no matter what – because I’m not for mediocre music, or giving people co-signs just ‘cause.
I was in Cali just a few weeks ago, and I got the pleasure to meet up with some Chicago legends No I.D. & Malik Yusef. Who are some people that you look up to on the Chicago scene right now?
Well, one of my mentor is Xtreme…Xtreme Beats. So that is someone who I get to pick his brain, and work with him whenever he’s in town, or if I’m in LA.
So yeah, definitely Xtreme as far as Chicago people goes.
How would you say you developed your style? Because there is definitely a distinct “Thelonious” sound…
…Countless hours of studying other people’s music. I’m a student really when it comes to music, like really into listening to music in terms of, not necessarily a fan’s point of view, but as a student I see how the music breaks down. You know like, this is how the drum break came in…or the horns would sound good over these type of keys, things like that.
I saw you put a few videos out to your instrumentals, which I thought were very dope. Where does the inspiration for your visuals come from?
For me, in terms of the creation process, I usually see the scene the music should go to before I really hear sounds and stuff. So maybe it will be colors, or far ahead, and the creation process will actually be me just seeing different scenes and landscapes. It really is based off the music like – okay the beat is really dark, or has a lot of heavy contrast and what not. So everything is just based off that.
What is your biggest goal at the moment?
My biggest goal? To win a Grammy before I’m 25. I got like four years, and five months.
That’s super dope. I’ll be sure to reference my article when you do…Maybe life in general I guess, what do you think is a big misconception that people gather about you?
I don’t know…I really…I don’t know – either I don’t know, or I don’t care. Haha
You’ve never really paid attention to it huh?
It’s not that I haven’t paid attention to it. I just maintain…I guess people realize I’m funny. Like when they meet me they are like, “oh wow you’re funny.”
It’s weird when they say that though like, well did you expect me not to be funny? (Lol)
(Lol) I feel you on that for sure – If you could use three words to describe yourself then, what would they be?
*dramatic pause*… Three words? — “Damn. He’s Cold”
I guess that fits into my next question. How do you want to be remembered when you’re gone and
done with this music shit?
I definitely want to leave a legacy. I definitely want my music, and anybody work that I laid hands on to stand strong years and years after I’m gone.
Have you been able to travel?
Yeah man. Literally a month out of high school I was able to do a mini-tour out in LA. I mean I lived in Jersey for a minute, so I travel out there every once and a while, it ain’t nothin’. Hopefully I get to do a little more traveling; do SXSW for a third time next year…
…You been out of the country?
(Lol)…to the Bahamas. But that was just on some vacation shit. I’m tryna go to like Japan or something, like Germany and France too.
Yeah, good luck with that, it’s definitely something that you need to do. I’m sure it will come along naturally…But why don’t you name some big records, or projects that you are working on and promoting now?
Look out for Polo Sporting Goods by Mr. Porter, ummm I have a few more – my friend is gonna kill me for forgetting this stuff, what else am I forgetting? Oh! Look out for another instrumental project I have coming out in September, called Thelo & Brazil – it’s gonna be all Brazilian samples, so definitely lookout for that. There are definitely bunches more, I actually like it better when I forget some of them so that when they drop and people hear them, it’s like “oh snap, how many projects is he really working on?”
It’s a gang of stuff coming out this summer. Um, I’m doing a project with Chuwee too..there are three projects that I’m working on that are scheduled to drop this summer – Chuwee, Mr. Porter & a few others. Yeah, I have all 8-10 song projects coming with them over the course of the summer.
That’s what I’m talkin’ about, working like a muhh fugga!
Yeah man definitely, I got to!
Good looks on taking the time out to chop it up with me dog, I’ve been a big fan for a minute. Doyou have any last thoughts?
No doubt, much appreciated man. Shout out to Ashley Outrageous, shout out to all my people, shout out to the Homme Team, Tastemakers from Jersey, Save Money…nah mean – bong bongs and all that good shit!