After recently releasing his debut EP Growing Pains, L Martin took the time to speak to Naye Music Journal about the project, his musical origins and trying to stand out in an overpopulated scene at the moment.
For those who may not know you, introduce yourself…
“I go by the name of L Martin. I’m a West London based Hip Hop rapper/songwriter currently part of a collective called TOORARETODIE. I also just released my debut LP titled Growing Pains”.
How did you start writing & when did you realise it was something you wanted to pursue as a career?
“I started writing lyrics when I was around 13 years old. I don’t really know how it came about, but all my friends and I were always into Grime and Hip Hop and a few of my close friends used to freestyle for fun at school. Eventually, I started writing down and reciting lyrics, then we started recording them using an MP3 as a microphone and passing it around the room. I started recording in a proper studio when I was about 14 and started making mixtapes and giving them out at school. It was always just a hobby for me until I was about 19. I was at university doing a music management degree, and the lecturers kept asking us where we wanted to end up in the industry. I would tell them I want to start my own record label or possibly get into management, but really I knew I wanted to be an artist full-time”.
What is your main motivation behind creating music?
“I enjoy the fact that I can just say what’s on my mind and people can relate to it or be inspired by it. I like being good at what I do, because for me, as a lyricist, one of the best feelings is seeing someone go crazy over a certain punchline or flow that you’ve delivered. That always keeps me motivated. Music for me is a necessity now. I have been doing it for so long I couldn’t function without pursuing it [as a career]”.
How would you describe yourself as an artist?
“Good question. I would say I’m a humorous, uncensored lyricist, inspired by the 90’s era of Hip Hop, but with a modern, UK twist. To be honest, I’m still developing my style, but those things are key to the way I write. I like to make people laugh, no one can ever tell me what I can’t say or write about, and I’ll always be looking for the wittiest punchlines and metaphors I can think of”.
Who are your most notable musical influences and how were you exposed to them?
“My influences growing up ranged from Jay-Z and [The Notorious] B.I.G to Roll deep and N.A.S.T.Y Crew to Michael Jackson, The Isley Brothers and Jill Scott. I think I was about 10 when my dad first played me Biggie’s Ready To Die album in his car. He also used to play Jay-Z’s The Blueprint a lot around his house too when I would go and see him. I used to watch MTV Base a lot and I think that’s how I discovered most of the rap I used to listen to. My mum used to play a lot of Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild and a lot of gospel too. Then when I was with my friends we were on LimeWire downloading the latest Grime collaborations from all over London or watching old radio sets on YouTube”.
Considering your influences, were you conscious of trying not to sound like them when creating your own music?
“No, I’m not conscious of sounding like anyone. I mean, vocally I obviously have a British accent, so unless I was trying to sound American on purpose, I never have to worry about that when it comes to rapping. However, I am conscious of been being boxed into a certain category of artist. It’s inevitable that I will be likened to whoever, but I want to find the balance of being a versatile artist but with my own stamp on every tune I feature on”.
You’ve recently released your EP Growing Pains; what are you hoping listeners take from the project?
“The main thing is that people listen to it, firstly. Anything else is really a bonus to me at this stage. I do hope people can get more of an understanding of the type of artist I am. All I have really released so far are collaborations and features, which I have enjoyed, but it hasn’t really shown people what I’m about as an individual artist”.
How difficult has it been to bring your music to people’s attention?
“It’s an on-going struggle. The scene is very oversaturated at the moment and with very few major channels to help give artists like me the right exposure. However, it is what it is and there’s no point focusing on the difficulties of it. I tell my guys all the time – we all make different styles of music and we just need to find the right audience for our music”.
The UK “urban” scene has received worldwide attention over the past few years, but it’s fair to say that attention has been mostly directed toward Grime and what people like to call “Road Rap”. Do you think it’s more difficult for more boom-bap influenced artists such as yourself to attain the credit you deserve?
“I think it depends on what kind of credit you are looking for. Globally, Hip Hop is basically pop culture now, with a lot of the biggest Hip Hop artists being the biggest artists in the world, period. So, I think there is always an opportunity to gain global attention, even with a boom-bap style, as long it’s relevant and modern. In the UK, it’s a little different. If you’re not making the popular type of music for a rave or for the roads, then it is a lot more difficult. I don’t take it personally, though. I listen to the same types of music myself and at the end of the day it’s just how the game goes. Whatever style is most popular will get the most attention, most views and most publicity. I enjoy the challenge of trying to make my sound popular and finding the balance between my usual style and what people like to hear”.
Do you think there are particular reasons as to why UK Hip Hop artists don’t get as much attention as, for example, Grime artists do?
“I feel like there are a lot of UK Hip Hop artists getting attention, it’s just that Grime is OUR thing. It was made here and grew to what it is now purely from support from the UK. Also, there’s always some stigma behind UK rappers being looked at as copying the U.S., plus the influence the U.S. has over here is crazy. People would rather find the next up and coming rapper from a random state in America than they would find the next up and coming rapper in their own area”.
What are some of your future plans for your career?
“My immediate plans are to develop my sound more and become a better artist with better songs. Alongside that, I’m trying to shine as much light as possible on the team I move with – TOORARETODIE – and build the brand up to the level I want it to be at. I’ve set some personal goals for myself for 2018, but I’m not disclosing those yet!”