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Marcus Love: A Need For a Serious Conversation

Aug 2, 2020

By Mossy Ross

I met Marcus outside of Legion bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn about six years ago. It was shortly after some of the momentum over Occupy Wall Street had faded, but we were both still fired up. I was a few whiskeys deep, so our first meeting is a bit hazy. But what still stands out all these years later, is how many ideas Marcus had. Talking about the problems of the world can get wearying and discouraging. Talking about ideas on how to solve those problems, revives, and instills hope. Marcus had a myriad of methods for how we could join forces to abolish the outdated, racist, misogynist system we all live in, but in peaceful and intellectual ways. He’d composed a series of prolific, melodic hip hop tunes about it, that managed to address infuriating or painful issues while keeping an upbeat, positive vibe. He’d also written a manifesto. He has yet to complete it because, according to him, it wasn’t only up to him to finish writing it, it was up to all of us. 

I was curious to find out if Marcus’s passion was still alive and well, now that the protests for the Black Lives Matter movement have begun to decrease. Most likely because so many people are back to working for the system again. And then there’s the unconstitutional use of force that’s being imposed on protesters. I was relieved to find that Marcus is still just as passionate and full of ideas as ever. He’s also written a couple of new songs that we’re excited to be premiering on Alice. 

Marcus and I talked in the courtyard of one of the housing projects in Bushwick, while his eleven-year old daughter, Maliah, played with her neighborhood friends nearby. 

Mossy: Let’s start with how “I can’t breathe” seems to be the mantra for this summer, but it has two completely different meanings. It’s the cry of George Floyd while he was being murdered by police, and it’s one of the main excuses given for not wanting to wear a mask in public. 

ML: People say “It’s our constitutional right” not to wear a mask, and it don’t even have anything to do with that. You wear a mask to protect yourself and other people, because you don’t know if you’ve got (coronavirus) or not. People are dying from it…it might not be nobody you know. But it just shows…everything that’s happening is just exposing everything for what it is. It shows the lack of empathy Americans really have. In the public eye or on TV, it’s like “We’re America. God bless America,” but as soon as you challenge an American, there it is. You can see exactly what we are, what we’ve become, what we have been. Selfish, self-centered…we are the sun, basically. That’s how we feel, and that’s not true. That’s why we bein’ laughed at. 

Mossy: It seems like the fury some people feel about wearing a mask, is a sign that Americans truly have no idea what freedom is. 

ML: Everything that’s happening is exposing the country. You can’t hide behind the flag, the troops, none of that. When you talk about black lives matter…all lives matter, yeah, we know that. Who don’t know that shit? Of course they matter. But if a certain people is on fire, then you gotta put that fire out first. You gotta bring those people up to where they matter. When you say “All lives matter,” well some people are not feelin’ it. There’s always gonna be mistrust. I understand that. But we ain’t havin’ real conversations, we haven’t had real conversations, we still not havin’ real conversations. 

Mossy: What do you think we’re doing instead of having real conversations? 

ML: Lookin’ for attention. I think everybody tryin’ to be the man. I think everybody wanna be the person who brought forth a revolution. I think people lookin’ at it in glory form, instead of actual change, and what is needed for actual change. Everybody got their own rallies, everybody got their own protests, and then people inside of the protests is doin’ different things, and it’s just all over the place. And the person who organized (a rally) is at the front with the bullhorn, and it just feels like they want the glory, and not the blood that comes with this shit.

Mossy: How do you feel about the protests dying down now that everyone is going back to work? I mean, I think that’s the way the system wants it. They want us to work so that we’re too busy to continue protesting, or sacrificing for a cause.

ML: And I think some of that was boredom, too. People had a chance to get out the house, and release steam and pressure and anger. Of course don’t get me wrong, there were passionate people, and still are passionate people inside these protests, for sure. 

Mossy: What do you think needs to happen? What do you think should be the first thing people should do?

