Marley Marl

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Marley Marl
Marlon Williams aka Dj Marley Marl.jpg
Marley Marl in Nottingham, England 1999
Background information
Birth nameMarlon Williams
Born (1962-09-30) September 30, 1962 (age 58)
New York City, New York, U.S. [1]
Genres Hip hop
Years active1983–present
Associated acts

Marlon Williams (born September 30, 1962), better known by his stage name Marley Marl, is an American DJ, record producer, rapper and record label founder, primarily operating in hip hop music. Marlon grew up in Queensbridge housing projects [3] located in Queens New York. He became interested in music, by performing in local talent shows, during the early days of rap music.


He was also featured on Eric B. & Rakim's "Paid in Full" from their debut album, which was also recorded in his studio. [4] As a producer, one notable project was LL Cool J's Mama Said Knock You Out .

He is credited with influencing a number of hip hop icons such as RZA, DJ Premier, and Pete Rock. [5] Producer Madlib stated in an interview that Marley was the first producer who inspired him to make beats. [6] Vibe magazine wrote that he, "forever changed the sound of hip-hop with his unique beat barrages." [7]

Early Career

Marley's career started with an interest in electronica. [8] As a young intern at Unique Recording Studios in the early 1980s, he had an opportunity to experiment with very expensive samplers like the Fairlight CMI. [8] One day during a studio session with an artist named Captain Rock he discovered sampling by accident.

"I was actually trying to get a riff off of a record. I made a mistake and got the snare in there before the sound came. I was truncating the vocal part but the snare was playing with the beat — we was truncating while the beat was playing. Thank God the beat was playing, because it probably wouldn't have happened if the beat wasn't playing. So I was playing it and the snare sounded better than the snare that I had from the drum machine when I was popping it." [8]

A short time later pioneering hip-hop radio DJ Mr. Magic heard Marley Marl's remix of Malcolm McLaren's Buffalo Gals, leading to Marley becoming his DJ. [8] They eventually started the hip-hop collective the Juice Crew together in 1983. 1986 saw the foundation of Cold Chillin' Records, where Marley served as in-house producer for many projects. He earned $250,000 per year for his production work. [9] The label was also home to many Juice Crew artists.

Marley caught his big break in 1984, with artist Roxanne Shante's hit "Roxanne's Revenge". In a 2008 interview Shante noted how seriously he took recording despite his limited setup. "We'd be recording in his living room on a reel-to-reel and four-tracks. I really just wanted to the mall after one take, but Marley always made me do it again." [10]

Another significant early record was 1985's "Marley Marl Scratch" featuring MC Shan. The song was recorded on a four track cassette recorder and Shan used a mic with a missing ball to record his lyrics. [11]

Several of his early record feature inventive use of the Roland TR-808 drum machine. On MC Shan's 1986 Pop Art single "The Bridge', which later appeared on his 1987 album Down By Law , Marley used the 808 pulse to trigger different samplers. [8] According to Biz Markie, the button on Marley's 808 stuck during the recording of his hit "Make the Music with Your Mouth, Biz", leading to sound heard on the record today. [12] Juice Crew member Big Daddy Kane praised his ability to pair 808 drum sounds with sampled drums. "Regardless of how clean or brand-new the record was that he was sampling, or light the production may have been, he always gave it a really gritty feel when he sampled it. He always put the 808 to it and gave it a heavy bottom and warm feel." [13]

In the late 1980s the Juice Crew gained increased attention from mainstream publications. Spin magazine wrote, "they've produced some of the genre's toughest, most uncompromising music." [14] At the time Marley began a streak of producing entire albums for several Juice Crew members. He produced all of the tracks on Craig G's The Kingpin (1989), Big Daddy Kane's Long Live The Kane (1988), Biz Markie's Goin' Off (1988), Kool G Rap & DJ Polo's Road to the Riches (1989), MC Shan's Down By Law (1987) and Born to Be Wild (1988), and Roxanne Shante's Bad Sister (1989).

In 1988 he produced the Juice Crew posse cut "The Symphony" by using a Hal Jackson record from the WBLS record library as a sample source. [8]

Post Juice Crew and Cold Chillin'

In 1996, Marley filed a suit against Cold Chillin' for unpaid royalties. [15]

In 2007 he produced the entire Hip Hop Lives album for former rival KRS-One.


