August 13 marks the day that musician, rapper and producer Terrace Martin, will be releasing his latest project, 3 Chord Fold. Focusing on relationship themes, the album is a bridge between Hip-Hop, R & B and Jazz bringing together rappers such as Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Problem with singers and musicians like Robert Glasper, Musiq Soulchild, and Lalah Hathaway. As he was preparing for the album’s release, Terrace Martin invited AllHipHop.com to come out and have a conversation about the album, its themes and meanings, his musical philosophy and working with his musical mentors Dr. Dre and Quincy Jones – who both also contributed to the album!
AllHipHop.com: I know there’s a meaning behind 3 Chord Fold. Tell us why you chose that name for your album?
Terrace Martin: I’ve always believed that there are three characteristics in relationships. There’s the freeloader, who is someone that continually takes and takes. Then there’s the renter, someone who doesn’t really take any responsibility because they are just renting throughout the relationship. They are great while they are there but they are also looking out for the bigger and next thing. If you are renting an apartment, then you have dreams of buying a house one day. If the water heater breaks in that apartment, you can always call the landlord, so there is no real taking of responsibility. Then there is the buyer, someone that loves you and is there from the ground up. The buyer loves you with Agape love – which is unconditional love. They love the good and the bad about you. So the 3 Chord Fold is the freeloader, the renter and the buyer. These records are based off of that. We’ve all been these three characters to somebody at one time and we’ve all had these people in our lives.
AllHipHop.com: It sounds like there’s going to be a lot of “grown-folk” conversation. A lot of today’s music is wreck-less, care-free and wild.
Terrace Martin: For me, it came to a point where I’m tired of hurting someone and I’m tired of getting hurt. There is no guarantee that you won’t get hurt but you can guarantee that you won’t hurt anybody. We are accountable for the things that we do to people but we’re not accountable for the things that people do to us. If we all took responsibility for the things that we do to other people, the world would be a better place. The records guide you through someone that’s searching for love and honesty, but he has to understand that he has to love and be honest too. A person can’t expect perfect if they are not perfect. I had to learn that the hard way. I’ve been hard-headed my whole life. The only thing I’ve been great at is music. I’ve been just OK at everything else – including fatherhood and relationships. I want to start being great at everything else now.
AllHipHop.com: The first song that you released from 3 Chord Fold called “Something Else” sounded very personal.
Terrace Martin: It’s a true story. I was with a woman for a long time and she just wanted something else. I wasn’t what she wanted. It doesn’t make her a bad person. What made her bad was that she didn’t communicate that. When somebody doesn’t communicate, it causes a lot of hurt and pain. That was a very personal song.
AllHipHop.com: Men and women just do that to each other and it goes around in a cycle.
Terrace Martin: It really is the battle of the sexes. We all say that we want love, truth and understanding but none of us want to give it to each other. The cycle can end though and it ends when two people have an understanding of what love is first. The Bible mentions the 3 Cord Fold which is man, woman and God.
AllHipHop.com: I was going to ask you if the 3 Chord Fold title was based somewhat on that biblical passage.
Terrace Martin: At the end of the day that’s what it is because that’s the end result. The 3 Cord Fold is not easily broken. When two people have God in their lives, they don’t run to their friends or their own understanding. They follow God’s understanding. We always want someone to just totally love us only but I want someone to love God first and me second. When we have an issue, I want her to able to go to God with it. I have to go to God first too. I can’t go to my “single” friend to get understanding on how to keep my woman. I’m learning and these records are helping me to learn and get through all of this.
AllHipHop.com: Today’s Rap is created and based on fantasy and you are talking about grown up reality. Aren’t you concerned about that?
Terrace Martin: Selling records have never been the most important thing. I’ve always been a part of records that have sold. Just recently, Kendrick Lamar sold a million records. For me it’s always been an outlet. I’ve been making music since I was 5 years old and I would be doing it even if there was no such thing as a music industry. Music helps me to communicate and say the things that I sometimes have a hard time saying in person.
I was brought up in the Gangster Rap era where it was cool for some to talk about things that they were never a part of. That may be cool for some but that’s not cool for me. Ratchet music is fun but I don’t do that kind of music. Our women and daughters are listening to these songs that are telling them to act a certain way. The one thing you don’t want is to become a victim of your own rap songs. I have an 8 year old daughter and I’m dealing with a few things right now. I’m trying to get closer to her because I haven’t been as close as I should have been over the years due to my career. We are getting a strong bond now and I love that.
