Marco Polo: Creator’s Got a Master Plan

The road to success and stardom as an in-demand Hip-Hop producer is a long one, especially when you’re a young kid from Canada. But 27-year-old Marco “Polo” Bruno has been putting in work for years, from growing up in Toronto listening to Kool G Rap albums to engineering studio sessions with artists like Talib Kweli […]

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road to success and stardom as an in-demand Hip-Hop producer is a long

one, especially when you’re a young kid from Canada. But 27-year-old

Marco “Polo” Bruno has been putting in work for years, from growing up

in Toronto listening to Kool G Rap albums to engineering studio

sessions with artists like Talib Kweli and Mos Def.

With his new album Port Authority

already gathering favorable reviews, Marco Polo is set to step to the

forefront of young producers with a stash of classic material. He

recently took a few minutes from his steady grind to talk about his

engineering days working Just Blaze’s old job, being part of the Rawkus

Records resurgence, and why at the end of the day Marco Polo is still a

Hip-Hop fan just like you. For some people who may not know, you’re a Canadian born in Toronto but four years ago, you moved to Queens…

Marco Polo: Yeah I moved to Queens for a little while, but I’ve been in Brooklyn for the past four years. Eventually you hooked-up Just Blaze’s old job as an engineer at The Cutting Room studio.

Marco Polo: Yeah, as an assistant engineer/night manager, running the studio. And as far as shopping your beats around, and the first person to pick one up was Masta Ace?

Marco Polo: That was the big one right there. I mean I was doing some

more work on the underground with Pumpkinhead, Block McCloud, Jean

Grae, but I consider the Ace thing the real first release or placement

that I got. Now there’s a story behind that, right?

Marco Polo: What had happened was it was at the very end of [Ace’s album] A Long Hot Summer

and they were pretty much about to release the album and it was done. I

guess the production budget was taxed out. But I didn’t want to lose

the chance to get on that album as a new producer, so I just mentioned

the idea that he could do a song for me, and I’d give him the beat. And

it worked out perfectly, the song he ended up doing was the first song

for Port Authority. And by doing that track it helped you sell beats to people like Boot Camp?

Marco Polo: Yeah any time you can add Masta Ace to your resume, it definitely helps you out. Now you’ve got the new album Port Authority,

and it’s got some big names on it like O.C., Kool G Rap, Masta Ace. To

some, a lot of these artists may have had their heyday in the ’90s, so

what made you want to work with these artists for the album?

Marco Polo: First, I’m a fan of music and Hip-Hop, so I’ve always

wanted to be able to work with the people that are on my album. While

some might think they had their heyday, I’ve always thought these dudes

are just as sharp as they ever were, you’ve just got to get them on the

right beats. I kind of stepped to it from a fan’s perspective, like,

“What would I want to hear these MCs rap on? What would suit their

style?” And so I picked certain beats for certain dudes and approached

them, and 95% of the time it worked out perfectly. The track with Masta Ace is called “Nostalgia.” Would you say that describes the feeling of the album?

Marco Polo: Not really. I really wasn’t trying to make a throwback

album, and I guess a lot of people are mentioning that term in the

reviews. I mean it’s cool as long as it’s in a positive sense. I wasn’t

really trying to make music like it was back in the day, I was just

trying to make good music, like current music. I feel like my beats

represent Hip-Hop like it was back in the day, but with a more current

sound. For the new project, both Rawkus and Soulspazm are affiliated. Where does one begin and the other end?

Marco Polo: Well my deal is actually with Soulspazm, they put out the first album I did with Pumpkinhead Orange Moon Over Brooklyn,

so I already had a relationship with them. Then they lost their

distribution deal and they signed a new deal to go through Rawkus

Records. That’s how the connection came with Rawkus. So they’re really

excited at Rawkus about the album, and they’re almost repping it like a

Rawkus release. Which it is, but it’s actually a joint venture. Having

Rawkus behind the project is really big because it’s a brand a lot of

people respect, they have an amazing catalog, and they’ve broke a lot

of great artists who today are still doing their thing. So having them

behind me really helped. So are all your beats sold through your own Spaghetti Bender Music?

Marco Polo: Yeah that’s my own company; I own all my own publishing when it comes to the musical side of things for sure. People can just holler at you on your site to get beats?