Studio albums

Collaboration albums


Marl was referenced on Biggie Smalls' track "Juicy" as being one of Smalls' early influences. [16]

Related Research Articles

New school hip hop

The new school of hip hop was a movement in hip hop music starting 1983–84 with the early records of Run–D.M.C. and LL Cool J. Like the hip hop preceding it, it came predominantly from New York City. The new school was initially characterized in form by drum machine led minimalism, often tinged with elements of rock. It was notable for taunts and boasts about rapping, and socio-political commentary, both delivered in an aggressive, self-assertive style. In image as in song its artists projected a tough, cool, street b-boy attitude. These elements contrasted sharply with the funk and disco influenced outfits, novelty hits, live bands, synthesizers and party rhymes of artists prevalent in 1984, and rendered them old school. New school artists made shorter songs that could more easily gain radio play, and more cohesive LPs than their old school counterparts. By 1986 their releases began to establish the hip hop album as a fixture of the mainstream.

Roxanne Shante

Lolita Shanté Gooden, better known by her stage name Roxanne Shante, is an American hip hop musician and rapper. Born and raised in the Queensbridge Projects of Queens, New York City, Shante first gained attention through the Roxanne Wars and was part of the Juice Crew. The 2018 film Roxanne Roxanne is a dramatization of Shante's life.

Shawn Moltke better known by his stage name MC Shan, is an American hip hop and R&B recording artist. He is best known for his song "The Bridge" produced by Marley Marl, and for collaborating with Snow on "Informer", the international number-one hit single. MC Shan is one of the most parodied hip hop artists of the 20th century, owing to the Bridge Wars. MC Shan's New York birth records state he was born in Queens, New York.

<i>Long Live the Kane</i> 1988 studio album by Big Daddy Kane

Long Live the Kane is the debut album by American rapper Big Daddy Kane, released by Cold Chillin' Records on June 28, 1988. It was produced by Marley Marl and established both as premier artists during hip hop's golden age. Kane displayed his unique rapping technique while covering topics including love, Afrocentricity and his rapping prowess. Marley Marl and Big Daddy Kane display a sparse production style - creating beats with fast-paced drums and lightly utilized James Brown samples.

Prism Records

Prism Records was an American record label formed in 1978 by Len Fichtelberg. It was originally an independent label, focusing on the New York City R&B and disco scene of the day with groups like Erotic Drum Band and disco dance legends Lime. When Cold Chillin' Records was formed in 1986, it was initially distributed by Prism, but label head Tyrone Williams and Fichtelberg decided to merge their companies. As a result, in 1989, the Prism name was phased out in favor of the new name. In 1987, Cold Chillin' signed a 5-year distribution deal with Warner Bros. Records. The first two Cold Chillin' releases through Warner Bros. had the legend A Prism Records Production written on them.

The Bridge Wars was a hip hop music rivalry during the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s, that arose from a dispute over the true birthplace of hip hop music and retaliation over the rejecting of a record for airplay. The Bridge Wars originally involved The South Bronx's Boogie Down Productions, led by KRS-One, and Marley Marl's Juice Crew, hailing from Queensbridge. KRS-One and Marley Marl have since officially retired the feud, with the release of their collaborative 2007 album Hip-Hop Lives.

The Roxanne Wars is a well-known series of hip hop rivalries during the mid-1980s, yielding perhaps the most answer records in history. The dispute arose over a failed appearance at a radio promotional show. There were two Roxannes in question, Roxanne Shanté and The Real Roxanne.

Juice Crew

The Juice Crew was an American Hip Hop collective made up largely of Queensbridge –based artists in the mid–to–late 1980s. Founded by radio DJ Mr. Magic, and housed by Tyrone Williams' record label Cold Chillin' Records, the Juice Crew helped introduce New School artists Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, Roxanne Shante and Kool G Rap. The crew produced many answer records and engaged with numerous "beefs" – primarily with rival radio jock Kool DJ Red Alert and the South Bronx's Boogie Down Productions, as well as the "posse cut", "The Symphony".

Golden age hip hop Name given to mainstream hip hop music created in the mid/late 1980s and early 1990s, particularly by artists and musicians originating from the New York metropolitan area

Golden age hip hop is a name given to mainstream hip hop music created from the mid-1980s to early-1990s, particularly by artists and musicians originating from the New York metropolitan area. An outgrowth of the new school hip hop movement, it is characterized by its diversity, quality, innovation and influence on hip hop after the genre's emergence and establishment in the old-school era, and is associated with the development and eventual mainstream success of hip hop. There were various types of subject matter, while the music was experimental and the sampling from old records was eclectic.

Cold Chillin Records

Cold Chillin' Records was a record label that released music during the golden age of hip hop from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. A producer-and-crew label founded by manager Tyrone Williams and run by Len Fichtelberg, most of the label's releases were by members of the Juice Crew, a loosely knit group of artists centered on producer Marley Marl. In 1998, the label shut down, and the majority of its expansive catalog was bought by Massachusetts-based LandSpeed Records.

