Martell Webster's music has explicit lyrics and adult themes. If you're not cool with PG-13 language, it's probably best to move to another piece now.
"I'm new at this."
The first words of Martell Webster's ARTT, his new mixtape from EYRST Music, are less about qualifying his work and more a realization that, damn, he's a natural. And it makes sense. Music has been with him from the beginning.
Martell joined the Blazer's Edge Weekend Podcast with me and host Chris Lucia, chatting about basketball and his latest project in a string of musical efforts: he's performed at the music festival South by Southwest, has rapped over live bands, produced music videos, and is finalizing his first full album, Emerald District, an homage to his hometown of Seattle where his uncle used to invite over friends, set up his three-piece kit, and just play.
When he was a kid, Martell would grab a plastic Fisher Price cassette recorder to make his own mix tapes. His first introduction to rap was Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, and anyone who grew up liking rap in the 90s has a special place in their heart for E. 1999 Eternal. Martell pointed to Snoop, Tribe Called Quest, and later, Twista, Q-Tip, and a ton of other artists.
In ARTT, Martell pulls from all of these, both in style and substance. His range is impressive. From the the agressive snarl in Light One, to the clear enunciation of Byrdi (video below), Martell isn't a one-trick pony. So many rappers have a "style" and stick to it, maybe to a fault. Martell isn't afraid to play with cadence, with tone, with diction, with time.
During our interview, I asked about a Charlie Parker quote that I butchered horribly, but can be paraphrased as this: "Learn the instrument. Learn the music. Forget all that s*** and play." I asked if it applied to music the same as it does to basketball, and Martell said that it did. That feeling of easy mastery permeates the beats as much as it does his raps.
All six tracks of ARTT drop today on iTunes, Spotify, and Soundcloud, among other outlets.
Neill Von Tally, who started EYRST Music with Martell, produced a few of the tracks and helped with the mixing on all of them. Martell's close friend Charles Hopper helped to record the vocals and organize and record the live instrumentation on some of the tracks. Trumpet player Owuor Arunga also contributed. Album art by Neill Von Tally, with photo by Devin Tolman. Lead photo both by Tim Slew.