Roll Back, Play That: Terrace Martin

terrace martin

Musical heartthrob and creative genius Terrace Martin is the Grammy-nominated musician responsible for 2016’s genre-defying Velvet Portraits. For music that feels like the most stunning photographs, Martin’s otherworldly energy and versatility in that album couldn’t have been given a more fitting title. Intrigued by Terrace’s distinguished artistry, Saint Heron chatted with the all-around music enthusiast about what songs from “back in the day” really move him. What we found out, is that the Inglewood native doesn’t just hear music, he feels it. And the songs in this edition of Roll Back, Play That are those songs that the ‘90s music connoisseur still thinks about daily.

On Jodeci “Feenin’”:

I was hella young in the ‘90s but I love R&B. Especially that style of R&B because I grew up in church and that style of R&B is very similar to where Gospel music was because Hezekiah Walker, John P. Kee and Kirk Franklin were putting out records. So it was a lot of the similar chords in R&B music, and also because the same musicians played on those same records. One particular song on that [Diary of a Mad Band] album, “Feenin”…that song is so important because, aye, it’s a killing ass song. And it’s four brothers…singing their hearts out. Aggressive! How “this woman got me feenin”. That was some of the last eras where men apologized and let a woman know, “I love you,” “I miss you,” “I need you.” Like, “I can’t live without you.” That was one of the last records that I could hear that in their voice. And I was young. I didn’t feel like that about a woman when it came out. I felt like that years later but that song touched my soul because they were singing so passionately and the music was so aggressive. Because DeVonte [Swing] is not only one of the best artists in the world, but just the all-around genius he is. The music was so aggressive on that album.

Snoop raised me since I was 18 and he would tell me that Jodeci spent a lot of time with the Death Row guys. They were hanging out with Snoop, Pac and all of that. That’s how you end up having, (sings) “How do you want it/ How do you feel/ Comin up as a nigga in the cash game…” that’s how you get them records. So Jodeci was hanging with them dudes a lot. So that aggression, all those energies and things, them dudes put that into their R&B music and still took all that and sang to the heart of a woman but from a man’s perspective. So that song, that album…Jodeci is my all-time favorite group in the fucking world, by the way.

On “Who Got Some Gangsta Shit

A few years later, in 1995, Death Row put out a compilation for a short film Snoop had called Murder Was the Case and this was the release after Snoop Dogg’s Doggy Style. [The compilation] had all these artists on it. LBC Crew, Danny Boy was on it, Kurupt, Slip Capone, Superfly produced on it, Dr. Dre. This shit was amazing. And it was a song on there, just like “Feenin” touched my heart, this song touched my heart because I grew up in the hood. And before I wanted to be a working musician and an artist, I was always an artist and I didn’t know but, I really wanted to be a gangbanger because I was around that. And a lot of my family gangbanged, and my close friends gangbanged. So, you know, that was the vibe. Snoop had a song on that album called “Who Got Some Gangsta Shit?” and when this came on, oh my god. (Raps) “Nine in the mornin, feds at my door/ Blue Cort…” I mean it was just so gangsta and aggressive. And the music was eerie, and the bass would hit hard. It would make my arms shake, when I heard this song. Oh my god. I had goosebumps and I was so embarrassed to show my other friends what that song would make me feel because that didn’t sound masculine to say, “this song makes me have goosebumps.” I was a Snoop Dogg fanatic and there was nothing you could tell me about Death Row. Way before I met him I studied him because I prayed to God that I would work with him and Dr. Dre when I was in the 7th grade. I prayed daily to work with them. So I was engulfed in that culture and that music. And that song, steered my whole life into a different direction because as gangsta as that song was, “why am I feeling like this?” And that’s when I realized, music. The music. It was the music. And Superfly, which was the first man on earth to give me money for a record – he gave me $10,000 and didn’t even, hardly know me – and I didn’t have any equipment, he bought me my first set of equipment, he produced that record “Who Got Some Gangsta Shit?” Now watch how God works. What a coincidence that Superfly, the producer of that record, seven or eight years later would meet me and say, “Man, you’re talented. You don’t have equipment?” I said, “Nah.” He said, “Man, well go to my accountant. I’ll give you like, $1,000.” That’s a blessing! So I take the bus to the accountant, it’s a check for $10,000. I’d never seen that much money in my life at that time. So I called him. I said, “Man, oh my god. I owe you my life. Thank you.” He said, “You don’t owe me shit. Just keep doing music.” That’s all he said to me. So I connected to that song because that song changed my life, Superfly changed my life, and Snoop Dogg changed my life… That song made me want to drive fast, and it had this thing where it made me want to fight sometimes. It made me just want to express myself in a way that the police might have taken me to jail for. But whatever it was, it [evoked] emotion.

On “Callin Out Names”

[This is] a diss record that Kurupt did called “Callin Out Names.” Kurupt is important in my life too because that’s one of my mentors [from when I was] young. And in this, he went hard on DMX. There were rumors [going around]… So he took it to wax. And the greatest diss records come from the west coast because we say names. We don’t give a fuck. We’re going to say your name, we’re not gonna be cool with you in the club and all that is negative, but at the same time all that is honest. And I can respect an honest motherf*cker more than I can respect a fake motherf*cker… He played it for Snoop, the story has it, and Snoop said, “Don’t’ put that out. Don’t do that. We’re not on that. Don’t stir that shit up, bro. Keep it cool.” But Kurupt being an artist and being driven by emotion, he put that motherf*cking record out. And the first time I heard that record, without even bleeping it out, Julio G played it on the radio. He said, “I got this new Kurupt record” and he couldn’t bleep out the words fast enough…and the whole city heard it. Then Chronic 2001 came out and I ran to the warehouse, at the time it was a warehouse, in the Ladera Center on La Tijera in Inglewood, California. And I stood in line for an hour and I bought that album and I played that song back to back. And I didn’t even know DMX, but [Kurrupt] was so passionate, it made me not like them. I said, “You know what? If he feels like this, they gotta be mean people. They gotta be.” But then I realized that’s just what we do as people. We express ourselves in different ways. Now, luckily, years passed and everybody’s cool. But it was serious back then. Kurupt wasn’t playing.

These songs represented truth and honesty. And that’s what music is lacking today… I try to put those honesty things in my music.

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