Reintroducing, Adrian Marcel
ZD: As a woman, what I love about your music is the fact that your lyrics are very vulnerable and honest. It’s the opposite of a lot of the misogynistic, “hit it and quit it” savagery that’s out right now. I’ve been shocked several times, listening to your songs like: “Four Page Letter”, “Feelings”, “Luv Jones” etc. Who gave you permission to be so open and vocal about your feelings and what did you have to unlearn about love and relationships to be the man you are today?
AM: I would say my grandma gave me permission to be in my feelings. When I was younger, I would be at church and there would be an usher that I was in to. I’d say, ‘she’s cute grandma!’ and my grandma would say, ‘well baby, go say something to her. Go tell her how you feel. Don’t be too cute for your own good!’ Even though that was a small factor, it meant a lot. I was always taught to be true to yourself and to be true to how you really feel. Women always get a bad rep as the ones who are always catching the feelings but let’s keep it real, us guys are at home sitting by the phone looking at it waiting, tryna figure out, ‘is she on me?’ It’s not until we get in front of our friends that we feel like we have to put on this persona.
I don’t know it there’s a void between mothers and sons or what have you but I feel like that’s your first lesson in learning how to be a man for a woman is your mother. She teaches you that genuine love that you’re supposed to feel as well as how to talk to a woman. I was blessed to have both my parents in the home. I have three sisters and three brothers. So I was getting the guy talk and at the same time, the girl talk and how they really felt about it. We’re living in an era that’s like “My nigga, my nigga…” and it’s like naw, I’m going in with my lady. I’m not driven by what men think, I’ve always been into the thought process of women. I try to write music that’s spoken as a man would speak but for a woman. I feel that sometimes we don’t always know how to come at y’all; women are such powerful beings, more powerful than we could ever imagine.
I grew up in a family of strong minded powerful women who believed in what they believe and fought for what they stood for and it wasn’t unbearable, it wasn’t like, “fuck men.” It was like, ‘No, I need a man, I want a man but I need the right man. I need the man who needs me.’
When I had my first daughter that was the beginning of my switch because I was like every other guy, I was about the chase…divide and conquer. Once I had a daughter it was like, ‘Yo, someone is going to want to do her like this. Let me show her that dad is not just out there—everything dad does is for a reason.’ And I take my responsibilities very seriously.
I want to be that bridge that’s been broken between men and women. I feel like a woman can be her best self when she’s able to really love herself; when she can be comfortable and understand that the person looking at her is seeing her for real. I keep that in mind with my music. I like it to be honest so there’s no games involved. When there’s no games, you have less drama in your life. I had to let go of the assumption that everything was going to go the way I’ve seen it. I watched my parents do it back in the day and they’re 30 years in the game. I don’t know a lot of people my age who are making it thirty years because of social media and where our heads are at right now.
I had to figure out that I had to stop looking for someone who is exactly what I want and I have to be who I want to be first. If I’m who I want to be, then I will attract those people and I will attract the type of woman who will understand that and who will know how to deal with me and my history, what I come from and what I’m about. Instead of me being a man trying to dictate that a woman is supposed to do “this” or “that” and if she doesn’t do it, then she’s not a real woman. No, that’s not it. When we meet that person, we’re supposed to teach each other and in my music, that’s what I try to portray. I talk about learning to be a partner. When we meet and we get to know each other, I’m learning who you are completely and I’m allowing you to learn who I am so that we can start to figure out those kinks as we go and that’s the interesting part. Instead of wanting everything to be perfect immediately—instant gratification, it’s about working towards it and taking your time, that’s how I make my music.
“…Give yourself time to learn who you are, don’t just continue to go hard to a point where you break down.”
ZD: For the up and coming artists who still believe that they need a record label in order to be successful, what advice do you have on how to navigate the music industry as an independent artist?
AM: Those days are done. You can do it yourself. It’s crazy because I’m just now getting accustomed to that thought process as well. My entire youth went to me thinking that it went a certain way: You had to be signed to a label, you have to go through all these ups and downs and it would all turn out fine at the end of the day. But today, the internet has taken over. There’s so much access to so many different things that previously weren’t available to artists without those big machines and now they’re right at our fingertips literally on our phones and laptops. So I think it comes down to your drive, how bad do you want it? Because you can do it yourself. Some people may think the the independent game is a lot easier, others may think it’s harder but it’s actually the same. It’s all a journey at the end of the day you and you have to put forth the effort. Being independent means you’re willing to take on the responsibility of dealing with the promoters, investors, videographers…all the little details that get you out there and get you seen.
