Julius Marshall – the rapper best known as J-Mar Da Sik – is definitely one of the best hip-hop artists in Tacoma right now. His story is fascinating, and it begins in Spokane. J-Mar and his family moved to the west side of the mountains, to Seattle, and then bounced around King and Pierce counties for the remainder of his early life. Often, it was J-Mar, all eight of his siblings and his mother in a one-bedroom apartment. This is why he is so highly respected locally, because of his roots in both places.
The struggle was real, and you can hear it in J-Mar’s voice, which is raspy and rough but also filled with intelligence, balance, wisdom and a little honey, too. It's like a modern-day soul-singer’s voice. He doesn't chop or try to rap too fast. Instead, he chooses deep, resonating beats, and his rhymes have a much more melodic flow to them than most M.C.s; and his is the type of voice that can pull off singing his own hooks.
J-Mar does not do a ton of shows. His approach is more calculated. He chooses to do larger, quality productions and then hits the road with national artists on their tours to get his music out; he just came back home after a stint on the road with Devin the Dude.
Check for his new album in late March/early April. It will be available on the Du4Self website (www.du4self.com) before it hits iTunes. The album will feature 17 songs and appearances from members of the Du4Self family, including JD Smoove, Shay and Black Soul. J-Mar is like old-school Tacoma crew Black Anger with a true street-hustle mixed in. It's still street-music, but from a grown man’s perspective. It is truly the best of both worlds combined seamlessly.
I recently sat-down with J-Mar Da Sik and creative partner Big Mark to get the inside scoop on their new album and a little “herstory” about J-Mar Da Sik, Black Anger, and Tacoma hip-hop in general. We broke bread at my dining-room table, and I got to pick their brains for a couple of minutes.
Tacoma Weekly: You have a lot of shows coming up. Are these to promote your new album?
Big Mark: Yeah, we’ve got four big shows coming up. First one is March 8, at El Potrero, with Kutt Calhoun. Second show is with C.O.S., an artist on Brotha Lynch Hung’s label Sicc Musik on March 13, also at El Potrero. Then we’ve got Trizz, another artist on Brotha Lynch Hung’s label, at El Potrero. Last is King Crooked, a.k.a. Crooked I of Slaughter House, and Sloan Bone of Mo Thugs at Charley’s on March 19.
Tacoma Weekly: Tell us about the new album.
J-Mar Da Sik: The new album is “Cognac Lounge.” The Majority of the production is done by Kuddie Fresh with some other tracks produced by A.D. the Future. A.D.’s from Louisiana and did a lot of production for Juvenile. Big Mark is from Louisiana, so that’s how that got hooked-up. We also have a track from Vita’ (Vitamin D of Seattle.) I would call my first albums Hustle-music. This one I call “Husoul” music. The production is a lot more smooth and laid-back on this album. Kuddie is the one who ended up giving it the name. It was just such a chill sounding vibe that Kuddie went ahead and started calling it “Cognac Lounge.” I’ve been working on this album for five years. Even my last two mixtapes, “Off With They Head” and “Black Gold,” were really in preparation for this album.
Tacoma Weekly: How’d you get the hook-up on all those Kuddie Fresh beats? He’s really one of the top producers in the game at the moment. Working with him truly puts you into the category of a top regional artist now.
J-Mar Da Sik: Stretch of Parker Brothers put us on.
Tacoma Weekly: What was it like to go record down south in Louisiana?
J-Mar Da Sik: It was funny 'cause all these down-south producers kept trying to play me all these trap-music sounding beats. That’s not really the sound I was going for. They would put on a real nice musical-piece that they wouldn’t expect me to like. I would tell them, yeah that’s what I want right there! They’d look at me like, “Ya want this beat!? I’ve been trying to give this beat away forever, but none of these Southern rappers want it. It’s yours.”