Musician Marshall Brennan ’10 was recently featured in the Telegram and Gazette. The hip-hop artist recorded a song with Grammy Award-winning hip-hop musician Wyclef Jean. The article cites his manager as saying Brennan is the only unsigned artist ever to do so.
“He’s really like a mentor,” the article quotes Brennan, speaking of Jean. “(He’s a) good guy to have on your side.”
Brennan first sat in the studio with Jean when he visited his house in New Jersey. “He gave me some really good advice,” he is quoted.
Brennan earned his B.A. in media and society and English. He completed a six-week internship with DFS, in Hong Kong, in the summer before his senior year.
The full story follows.
Telegram and Gazette
Worcester hip-hop artist gets a boost from Wyclef Jean
John Mahon III • Special to the Telegram & Gazette • August 26, 2011
Marshall Brennan lounged on a dark gray couch in the mixing room of Worcester’s Fontanez Studio, watching with satisfaction as producer Alejandro Fontanez worked at the computers and machines stacked on the desk and by the wall, gazing through the glass window at the colorfully lit recording room, where red, yellow, green and blue lights illuminated the mixing studio’s metallic podium and microphone.
“Be different,” he said, when asked what advice he would offer up-and-coming musicians. After all, being different is what earned Worcester’s 24-year-old rapper, who performs and records as MB4, the honor of recording a song with Grammy Award-winning hip-hop musician Wyclef Jean. According to Brennan’s manager, Aaron Christian, Brennan is the only unsigned artist to ever be granted this opportunity.
Months earlier, an MB4 song caught Jean’s attention. He asked who was responsible for the ear-catching tune and was told about MB4, whose circulating demo had ended up in Jean’s friend’s possession. Jean then contacted the aspiring hip-hopper, and requested he send some unfinished tracks. He later sent one of them, “Grind For It,” back to Brennan with an extra verse added, sung by himself, and from then on a personal friendship developed.
“He’s really like a mentor,” said Brennan. “(He’s a) good guy to have on your side.” Brennan smiled as he remembered visiting Jean’s house in New Jersey. “That was the first time we got to sit in the studio together. He gave me some really good advice.”
Brennan is rising quickly in the urban music scene. Even though he has only been rapping for about a year, he has already been featured on the Yo! Raps Magazine blog, as well as the popular hip-hop website, WorldStar. Brennan also recorded the song “Salute Me” with Fred the Godson, who was the 2010 Rookie of the Year for XXL Magazine. His EP, “Button Up Music,” is nearly complete and expected to be released soon.
DJ Kay Slay of the radio station Hot 97 in New York City featured MB4 on a mix tape of the best unsigned artists.
“It’s one of the greatest feelings I’ve had,” said Brennan, discussing his recent exposure. “It’s nice to have all your hard work pay off.”
The emerging star isn’t just defying conventions professionally, but artistically, too. He acknowledged the message of one of his major inspirations, Nas: “Hip Hop is Dead.” This phrase is not only the name of one of Nas’ albums, but also a condemnation of what Brennan calls the “ringtone, Soulja Boy-type hip-hop” that has vapid lyrics and which dominates the mainstream.
Brennan said that, despite the many commercial adulterations of hip-hop plaguing the airwaves, the genre is still thriving.
“Overall, the last, I would say, three years in hip-hop, it’s been unreal how many talented new artists came out,” said Brennan. He cited Kanye West, Jadakiss, Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole as important and talented rappers emerging in the past decade, the latter three being especially new to the industry, and the sorts that Worcester hip-hoppers can look up to.
Brennan and Fontanez cite fondness for Worcester rappers such as Klep and Dirty Redd, and note a range of hip-hop shows at Worcester venues such as the Palladium, the Boiler Room on Winter Street, and the Venue Night Club on Main Street. Brennan believes that the Worcester rap scene is marked by its commitment to lyricism.
“I think there’s a lot of talent here. It’s very similar to New York,” Brennan proudly stated. “It’s very focused on lyrics. Creative lyrics are my favorite,” said Brennan, who explained that he loves metaphors, and his favorite subject is traveling. Traveling has been a central theme in his life, being born in Georgia, but raised in California, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Hawaii and Hong Kong. “My goal is to make music that a broad audience can enjoy,” he said, hoping the sincere nature of his lyrics is something others can genuinely relate to, inside or outside of Worcester.
Worcester hip-hop still needs one thing, he says, and that’s a more recognized pioneer. “It’s like every city,” he explained. “They really need one artist. If one artist can do it, it really opens up the door. Then the industry is really aware of the talent that’s out there.”Fontanez, who’s collaborated with a number of musicians, including Libny Mateo, Rocio Crooke and Nancy Amancio among many others, has been exposed to hip-hop personalities from around the world. However, he is adamant in his belief that Brennan has elements of versatility and creativity that he rarely sees, with Brennan’s remake of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’ ” being a prime example.
Fontanez lifted his eyebrows when asked about MB4, his face showing approval and admiration.
“It’s been a great experience working with Marshall,” he said. “Ever since he came along, I’ve known he’s something special.”