If you love learning about the meaning of an artist’s lyrics, then you are most likely familiar with the name Rob Markman, the man responsible for telling the stories of some of your favorite artists at Genius. The Vice President of content and strategy, Markman has interviewed countless musicians in his nearly fifteen-year career. His passion for music and amazing storytelling has rightfully earned him his place as one of the top music journalists in the world, however, Markman himself is also an extremely talented musician. An artist before his journalism career, Markman is now reintroducing himself. The musician spoke with ONE37pm’s Mike Boyd about where he’s been and where he’s going.
Monday to Monday Spotlight: Rob Markman
Like many artists, Markman’s journey began in New York City. Brooklyn to be exact.
“Musically, I grew up in a house in New York where my mom played a lot of R&B. She played everything from Michael Jackson to Diana Ross to Whitney Houston. My uncle was the Latin Jazz musician Willie Bobo, and of course, I grew up in the Hip-Hop era with Jay, Nas, Biggie, etc.”
If you are from New York, then you know how prominent battle rapping is. It’s a Hip-Hop rite of passage in the city, and Markman was no exception to the rule.
“I used to battle rap, but it was more so like the 8 Mile battle raps with the beats. I used to do that in clubs around the city.”
Becoming a musician requires years of grinding to get your name out there and people talking. However, for some, it may even require a temporary detour. The funny thing about life though, is that sometimes that very detour can end up leading you right back to where you were supposed to be.
“I made a demo with Plain Pat. This was before Pat worked with Drake, Kanye, Kid Cudi, and all those people. I was trying to get signed—it didn’t happen. I ended up working at a call center, and that call center was right across the street from Hot 97. I used to stand outside handing out my album. I was giving people like Angie Martinez, Kanye, and everybody my album long before I ever interviewed them.”
In the years following, Markman has gone on to become one of the most prominent journalists in music, but the passion for creating his own music has never left. Now here we are several years later, and Markman is picking up on the dream he’s had to push aside for far too long. His project Write to Dream, describes his journey perfectly.
“Write to Dream was for my dream and other people’s dreams. Doing music was my dream, and when I was at XXL, I was kind of forced into an ultimatum where if I didn’t give up music, I basically would be fired. At the time I had two young sons, and I needed the money. I couldn’t sacrifice their well being for my dream. So that’s why I created Write to Dream because it was for my right to dream.”
Timing is everything, and there can sometimes be beauty in the wait. Now Markman is in the position to where he can do things his own way.
“Going through the years, I thought about having different rap names. I eventually decided to just use my name, and tell my story. When you’re interviewing other people, it’s not about you, it’s about their story, so my music is a way for me to talk about my life. Like my song “Last Night” is about almost getting shot. That’s the first track, and it’s a reminder to live life to the fullest —tomorrow is never promised.
I want people to know that what I do isn’t gimmicky, I want to tell a story. I know they say not to put too much stock into what people say, but it’s only natural, so I wanted to become more consistent with releasing music. Yes, I’m on Genius, but I realized that my outlet needed to match my output.”
That consistency led to the decision to release music on the 1st and 15th of every month.
“I drop on the 1st and 15th of every month, and that decision was a promise to myself. You know, the 1st and the 15th were when the government checks would flow through. So releasing my music is my way of paying myself.”
That means that we can expect frequent releases from the artist in the future. While Markman’s path hasn’t been traditional, it's an inspirational story of never giving up on your dreams.
“The thing is, you have to decide if you want to look at music as an art, or the business side of things because they are very different. You have to make that decision. So create it and do it. Establish yourself as an artist, and everything else will follow. I remember seeing my billboard in Times Square and thinking about how Times Square didn’t use to even be like that back in the day. I’m from New York, and we are the most resilient city. Us natives have had to overcome nightmares to get to our dreams.”
Now Markman is living his dreams, proving if you never give up, you can accomplish anything.