“Showing respect for others is really important to me… If I can try and get that message across in my music for a new generation, then I will,” says Croydon rapper Marc Jones. On his debut EP Progress, Jones isn’t afraid to rap about the values he lives by. Executively produced by RP9 (Chip, AJ X Deno, Sophia Grace), on Progress Jones explores his faith, love and the struggles of day-to-day life. Influenced by reggae, grime, hip-hop and funk, Jones’ six track EP has already begun to generate a big buzz, with lead single ‘Real’ currently sitting on over 700,000 streams on Spotify.
We caught up with Marc Jones recently to probe his mind about his latest project and plans for the future.
Congratulations on releasing your debut EP Progress! Can you give us a little breakdown of how you approached making the EP?
Thank you If I’m honest the EP has been in the works for nearly 2 years now. I had a few ideas and songs that I tried to self-produce, but I wasn’t happy with them. During that period I met my producer RP9 and we re-produced one of the tracks I had recorded. That track ended up being Forever. After that we got to work creating some songs that I’d had written for a while, as well as creating some new ones. We probably recorded the whole thing in around 6 weeks, minus a few tweaks.
Let’s break down some of the themes and lyrics on the EP. On the opening track ‘Give and Take’ you rap about balancing your musical ambitions versus the struggles of day-to-day life. When did you start taking music seriously as a career and who were your influences growing up?
I’ve always had a passion for music. I grew up going to church and the quality of musicians that I grew up around was extremely high. That passion led to me learning to play the drums, which I would consider my primary instrument. In terms of specific artists, my dad exposed me to a lot of music; reggae, funk, hip-hop, all sorts. And then my sister and cousins introduced me to grime. My first real influence was probably Kano, but my real inspiration came from someone I went to school with — Bonkaz. Seeing him spit on the playground inspired me to start.
By the time I’d got to university, I was done with music. But after a few years of working, I realised I needed to do something I was passionate about to help me get through the day. We all need a passion or hobby that gets us through the 9–5. Probably around 18 months ago I started to release and people started connect with it. I then felt like i had a purpose, so started to take things more seriously.
On that note, how do you balance being in the early stages of establishing a lucrative career in music versus the day-to-day struggles that need to be taken care of?
It’s hard man. I started releasing music after I had the big financial commitment of a mortgage, so I have to be very careful with what I spend. I’m also married, so I need to make sure I’m not out every night of the week. I try to make sure that I keep things balanced in that sense. Studio sessions are almost always in the evening after work, but it gives me something to look forward to. I also feel like it gives me the ability to talk about everyday things in a way that’s relatable, because I’m actually going through them.
On ‘Rules’ you rap about having a set of values to live by. Can you talk us through some of those values and how they influence how you approach making music?
Showing respect for others is really important to me. I grew up listening to a lot of reggae music, and one of the main things in that was to respectful and be conscious of those around you. If I can try and get that message across in my music for a new generation, then I will.
Then there’s practical things like saving money, investing time into things that are going to benefit you — all things that I think will help you succeed in life. If people can listen to my music and be encouraged, then I’m happy.
‘Real’, one of the tracks on the EP, has achieved more than 600,000 streams on Spotify. Why do you think the song has resonated with so many people?
I think Real is cutting through because it’s relevant to nearly everyone. Our generation is obsessed with social media and perceptions online. I feel like it’s important for us to all take a step back from time to time and think about things that actually matter and not worry about making our lives seem perfect for other people who are just as imperfect as us.
Throughout the project you make a lot of references to your faith in God. On ‘Real’ you say, “I want to close my eyes and pray until the day is over.” How important to you is getting your faith across in your music?
My faith is a massive part of who I am. I feel like God has given me a purpose in life, so my music is always going to reflect that. I want to inspire others to know that life isn’t meaningless. We all have something we’re here to do.
I try and make my music as accessible as possible. I want those with and without faith to be able to relate to what I’m saying, but I make it clear where my inspiration is coming from and I think people respect that.
One of my favourite tracks is ‘Chance’. It feels quite different from a lot of UK rap on the radio. On the song you rap, “everyone’s putting out music now, how could I come with a different sound? And how can I say I don’t do it for the money when if I make a hit then I’d see more pounds.”
Do you feel a lot of pressure to conform and put out more mainstream sounding music?
The pressure is always there. I want to be as creative as possible, but to get into certain spaces, people make it seem like you have to have a certain ‘sound’. I think when I first started, I was affected by the pressure to conform, but recently I feel free to make what I like. If it’s high quality and relatable, I believe there are people out there who it will resonate with.
I want to make music for all occasions, whether that’s to display my lyrical ability, tell a story, talk about difficult situations or have a good time. If any of those fit in with the mainstream, then great. If they don’t, then that’s fine too. We all have our lane.
What other things do you have planned for the rest of the year?
I want to continue the momentum that I’ve started to generate so I’ll be trying to get out there performing songs from the EP. I have a lot of new music ready, you’ll probably hear from me again before the end of the year. This year has been foundational, next year will be showing people that I’m here to stay.
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