Marco Polo Updates The Past With His Vintage New York Sound On New Album

Marco Polo - Astonishing

How do you go about identifying and flipping samples? What are you listening for?
Every producer hears something different. It’s really simple; it’s just something I find catchy. Because essentially you’re going to be looping something, so what is something that is not gonna bore the shit out of me for three minutes? And I usually just gravitate towards interesting sounds that I can turn into an idea that I can listen to over and over again. ‘Cause that’s how I remember hip-hop, as two-bar loops. A lot of the classic stuff is really the same beat for four minutes. So if I’m not getting bored of it making it, it’s going in the right direction.

I always try to dig for different records, too. I remember when 9th Wonder came out, he was going heavy with soul, and that type of thing. I was like, oh, that’s dope, but because he’s doing that, I’m gonna go into Latin, French, ethnic samples and make my shit just sound a little bit different. But I love all kinds of music, so it’s just about me finding different things I’m interested in.

What have you been digging on recently?
It’s always weird stuff, man. I always look for drums, that’s the number one thing I look for. A lot of people look for loops and samples, I look for drum breaks. It’s the most important thing in production; you could have an okay sample, but if the drums are rocking, for me that’s the foundation for everything. But I’m also doing a lot of sample-free stuff, too, I just hate that term. I’m making a lot of music that is original now, and I think I’ve trained my ear and learned enough from being in the studio to make the stuff I’m making that’s original sound vintage. So you won’t know the difference; the big difference [for me] is that I can make money off of it.

My whole thing is just focusing on forward motion. I’m not trying to resurrect anything or keep anything alive—the spirit definitely—but I feel like my sound is influenced from that, but it’s updated. A lot of what I hear today is purposely trying to go back there and make it sound like that, whereas I feel like my shit is updated for 2013, with that spirit. I think that’s why people dig it.

You mentioned Joey Bada$$ and Action Bronson as people you would want to work with. How do you feel about the new wave of New York hip-hop?
I like them. I like those guys. There’s a lot that I don’t understand or don’t connect to—I don’t want to say I don’t like—there’s a lot of the new stuff that I like but it’s in an entertainment way, rather than that I listen to it and it inspires music. I really like the Rare Chandeliers project that Alchemist did with Action. But I’m cool with Alchemist, and I’m a huge fan of his; he’s from my school of producing wherein he knows how to go in and do an album for somebody. It’s the most cohesive thing for me, that I’ve heard from Action. And Joey I think has shown a lot of potential—I’m sure he’s working on his first official album, so we’ll see what happens—but he has tons of potential.

What’s it like touring the world?
It’s amazing. It’s crazy because you go there and you get more of the Old New York feeling than you get when you’re here, which is depressing. When I first moved here, I felt it; I moved here from Toronto to get that inspiration, go to shows where it was packed for artists like Sean Price and Black Moon and Ace. And now it’s a little different, times changed, people have moved on. So the style of music that we do is more popular, I guess, on other continents, so we go there and get that love, and it’s just awesome. You go where the people who want you to perform.

But people are learning. I’ve never tripped over it, I’m never that person shaking my fist at fans; it’s on us to tell them, it’s on new artists to educate them, and I think the thing about Joey Bada$$ is that, I think through the style of music that he makes, the kids that listen to him will eventually be led to the stuff that we listened to.