It’s been a year since the drop of Higher Edukation, the debut EP from Demarius “Mari” Edwards ’14 and a lot has happened in Edwards’s musical career since then. The up-and-coming rapper has been working with Reckless Abandon, a management group based in New York City, for his upcoming EP Living Colored and has just released the video for his single “Birth of a City.” I caught up with Mari after his performance last Friday for Ephraim Williams’ 300th Birthday Bash to talk more about his latest project and what led up to it.
A lot has happened since you graduated. To start us off, can you tell us a little bit about the concept behind Living Colored?
Living Colored is an album about double-consciousness, about me trying to speak to two different things going on inside my head and it stems from my experiences of where I come from and where I went to. Those two things I guess I’m speaking to are, how do you speak to people from your community? From the hood? I’d say the second part of it is figuring out how to bring that into context with the more dominant culture. Living Colored is trying to negotiate those two consciousnesses into one voice.
What message should people take away from the album? In Higher Edukation, you shared your experience of growing up in Chicago and transitioning into the world of academia and through that experience, there was a message of support for youth facing similar situations.
I want them to hear a story of a kid from Chicago who always chased a dream of touching people through music and stuff. That went to college and got infatuated with chasing money. As a result, was reeled into that mind state of ‘money equals power and respect.’ The kid wants to shed light on the fact that money isn’t everything and you should chase your dreams. In order to do that, you take that leap of faith.
What was the inspiration behind the album title?
When I got out of college, I was given a dose of reality. I didn’t have that shelter [of the College]. When you get out into the real world they only know the stereotypes of black men. You find that it’s really hard to shape that perception from the public, and you feel marginalized. Once I really stepped into the real world, the only thing that met the eye was my skin color.
When people hear the album name, some may think back to the ’90s sitcom Living Single. Title aside, there are a lot of ’90s references in your aesthetics and sound. What is it about that era that stands out to you?
When I was young, I was coming up on the ’90s music, I was always on the radio, heard things that made the city bounce and the music was very positive. Those songs always had some bounce to them. I want to restore that feeling and put a fresh spin on it. I want to bring back that colorfulness in hip-hop.
It’s hard not to feel inspired by what Mari has accomplished in a short time. Hailing from Chicago, Mari represents a rapidly emerging group of students, swapping urban environments for a four-year stint in a place that can feel like an alternative universe from where they came from. The double-consciousness he speaks of is incredibly relevant to those who try to bridge the gap between the experiences they have at home and those in a collegiate setting on a daily basis. For Mari, this bridge came in the form of music and the latest product is Living Colored.
Anyone who has met Mari can tell you the energy he has around him is infectious and that clearly translates into his music. It seems fitting then that he would be attracted to a musical style that celebrates the “bounce” that has been lost in most contemporary music. Shot in Chicago, the video for “Birth of a City” opens with colorful graphics and an equally captivating beat. When I asked Mari about the concept of the single, he said it was meant to go against the historical white-washing of a people’s history and “color things up a little bit.”
By the end of our interview, I was left with the impression that Mari has grown a lot, both as an artist and as an individual. Clearly passionate about the music he is producing, Mari is heading in a direction that highlights the spiritual and cultural re-awakenings he has experienced since graduation. With a growing fan page and a new chapter in his life to draw inspiration from, it’s not hard to see that the rise of Mari has clearly just begun.
Living Colored is expected to drop at the beginning of April.