Marquee is an emcee that might be new to you, but she isn’t new to the art of Hip-Hop. She began her career in the 90s working with Diggin’ in the Crates. She later signed with Trackmasters and worked alongside side the likes of Pharrell Williams, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, and Royce da 5’9” to name a few.
After many years of doing features and ghostwriting Marquee finally released her debut solo album “Femme Fatale” in the summer of 2017. Venom and Kyo Itachi of Ninjustice produce Femme Fatale with one track handled by D.I.T.C’s Lord Finesse. The album features appearances by Prince Po, Nature, Ms. Kennedy, Crystal Johnson, Gstats, Puff, Dawn Gun, and Monifah.
The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Marquee about how she hooked up with Ninjustice, her successful career as a songwriter, why originality is important, and her debut album, Femme Fatale.
TRHH: You’ve been doing this a long time. How did it feel to finally release you solo album, Femme Fatale?
Marquee: It felt like the right time, it felt like the right project, like a release, a breath of fresh air, an “aha” moment, all of that at the same time.
TRHH: Why did you call the album ‘Femme Fatale’?
Marquee: I was signed to Trackmasters under the Sony umbrella. I was in a group called Femme Fatale. I started out with the name “Marquee” when I was working with D.I.T.C. I went on to work with my group and I was La Femme Markita. Some of the records that I did people would just put “Markita.” I wanted to bring it all together so people would know it’s the same person. You know how people put on another persona with their rhymes like Nas’ name ain’t really Esco. I was doing a song with Dalvin for the Sprung soundtrack and Scarface was in the studio. In the beginning of my rhyme I said, “Lady Scarface, Kenar laced/All that without the hard face…” and he thought that that was my name. That was around the time that I started to realize that these people think that I’m all these people that I’m putting in my rhymes [laughs]. With this album I for sure wanted to take people that know me for my music on a full circle kind of journey. I started from boom bap and the last track I recorded was with Lord Finesse because that’s where I started at. I just thought it was a fitting title. I’d done a lot of features when I broke off from the group and I started to realize from looking online and other places that they didn’t know I was the same person from doing these different records. Naming the album Femme Fatale I felt like I could explain and bring it all together.
TRHH: How did you end up hooking up with Ninjustice?
Marquee: I hooked up with them through a mutual friend that was working with Bankai Fam and Napoleon Da Legend. She mentioned me to them and they were pretty familiar with my work. They reached out to me and asked if I wanted to go into business with them. We went half and half. Ninjustice is a team when they work together which consists of Kyo Itachi and Venom. And then they have their separate labels; Venom’s being Marvel Records and Shinigamie being Kyo’s label. That’s why on the record it has Marvel Records, Block Share which is my company, and Shinigamie on it. It looks like a lot of people on it but it’s really only three of us at the end of the day.
TRHH: As a lyricist what’s your take on the new wave of artists that put more emphasis on the vibe than the lyrics?
Marquee: Some of it I’m feeling. I feel like talent, when someone has something to say, has an angle, they’re original and creative it shines through no matter what kind of style it is. I have issues with people that sound like imitations of someone. We don’t need another Future, we don’t need another Migos. For some reason some of the younger artists feel like if they emulate that sound that’s what’s popping. In all actuality if you look at the charts a lot of those artists, not the ones that I named that originated these things, but the ones that are underneath, those are not the people that are really making waves in the industry and selling records.
I don’t understand where that disconnect comes in at because there’s Chance the Rapper at the top of charts, there’s Kendrick at the top of the charts, there’s J.Cole and none of them sound like that. The originators of those kinds of styles are the ones on top. I just come from a school where you ain’t a biter. The clones bother me, the originals don’t because some of them have something to say. They just say it in a different way and I can rock with that. You can hear there’s also artists where you can hear the influences from the past in their records and they just kind of fuse them together. That’s cool. I’m never going to hate on that. Just be yourself and don’t think that if you follow this person that’s what’s hot. Even though they look at the numbers and see what’s happening they continue to do it. Look at Joey Bada$$, he didn’t do that.
TRHH: Don’t you think that’s just people chasing money though?
Marquee: I don’t even know if they care about money because a lot of them don’t have their business straight. I’ve worked with a lot of young artists and I can tell you but so much. You gotta pick up a book at some point and read about it. Even if I try to explain things to you like publishing and getting your BMI things together unless you truly understand it you’re not going to know what to do. I find a lot of people in the younger generation don’t understand. How are you going to go in a business that you don’t know anything about? How are you going to make money in a business that you don’t understand? But you don’t want to take the time to simply pick up a book. When I got my first deal I literally picked up a book and read. I made goals and lists of people that I actually wanted to work with. I actually made that happen so those vision boards and all those things really work.
TRHH: Did you ever get discouraged at any point?