Marco Polo: The beats I have on my site are just a couple of things

that are for sale, that I knew I wasn’t going to use for my project, so

I put them on the website. But anyone can hit me up through MySpace or

the website if they’re interested in getting a beat. Now when you were coming up, Ayatollah was kind of a mentor for you as far as beat making goes.

Marco Polo: Yeah I met him when I frist moved to New York and was

stayin’ in Queens for a little while, through my boy Lou. And Tollah

was just mad cool, you know? He used to just put me in the studio and

play me beats he was working on. And that was at the time when Rawkus

was really on the top of the game, when Ayatollah did “Ms. Phat Booty”

for Mos Def. I got to see a lot of that happen, a lot of the sessions.

And he actually gave me my name, started calling me Marco Polo, so he

was a big influence early on and inspiration for me to really try and

do it. I bet you’ve got some crazy stories from back in the engineering days being in the studio with all those guys.

Marco Polo: Definitely man, definitely. When I worked in the Cutting

Room I’d see everybody come in from De La Soul to Talib Kweli when he

was working on his Quality album, Mos Def, Common, Pharoahe. So has that set you up now for being able to reach out to those guys?

Marco Polo: Some of them yes, and some of them no. I definitely know a

lot of them. Now if they saw me they’d remember me from the Cutting

Room. I haven’t really hustled any beats to those guys in a while just

‘cause I’ve been caught up in my own album. But I definitely want to

try and link up with all those guys I just mentioned, so hopefully

you’ll see that happen soon. And I guess the album will help get other artists for future collaborations.

Marco Polo: I hope so! I hope so. But I don’t know if I’ma do another

one of these albums. It was great, it was amazing, but it kind of

happened naturally. So I’d definitely be down to do a [sequel] or

something, but it’s got to happen right and things got to fall into

place. On Pumpkinhead’s Orange Moon Over Brooklyn, you were almost the solo producer. Can you see yourself doing another full album with an artist in the future?

Marco Polo: Absolutely. I love doing those more than actually trying to

sell random tracks. I just feel like making whole albums is just more

cohesive and it’s kind of the way it used to be. So I’m definitely

working on projects. Nothing’s been confirmed as of right now, but

there’s a possibility I’d do a whole album with O.C., Copywrite, Roc

Marciano from the UN. So I’m just trying to figure out what my next

move is. Being a guy from Toronto, do you feel like Canada never

really gets the proper respect in terms of artists coming out?

Marco Polo: The Hip-Hop scene in Toronto is always growing, and there’s

lots of talented people there, it’s just hard for cats to break out of

that scene. And that’s like the main reason I moved to New York, I

kinda didn’t want to get stuck in the Toronto system. Just ‘cause it’s

only so big, that you get to a point where you hit a wall, and you

really can’t get past that. So rather than trying build my foundation

in Toronto, I skipped that whole step and moved to New York before I

had even produced a track to anybody. It sucks that it has to be like

that, but if you look at our history for Toronto, we’ve only had so

many artists that have gone mainstream or broken through. People like

Saukrates and Kardinal are definitely cats that have been reppin’

Toronto a lot on a worldwide scale. Did you end up premiering a lot of your stuff at the Beat Society in Toronto?

Marco Polo: The Beat Society show in Toronto didn’t premier anything

from the album, but it’s an opportunity to play beats that I’ve made

for people really loud. As a producer, the Beat Society show is great

cause you can get a reaction to what you’re doing. Being a busy guy, on a regular weekday what’s your schedule usually look like?

Marco Polo: Usually my regular routine is get up around 10, that’s just

‘cause I stay up mad late. And just make beats, or mix stuff that I’ve

already recorded making them perfect. I’m a real perfectionist, so I

can spend like two or three days on one song alone. My main grind is

getting the stash ready so that when it comes time to work with an

artist, I’m ready to go. Any advice for the upcoming beat makers out there?

Marco Polo: You’ve really gotta get your hustle on. You’ve gotta

sacrifice everything you love in your life and put all that time into

the music and making it happen. And if you’re hungry enough, it’ll

show. That’s what I did. I moved to New York and left everything

behind. All my family and friends I grew up with are in Toronto, so

when I came out here, I had no social life. It was work and working at

the studio. Trying to make beats and shop them to people, and it was

non-stop, it was tough, and it took a long time. But now I feel like

I’m slowly getting there and things are happening, but there’s still a

long way to go. You’ve just got to keep working.