Rapping in the club has had a strange history since the days of “hip-house” in the 1980s.
Vintage tracks like Tyree Cooper’s ‘Turn Up The Bass’ and Queen Latifah’s ‘Come Into My House’ are drastically different from the contemporary EDM-mining crossover sound of Pitbull or even Nicki Minaj’s Maya Jane Coles-sampling ‘Truffle Butter’. It would be wrong to describe the music of Marquavius McDonald, aka Quavius, as hip-house exactly, but the Florida newcomer is a lot more in tune with the underground ethos of the genre’s earliest tracks, blending the hazy mood of cloud rap with classic deep house production.
McDonald’s sound has obvious parallels with the spoken word club music of White Material’s Galcher Lustwerk, and the New York producer’s Lustwerk Music label makes a logical home for McDonald’s self-titled debut EP.
“Galcher was one of the first people to show love for the music I was making and really inspired me to continue experimenting more,” he says over email. “I wasn’t really aware of his work but I was a huge fan once I heard his music on White Material, and he definitely introduced me to the world of house and techno. We sent MP3s to each other and the more I listened to his work, the more I became fascinated with the two genres. He very much inspired me and became like a mentor over time.”
His discovery by Lustwerk is only the most recent stage of McDonald’s musical development. His early years were spent growing up with his “strict” but soulful grandfather in Hampton, Virginia, who inspired him with home jam sessions, gospel and soul classics like ‘I’ll Take You There’ by the Staple Singers. When McDonald moved to Jacksonville, Florida, in 2004, he started to listen to hip-hop, digging into records by Wu-Tang Clan and Three 6 Mafia. “There was always a freestyle cipher going on outside in our apartment complex,” he remembers. “I would follow my older brother there and just listen all night, then go home and write.”
While Lustwerk’s influence has brought him closer to the world of house and techno, it’s those early soul and hip-hop influences that give his music its personality. Standout track ‘Love The Way’ could be any contemporary R&B track about watching someone on the dance floor, but McDonald tells the tale like he’s daydreaming from a convertible rather than roaming round a nightclub. That easygoing attitude is reflected in the way he writes his lyrics. “I take from all experiences around me but I try to match what the music is saying,” he says. “‘Love The Way’ came about by me playing the instrumental for a friend and her just dancing to it.”
It isn’t just house music McDonald is experimenting with. On ‘Cloud 904’ and ‘Adiddas’ he ups the tempo, melding inspirations like footwork and Flying Lotus with the Baltimore club music he danced to as a kid. It’s still early days for McDonald’s music – until recently he was releasing drum and bass on Bandcamp – but he already sounds like one of the most interesting new voices in US club music.
“I’m always influenced by what I hear,” he says, “but I try to stay as original and creative as possible while giving respect to those who inspire me through the music.”
Quavius is released via Lustwerk Music on September 23