Back in his early days a music critic, August March used to run into all kinda kids who told him all about how they wanted to be rock stars. Cars would cruise past his house in the Heights blaring powerfully hypnotic sounds. The sound of guitars was intoxicating, whether slitheringly soothing or cacophonously crunchy. The bass could very well be the heartbeat of rock and roll personified, he thought. So too, the drums were like bone—hard, linear, maybe even mineral—lovingly supporting the fresh and fiery flesh that was the meat of his imagined rocanrol animal. Rawr.
When punk broke in 1979, March glimpsed the inevitable through special aviators glasses that had come from the future. But what he saw also started to become apparent to anyone with the bravery to live or work within the perplexing polymorphic realm known as postmodernism.
Rock was cooked, done. Though there would be enough leftovers for many a future feast, an end to this long dinner would inevitably come to pass.
Rock and roll had grown heavy in the ’70s as it reached its peak. By 1980 the downward spiral had begun. Punk rock was just one of its harbingers. That warning sign was followed by a real earthquake; that monumental movement—a thing that ultimately reset the popular music transmitters and receivers all over America—is called hip-hop.
So now when I run into young listeners on the streets of Burque, they mostly don’t talk about rocanrol music. But you can bet, sure as shooting, that they wanna chat about hip-hop nation. And some of them will come right out and say it: they wanna be rappers and they will work their asses off to master poetry and flow, to become arhats of the turntable, the Bozak.
M.O. Music is a lot like that, except for the fact that he’s already on the road to becoming a respected rap artist. With a dangerous and cunning sense of rhythm, a gritty expressionism based on a hard life coming up in Lansing, Michigan, a struggle with substance abuse and an attitude that says triumph over adversity is possible—while defeat proves merely a distraction—this dude was the winner of the Best Rapper category in this year’s Best of Burque Music readers’ poll.
The artist stopped by the office on Wednesday to reflect and point to a future where hip-hop is king—where his status at the roundtable is guaranteed by hard work, a sharp tongue and badass beats.
Weekly Alibi: Who are you?
M.O. Music: I go by M.O. Music.
How long have you been making rap and hip-hop?
About seven years.
What’s your story?
I grew up with no father. He committed suicide when I was, like, three. I’m from Dallas, Texas, but we moved up to Michigan. I graduated from high school out there.
Were you interested in music growing up?
I didn’t really take it seriously until I was 17 or 18. Music was an outlet for me to put all my emotions into. I’d been through a lot of stuff. It’s a way for me to express myself, because otherwise I am quiet, a laid-back kinda dude. I let it all out through the music.
Did hip-hop in particular give you an opportunity to speak about what’s on your mind?
What is your flow about?
I mainly like to tell my story, a little bit about myself, things that I’ve endured, things I’ve accomplished. All of the things I’ve overcome are in the mix. Plus it’s for people that like to party.
Tell me more.
I started out with a couple of homies that were recording. We were called the Infamous Writers. We had a little group and then things fell apart, so I purchased my own mic and gear and started out again. Then I started recording at Crack House Recording Studio in Lansing, Michigan.
While you you were out there, did you drop any records?
We put out a minor mixtape, but I graduated from high school and started doing solo work again. I changed my name too. I used to be called M.O. Motivation but I dropped the motivation part.
How did you end up in Burque?
Really, my mom had already been out here for a few years. So like, really I was really into hustling dope. I was slanging a lot of dope out there in Michigan. I abused the money I made and started drinking a lot and taking Xanax. Long story short, I OD’ed and was brain-dead for three days. The doctors were going to pull the plug, but I woke up unexpectedly.
Serio? You were in a coma from drug abuse?
Totally. They didn’t think I was going to make it.
But you’re clean now?
Yeah, I’m over a year sober.
How did that whole experience affect your music?
I still make music, but I didn’t put anything out at all when I was on drugs. Now that I’m sober, that’s changed.
How long have you been working in Burque?
Almost two years. I picked back up on drinking when I got out here, so I put myself into MATS [detox], went to Turquoise Lodge and went through another program. I got out in February.
Now that you’ve found your mojo, what’s next?
Since I’ve cleaned up my act, things have been blowing up. I just dropped my album, M.O.tivation 2, I just played two shows, my album release, then another gig at Red Velvet Underground.
What’s the focus of your new work?
Basically, I just put out a lot of real music. I found a couple of beatmakers to work with. Cash Keys, he’s from Santa. Audio Music, he’s from Albuquerque. Then I got some beats online from people that like my stuff, like Key Rex Beats. He did four of my tracks. I just put it all together to show people that I’m back and to tell listeners that if you’ve been through the same things, similar experiences as me, if you put your mind to it, you can get past that and accomplish anything.
Tell our readers about the songs on M.O.tivation 2.
Well, there’s “True Religion,” which is a song about Michigan. I like to dress well now because at one point I was homeless, and I came from nothing, basically. But I’m good now, I have a little bit of money, so I can flex. But I also have stuff on the album like “Old Ways” which is a song about, well, the hook says “My mind is trying to bring me back to my old ways.” I wrote that when I was about seven months sober. It’s about how your mind is always trying to trick you, telling you, “you’re good, you’re good,” and that you can always go back to what you were doing and hang out with the same people as before. But really, you can’t. You have to stay focused and live. There’s also a song on the album called “No More.” My mom never really liked my music but she approved of that song.
Now she digs your music?
Yeah, it’s about time!
Did you tell her you had won the Best Rapper category in Weekly Alibi’s Best of Burque Music?
I did, I did. I showed her the newspaper and she was really happy. That last song is really just telling my mom, my family—the real people in my life who are with me—that we don’t have to struggle anymore. We can overcome it. I’ve come a long way to tell them that.
What’s next for M.O. Music?
I’m going to stay here for a bit and see where that goes. Hip-hop culture is just beginning in Albuquerque. The bigger picture is to move out to Atlanta; there’s a banging hip-hop scene out there, and audiences were really supportive of me when I went out there this past winter.
So you’re already rocking Atlanta?
I won a contest at Leo’s Upstairs Lounge. DJ B. Moss from Atlanta came and I won. He takes the top three artists from several cities. He pays for the hotel in Atlanta and studio time; you just got to get there. I was the only rapper from Albuquerque who actually won and then went to Atlanta. I shot a music video out there, “Can’t Stop Me.”
But Burque still has some allure, que no?
Yeah, I’m down with it. I do some work with Dead Rapper’s Society out here, and they rock. They’re really close homies. I get a lot of support out here. But I also get some fake support, people who want to bite my style.
Ah, but the whole music scene here has always been fickle, I say. But if you look deeply you will find the real truth, it’s out there, as someone once said. People really love music in this town.
Overall, people really dig my sound. It’s inspirational; there’s a lot of emotion in it plus it has good vibes.
What would you tell someone from the future if they came back, found your work and asked, “What is M.O. Music?”
M.O. Music is life. It’s about from where you started, from the nothingness into becoming someone. It’s about believing in that process. It’s about making dreams reality.