Status the Marlboro Man: Knots-Feratu

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Photo courtesy of Daniel Huerta

Denver producer/emcee Status the Marlboro Man released music non-stop in 2023. He ended the year with the release of a 5-track EP, and literally kicked off the new year with another one. The December release is titled “Knots-Feratu” — a takeoff of “Nosferatu” a Romanian word that has gone on to mean “vampire.”

Status’ January 2024 EP is a 3-track collaboration with fellow Denver artist GreyBeard called “Drawing Dead.” Both releases come to us courtesy of Cadava Recordz.

The Real Hip-Hop talked to Status the Marlboro Man about collaborating with GreyBeard, his venue Bar Red in Denver, and his new EP, Knots-Feratu.

TRHH: Why’d you call the EP Knots-Feratu?

Status the Marlboro Man: I liked spelling Knots-Feratu with the silent K because I liked that it said “nots” because I was thinking of calling the album “Nots.” And then it just sort of turned into Knots Feratu after a while. But I put the little hyphen between the Knots and the Feratu just to kind of emphasize the Knots. But when I recorded those five songs I didn’t really have a title for it and Knots-Feratu was just a title I think that over the years I thought I would use one at some point. So, when I got that EP done I figured, why not?

I didn’t want to necessarily do an album with some like scary horror stuff on the cover with a bunch of dark songs. I just thought the name was cool, so I thought, okay, how about now? And then my buddy did the cover for me. I didn’t really have the title then, so he gave me that cover where I could put my title and my artist name on there and everything. I was trying different stuff and when I put that Knots title on there I thought it looked the best, so I just went with it.

TRHH: The song “S.F.Y.L (Screaming For Your Life)” has a cool violin in it. Is that something you sampled or played?

Status the Marlboro Man: It’s a chopped sample from like some orchestra music from Prague. That was actually the first song that I did on there. I really didn’t think I was going to do more than one song. I was kind of fooling around. I wanted to put that Kool G Rap little cut on there for the chorus. I own a bar — a little restaurant/bar in Denver and we host Hip-Hop nights down here with like a lot of boom bap guys and legends of golden era Hip-Hop. I was able to get Billy Danze to come down and do a solo show down here. He did a two-night thing where the first night he kind of sat down and let all these artists from Denver go up there and perform and he just watched. He kind of got in touch with them and got contact info and I know he helped a couple of them get some songs together – a really cool guy. Then the second night he did his show. We’re watching him do his solo, because he didn’t do any M.O.P, so he was just doing 6 Pack and all that. Something about it, man, I kind of wanted to make some music that was a little slower, a little more grown up, because that’s kind of how his solo stuff was.

I was messing around kind of with drum beats and then I found that little clip from Kool G Rap on an acapella that I had. Finding that loop that I cut up with the Prague orchestra stuff, it all just sort of came together like that. It came together so seamlessly and then the tempo for that song I really liked it, so I wanted to make another beat with that same tempo. Not that I use faster tempos, but a lot of times I’ll be more in the 86-85 and this one was like an 82 or something. So, just dropping a few BPM’s just gave it this kind of cool like early 90s flow to it and also kind of got that modern Griselda kind of tempo but with having real drums in it and stuff. That kind of turned into that, so then I was like let me make another one with another tempo like that, and then I found some other ones and it ended up being 5 tracks. I wrote all five of those songs and made all five of those beats in like two days. I was just kind of on a run. I recorded them all probably in two or three days, but by the time it came to that fifth beat, man, had nothing to write, so I just did a remix for one of the songs on it. That’s why it was so easy just to place those vocals on it because all of those songs were the exact same BPM.

TRHH: What’s in your production workstation?

Status the Marlboro Man: I use an Akai MPC 2000XL that has the plugs on the back so you can track it out, and then I have a Roland 16 track digital recorder — just old school. I got a real nice mic and a spit guard, that’s pretty much what I record with. I have a record player, but these days you don’t use as many records as you used to. A lot of times I’ll download stuff that I think I’d like to mess with, and then I have a little tiny keyboard that has a sound card in it that I use for other things. When I record everything down on the Roland I give it to a guy and he tracks it out on Pro Tools and does the mixing and the mastering for me. I’m still working on the older stuff.

TRHH: On the song “Not the Norm” you say “religion is a fable, struggles real.” Why do you say religion is a fable?

