Marquis Porter’s career has consisted of paying homage to the rich history of wordsmiths from his hometown of Detroit—and now, he’s using his own no frills style to carve his own initials into the 313 lineage.
“The city of Detroit means a lot- it’s my backbone, it influences me through the culture and the struggle in search of an better future.”
He and two high school friends initially rapped to pass the time while hustling on the street, but Porter vowed to take music seriously when one of the group members was killed. Armed with rhymes fueled by the harsh realities of Linwood Ave. and inspiration from the likes of Biggie, Kool G. Rap and E-40, he began working with producer Ghetto Mozart, who worked with the legendary MC Breed.
Mozart gave one of Porter’s records to TLC’s Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, who was impressed enough to offer him a record deal to her fledgling label Wish Recordings. He opted for the indie route since Lopes had a full plate, but the final project was still successful. “The Book Donald Didn’t Finish,” named after lauded Detroit urban fiction author Donald Goines, established him as an up and comer amidst soon-to-be local legends such as Rock Bottom and Street Lordz.
While preparing to continue the momentum with his sophomore disc “Lobster Tails,” Porter’s winning streak was interrupted by a shooting that left him bed-ridden in a hospital for more than a month. Though his injuries prevented him from promoting the album to its fullest, his record “Cold As Icewood”—a collaboration with Street Lordz member Jesse James that paid homage to the late Blade Icewood—further certified him as a voice to recognize in his hometown.
Recognition exceeded his stomping grounds in 2005, when he linked with Mob North Records to release “Porter House.” The album garnered buzz in states such as Atlanta, Ohio and West Virginia, setting up a fan base to consume his following mixtape “Soldier To A Boss.” Once he had the country’s attention, he continued what he has always seen as his duty: exposing outsiders to his hometown. “We Almost Lost Detroit,” inspired by the Gil Scott Heron record of the same time, was released at a time when the city needed it, and has amassed more than 300,000 YouTube views.
“It was so much turmoil going on in the hip-hop scene. Blade was killed, and Proof was killed,” Porter remembers. “Me and Saint Denson dug through the crates, and record had that raw energy and pure feeling. I really wanted the world to hear what was going on in the city at the time.”
After years of representing the city through his respect for peers, “Dirty Soap” sees Porter taking longer strides in making his own mark. The disc pairs crisp punchlines and imagery with smoky delivery and muddy, alley-dwelling production by Saint Denson. Songs like “Turn” perfectly embody that duality, as climactic strings and a guttural chorus back Porter’s candid portrayals of relationships and circumstances in inner cities around the world.
“I’m speaking from a Detroit aspect,” Porter said, “but I know a lot of people are going to feel me. The struggle is real.”
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