Terrace Martin is so much more than just a beat maker and rapper. He is a trained musician whose love for jazz and the art of live performance allow him to be a producer and recording artist in the truest sense of the words. Martin’s appreciation for all kinds of music has given him a musical palette that’s far more diverse than that of his contemporaries. And while he is best-known for Hip-Hop material, Martin’s rich musical history also includes work with R&B singer Lalah Hathaway and gospel choir, God’s Property.
In a recent conversation with AllHipHop.com, Terrace Martin discussed, among other things, Kendrick Lamar, his upcoming project with Snoop Dogg, and how a recently retired talk show host was a supporter of him early in his career.
He is a humble guy, and that’s fine. Martin even said, “You can print this. The biggest ego in the room should be the music.” So even if Terrace Martin's name isn't as well-known to the public as Kanye West's, it doesn't matter. His music speaks for itself. And that is why Martin's music will continue to be in high demand for as long as he chooses to keep making it.
AllHipHop.com: Considering your working relationship with Kendrick Lamar, I’d certainly be remiss to not ask you for your thought about him walking away empty-handed on Grammy night recently.
Terrace Martin: I didn’t feel he got robbed. I was right there right next to him. I feel like Macklemore won. The Grammy award is a very prestigious cool award to get, but a Grammy Award doesn’t make you who you are musically. It’s voted on by a group of people, but at the end of the day Macklemore did a great job. It’s like champions for different kinds of people, and Kendrick is still a champion in his own right. It’s all good for Macklemore. We f*** with Macklemore and the whole crew and everything.
AllHipHop.com: Early in your career, the late jazz drummer Billy Higgins took you under his wing. What’s the greatest lesson you learned from him that you still carry with you today?
Terrace Martin: Fellowship. He was all about the fellowship of musicians and the fellowship of people. And he was all about the fellowship of the artist(s) and people who enjoy the art. Whenever I’m on tour, whoever I’m with- whether it be Snoop, Kendrick, I kind of fellowship with the local musicians. And also each one, teach one. Find somebody that’s young, grab them up and show them what you’ve heard that they may need to know, because they may not have the same opportunities that you have.
AllHipHop.com: How do you feel the relationship between Jazz and Hip-Hop has evolved?
Terrace Martin: I think it’s a beautiful thing. Jazz is the grandfather to Hip-Hop. There wouldn’t be Hip-Hop if there wasn’t Jazz. Period. I look at it as being the same, either it’s good or it’s bad. Just like Dizzy Gillespie said, “Hip-Hop is nothing more than the new Be-Bop.” Everything should work together and I’m happy everything is working together.
AllHipHop.com: Were you pleased with the response to your album, 3ChordFold?
Terrace Martin: I was very pleased. I’m still pleased. It’s a smart record. Smart meaning the sound is excellent, the music is good, the master is cool, and the artists are in place. And it’s a slow road because I’m extremely independent all the way. Every dime is mine; every push is mine. And at least for me being a musician, producer, or whatever else, I’m still grinding it out. I put out 3ChordFold the album, after that I put out 3ChordFold Remixed , the next one coming out is 3ChordFold Live and More with me, Thunder Cat, Robert Glasper, and special guests. I’m not sure when it’s coming out, but I’m trying to push for the end of February, top of March. And then after the live version, I’m doing 3ChordFold Remixed Part II. I’m really gonna work the 3ChordFold thing for the whole rest of the year because as an independent artist I feel, as independent artists, we come off these projects too fast.
AllHipHop.com: Any other thoughts or plans to do another solo album in the future?
Terrace Martin: I am (planning on it), but I’m not ready yet. Right now, me and 9th Wonder are 85% done with the album that we’re doing together. And I also just started out the album that I’m doing with me, Snoop Dogg, and Robert Glasper. It’s gonna be that Snoop Dogg s**t over live s**t, and the live s**t is gonna be gangsta too. It’s gonna be live, like real s**t being played with Snoop doing that fly s**t he does on top of it. And I’m still working with Kendrick, we just cut an amazing record. Oh my God, I can’t talk too much about it, but whoa!
AllHipHop.com: How does your production process differ when you are making music for yourself compared to other artists?
Terrace Martin: I’m a lot harder on myself than other artists are on me. I set a standard. I’m still studying Quincy Jones records. I’m still studying Miles Davis and John Coltrane. I’m still studying Hi-Tek. I’m still studying Dilla. I have a huge, vivid imagination and so sometimes I hear voices, like I’ll hear Miles Davis sayin, “That’s bulls**t” or Quincy saying, “Let’s be serious about the music.” I’m my own worst critic.
AllHipHop.com: Break down the story of how you got the attention of Jay Leno and he gave you that scholarship.
Terrace Martin: Jay Leno had a scholarship foundation from here [California] to New York City for all the best young musicians. I was already going up to the Jay Leno show as a fan of Jay Leno and a fan of the house band. There was a saxophone player at that particular time named Ralph Moore. Ralph Moore was a Canadian saxophone player. He is still my favorite saxophone player. I would always go to the show when I should have been in school. Anyway, I caught the eye of Jay Leno talking to Ralph through the years. Then when it came time to audition for that spot (for the scholarship). I practiced and I did it. I impressed them and they gave me a scholarship and I ended up going to CalArts with the scholarship. And they bought me a King Super 20 saxophone which was my favorite saxophone at the time. I got that horn gold-plated too. Jay was a huge early supporter of my career.
AllHipHop.com: Is there anything else you want to add?
Terrace Martin: I want to congratulate a few people for winning Grammys, like there’s a band called Snarky Puppy that my older brother is in. They won a Grammy and if anybody can look them up on YouTube- this is the best thing in the world. I can’t say the word “robbed” at the Grammys because one part of the Grammys is for the live musician. So I can’t down the Grammys because they also represent a whole movement that I’m in also- this live music thing and being an instrumentalist and we don’t get recognized at all. So I think the fact that Snarky Puppy got the Grammy this year and Robert Glasper got the Grammy last year- that’s the positive side to that. We’ll be back next year for the Grammys, but be on the lookout for the record with me, Robert Glasper, and Snoop Dogg, and the one with me and 9th Wonder.
For the recorded interview of everything above and more, give this audio a listen.