ML: I think there should be some type of common mind meeting ground. Some of these ole’ school leaders, it’s cool. I wouldn’t say they out of touch with what’s goin’ on around here. But when you sittin’ where I’m sittin,’ it feel like they out of touch. I think the new voices, like Sean King for example…it take people like him or other people with influence who really care about this shit, to use their influence to have a gatherin’ spot. It’s the same way you use social media as a tool…I think we should gather first, and talk about some of the things we need to do. And it needs to be from every region. The brightest and the best from the west, from the midwest, the south, the northeast.

Mossy: What would qualify someone as being “the brightest and the best?”

ML: To me, it’s if you can have a conversation with people without bringing religion, or any of the other things that divide us, into it. For black people, some of the things that divide us is money, who’s in charge, religion, social status, values. Basically all the shit that we see on TV… people who sittin’ where I’m sittin’ at the bottom, and all we see is the flashy and fancy on TV…that shit got a tendency to separate us. Even though we all poor, it’s still like, “Who got the best shoes on? Who got the best clothes on?” And we both gettin’ into the same fuckin’ elevator, and live in the same piss poor fuckin’ building. 

Mossy: It seems like some of that comes from the white, patriarchal system of values being imposed on all of us. People think showing off is the only way to show they’re equal. So when you say “the brightest and the best,” it seems to me like you’re saying it’s people that don’t see those as meaningful measures of equality, but see intellectual conversations, solutions, and ideas as being more important.

ML: There you go. 

Mossy: How would this common meeting ground look, so that everyone could have a voice? 

ML: I think it should be just as plain and real as us sitting here talking right now. I think the cameras and media and all that type of shit will cloud it. But I think it should be in places like this. Where we sittin’ right now, is just as fine of a meeting ground as any other place. But I don’t think it should be the big rally yet. It should be a meeting where we find exactly what we want. Like, after this meeting, we know where we’re going, we know what we want. It ain’t gonna be half sayin’ defund the police, and others sayin’ blue lives, black lives, white lives, green lives matter, all this shit (laughs). If you sayin’ that this is America, and every man is endowed by his creator, everybody equal, the law is the law for me or you, black white don’t matter…then what in the fuck is all of this shit? You know what I’m sayin’? It’s just like a back and forth battle…it don’t even have to be a battle. We know what black people go through in this country. Everybody does. 

Mossy: It’s just some people are denying it, for some reason. But it’s become undeniable at this point. And that’s where I’m so thankful for social media. 

ML: That’s right, it’s not a secret because of all the videos and all that shit. But if you can get past that, I don’t want to have a meeting to sit and talk about what’s wrong. Like “Aw man, black people are gettin’ hit and killed, and black people are livin’ poor, and we need reparations, or we need economic this or that, blah fuckin’ blah.” We know that. We know these are things we need. How are we gonna go about gettin’ ‘em? I’m not King Black Person. So I can’t tell you how we can get to it. But I got ideas that I want to share, so we can come to a point where we can get to a list. 

Mossy: What’s one of your ideas? 

ML: I don’t think school frees you. Let’s say “poor people.” Let’s take the “black” out of it. To tell a poor person, “Hey man, you can just start at the bottom and work your way up.” Or, “Go to school and get your major, and then start at the bottom and work your way up.” To tell a poor person that, when you was handed your shit, you didn’t even have to start at the fuckin’ bottom…I think that’s ridiculous. I think that schools and funding, especially in communities like these, should have options for children for what they really wanna do. 

Mossy: What you’re talking about is the dream school I’ve wanted to open. I think school is the last place for learning. It’s basically daycare. Most of the things I’ve learned came from reading a book. But aside from self-teaching, people could be connected to experts in mechanics, or horticulture, or whatever the fuck else they want to do. And that’s where the funding should go…to paying experts to take on apprentices basically. 

