ARTISTRY OF EMPOWERMENT
by Khalif ‘Ras’ Williams
For Marcellous, expressing himself is as important as his next breath. With his deep appreciation for the African and African-American experience, he’s able to create art that is drenched in his rich heritage.
Marcellous Lovelace is a multi-talented artist who utilizes music, street and fine art as well as poetry and video to create a treasure trove of material. He’s gained notoriety as an independent MC (known as Infinito 2017) as well as an innovator of his own unique forms of art. In addition, he also creates his own short films, documentaries and music videos.
For Marcellous, expressing himself is as important as his next breath. With his deep appreciation for the African and African-American experience, he’s able to create art that is drenched in his rich heritage. DefCulture sat down with this gifted artist and discussed what makes him tick, his approach to painting and just how important Hip Hop culture is to his life and creative process.
DC-Where are you from and how did you develop your talents in so many artistic disciplines?
ML-I’m from Chicago: born and raised. I’ve also lived in Atlanta, Memphis, Philadelphia and California. I think Chicago shaped the way I do things because of the type of environment it is and the people that come to and live in Chicago. Chicagoans are a southern people and they can sometimes be so disconnected from their heritage which makes for a lot of confusion. All of the history and life experience, the politics of the city, the gang-banging, the mentality…all of that stuff influenced and influences the way I create my art.
DC-What role would you say Hip Hop music and culture played in your artistic development?
ML-Hip Hop has affected everything because through Hip Hop, I learned how to be conscious. My first experiences that facilitated the growth of my consciousness came from groups like Boogie Down Productions, X-Clan and Public Enemy. The first Hip Hop record that I listened to and liked was conscious rap music because it was about something. It had everything to do with being a better man and a better person as far as making a contribution: not just to the community but the world in general. Hip Hop changed me and made me into a better person. I never embraced the negative aspects of Hip Hop: I only embraced the positive and I am thankful to Hip Hop for that. Hip Hop taught me that I don’t have to be or act like a product of my environment. I totally distanced myself from any and all negative aspects of society once I found I could use Hip Hop as a tool of self-transformation for the better.
DC-Your approach to your art is very unique in that you use any medium as normal as acrylic paint or as outside of the norm as red dirt and shoe polish. How do you decide which medium you will use to express your thoughts and ideas visually?
ML-(Chuckles) It’s kind of simple for me. I would say how I feel at the moment would dictate the medium I use. For example, let’s say I was at my mother’s house in Atlanta and I was outside painting and needed a background. If there were some red dirt in my immediate area that was perfect for the job, I would use it. It’s a perfect free medium and it is a pigment too: it’s as simple as that. I use what I see around me. I don’t hesitate or inhibit myself with what I can or can’t use. Almost anything can be used in an artistic way to express oneself. That is the advantage of being in Tennessee right now: if I see workers renovating a building and there is scrap wood I can use for a canvas, I drive up, collect what I need and take it home for use later. So I never run out of material. (Laughs)
DC-Where does your artistic inspiration come from?
ML-My inspiration comes from my upbringing. I guess you can call it African-American indigenous culture and Africa itself as the Motherland of my people and my family. My inspiration comes from a simple source…nothing over the top: just like the simplicity in my approach to creating my art as far as utilizing what is immediately available. My inspiration comes from life and my family. I am inspired by the struggle and experiences of my people. My experiences are different: not just from a white person or an Asian person but in some cases even from other African-Americans. I draw on that difference and well as the similarities.
DC-Where has your art been displayed?
ML-I’ve had my work on display all over the place: Chicago, Atlanta and California at a place called the Headlands in San Mateo but mainly in Memphis and Chicago. One special place I had my work on display was the DuSable Museum of African-American History in Chicago. A lot of people do not know who DuSable was but Jean Baptiste Point DuSable was the first recognized settler to settle in Chicago and he was black. He got to Chicago by way of New Orleans and Canada. (DuSable was a Haitian of African and French descent, who in 1779 established the trading post and permanent settlement which would become known as Chicago). It really should be called «DuSable land». (Laughs)
DC-How has travel impacted your artistic growth?
ML-Moving around and seeing how people of African descent live in different parts of the country has impacted my art greatly. Being able to live all over the place and see myself in the black people I have come across in life helped me give my work a signature style. Going to Denver and seeing myself there no differently than when I am in Memphis or Chicago…oh man it is exhilarating. People try to separate us but I find the commonality of the wants, needs and aspirations of African people fascinating and inspirational. Travel has shown me that no matter how far apart we may be physically we are all the same. We share the same reality and mentality, whether it is consciousness or revolutionary or even in our ignorance like the hood mentality or gang mentality. I love it because there is always someone I can relate to no matter where I go.
DC-Did you start off as a graffiti writer then branch off into canvas work or vice versa?
ML-I did both simultaneously. As I learned how to make art, I would do illustrations. You know the old school art murals and illustrations graff writers would create for parties and what not?
