Name a hot rapper that is currently bubbling in today’s hip-hop realm and it’s mostly likely that Thelonious Martin has produced for them. Martin reps both Chicago, Illinois and Montclair, New Jersey and proudly juggles his growing stardom along with his school work as he currently attends Columbia College in the Windy City. As an intricate part of the New Jersey-bred lifestyle brand Tastemakers NJ and Chicago-based musical collective Savemoney Crew, the 20-year-old Martin has produced for Chance The Rapper, Joey Bada$$, Curren$y, and Action Bronson to name a few. Read below as American Beau talks to the young and extremely gifted producer about growing up in New Jersey, getting in contact with Odd Future rapper Hodgy Beats, Chicago and wanting to be regarded as the best to ever do it.
A lot of people don’t know you that you grew up in New Jersey (we’re based in New Brunswick, NJ/Rutgers). Can you speak what ties you have to Jersey and how important Jersey was to your production career?
I was born in Chicago, then moved to New Jersey around [the age of] five, lived in Montclair most of my life. In middle school, one of my best friends Matt had turntables, a mic, and a laptop, we’d hang out and we had a little rap crew with our friends. It was Matt, Zane, and our friend Dallas every once in a while. That was one of the first times I was exposed to creating music on my own. I remember when I broke my thumb in like the 7th or 8th grade and I stayed in and tried to make beats while everyone was outside. Staying up and watching Adult Swim sparked my interest even more. I got my first laptop in May of 2008 and I went to high school with who are now some very great friends and artists I know Topaz Jones, $aint Ros$, D-Dand, and Volition. Topaz heard some of my first beats there was, and with having a crew in high school really shaped my work ethic.
Being from Jersey, why did you choose to attend college in Illinois (Columbia College)? I know your major is music management, how important is being business-savvy to you?
My family is from Chicago, plus at the time, the Chicago scene music-wise was bubbling, it just seemed right. Both my parents are business majors, so they’ve always broke down business to me and how important it is.
You’re pretty open to releasing large amounts of instrumental tapes to the public as you’ve put out quite a few free releases in the past. What makes you so willing to release free production?
Sometimes you have to give the people what they need, you don’t buy the whole pie of pizza without trying one slice.
Your instrumentals are very soulful and carry that classic Midwest aesthetic that is currently absent in the rap game as a lot of production is electronic-based at the present moment. Do you craft your beats to match a signature sound or do you typically create to your mood at that exact moment?
I create when the mood is felt, I don’t try to force anything sound wise, I definitely don’t try to craft a signature sound, everything comes naturally.
Your name really started to become noticed around hip-hop circles after you produced a couple tracks for Hodgy among other artists. How did you link with Hodgy and Domo Genesis? Who reached out to who, were you a fan of theirs from prior years?
I’ve known Hodgy since I was in high school, I sent some beats to him like my sophomore/junior year. I was a fan of Odd Future since the first tape they put out, so when I started talking and working with Hodgy and then eventually Domo it was awesome. Hodgy and I had a whole tape together called Community College, [it] never dropped though.
Your bond with Joey Bada$$ also seems pretty strong as well as your name has been branded on quite a few of his most recent tracks. What’s your relationship with Joey and the Pro Era family?
I remember hearing “Pantie Raid” because Smoke DZA tweeted it and I was instantly like, “This kid got next.” I was able to get in contact with him in like a week or two after, and always made sure I stayed in touch, we ended up doing a couple tracks together. I fucks with Pro Era as a whole, anyone making forward positive movement I fuck with.
Seeing that you have produced for artists from many different regions of the American rap realm ranging from NYC (Joey Bada$$ and Smoke DZA) to Los Angeles (MellowHigh), which rap scenes are you the most impressed by?
Not any one particular movement based on location but everyone is doing their thing, OF in L.A.; Pro Era, World’s Fair, The Underachievers, Flatbush [Zombies], and much more in NYC, Savemoney, The Village, and Treated Crew in Chicago…The whole nation is bubbling.
The Savemoney Crew is increasingly receiving recognition nation-wide in-part because of your work with group including production placements with Vic Mensa and the white-hot Chance The Rapper. Can you speak on how you got down with the crew and how the movement resonates with the Chicago rap scene in 2013.
Before I moved to Chicago, Vic had saw some artwork I had with one of my beat tapes and super fucked with my music, so the Christmas of my senior year of high school we had met up when I came to Chicago. I even DJ’d for Vic when he performed at Bamboozle. Since then, that’s been the homie, when I got to Chicago everyone welcomed me with open arms, Chance and I were passing out 10-Day mixtapes in my dorm before it came out. It’s been awesome being apart of this movement in Chicago.
Staying on the topic of Chiraq Rap music, are you a fan of the energetic drill scene (GBE, King L, Lil’ Bibby & Lil’ Herb) that is ever-so popular in mainstream? Drill music and the music you and the Save Money Crew make are like polar opposites.
I hate calling Chicago Chiraq so let’s nip that in the bud. I fuck with the Drill music, there’s a time and place for every kind of music.
One release I’m hyped for, that I read you’re on is RetcH’s upcoming Polo Sporting Goods. Can you share any details about that project and how it’s going to kill the game when it finally drops?
It’s coming soon, I just got off the phone with him [RetcH], we’re in the final mixing stages and making sure it comes out the way it’s supposed to.
Lastly, who are some of the artists or fellow producers that you want to work? They could possibly reach out to you after reading this interview (Ha!). Could we possibly see Thelonious Martin do production for other genres?
[I’m] trying to work with Casey Veggies, Dom Kennedy, Flatbush Zombies, Roc Marciano, MED, Madlib, Earl Sweatshirt, shit, a bunch of artists. I really want to leave an imprint on music and leave as one of the bests. *