ML: You take poor people and you teach them how to do what they want to do, instead of putting so much red tape in front of them to make money. The whole system is broken, and it don’t do nothin’ but keep poor people, black people, cus I’m gonna say it now, it don’t do nothin’ but keep us down. It keeps people lookin’ at you like that bootstrap sayin.’ Like, of course we don’t have bootstraps. The system always gonna look at you like a nigga, because it knows you ain’t got no bootstraps. It knows you didn’t have the education, it knows all of this already. So why we playin’ the game? It’s a game. You bunch people up in housing projects like these, and tell them to start at the bottom, where there’s never no room for growth or improvement or nothin.’ And they really wanna learn to do…but they in the house stuck. They’ve read as much as they could, and now they need hands on experience. They need centers where they can go and learn how to put that carburetor in a car. All that shit without having to pay, or their parents who live in one of these complexes, havin’ to pay money that they don’t fuckin’ got. The system is fucked.

Mossy: Yeah, you learn by experience, you don’t learn in a classroom. It’s a complete scam. If you could do anything, what would it be? Like, if this school you want to create existed, what would you study? 

ML: Aw man, that is a great question. Well, as a kid, I would probably start one thing and then move on to another.

Mossy: Which is totally cool. I don’t understand why we’re expected to only study one thing for our entire lives. I think I read somewhere once, that the idea of specializing in one subject was originated by kings. Kings were the ones who could have a variety of skills and interests, but they wanted their minions to be good at one thing and one thing only, so they would be less well rounded. I may be pulling that out of my ass, but…

ML: I would study how to do the audio inside of a car. That’s what I was into when I was a kid. I liked the music inside of a car. And that was big business. People takin’ their cars and gettin’ all their sounds hooked up inside the car. People paid big money to have their shit sound good. All the wires are hidden, you know if something’s gonna blow the speaker, or what’s the best speaker. That is somethin’ that could free you to start a business. And right now, I’m a self taught chef. I taught myself. And I gained experience in the real world by doin’ that.

Mossy: Not by going to culinary school.

ML: Exactly. I did not go to culinary school, but experience and research will put you in a place where you can skip all that bullshit. That’s not for the kids right now. Like, I want to save the kids right now. I want to save them from that bullshit, so they can free themselves. So they really can stand out on the street and be excited about startin’ a business, and startin’ from the beginning. They came out of school with a skill, something they wanted to do, a skill that they learned. And now they’re excited about startin’ it, because they know everything about it and it didn’t break their bank, and it didn’t break their parents’ bank.

Mossy: Taxes would pay for it, because that’s what taxes are supposed to be for.

 

ML: Yes. So that would be the first thing I would concentrate on. And yes, I would concentrate on in the black community. The black community deserves a chance. We’ve been here forever. The civil rights movement paved the way for a lot of different races that’s comin’ into America. That have come here for opportunities. There’s nothin’ wrong with that. They’re gettin’ jobs, they’re gettin’ ahead. They don’t have the anchors. But we still have the same anchors after fighting to get those anchors off. You see other people comin’ here for the same chances that we fought for, and the opportunity is missed on us. And that’s not sayin’ everybody should go back to where they came from, cus that’s bullshit. This is America. It’s so big. We all can have this opportunity, but you still gotta take the cuffs off of us, though. When people is hollerin’ “civil rights,” think about civil rights, and what that actually means, and why it means that. Think of all the leaders that died. Some from our own hands, some from stupidities, a lot from the country and the way the country is. Infiltration. Pitting each other against each other. It’s easy to do that in the black communities, it’s easy to do that amongst the leaders. But still, with all of that, you just think about civil rights. What happened? Why are people still to this day hollerin’ about civil rights? It’s because black people been through the mud for this shit. And I think it’s only fair that that’s where we start. In the black communities. These are our lowest brothers and sisters. We’re no good unless black people are good. We can’t hold our head up in front of the world, we can’t go to the United Nations, and sit there comfortably, and act like our black brothers and sisters are not in shit conditions.

Mossy: When you look at the black people that are in the United Nations or other political positions, you don’t usually see people from the projects as representatives. They’re usually black people who have assimilated to white culture in one way or another. Whether it’s that they went to college, or dress a certain way, speak a certain way, or have certain values. They’ve got the seal of approval from white people. It’s never white people trying to assimilate to black culture in politics…it’s always got to be the other way around. 

