Marty Baller gets his musical inclinations from the church. His use of melodies and constant invoking of soul across his latest project, Baller Nation, comes from his early days of being in the choir. Aside from choir, we can thank “The first N*E*R*D album, Graduation by Kanye West, and The Black Album by Jay-Z” as his greatest inspirations for making music.
The first track on Baller Nation, “First Quarter” opens with an inviting drone, a soft ‘ooo’ to lull us into the project. This is offset by Marty’s biting voice, saying “hello!” and hooking us completely into the project.
For the uninitiated, Marty’s come-up is pretty unique: “Just look at my story, me being a hype man and people not expecting me to become this businessman-artist. I want people to know that they can do that, too.”
Prior to this tape, Marty was the center of a short film entitled MartyGraW, which acted as his proper introduction into the game. The film detailed his strained relationship with the church and his adaptability. As far as the church goes, Marty finds that his spirituality comes from within him, meaning “you don’t need to go to church to have church.” When asked to expand on his adaptability, he explains:
“I always felt like I was a chameleon. Coming from the streets, people perceive you a certain way, having a harsh attitude with a mean demeanor. I had to switch that and be able to interact with people in a new way.”
The full picture of his come-up story is incomplete without factoring in A$AP Ferg. You can catch their superb chemistry on the project standout “Send Them My Way.” Marty proudly tells me:
“Ferg and I are like brothers, we grew up in the same hood. Blood couldn’t make us any closer. He’s the one that put me on to viewing music in a different way, and performing music.”
In a sense, Ferg was Marty’s link to the A$AP Mob. Though Marty ha known the crew his entire life, he wasn’t an active part of the Mob. While he’s signed with Ferg, he comes together with the Mob for tracks and performances out of love and friendship.
That’s the thing with Marty Baller: everything is for the love and for his community. When asked how he remains so humble, he simply told me “it’s because I stay in Harlem. One minute I might be around my bro Ferg or some mega-superstar, and then I’ll come back to be with my day one friends. The shit they’re talking about is not the conversation I was just having with these stars, so that instantly humbles me.”
This brand of mindfulness drove Marty as he recorded Baller Nation with the same hungry mindset he’s had since he began rapping. So it should be no surprise that he believes the song “Nothing Wasted” captures where he’s at best, emphasizing that Marty has big plans for the future and can’t stand to waste a moment.
Community and camaraderie fuel him from his day to day life, to the feature credits on Baller Nation. Marty doesn’t work with just anybody. Every credit on the tape is the result of a friendship he’s made either before or through the music. Every studio session he has is organic, a little lighthearted, and “nights where there were a lot of [artists] together, [they] probably did two or three songs a night because of the good vibes.”
Don’t let the energy fool you, Baller Nation was far from rushed. Marty explains that he took around a year to record the project and sift through the hundreds of songs made for it. Some tracks were recorded just three days before the tape dropped. He’s not greedy, of course, and assures me that this stash of b-sides will have a few leaks here and there for the fans.
On the horizon, we can also expect to catch Marty at a few pop-up shows, and he even alluded to his own tour in the works. The best news, of course, is the prospect of new music: “I’m going to drop this project called International Baller, it’s going to be five songs for all my international fans.”
Marty’s overall vision for himself and Baller Nation is succinct, as he closed out our interview by telling me that “Baller Nation is not about balling out, it’s about family and everyone sticking together. When you play ball, it’s with a team. That’s what it’s all about for me.”