ML-I would draw stuff like that as my dedication to Hip Hop. I was never really good at writing my name or tagging like normal graff writers, so I used that as my means of creating artistically. I grew into painting from that (illustrations and party murals) and drawing but graffiti is the main influence of my approach to creating art. Just like Hip Hop, I used the bare minimum and came up with something great. In graffiti, they use something simple like a wall and a spray paint can but think about the beauty in the simplicity of that. It was a way of leaving your mark and that is how I feel about my art work. Everywhere I go, I leave my artistic mark. Being able to go in all kinds of venues to display my art in diverse arenas: that is Hip Hop. Like KRS said, I’m out for fame.
DC- Has it been challenging for you to display your art work with you having no formal art training?
ML-It’s like the discussion we had about Lady Pink. She was able to come into the fine art arena with no formal training and excel…that is me too. Some people are so good at what they do you have to accept them as they are. Lady Pink is like that and I am like that. No, I didn’t need any formal training. It is proof that everybody doesn’t have to subscribe to the same way of doing things as everybody else to be understood or for their art to reach people. When it comes to people outside of our demographic they don’t have to clean up their image, the way they look or their way of talking to do what they love, but we do. Or better yet, society tries to force us to be something different than what we are to be recognized. I am not one of them.That is the brilliance of Hip Hop. Hip Hop is the final frontier. It’s the only way of life and art form that takes something from all other art forms and makes them all better. Hip Hop has put itself into everything and in order for almost any product to be successful it must incorporate Hip Hop in some form or fashion whether it is cereal or Lloyd’s of London. Thank you Hip Hop for helping me think outside of the box creatively and use the sky’s the limit approach to my artistic expression.
DC-You’re also an emcee who rhymes in the tradition and spirit of using Hip Hop as a means to communicate a positive message. How do you develop concepts for your albums and videos?
ML-First, I have to start with the bad. I start from my experience. I like to go through negative things sometimes. That way, I can expose that point of view. (Laughs) People try to pigeonhole me and say I only rap about two things: women and oppression but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I have an album coming out called S.I.N. saving ignorant ‘n’ words. The title can be changed to suit the listener like saving ignorant Nubians, or something because the title is S.I.N. but I have songs that have to do with a wide range of topics. I have a song called, “Peace Three Wings” which is a fun song based on clever wordplay breaking down my take on the current state of Hip Hop. It has nothing to do with oppression. It’s an ode to a restaurant in Chi-Town that used to sell three wings for a dollar. Again, the title is a play on real life experience in the hood but using Hip Hop in a fun way to get my thoughts out there. I’m using lyrics in a symbolic way. All my albums are created by the society I live in and things I do. My albums cannot be labeled in any specific way. Life is about balance and so is my art and music.
In art school they will sometimes tell you go to the museum and look at Michelangelo or some other famous painter and try to make art similar to them or in their fashion. They tell you to use the famous artist as a blue print, so years down the road people can see how you were influenced by these famous artists. That is not me…I express myself my way. They will see I was influenced by Horace Pippen, Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden and Emory Douglas. They will see I was influenced by my own people. You can’t go away from the source. Everything comes back to the source. I can’t try to be Michelangelo to get recognition then later on try to find and be Marcellous. I must be me at all times. That is important. I am the red, black and green rapper that sometimes wears a blue shirt. (Laughs)
DC-Do you express yourself more through making music or visual art?
ML-It doesn’t happen like that. I do both simultaneously. I never do one thing at a time. Even while I was talking to you, I was painting at the same time. Art is my therapy. Even when I go through negative situations, I could immediately express my feelings artistically. I can do music on Monday, paint on Tuesday, film videos on Wednesday and take photographs on Friday. I am very prolific and I continuously express myself. I feel like I cannot waste my time. Art is the way I make productive use of my time.
DC-What projects are on the agenda for you in the future?
ML-The film festivals are up next. I have a film called Dee Dee about two men dating the same women and how they deal with that situation. They go from disagreement and antagonism to a place of peace. I also have another one called, A Man Called Him – Execution of Oneself, which is four stories about four different men whose lives are intertwined…kind of like Pulp Fiction where everyone has their own story but their personals stories connect in plot twists. I have a political art exhibition in December as my senior project for college. I am also working towards graduation at the end of the year from the University of Memphis. I’m trying to get into a music academy and go to Africa. I will only to be able to do these things if people support and buy my art. So to the people reading this…please support us artists.
DC-Where can people purchase and view your visual art, videos and buy your music?
ML-My music can be purchased at http://www.infinito2017.com and my art site is: http://www.2017blackart.com . Also, http://www.myspace.com/2017blackart and http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/marcellous-lovelace.html
DC-Anything else you want our readers to now about Marcellous Lovelace?
ML-I come as I am. I want my legacy to be left just as it is. I want people to know me as who I am: raw and uncut. I want to be known through my mentality and artistic expression like a Melvin Van Peebles or a Spike Lee. I want to be known as a consistent and responsible artist when it is all said and done.