ML: Let’s say you grow up in the projects, and you manage to get an office in Washington D.C. First, we already hear how they say Washington works: “If you don’t know this town, it’ll swallow you up.” But let’s say you manage to get there. Automatically you’re gonna feel free. You’re gonna feel free from your situation, you’re gonna feel like you made it. And just like you were sayin,’ the more you’re in that environment, the more your constituents start to change. They’ll start to look different. You’re feeding into the system, and what the system is saying. You’re only one person. So you go to Washington and you wanna talk about the projects where you came from? You’re gonna get nowhere. You might get another black person that’ll come up to you and say, “Hey man, this is how the game is played around here. So if you wanna get some bread and make sure your family is straight, then you gotta do it like this.” So you just keep conforming and conforming. Because there’s no actual grassroots candidate. Like when they talk about grassroots, and people lifting you up to the place where you are the voice of the people…it’s not comin’ from the projects. 

And look how the country treats black people. Why would anyone want to work for it, or do anything to make it better? Everybody always talkin’ about how black people act toward the country like, “Look at them, they’re so ungrateful.” Oh my God, that’s like the most horseshit I ever heard. Man, if somebody whooped your ass every fuckin’ day, you gonna wanna go home and fix it, and build it up and be a part of it? Fuck no. You gonna wanna burn that shit down. Like fuck this shit, I can’t wait to get away from this shit. You don’t get no opportunity or chance. Look how grateful black people be, just to get a dishwashing job. Cus you’re so fuckin’ poor, and again, it’s not just black people, I’m just speaking from my black experience. How I was brought up is a big reason why I feel the way I feel. It’s got a lot to do with why I don’t trust my countrymen. 

Mossy: What was your experience growing up?

ML: I was born in Cleveland. My father and mother grew up in pretty much broken homes. Their mother and father was together because of the times, but still pretty much broken. Arguin,’ fussin,’ drinkin,’ fighting and shit. So that shit didn’t last. My mom moved to Alabama where my family on my mother’s side is from. 

Mossy: Do you know what your great grandparents’ lives were like?

ML: Nope. I was even recently trying to find how far my last name went back, but nobody knows. After a certain time, you can’t trace your history. And we all know why that is. You’re talking to a person who’s alive in 2020, who can tell you without a doubt, that because of slavery and the way it was, you can’t trace my lineage back. Which is another reason to have nothin’ to be proud of. If you white and you can trace back and find your great great grandfather was a king, wouldn’t that inspire you? What if I knew my great great great grandfather was a king? How would I feel? Or one of these kids around here? How would they feel? Or even if it wasn’t a king. Maybe it was someone who was just a great person who worked hard. That inspires you.

Mossy: White people go to therapy all the time to talk about how their parents fucked them up, and how their grandparents fucked up their parents, and so on. This is the same sort of thing that, as a country, I think we have to recognize. Why black people are still in the situation they’re in here, is directly related to things that happened to their parents which happened to their parents which happened to their parents. From slavery, to sharecropping, to Jim Crow, to separate but equal, to mass incarceration…it’s all led to what is happening now.

ML: That is one thing that you can’t tell a boomer or even some of the white people that’s not from that time period. That shit gets completely lost on them because it’s like, “You’re a negro! What the hell do you need a heritage for?” They don’t even think that we deserve lineage or heritage or anything like that. We should just be happy that we were brought over here, not to live waddling in the mud or whatever the fuck they think. 

Mossy: And yet clearly heritage matters, that’s why they’re getting all bent out of shape over fucking statues.

ML: Exactly. 

Mossy: Okay, so go back to your parents.

ML: My father was a hustler. They was young, they split. My oldest brother came first when my mom was real young, like 16 or 17. Then I came eighteen months later, and by the time I was six or seven, we were living in Alabama. And that’s where I realized I can’t stay in Alabama. I hate everything about the south. I don’t like the weather, I don’t like the people, I don’t like how black people live down there, and I experienced it firsthand. My mom was on drugs, my pops was on drugs. We was livin’ in the projects then, too, and it was always a struggle. My mom would try to sell drugs, she would use drugs. We always moved…I went to every school in Huntsville, Alabama. I only went to one middle school, though. And I think you’ll find this interesting. 

