The 49ers were recently featured in Delaware Today for their innovations in Hip-Hop music. The Magazine features Delawareans on the local and national level. Past features have included Joe Biden. The April 2010 issue highlights the different music genres that make up the states diverse music seen. Here is the feature as told to Delaware Today.
AS TOLD and FEATURED IN DELAWARE TODAY.
By Richard L. Gaw Published March 16, 2010 The Architect | Marcus Watkins
The Groove Lounge at the East End Café in Newark has just begun, and hands of all colors float above a spray of laser beams. What’s happening onstage is not so much music as it is a throbbing mix chiseled from asphalt and audacity—a poetry reading set to the hardest beat imaginable. Since Marcus “Marchitect” Watkins formed The Lounge in 2000, it has helped hip-hop artists get their work out of their garages and onto a stage.
But it’s The 49ers, the band he shares with Jas Mace, that fills Watkins’ creative heart and soul. Since 1995, when he and Mace began performing across the country as members of the now-disbanded The Outfit, the duo has drawn lots of attention. They have since shared stages with the hottest names in hip-hop, including P. Diddy and Mary J. Blige. They starred in, and produced the soundtrack to, the award-winning documentary “Guilty or Innocent: Use of the N Word.”
Then they caught the attention of Goon Trax Records, a pioneering hip-hop record label based in Japan. In 2007 Goon Trax released “State of the Art,” The 49ers’ first album in Japan. In 2009 they released “The Ultrasound.” Watkins and Mace have toured Japan twice, playing to full houses and audiences who know every word to every song.
Even on the first listen to a 49ers track, it is clear that Watkins and Mace are not typical of the genre. Though hip-hop relies heavily on production and technology, Watkins’ lyrics demand attention. They avoid the clichés that bog down many hip-hop songs. The tunes are messages of hope and promise.
“My parents exposed me to a lot of writers when I was younger, so I grew up around books,” said Watkins, who mentions Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the group Public Enemy as influences on his writing. “It used to be that hip-hop would draw you into wanting to read those authors and leaders and want to know more about them. Hip-hop used to be about enlightenment. It used to mean something.”
Watkins’ music intends to get back to that time. “Our music is about balance,” he says. “If you listen to the entire song, by the end, you’ll understand that balance.”