Don’t get caught up on the name. Yes, he is named after the late Martin Luther King Jr., and yes, he has a certain rebellious spirit – but the only preaching this Martin Luther will be doing comes from the wail of his guitar, or maybe even at your next business seminar. Martin Luther has such a strong entrepreneurial awareness, and is so determined to maintain a certain amount of autonomy in the pervasively parasitic culture of the entertainment industry, that at times he can sound like a MBA student instead of a recording artist. Luther would argue that in today’s musical climate, the two should be difficult to differentiate, as he feels it is his duty to be a part of the business and not just a maker of the music. His relentless desire to be abreast of his options was passed to him by his father, a successful and hard working business man himself.
Business savvy aside, Martin Luther is making dope music and is doing so in the newly popular, but still largely uncultivated vein of post hip hop rock and funk. He is ready to put his name in the hat with cats like Prince and The Time. Currently on the road with The Roots and playing shows along side fellow funk guitarist Cody Chesnutt, he is prepping the release of his sophomore effort, Rebel Soul Music. Fresh of a plane from touring with The Roots, Luther to a minute and spoke with Allhiphop Alternatives.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: I have to say, there was a sense of pride that came over me when I found out you were a Morehouse grad.
ML: Good, cause only we can forward that type of spirit, or whatever that is that we’re talking about. That’s a healthy bond, it’s not an anti-anything else type of thing, it’s just a healthy bond between cats like you and I.
AHHA: What’s the concept behind Rebel Soul Music?
ML: It comes from a few different things, being that I starting doing music in high school, me and my partners we’re checking publishing deals and dealing with distribution way back then. Those deals never seemed to be way lucrative other than you was way hype off the fact that you had a deal. We decided to put more time in investigating how the business goes. I went off to school and that basically waylaid a lot of musical progress. In 97’ a group I was in disbanded and I decided to go and do a solo record and that was The Calling. So the concept of Rebel Soul Music is tied into all of this process because I’m not really an easily categorized artist. I can do music that you would consider Hip-Hop, as well as I can do something that would be complete Rock & Roll. My music isn’t an attempt to do either, it’s just what it is. My name, Martin Luther McCoy, the spirit of that name also seems to carry with it a rebellious attitude, cause ya know Martin Luther reformed the Catholic Church.
I was just recently having a conversation with my pops, who is a local minister, and I was like ‘If the church folks drink alcohol, it seems to me like the church can find ways to generate income for itself by meeting the needs of its patrons’. We need to get involved in restaurants, get involved in car services or get involved in a liquor store or whatever else we spend our money on. What I notice in Jews and what I notice in Italians is they aren’t tripping off whether you are playing blues or gospel, they understand that you want to hear music and that you want to buy it, and so they’re going to set up shops so that you can have that need serviced.
AHHA: So what did your pops have to say about the liquor store idea?
ML: Well he was like ‘That’s an interesting idea’. To me it needs to be a hardcore reality, cause then you talking about having a level of control over your economics, having a voice. Ownership is key in these United States. Foreigners come to the U.S. and they understand the value in owning property, and we’re just sitting around hanging out. So Rebel Soul Music encompasses the spirit of all of this type of thinking.
AHHA: From what I’ve read about you I understand that navigating your own ship is important to you, as is owning the master rights to your music. With that said, are you entertaining major label offers?
ML: Of course, because that will help the process of bringing my music to a well deserved audience faster. We are not saying we got to keep everything, but maintaining ownership is important because we then have a level of influence over what happens. Ultimately, in the business of music there are others that you will have to deal with outside of your immediate culture. They are the gate keepers, and yes we want to work with them.
AHHA: I get the impression that you want http://www.rebelsoulmusic.com, to be more than just a place to check for your music.
ML: Yes indeed, cause pretty soon we’ll have advertisements for Saul Williams project which is also coming out alongside my project on September 21st and K-OS from Canada who’s also dropping on September 21st. There’s a film called Sounds of Spirits, coming out in the Bay area. If anyone is interested in me and wants to know what I’m talking about or what I think is interesting, the website will reflect that. Hopefully it will become a place to come and check out about sh*t.
AHHA: How is this record different from your debut?
ML: It’s the same cat. This time we got better equipment to work with and what I talked about in the first record was a lot more love inspired. The Calling was like me answering a call, it’s was like I could have kept waiting on muthaf*ckers to put my record out, or I could do it myself. I did it myself, and in doing so, I learned more than I would had I gone the other route.
AHHA: You’re a graduate of the famed Morehouse College. Do you think that HBCU’s are losing their relevancy?
ML: That’s an interesting question. I do think that there is a growing since of apathy about black people and us getting out of the sh*t that we are in. For me there was a lot of maturation done at Morehouse. Going to a school like Morehouse, helped to reinforce some thoughts that I could have easily gotten away from. I could have always wanted to see some Black economics jumping off, but may have never decided or dared to investigated how you go about it, so we ain’t sitting up for the next 20 years taking about we should of, we could of, maybe one day we will. I took it on my self to get that knowledge and it was spurred on by the college I went to and being in that environment.
AHHA: How did you gravitate toward the guitar?
ML: The one thing I noticed on MTV—and I think Michael Jackson was hip to the game back then—was that them white people will get your a** paid. I’m seeing fifty thousand seats sold out, but I’m not seeing that with Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye, I’m seeing that with Led Zeppelin and Van Halen, hence the guitar. Plus the guitar is fun and it provides a whole lot of freedom to do whatever the hell you want, I need that so in case I come rocking a tie, some shorts and some tennis shoes on, I can do that. Prince was the king of that funky sh*t, and The Time came clean too. Put all that together with some hip hop, and that’s where I’m at with Rebel Soul Music