Marquee: I never got discouraged as far as music. I got sidetracked with my personal life. There’s a lot of tragedy in my life so there was a long break where I wasn’t inspired to do music. I was in a very dark place and I had to soul search and do work on myself to even get to where I am right now. I have a sense of inner peace that people notice, but they don’t know where that came from or how that came about. I never felt discouraged but I also didn’t know how many people appreciated what I did until after I stopped. I also didn’t realize how far ahead I was than a lot of my peers and how much I needed to have more confidence in what I was doing and understand what I had to offer. I didn’t know that about myself until I had the break. All the things I learned from D.I.T.C. and all the things I learned from Latifah, because I’m a consummate student at the end of the day, I was doing without thinking and not realizing that these were things that were taught to me.
TRHH: You’ve written for a lot of big named artists. What’s your take on artists that don’t write their own lyrics being removed from being considered alongside the great emcees?
Marquee: I don’t have a problem with people who don’t write everything because I’m a writer, I’d be out of work sometimes. If you need somebody to write, I’ll write it. Music has been like that since Smokey Robinson and the days of Motown. Writers are an integral part of music because not everybody is an artist and not everybody wants to be in front of the stage. If you can own it and make it your own then I’m cool with that. Who cares who writes Lil’ Kim’s rhymes? She owns them shits. You don’t care. It’s just when people make believe and don’t keep it 100. Don’t say anything. You don’t have to say anything because now you’re lying and it’s not genuine and people will see through that. I always know, especially when a female doesn’t write their own rhymes. I can hear it when a man writes for them because it’s an authenticity that’s missing from it when they spit it. Also being that I’m a female I know that’s not coming from a female mind. I don’t have a problem with people, what I do have a problem with is people that front and want to act like they’re writers. You’re a performer. You’re a rapper, you’re a performer, and you’re an entertainer, and that’s fine. When people start getting considered for Grammys and all that kind of stuff I feel like it’s unfair.
TRHH: How did the song ‘Another Level’ come together?
Marquee: That was Venom’s concept. I was working with this artist that was with Block Share, Frsh Aire, and I always like having a vibe in the studio. That was the first record that I recorded for the album. That record set the tone for all the other records to come after it. It’s so meaningful because I felt like that’s where I am in my career, on to the next level. Doing that record I have a lot of people that I vibe with. I like to feel people’s energy in the room. A lot of people like to record at home but I don’t because I feel like it sounds like you recorded in your house. It’s just not the same feeling.
When I did Another Level it was just on some lyrical shit that I just had to get off my chest and it was fun [laughs]. That was one of the most fun records that I made on the entire album just because it’s not really a freestyle but it’s lyrical and I got to do some acrobatics, showcase what I can do, and set the tone for the rest of the record. Venom actually wanted Finesse to do the intro. After I did the ‘Lean So Hard’ record I went back to Finesse and said, “Yo, Venom wants you to do the intro.” While we’re doing the record we were also doing the track list and making the story. He knew the storyline from the beginning of what I wanted to do so it only made sense for him to be on the first song and produce the last song.
TRHH: Do you have a favorite song on Femme Fatale?
Marquee: I don’t. I don’t want it to sound cliché but they’re all my babies. I don’t have one that I like more than the other. I feel like you can listen to my album all the way through and it doesn’t seem long. I feel like we were very successful in accomplishing something that you could listen to all the way through. I feel like each song has a different personality and a different life that all works together in unison. I don’t have a favorite song. If I don’t like something I’m not going to write it. Everything I write I like, especially if I go to the next level to record it. They all have different personalities. It’s like having different children. You don’t like one child more than you like the other one.
TRHH: What’s next up for Marquee?
Marquee: Now I’m working on my next project. I’m getting tracks from different producers this album. Kyo and Venom will be on the album but I’m going to get an all-star lineup of producers that I really want to work with. I got a couple of new guys. I want to get an artist for Block Share Inc. put out a record for that and rebuild that. I’ve been doing features. I did a feature for Joseph Blackwell with John Jigg$ and Granddaddy I.U. We’re doing vinyl for Femme Fatale which I’m super excited about. People were asking me for vinyl and in the beginning when we first started to do the record I wanted to do vinyl because that’s my first love. I love the way vinyl records sound. They’re just warmer and give you a whole ‘nother feeling. I also write songs so I’ve been referencing songs for singers that I know. I just did a song with Monifah for her record. I do a lot of writing for all kinds of people. I’m working with some cats from the Netherlands who are doing a record with all American artists and a Dutch producer, his name is O.J., ain’t that crazy [laughs]. I’m excited about that. I just want to keep working. I’m in the studio all the time so what’s coming for me next is music, music, and more music. I’m building my business and actually making it a brand.
Purchase: Marquee – Femme Fatale