"Quincy [Jones] told me, 'If the power goes out on you, you can still play. If the power goes out on the majority of those involved in Hip-Hop, they'll have to stop what they are doing.'" - Terrace Martin
The musical career of South Central Los Angeles native Terrace Martin started at the young age of eight when he first began to learn how to play the saxophone. Although he steadily practiced for hours everyday as a youth, it wasn't until he transferred into the music program at Locke High School in Watts, CA that he began to hone his skills under the tutelage of the school's respected music director Reggie Andrews. Terrace was later able to break into the Hip-Hop business as a musician and a producer, working with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, Game, Wiz Khalifa, Nate Dogg and many others.
As a member of the Snoopadelics (Snoop Dogg's live band) Terrace teamed up with his boss to form a production team called N*ggarachi, in which the duo produced for different acts. Other mentors that Terrace has gone on to work with include DJ Quik, Teddy Riley, Dr. Dre, and his musical idol – Quincy Jones. A master of the saxophone, Terrace often blends his Smooth Jazz sound over tightly constructed Hip-Hop beats. After releasing free projects such as the original Locke High, Signal Flow, Here My Dear, The Love EP, and The Sex EP – Terrace is now set to release his next album Locke High 2 on October 25 via iTunes. The young musical genius sat down with AllHipHop.com to talk about the inspiration behind the new album, and how he almost got sued by Kim Kardashian this past summer. Read on!
AllHipHop.com: You've named two of your albums after your old high school. Why is that?
Terrace Martin: I came over to Locke High School in Watts from Santa Monica High School. The East Side has a different way of thinking and living than the West Side where I'm from. It's about survival on the East. Living in a concrete jungle like the projects where everything is built the same and looks the same is mind washing. I saw the areas of my life where I was spoiled. I had friends that were happy just to be with their families on Christmas, and here I was upset because I didn't get the new Super Nintendo.
At this time, I'm playing music because I know it and like it, but I noticed that the East Side kids were doing it to try to help their families' situations. Being around that mentality made me feel the same way eventually. I moved up from practicing eight hours a day to 13 hours a day. I practiced Jazz, and the gangsters would calm down when I played. They always told me my music was an escape for them.
The Jazz spots on Central Avenue was all that the Black community had in Watts during the '30s, '40ss, '50s, and '60s. Everybody played there – Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra. I didn't know this until I went to Locke High. That's why I felt a connection there. All of the musicians that I was trying to be like went through Watts at some point.
AllHipHop.com: When did you begin to transition from Jazz to Hip-Hop?
Terrace Martin: One of the gangsters that I went to school with told me that he loved Tupac's music, so I learned how to play “I Ain't Mad At Cha.” One day at school, I decided to play it for him. After playing the song for a few minutes, I noticed that I had an audience of about 17 of the hardest kids at school, and they were all singing and enjoying it. That's when I knew that I could reach people through Hip-Hop. Jazz was intriguing for my generation, but it didn't have the same powerful impact that Hip-Hop had. I learned to respect both cultures for what they are. Some have tried to mix the two without understanding the language of Hip-Hop, and it sounds a bit corny. You have to understand the language and the feel of both Jazz and Hip-Hop in order to infuse them together.
I grew up in the same neighborhood as DJ Battlecat, and we happened to share the same barber. I knew Battlecat from the music that he made with Domino out of Long Beach. I constantly stopped by the barbershop to see if I could try to catch him. One day he pulled up, and I played some beats for him. Soon after, he invited me to the studio and asked me to bring my horn. So I go and I'm playing on one of his songs while sitting next to other producers like Jellyroll and Blaqtoven at Battlecat's studio on Crenshaw and Adams. That was the beginning of our work together. He was my hero because he was the closest thing to success that I knew of personally. He was on the radio and from the same 'hood – and to me that was huge.
There was a guy who frequented his studio named Marlon who also played guitar for Snoop Dogg. I was at the spot making beats and improving. One day, Marlon took my beats to Soopafly who oversaw a lot of Snoop's music. I was going through a tough time and had to sell my personal equipment in order to survive. When Soopafly found that out, he gave me a check for $20,000. I bought some dumb stuff with that money, but I also made sure to go out and buy a drum machine and some equipment. After that, I was able to hook up with Snoop Dogg.