<i>Wanted: Dead or Alive</i> (Kool G Rap & DJ Polo album) 1990 studio album by Kool G Rap & DJ Polo

Wanted: Dead or Alive is the second album by the hip hop duo Kool G Rap & DJ Polo. The album was released a year after the duo's debut, Road to the Riches, and received greater acclaim from most music critics. The singles "Streets of New York" and "Erase Racism" received notable airplay on Yo! MTV Raps and the former is credited by Nas as being influential on his song "N.Y. State of Mind" from his critically acclaimed album Illmatic.

<i>Road to the Riches</i> 1989 studio album by Kool G Rap & DJ Polo

Road to the Riches is the debut album by hip hop duo Kool G Rap & DJ Polo, which was released in 1989 on then-prominent hip hop label Cold Chillin' Records. The album is notable in that it set off the mafioso rap trend with the title track "Road to the Riches," which received strong rotation on the TV show Yo! MTV Raps, and was later featured on the old-school hip hop radio station Playback FM from the game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Most of the songs, however, are not crime-related. Other popular songs included "It's a Demo" and "Poison." In 1998, the album was selected as one of The Source's 100 Best Rap Albums.

Craig G American rapper

Craig Curry, better known by his stage name Craig G, is an American rapper from Queensbridge, Queens, New York. He is perhaps best known as one of the members of hip hop producer Marley Marl's Cold Chillin' Records group the Juice Crew.

<i>Down by Law</i> (MC Shan album) 1987 studio album by MC Shan

Down by Law is the debut album by East Coast hip hop artist MC Shan. Released at the height of the Bridge Wars, a feud that erupted between Boogie Down Productions and the Juice Crew, responding to the Queensbridge anthem "The Bridge", this album created a blueprint within Hip-Hop music that was never seen before. The album contains the diss track, "Kill That Noise" in response to South Bronx. The album is produced by Marley Marl, and was distributed by Cold Chillin' Records independently, until a distribution deal was struck with Warner Bros. Records (1988), then the album was reissued with slight sample edits. It was the only Cold Chillin'/Warner Bros. album that was never initially released on CD by its distributor. The album was not released on that format until 1995, long after the 5-year distribution deal with Warner Bros. Records ended. By this time, Cold Chillin' distributed its material independently, mostly from its back catalog. This CD pressing would only be available for a limited time and went out of print for a few years. It was then re-released in 2001 as MC Shan: the Best of Cold Chillin', which featured all the tracks from Down by Law with a few additional non-album tracks. This version is now out of print as well. In 2007, it was re-released again by its new owner, Traffic Entertainment, in expanded form as a double-disc set with extended tracks, as well as bonus tracks.

<i>Born to Be Wild</i> (album) 1988 studio album by MC Shan

Born to Be Wild is the second album released by Juice Crew member and East Coast rapper MC Shan. With the production work of Marley Marl, MC Shan directly attacked Boogie Down Productions with "Juice Crew Law" and ended the silence around their feud.

"The Bridge Is Over" is a 1987 song by Boogie Down Productions from their debut album Criminal Minded, performed by rapper KRS-One and produced by DJ Scott LaRock and KRS-One. The song's intro samples "The Bridge" by MC Shan.

<i>In Control, Volume 1</i> 1988 studio album by Marley Marl

In Control, Volume 1 is an album by hip hop producer Marley Marl of the Juice Crew, released September 20, 1988 on Cold Chillin' Records. The album compiles ten studio recordings by Juice Crew members and artists affiliated with Marley Marl. It showcased his style of hip hop production and sampling at a time when he became one of the first super-producers in hip hop music. The album is broken down track-by-track by Marley Marl in Brian Coleman's book Check the Technique.

<i>Riches, Royalty, Respect</i> 2011 studio album by Kool G Rap

Riches, Royalty, Respect is the fourth solo album by American hip-hop recording artist Kool G Rap, released on May 31, 2011 by Fat Beats. It was Kool G Rap's first solo studio album since 2002's The Giancana Story.

The Symphony (song)

"The Symphony" is a rap song produced by Marley Marl featuring Juice Crew members Masta Ace, Kool G Rap, Craig G and Big Daddy Kane. The track appears on Marley Marl's 1988 Cold Chillin' Records release In Control, Volume 1. Rolling Stone ranked “The Symphony” the 48th greatest hip-hop song of all time, calling it “the first truly great posse cut.”

Its a Demo

"It's a Demo" is the 1986 debut single by American hip hop duo Kool G Rap & DJ Polo. Originally a non-album single with "I'm Fly" as a B-side, a remix of the track was featured on the duo's 1989 album Road to the Riches and later on the compilation albums Killer Kuts (1994), The Best of Cold Chillin' (2000), Greatest Hits (2002) and Street Stories: The Best of Kool G Rap & DJ Polo (2013).


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  5. Biography, AllMusic
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  14. Leland, John (December 1988). "Singles". Spin: 112 via Google Books.
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