Status the Marlboro Man: I just think being that you could go to any region in the world and you could go far back enough in time and what was their religion was as real to them as Christianity is to Christians, or Islam is to Muslims, or more like indigenous beliefs are to people, whether they’re in the Americas, South America or whatever. I think that was kind of what I was saying, not so much knocking the belief system as far as what you can learn from it or get from it. More just saying to knock one and think one is better than the other when they’re all kind of the same as far as they’re all fables, or they’re all folk tales, or they’re all these old stories that were passed along.

I also believe that religion was kind of used like politics in a way to kind of control groups of people. So, when something wasn’t working for them or when they need something else to happen they may change up the writing a little bit here and there. That kind of makes it a fable too, because maybe the original works were a little more true to what was going on or what was trying to be taught. But as this time went on people were taking stuff out, adding stuff in, or it was getting married with something, or it was pushed upon somebody. That was kind of where that line came from.

TRHH: You also released an EP with GreyBeard called Drawing Dead. How did you come together for that project?

Status the Marlboro Man: So, GreyBeard and I have been friends a while and he performs at my place that I have a lot. We put him on a lot of the shows down here. He would come in here and open shows or he’d be part of open mics or whatever was going on in the place. I got to know him and I jumped up on one of his sets one time and was rhyming with him a little bit. I always would say to him, “We should do a project,” then when COVID hit everybody had a lot more time on their hands. My bar/restaurant was more just doing takeout, so I hit him up and said, “If I send you some beats or you send me some beats we could get a project done,” just because we we’re both chilling.

So, in 2020 we recorded like a 14 song album and it came out and it did pretty well for an underground album and then all the last year I kept saying to him, “Let’s try to do another one before the end of the year.” We’re busy and then it was like December and I was like, “We’re never going to get this done if we don’t just do it.” So, I sat down and made those three beats in one session and I wrote my rhymes and hooks and just e-mailed them to him and said, “Hey, is there any way you think you could get these done in a week? We could probably get this out by the end of the year.” He sent them back about a week later and I got them mixed and mastered and we dropped it on New Year’s Eve. So, that’s kind of how that went.

TRHH: The title track pays homage to Henry Rollins. Is he someone that you admire?

Status the Marlboro Man: Yeah, I like Henry Rollins for sure. I like Black Flag, I like Henry Rollins. More so than anything I think if know who Henry Rollins is you kind of know what we’re saying. He’s just kind of like this tough, no-nonsense, loud, yelling, but also saying true things, not afraid to speak his mind guy. I like the juxtaposition of using a guy like that on a song that’s like clearly like a boom bap Hip-Hop track and then saying “Henry Rollin’” I’m into a lot of Hip-Hop, gangsta rap, to boom bap, whatever, but I’m also into punk rock, and metal, and that kind of stuff.

GreyBeard and I both talk a lot about music, so I knew if I made that reference on there at least he would know who I was talking about. He wouldn’t come back and be like, “Who is Henry Rollins?” or just getting on and not getting what I was saying. He knew exactly what I was talking about. I think Henry Rollins was almost doing like Ted Talks before that was a thing. He stopped doing his punk shit and started like selling out amphitheaters and stuff just going up there talking about current events and about his life. I find him interesting.

TRHH: Tell me about Bar Red.

Status the Marlboro Man: Bar Red, we opened ten years ago. We’re located downtown Denver right on Colfax right outside like between the Convention Center and the Capitol kind of — it’s like a stretch, we’re right in the middle of that. We’re across the street from the city county jail and we share the alley with a strip club called Diamond Cabaret. So, if you know Denver you’ll know exactly where I’m talking about. We do Italian food — we’ve had basically the same staff here for 10 years. We just celebrated our 10-year anniversary in December, and we’ve always hosted different music genres — but primarily Hip-Hop or neo-soul, sometimes poetry. Mainly because that’s kind of what I grew up in, and I know a lot of people in that, and I used to be a promoter around town for Hip-Hop nights, but also the space kind of lends itself to that. You can’t really have a drum set and a horn section. It’s too little — kind of triangular shape. So, anything where you could have a singer-songwriter, or a DJ, or an emcee, that worked. It kind of just developed a name and a reputation for holding good Hip-Hop nights, and also we treat everybody really good.