Terrace Martin ft Wiz Khalifa Kendrick Lamar - "Do It Again"
AllHipHop.com: You've worked with your musical heroes starting with Battlecat, Soopafly, DJ Quik, Teddy Riley, Dr. Dre, and finally, Quincy Jones.
Terrace Martin: Teddy is the one. People don't know that he's the one. Teddy Riley did “The Show” by Doug E. Fresh. He's been through so many eras of Hip-Hop and can play just about any genre of music. People like him can hear something and just start playing it. Quincy Jones as also instrumental to me. He told me that no matter what, I should never stop playing my horn. I was going through a period where I was down because of the music business, and Quincy told me that what I have is special. It's not just the ability to work a drum machine, and I'm not hating on anybody doing that. He reminded me that I was a musician first and to never forget that. Quincy told me, “If the power goes out on you, you can still play. If the power goes out on the majority of those involved in Hip-Hop, they'll have to stop what they are doing.”
AllHipHop.com: What's your philosophy as an artist and musician?
Terrace Martin: My job is to play for you. If your day was messed up, I'm trying to make it better. When I'm playing for you, we are exchanging spirits at the same time. I'm taking on your frustrations and trying to make it so that you can go home and sleep in peace at night.
AllHipHop.com: This past summer you made it to the gossip sites because you were almost sued by Kim Kardashian. She claimed that you were using her exposed breasts on the cover of your album, The Sex EP.
Terrace Martin: I partnered on that project with radio personality Devi Dev. She loved the cover that our art guy made, but I wasn't a fan of it at first. I accepted it because she loved it, and we're a team. I grew to like the cover – it had a nice set of breasts. The project was released for free download and it was a success. One day I get an email that was sent by Kim Kardashian's attorney. It contained a cease and desist letter that stated our cover was using a picture of Kim's exposed breasts.
Devi got scared and panicked. She's a radio person but I'm used to this kind of drama. I had my attorney read the letter over, and then I called the guy who made the cover art. He said that he didn't know if those were Kim's breasts in that picture. I didn't know either because that's not my department. I don't know to this day if those are Kim's breasts. In order for her to sue me, she would have to go in person to my attorney's office and prove those are her breasts. I would have to examine them, too. [laughter]
AllHipHop.com: Kim shut down your download links all over the Internet!
Terrace Martin: That's money! Money can do that. There were over 200 download links. We decided to re-release the album with a few new songs added and a new cover – besides, I like bigger breasts anyway! I wanted some real natural ones, better ones than hers – if those are hers to begin with. We hired a model this time and got a picture of some real breasts for the re-release. My thing is this, if you don't want your exposed breasts all over the place, then stop taking pictures! It's crazy to me.
AllHipHop.com: Let's go back to Locke High 2 real quick. When did you get the inspiration for this new album?
Terrace Martin: I got inspired to do this new project when I was mixing Jay Rock's album last year. I was in the studio with Dr. Dre and DJ Quik. When you shake Dre's hand, you get inspired. That guy gives you records just like that. He's put so much work into Detox, and he's always surrounded by the best musicians and writers. I don't have his budget, but I have people of my own, too. I'm not trying to be the best rapper or the best beat maker. I'm trying to be one of the best from my era when it comes to putting together a complete body of work. I'm trying to be one of the best producers, real producers.
I brought in young talents like Kendrick Lamar, Problem, and Ill Camille. Problem is known in Los Angeles for his radio songs, but he can go. I surrounded myself with these young talents, and they, in turn, inspired me. Problem is to me what The D.O.C is to Dr. Dre. I also collaborated with other producers like Hi-Tek and The Bizness.
I did the first Locke High album, and nobody understood why I named it after my school. This time you're going to understand and hear the influence that the East Side had on me. I'm not from Watts, but they embraced me. It's the place where I learned 80 percent of my music.