I went to one middle school because my parents went to jail at the same time when I was eleven. And there was a white guy in the neighborhood, his name was Walter Matheny. And when I say “the neighborhood,” we was in the hood. And he had a house across a main street, but it was back on a hill. It had a long driveway, it had an arch, it had an orchard, it had land and shit on it. And he had a swimming pool in the back. So if you got a permission slip from your mom, you could go to his house, and he would teach you how to swim. And all the kids used to go over there. I met Mr. Matheny when I was eleven years old, and both of my parents was in jail. And he would teach me and my brother how to swim. He and his wife, Linda Matheny took a liking to us. They would pay us money to do chores around the yard. Like, they knew we were poor little kids. And that would turn into him showing us things in his woodshop. 

One day after Christmas, we went up to his house on the usual Sunday. That was how we would get extra money to go fuck around and shit. And he asked us what we got for Christmas. And I remember not wantin’ to say shit, cus my mother was always like, “Don’t be tellin’ my business!” But my brother just says, “Nothin!” (Laughs) Ms. Matheny was in the kitchen, and she came out of the kitchen and pulled Mr. Matheny aside, and then he came back and he just asked us, “What is goin’ on in your lives?” And I told him. Both my parents is locked up right now. My grandma can’t do it. She’s old and she’s gettin’ older and older…there’s just nobody. And that’s when my life changed, for a little while at least. A week later when we came over there to do our cleaning, he asked us if we wanted to live there. Maaaan, fuck yeah we wanted to live there! There was a pool, and he used to have this thing called the Magic List. Whatever you wanted from the grocery store or whatever, you just write it down on the list. 

Mr. Matheny, the whitest man I know, was the person who told me about the mistrust, about the way that people might view me. It wasn’t about the way that I looked, but the things I knew. Mr. Matheny would say “Don’t listen to what people around you sayin,’ or what they’re sayin’ on TV. The world is not a scary place,” is what he told me. And I believe the big reason I kept going is Mr. Matheny. That was like my pop right there. Straight up. 

Mossy: How long did you live there?

My mom did ten years in prison. So I spent from the time I was eleven there, until I was sixteen. Cus they gave me a car, and they gave me a credit card so I could put gas on it. And my dumbass took the credit card and bought rims for my car, music for my car. Dumbass little kid. They was so pissed. They was like, “No man, we need a break from this. You broke our trust.” So I left there for awhile, and that’s when I went to my first group home, The Harris Home. And then I went to the boys ranch. And then I came back and I stayed with them for another year.

Mossy: What were the group homes like?

ML: They was whack. The Harris Home was, picture a country neighborhood with a whole bunch of houses on it, and each house got a group of kids and a person (to watch them). So they were like, just basic houses, and the food was shit, and everybody knew that you stayed there and you got made fun of at school.

Mossy: That’s another thing that’s fucked up about school., You put all these kids from all these different backgrounds in one room, and the only thing they have in common is their age. That again, creates a situation where kids, at an early age, learn to seek those white patriarchal values. Because the kids that do the best, or get in the least amount of trouble in school; are usually the ones who come from certain types of families, and conform the most, and raise their hands, and do what they’re told, and dress well.   

ML: Exactly.

Mossy: Are The Matheny’s still around? 

ML: They both are deceased now.

Mossy: What about your parents?

ML: My mom and my father are still alive. My father has kicked the habit. He lives in Decatur now, (he’s a) pretty responsible adult. He got his own house, and he into racin’ and stuff like that.

Mossy: Do you guys talk?

ML: Yeah, we talk. He gave me a Cadillac. He workin’ on it for me right now. It’s a ‘72. I can’t wait to go down and get it. 

Mossy: That could be your first project for your car audio business! You could use it as free advertising and just roll around with the bass going. Maybe you could teach yourself. I mean, you taught yourself how to be a chef, right?