We try really hard to let them have a nice safe spot where they can do their thing, we just have to get dinner over with. We open at 5:00, we do dinner ‘till like 9:00, and then around 10:00 we could start with the music, and that can go ‘till one in the morning. We do music probably up to four times a month, sometimes only two times a month, or once a month is when I kind of can take control of the night and I’ll bring somebody out here like Billy Danze. I had Timbo King come out from Royal Fam, we had A-F-R-O here in December celebrating the 10-year anniversary. I usually host the night — I don’t really perform. Maybe I’ll go up there and rhyme a little bit, but I kind of book the opening acts. I have a few guys – GreyBeard is one of them, who I generally put on every time just because they’re solid, I know they’re going to show up, and they’re going to rock. But then I have a couple slots open for different people to go up there, and that way they can open for a bigger guy.

Also, the whole night kind of feels like a big meet and greet because the artist is generally just hanging out at the bar, so people can actually talk to him and get pictures and if they hit it off or if the guys cool they’ll maybe even network with them a little bit. Our bread and butter is really selling food and drinks to the conventioneers at the Convention Center. That is what keeps us open, but then we get to do fun shit like the Hip-Hop nights, and then once a month we close down for a wine tasting. The chef does a six-course tasting menu and pair the wines with it and we only seat 25 people. We do that once a month, so that’s kind of when the chef gets to do something he wants to do and he doesn’t get bored just making chicken parms and artichoke dips all month and shit. In a nutshell, man, that’s what it is.

TRHH: You released a lot of music in 2023, what do you have in-store for 2024?

Status the Marlboro Man: I have two songs that I was hoping to get done in 2023 that I didn’t get done. I have a song with Son Doobie from Funkdoobiest. It’s basically done, but a guy that I grew up with that’s in the crew that I was in is going to be on that song and I just don’t have his verse yet. That’ll probably be the first thing I released in 2024, and then I have a song with Timbo King. I have his vocals — that guy, he’s amazing. He sent me his verse I was like, “Oh, you ain’t doing this in one day!” I gotta really write on that one. So, those two will be some of the first things, then I think the next thing I’m going to do is I’m going to take all the songs that I put out in 2023, because that was basically an albums worth of songs, and I’m going to include probably that Timbo King and that Son Doobie track with those other 15 songs that I released in 2023 and I’m gonna put an album out. Kind of a Best Of but it’s going to be called “Very Good Year” which is kind of a reference to the Frank Sinatra song “It Was a Very Good Year” and it’ll essentially be my album from 2023, but in an actual album form — kind of how I would have liked someone to hear it.

That’ll be what comes out first and I’ve been working on some beats that are a little, I don’t want to say modern like they’re trap beats or something, but I’ve been trying to make something that maybe you could almost hear one of these younger guys on. Whether or not I end up writing to those or not, I think I’m gonna do some sort of project with those. I have about ten of those put together and some of them I’m really happy with, some of them I feel like showing my ass a little bit, like maybe I don’t know what I’m doing with those beats exactly [laughs]. But I’m going to do something with those. In 2023 I put out an A side and B side compilation album that were like 12 songs a piece, but each of those albums were songs from like 2008 to 2014-15 — kind of pre-Spotify. So, I’m gonna put out a third installment to that that’s actually going to be a little bit older stuff that’s more like 2001 to 2006. I just wanted to be real selective on what I release, but I have a lot of people tell me, “I can’t find this old music.” We’ve been putting music out and playing shows out here a long time and this would be a way for me to kind of pick and choose what they can find. I think I’m gonna release kind of a third installment of the Best Of thing and then see where it goes from there. I make beats weekly and write all the time, so we’ll just see what happens.

My buddy Krookid Hooks is one of the guys who does all the artwork for us and I did a song with him and Sadat X earlier this year. I did a song with Krookid Hooks and A-F-R-O, and a song with Ruste Juxx, Krookid Hooks, and myself. He’s gonna be on that song with Son Doobie, so I think that he and I kind of have a deal like if he gets a feature together, I’m on it, and if I get a feature together, he’s on it. I know he and I will release some stuff this year, I just don’t really know what it’s going to be yet. He kind of likes some weird gothy synth kind of beats. Maybe something like Cage or somebody would be on. I know we’ve been kind of looking at that and I don’t really know what part I would play in that, but if I could help him produce it or something, or if it’s turning out dope we’ll do it. As of now that’s what I got going.

Purchase: Status the Marlboro Man – Knots-Feratu

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About Sherron Shabazz

Sherron Shabazz is a freelance writer with an intense passion for Hip-Hop culture. Sherron is your quintessential Hip-Hop snob, seeking to advance the future of the culture while fondly remembering its past.
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