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October, 2012, Page 44
Photo by Madison Kirkman
Desert-Dwelling Rap Pioneer
Rap music was supposed to be a fad. Even Young MC – the one-off hip-hop sensation best remembered for his 1989 hit “Bust A Move” – once fretted over the genre’s staying-power. “When I came out, the big thing was, how long will rap last?” says the rapper, whose real name is Marvin Young. “No one thought it’d go on like this.”
Twist the cassette-tape forward two decades to find Young still Stone Cold Rhymin’. The New York native moved to Scottsdale from Los Angeles in 2006 and is working on a movie script and as a producer between shows on the throwback circuit. “Being out here has really helped me,” he says. “Everything from my creativity to my health to my friendships has just been better.”
Young, 45, is a pragmatic pioneer. He wasn’t the first rapper to win a Grammy, but he was the first to claim the statue after a brazen young Will Smith boycotted the ceremony to protest Best Rap Performance being presented off-air. Grammy night was Young’s biggest moment – and it could have been even bigger.
When you graduated from USC and started rapping full-time, did you think you’d still be doing it 20 years later?
No way, man. Out on the West Coast we didn’t have any examples of rap records being very big, so it was just trying to make a mark so that you could make another record. You didn’t hear about people being millionaires. Tone [Loc] wanted to buy a car with “Wild Thing,” and I wanted to pay off student loans with “Bust A Move.”
None of your follow-ups did as well as your first record. Was it frustrating to watch other people become millionaires in a genre you helped launch?
I was pleased to see it because it was all new and it seemed like anything that happened would be a reflection on the whole genre. So when people went on to make a whole bunch of money at it, I looked at it and thought, if I had anything to do with their ability to do that, then I was very proud. Plus, I didn’t do horribly myself. I’ve been doing this 20-some odd years and haven’t had to do anything else.
If there were one day you could go back and watch yourself, what would it be?
Grammy day was pretty special. I was supposed to perform on that show, but I’d promised some kids in Michigan I’d do a performance for them and that concert was scheduled for the day of the Grammy rehearsal. So either I perform at the Grammys and disappoint the kids or I keep my word. I kept my word, which I’m proud of.
You’ve done some TV shows; you won both The Weakest Link and Celebrity Fit Club. Has that helped your career?
If you lose weight on a TV show, all that shows is that you can lose weight on a TV show. Nobody’s going to pop up and say, “Here’s a million dollars, be in my movie” or “Here’s a couple hundred thousand dollars, make a record.” The best thing you’ll get out of a reality show is another reality show.
Is there anybody you knew back in the day that you duck now?
No, dude, I’m like Switzerland. People generally like me. Even the guys on the East Coast who talk crap about West Coast rappers know I can rhyme, so I avoid all that.
What do you think people from Phoenix take for granted?
This may sound nerdy, but the freeway system out here is the best I’ve ever seen. There are four or five ways to get pretty much any place in this city – that’s a really cool thing.
After you read our Spotlight interview with Marvin Young, aka Young MC, go
behind-the-scenes at our Downtown photo shoot
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