Reintroducing, Adrian Marcel
If Drake and Solange had a baby he would be named…not Adonis, but Adrian Marcel.
On his latest EP, “GMFU” (Got Me Fucked Up), the voicemail interludes reminded me of Drake’s “Marvin’s Room” and the way in which the project flows so seamlessly and melodically was reminiscent of Solange’s “A Seat At The Table”.
I’ll be honest, the way late 90s and early 2000s R&B is set up, I’m usually late in discovering “new” music. While listening to Miguel’s station on Pandora, Adrian’s single “Imagination” caught my attention. I proceeded to listen to the whole “GMFU” project and was equally as impressed with his latest work as I was with his previous mixtapes: “7 Days A Weak”, “7 Days A Weak: Reloaded” and “Weak After Next”. I was first introduced to Adrian’s music in 2014 via his single, “2 AM” featuring Sage The Gemini. Even with the track becoming a Platinum-selling single and Adrian being the protege of the legendary singer/songwriter Raphael Saadiq, somewhere along the way, it seems as if his R&B contemporaries like Chris Brown, Trey Songz, Bryson Tiller and Khalid are more commercial names. Realizing that I hadn’t seen or heard much marketing around Adrian’s latest project, led me to research where he’s been. I learned that he had walked away from his record deal and was an independent artist under his own imprint, El Seven. At the time his Instagram page showed that he was on set of a film, so I reached out to see if he would be interested in an interview.
We recently sat down at Hotel Indigo’s upscale bar and lounge, 18 Social. In front of a live audience Adrian gave unprecedented insight into his life including the mental and spiritual toll that fame can have on an artist. After returning to the US following a stint of shows in New Zealand, Adrian’s story included his journey to realizing that with or without the backing of a major label, your knowledge of the music business as well as the utmost confidence in who you are, not just what you can do, is imperative.
Adrian’s energy and his stage presence, is that of someone who is walking in their purpose and I was in awe. The way in which he carried himself with confidence, not arrogance, but with an immense gratitude like, ‘I’m a star and so are you!’ made everyone in the room feel as if we had known each other for years. In comparing old YouTube clips to my in-person experience with the East Oakland native, his growth and spiritual maturity is evident. Following the immense candor and transparency of our conversation, I admitted, “I wasn’t sure how this was going to go because I watched your older interviews and you didn’t say much.” Laughing he replied, “That was probably the label telling me to keep it brief…”
What I appreciated most about our encounter was Adrian’s ability to be self reflective. When he realized that chasing fame could be as addictive as drugs, Adrian took a two year hiatus to reflect on what went “wrong” with his first deal. The father of two shared how he was able to replace arrogance and bitterness with the accountability necessary to make sure that he was being proactive about manifesting everything he wants for his career.
Our conversation reaffirmed my belief in trusting the timing of your life. Many aspects of Adrian’s story I can relate to as it pertains to starting your career at a young age when you have the talent and potential to get in the door but not necessarily the business savvy to sustain it. And when you seemingly “lose it all” it’s devastating and of course humbling but it’s also a moment where you either stay down and be regretful or you can release it and remember that you still possess the talent and now the wisdom to come back better and stronger.
Without further ado, ladies and gentleman, it’s my pleasure to re-introduce you to Adrian Marcel.
Zon D’Amour: As the father of two young girls, from the outside looking in, remaining signed to a label seems like it would be the most financially responsible and “strategic” decision. Considering that you’re not only responsible for yourself but also for your family, how did you decide that what you wanted could still take precedence?
Adrian Marcel: It became a moral battle. On the left side you have the machine that’s saying, ‘We can give you “this” and “this”, all you have to do is “that”.’ And “that” comes with something. So I can tell myself I want to make $100K in a year, but what sacrifices come with that?
Sometimes we have to be realistic with ourselves—we all want instant gratification. We all want to be big right now. We want to put out a song, have it to blow up and our lives to change immediately but God doesn’t see the same plan and He created it. He’s seen it before we’ve even decided which way we’re going to go. We have our own destiny’s…it comes down to understanding that you’re not making the wrong decision by thinking the right way.
My father was strict on making sure he was involved. He was an actor that came up with Denzel Washington and Delroy Lindo. He was at his big break, it was his moment. He was supposed to star in the film, “Super Fly”, but he had kids…a lot of them. So it came down to either him being away or his kids running wild, he had to decide, ‘What am I going to do? My kids need me but am I going to be that person that’s only pushing for themselves?’ He chose to give up his career as an actor to take care of us. I’ve always lived with that in mind. I knew I didn’t want to have a bunch of kids but no matter how many I had, I was going to make sure that I was giving to myself so that I could give to them.