I don’t think it’s hard but I think a lot of people still rely on the traditional way of doing things. My advice is to be steadfast and to believe in yourself at the end of the day. I didn’t want to shout out any names but [there are rappers like] 6ix9ine who are blowing up because they believe in themselves not just because of a talent or someone putting money behind them. They walk around like, ‘I made it. I can do it. I did it.’ You can’t walk around saying, ‘Maybe this won’t work” or ‘This might not go the way I want it to.’ You have to keep going because that’s really all labels do. One person tries, it doesn’t work, they go out get a bigger name, they try and maybe they get a little closer. They keep going so on and so forth. It’s a machine because of all of the parts that goes into it. If you have people around you that believe in you, teach people how to do what you need to get done. Teach them how to hold a camera, teach them how to speak on your behalf and whatever else you may need so that they can be apart of your team. Create your own label. Create your own machine.
“…I’m enjoying putting equity into the land rather than instant gratification.
ZD: Outside of the label situation, what’s been your biggest learning lesson as it pertains to the business of the entertainment industry?
AM: The biggest regret I’ve had is not understanding the business coming in to it. I was so gung-ho on just being the best artist: the best singer, the best performer and outdoing the next person that I didn’t pay attention to those little details that really keeps you afloat. I leaned on too many other people who were apart of the label. I sat back saying, ‘hey, I’m an artist. I’m not supposed to do “this” or “that” cause I’m the “artist”’. I had that arrogant mentality and it wasn’t until…not even when I walked away from the label, but it was maybe a year before that we started having our ups and downs, it was like, ‘okay, how am I going to put up this big fight if I’ve never put up a fight before?’ the seemingly little things that we had disregarded, those little seeds grew into giant trees and they become our enemy rather than our protection.
As I came into myself for real, I was I able to realize that I gave up on myself and that’s really where my album title “GMFU” (Got Me Fucked Up) came from. It wasn’t “you” got me fucked up, it’s I got myself fucked up because I didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t give myself the belief that I gave everyone else that was around me at the label. I assumed, ‘because you’re an A&R, you’re supposed to be heaven sent.’ Naw, I’m here for a reason. We all have a destiny, I had to take a step back and understand that there’s more to it than just singing. There’s more to it than just performing. There’s more to it than just people screaming for you because one day, they’re not going to scream anymore. So what foundations are you laying? I think that came with my second child.
My youngest daughter taught me to stand up and handle my business. So from there, I stopped being so bitter and upset at everyone else that didn’t make it work who I thought at the time wasn’t connecting the dots. I realized that I’ve met all these same people that “they” know. I’ve been introduced to every promoter, every investor, every A&R, down the line. I have these contacts so why was it so hard for me to step up and make something happen for myself? Sometimes when you’re waiting on God to do it, He’s really waiting on you. He’s waiting on you to step up.
The more I sat at home at thought about it, it was like, ‘whoa, okay, let me start figuring things out’. I started to reconnect with people and now I’m performing overseas again. Now I’m back in the studio making music that I feel is more true to me than ever and it all came down to me taking the bull by the horns. It’s so easy to let someone else do it to let things run themselves and you just go with the flow but you have to know where you’re headed because that’s the only way we’re going to make our destination. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re going to take the wrong turn and keep going in circles and having unnecessary struggles. So for me, my children and my family, it’s like, step up to the plate and do more—outwork yourself. Find the balance between artist and businessman so that you can have longevity. Stop looking for three million fans and focus on 30 thousand; turn that into 60 thousand then 120 thousand, etc. let those things build by going out there and getting dirty and doing the ground work. That’s where I’m at right now. I’m in a place where I’m enjoying the mud. I’m enjoying putting equity into the land rather than instant gratification.
Production Credits: (Special Thank You to Kevin and the phenomenally hospitable team at Hotel Indigo!)
Executive Producer: Zon D’Amour
Producer: Khadijah Louis
Videography + Photography: Jordan Tucker, Edmund Alvarez
Photographer + Audio: Jesse Koester
Makeup: Dionne Echelon