ML: Yeah, that’s currently my mission right now, with the Love’s Shack Chicken and Ribs. It’s gonna be a pop-up first. But I won’t open up the Love’s Shack until next spring. I gotta get some more licenses and permits and stuff. Plus I’ve been workin’ on recipes. I cooked my ribs, I think I got a good start for a rub, my chicken and my white sauce…cus this is north Alabama-style barbecue. So I got a pretty good start. I’m just lockin’ the menu down. 

Mossy: So you got your barbecue business, and you also told me you have some new songs now. You hadn’t written anything for awhile. Did Black Lives Matter get you reacquainted with music?

ML: Yeah, all of that. It’s been within the last year. You’ll see when you hear the songs. I’m talkin’ to black people, my people, about certain shit that nobody else will tell them or talk to them about. That’s how I feel, that’s what came out of me when I was writin.’ And it’s not what’s wrong, it’s just about us. I’m talking about what I think we should do, or what we can do. And that’s basically to come together, and understand that it don’t matter what hood you in. We live the color of our skin. That’s what I would like people to understand. Especially if you listen to my music and you’re black. We live the color of our skin, we shouldn’t let where we’re from separate us. We got so many things in common. We should take the things that we got in common, and come up with serious goals. I think we’ll be surprised by the shit we can do. Black people themselves will be surprised how many people, around the world, is waiting for us to rise up. Like, come on. This is our country, too. We just have to do certain things to really solidify. We still movin.’ We been movin’ since slavery, since Reconstruction, since civil rights, Jim Crow. Here we are, still moving right along. 

We need a political party. You know, to a lot of people, politics is a joke. And to me, right now politics is a joke. Cus it’s always that political filter, it’s never real. It don’t ever feel real to a person who sees real shit all the time. And goes through real shit all the time. It’s just a bunch of mumbo jumbo bullshit. That’s what this political party can be…it can be not that. It can be a real voice for America. America is waiting. That’s why this clown Donald Trump appealed to a lot of people at first. Because he didn’t have a filter to what he was saying. That shit never fooled me. You know it didn’t fool nobody around here. That slick talk con man…we hear that shit all the time. So that’s all he was. But he got people’s attention because that political filter was not there. And that should be the base of our party. It should only put real people out there.

Mossy: I feel like we should no longer have one person as president. Especially in America, if not only in America. We’re the most diverse country in the world. It’s ridiculous that we are constantly only given the choice of old, rich, white men to choose from. We need a panel of people in office, not just one person. We need a white woman, a white man, a black woman, a black man, a trans woman, a trans man, a gay woman, a gay man, indigenous, Asian, Latino…people who represent the mass majority of citizens in America, so everyone is represented. And whatever the most common needs are among the people, that’s the legislation that passes. If that means the old, rich, white man’s vote is lost, then…that’s democracy.

ML: I like that idea.

At this point, an argument broke out among two men in the courtyard. 

ML: Let’s see if we need to make a move. 

Marcus was afraid one of them might have gone to get a gun, so he wanted to go and take his daughter home. 

ML: Like, I didn’t want the interview to be bland or fake. I wanted you to see.

Mossy: It’s like you said (in a previous conversation), everyone’s coming to Williamsburg because there’s nothing open in their neighborhood. 

ML: Yeah, they don’t block off the streets here for sidewalk cafes.

Mossy: Did the marches come through here?

ML: Nah.

Marcus’s girlfriend, Liana, shed some light on one of many reasons why tensions are so high in the neighborhood. It’s 99 degrees outside, the air is thick with suffocating humidity, and no one wants to take the train to the crowded beaches, and risk infecting their families. There are no sidewalk cafes, no streets blocked off for recreation like in other white, affluent neighborhoods. People are out of work, with nowhere to go, and no money. To quote Liana, “It’s a recipe for disaster.” 

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEhgaSEscFg

Song Premiere: “Same Nigga” https://soundcloud.com/mlove23/same-nigga

Marcus Love Music: https://soundcloud.com/mlove23

Marcus Love IG: @starving_artis

Be on the look out for Love’s Shack pop-ups and grand opening: @loves_shack

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