I’ve always seen that slight regret in my father of him not pushing but at the same time, he ensured that his kids were okay, because who knows where we would have been? So back to the moral battle that we all go through, especially me having two girls…The music that I make is for women. I have to be very cautious of what I’m saying, how I’m saying it and the way I think about it. [Being independent] has had its “set backs”. There are of course people who looked at me like, ‘All you have to do is say: hold on, daddy will be back next week.’ But naw, I take pride in being a father just as much as I take pride in being an artist. Because in a way, that is my artistry, that helps me add to it. When I’m playing with my kids and seeing them being just as entertaining as I was, it’s a reminder that I have to be an example for them. I want my children to be able to look at their father and say no matter how hard it was, no matter the struggle, he made an impact on the world.
“…Out of the hundreds of thousands of people who get record deals every day, I got a hit song that made it and that’s not an accident. That’s not because of a label or an A&R, that’s God…”
ZD: You released your album, “GMFU” after a two year hiatus from the music industry. Many artists wouldn’t have careers right now if not for daily posts on Instagram. What did you learn about yourself in taking the time away to live your life without being so active on social media? And what advice do you have for being okay with taking a step back when you were at a height in your career?
AM: Somewhere in social media we’ve obtained this thought process that you only get one chance. I’m from East Oakland. I come from truly, really, like nothing. My parents worked hard to get what they got and I wasn’t just given this opportunity. I did what I needed to do, I worked hard, I put myself out there and I got a record deal. Out of the hundreds of thousands of people who get record deals every day, I got a hit song that made it and that’s not an accident. That’s not because of a label or an A&R, that’s God. There’s a reason for that. And if He’s given it to you before, it’s not your only plate. It’s God saying, ‘Here’s a little bit, here’s for you to understand what’s going on, for you to make your mistakes. Sit with that, I’ll be right back, I got a lot of other people to bless and I’m coming right back to you.’ It’s about patience. I had to believe in myself enough to say I could lose my sanity chasing this dream; I could lose my children, my family and myself in chasing “2Am” but for some people that’s okay. When you go from having screams being at a ten to a negative three, there’s a sanity switch that comes on like, ‘I’m losing it, what do I have to do to get people to scream again?’ We don’t understand that’s a drug just like weed, cocaine, alcohol or whatever else. Fame and attention is a drug and for me, I had to take a step back.
I’m a firm believer in keeping the lights off just as much as I am turning them on when it’s time. Before I walked out of that curtain, it’s “lights on”, let’s be “Adrian Marcel” when I leave and I’m back on the plane, it’s “lights off” and I’m just Adrian because again, you will lose yourself chasing something that isn’t real. A hit isn’t the only thing that gets you paid and that was one of my biggest mistakes in thinking that you needed to hear my songs on radio every hour on the hour. That’s one way but there are so many other ways to do it. There are so many other avenues for you to create opportunities for yourself. Social media just shows you the instant things, it’s like instant oatmeal (laughs). But nothing great is quick. It shouldn’t matter how long I take, I’m marinating, I’m putting myself together so that when I come out, there are no mistakes, you can’t find a flaw because it doesn’t exist; I worked out all those kinks.
I’ve never rushed my music. I have people in my DMs (direct messages) and my comments all the time asking when I’m putting out something new? And I reply, ‘I just put out “GMFU”, what are you talking about?’ and they’re like, ‘I mean…I got that, that’s cool, where’s the next one?’ I’m not all these other artists, I’m not looking for you to be sold on me for a month—buy into it. Truly believe that when you jump on board with me that we’re going for a long haul, we’re going for growth; let’s actually all grow together. Allow me to go through what I need to go through so that I can bring you something new cause if I’m just writing song after song, after awhile it just gets repetitive. I have to go through life as well in order for me to be relatable. I had to take those two years so that I could be with my kids so that I could learn from them. My daughter teaches me to have more confidence myself, like with dancing. She likes it and she thinks it’s cool and I try it out and it blows people away. It’s those types of things and giving yourself time to learn who you are and not just continuing to go hard to a point where you break down. I’m all about fixing those kinks before we get to that break down moment.
“…If you have people around you that believe in you, teach them how to do what you need to get done so that they can be apart of your team. Create your own label. Create your own machine.”
ZD: Your music sometimes I feel like I’m listening to Usher, “Confessions”…
AM: (Laughs) That’s watsup, thank you.
ZD: It gives me a lot of single, lusty vibes.
AM: “Lusty…?” I’m putting that in a song, Zon!
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