People sometimes tell me that I’m outdated and old even though I’m only 31 and I’m the same age as these rappers coming out now – I just don’t lie about my age. But some people say that I’m too musical and outdated but I just helped to contribute to a million sales with Kendrick Lamar. I really credit Kendrick, Punch and TDE for breathing life back in to me because I was feeling down for a moment. But we didn’t compromise our sound and follow a trend. We were committed to a high level of lyrics and a high level of musicianship. The message from all of that is that it’s ok to be yourself.
AllHipHop.com: You posted a picture recently of yourself with Dr. Dre in the studio. What’s going on there?
Terrace Martin: Dre is the start for me. In the late 80’s my mother would send me to Bakersfield, CA to visit my two cousins, La Brea and Tammy. One time they had some guys pick us up from the Greyhound Bus Station and they had this song on constant repeat which was “Boyz in the Hood.” I was around 6 years old and I was sitting in the back next to the speakers. I’ll never forget how I felt when I first heard the bass booming. Then when I got back to Los Angeles, my mom took me to go see Eazy-E and them at the Roadium Swapmeet in Gardena. I was from South Central but it got to the point where I wanted to be from Compton (laughs). My first album was N.W.A. and The Posse.
My mother was a backup singer so she was able to get tickets to a lot of shows. One particular night, we were at a show that was being headlined by the group Guy. Sitting in front of us was Eazy-E, MC Ren, DJ Yella, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre. I saw Dre asked him if he was really Dr. Dre and he said yes. I was in awe. My mom got us backstage and Ice Cube signed my Raiders hat. It was funny because I found a joint on the floor and I gave it to Eazy, telling him what I found. He picked me up and told my mom on me! They ended up exchanging numbers and I even got to talk on the phone with him a few times as a kid. As I grew, I followed Dre and Eazy even more. Aside from parents, Dr. Dre was my first musical hero. His records raised me.
Fast forward to now, Dre’s been a wonderful mentor to me and I still get chills working with him in the studio. He’s making music. I don’t even like to say the word Detox, but he’s there in the studio working and making music. Ali from TDE was going to mix my record with Kendrick but instead I asked Dr. Dre to do it and I got to sit there and watch him mix my record. I was as star-struck then as I was when I first him at 6 or 7 years old.
AllHipHop.com: Working with Dre is huge but you’re also working with the legendary Quincy Jones and he even contributed to your new album.
Terrace Martin: He produced a record. I met Quincy through Snoop Dogg, my big brother who has raised me in this business. We were working on a project for Quincy and I produced a record with Snoop Dogg and Clark Terry. If you get a chance, look up Clark Terry. He’s one of America’s musical treasures. Without Clark, there wouldn’t be a Quincy Jones, Miles Davis or Dizzy Gillespie. After that, Quincy and I developed a bond and I’ve been told that he sees in me what people saw in him. He loves so many kinds of music and to him if it’s good then it’s good, and if it’s bad then it’s bad. I feel the same way. He’s been an excellent teacher. I can’t even begin to say what he’s done for me and my family. Just being able to sit there and listen to stories about Miles Davis, or the things that I should be learning and developing. He even told me about him writing his first rap when he was 11 years old. People talk about rap starting in the 70’s but how can that be? One of the things that he’s instilled in me is to know my musical history. How can you go far if you don’t know where you come from? A lot of artists get stuck because they don’t know where to pull from. When I get stuck playing the Saxophone, I still pull from Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. When I get stuck on a beat, I still pull from “Boyz in the Hood.” Even some of the newer producers! When I get stuck on a drum beat, I’ll go listen to a Hit-Boy record. You have to be willing to humble yourself sometimes.
AllHipHop.com: What did you two work on for 3 Chord Fold?
Terrace Martin: I covered a song by Michael Jackson called “I Can’t Help It” and Quincy was hands on in producing it and telling me how it should sound. Being around him has inspired me to be a better artist, producer and musician. Another Quincy lesson is that there is no such thing as a box, if you’re a child of music. I can’t be boxed. I wish I could be, maybe I’ll be more successful (laughs). The world is a record crate to me. Why should I be boxed in?