MarQ Spekt is down to keep it “grilchy” — as the rapper explains it, “that’s ‘grimy’ and ‘filthy’ combined.” Spekt has found a like-minded partner in Brooklyn MC Karniege, and the two have paired as the Invizzibl Men. Their debut release, The Unveiling, is due out August 19 on underground stalwart Backwoodz Studioz. The duo comes with hard, dark boom-bap, deceptively minimal in its beats but filled with barrages of images and styles. Here, Spekt talks about where he’s been, the new album, and the importance of being original.
You and Karniege are joining together on the mike. What stands out to you as some of the most memorable collaborations in hip-hop?
One of the greatest collaborations was the group Smif n Wessun, with Tek and Steele. That album, The Shining, stands the test of time. We didn’t pattern our stuff after them, but it’s definitely a strong performance and one of the best albums as far as two artists coming together.
What makes for that chemistry?
You have to have your own distinct style, but it still has to be able to blend. You stand on your own and that other person stands on his own, like Red and Meth. That’s another one that you can relate closely to us. Method Man is wild with his style, Redman is wild with his style, but they both have different angles of attacking the mike and coming at it. It’s different techniques, but they blend really well together. With Karniege, we both have an abrasive style, but my terms of abrasiveness and his terms — I might have the ill box cutter, but he’ll have the machete blade, or he may have the chainsaw and I have the nail gun.
What brought you two together?
We was in a room with Vast Aire, C Rayz Walz, Vordul, 4th Pyramid, and some other people, and out of that whole crowd me and him built on different shit that didn’t have nothing to do with hip-hop. We talked to each other about our wifeys, different stresses we was going through. First and foremost we had a relationship as friends, in a day and age when you can’t trust people. When we linked up, it wasn’t about the music. The music came into it later. But it transcends the music.
That natural feel is on the album. It also has a real aggressive tone to it. Is that something you’re conscious of?
I’m definitely conscious of it. It comes from the fact I feel like there’s so much garbage out there and what’s boiled up in me is the fact that I emerged from an era where you really had to represent yourself at a house party — you had to be on the street corners to get into a session. Even a cipher you had to say something off top that would make every other MC pause. I wrote a rhyme recently and it says things are cool but I don’t write for y’all I write for other MCs. That’s the tone I take with everything I do.
I have a new project coming out called Guilty Party, and the beats are a lot jazzier, a Madlib-type feel, and the lyrics are effortless. This is just how I feel. But for Invizzibl Men, I try to go in anytime they put a mike in front of me like I have to get my message across. I’ve been in ciphers in Philly — I’m from Philly originally — I had to literally go in with 30 people and get to the middle to be heard. You can go back with me to that essence like Diamond D, KRS-One, Kool G Rap, Black Moon, Tribe, Ice-T, King Tee, and my favorite rapper, Ice Cube. You can be abrasive, but you still have to say something.
Do you rhyme for other MCs more than the average listener?
That was my worst period of my creating rhymes — when I tried to rhyme for the listener. When I try to rhyme for me, or say something I’m gonna smile at, more people appreciate what I’m saying. I appreciate the listener, but I had to stop thinking about it. I had stop thinking about rap as a career and doing it for the money. I have a wifey, two cars, my own house. I get out the country twice a year without this hip-hop. When I go in it’s like, Let me do it with that hip-hop mind state, doing what I love. I started at school when I was 11 years old. I wanted to impress a chick who was like, "You can’t rhyme," and I had to go write a rhyme that night and come back. I go at it from that perspective, like from getting kicked out of school and being in an alleyway with cats that was smoking blunts and trying to battle each other. From the fun days, from like 1990, ’91, ’92, ’93, you hear the vibe that’s in the artist’s voice and even though it’s not intentional it’s a happy vibe. I could hear MC Lyte right now and just smile.
The album contains references to Sun Tzu and samurai, as well as to assassins and invisibility. How does any mystic thought figure into what you do?
As little kids, we used to play ninjas. I’ve read Samurai books, and I was born in ‘76 — I was definitely a ’70s/’80s baby. That’s where all those references come from. Back in the early ’80s, there were all those ninja movies, and that’s still a really heavy influence in the writings. I just went to Asia in December, too, and I was trippin’ off that. It’s there. Invizzibl Men is the essence of being a ninja, the invisible warrior.
In your approach?
I just said a rhyme in Guilty Party: “We ninjas usin’ brute force.” Ninjas don’t use brute force. Ninjas are stealth warriors, but at the same time I might have the iron-fist gauntlet on and punch you in the grille with the spikes and after that disappear — throw the smoke bomb and I’m gone. We still hit hard, but we tread very softly; you won’t even know we’re there. And we’re all seeing all knowing. When we wanna show you where we are, we’ll pop out and then disappear again.
I don’t intend to do a lot of interviews or none of that shit. I’m in such a space in my life where I do this strictly for fun. I’m good. I get a little per diem money, a few free flights, but this doesn’t make me. The big money to me is when I see somebody or someone hits me online and tells me, "When you said this, I lost it." Even when we discussed the song "Darkroom" earlier and you got into my world with that Dario Argento thing, for me that’s like getting paid for today.
What about the song “Hip Hop PSA”? It seems like a call to be different from the person next to you.
That’s my favorite song. That song was the embodiment of the whole album to me. If you could give someone one song to describe where we’re coming from, that’d be it. That’s letting people know I don’t care about these listeners, I don’t care about these new rappers. I’m still that kid from ‘92 with the Phillies Blunt T-shirt on, smoking Ls and freestyling all night for fun. Starting off at 8 p.m. and finish rhyming at 4 a.m. and not getting tired and still getting girls and checking my pager and having fly stuff on and getting away with a few different things but still having that carefree attitude. That song is a look back to make people look forward to say, "Yo, don’t forget about that era." I’m telling you who I am in that song. I am hip-hop. I am the result, and this is deep right here, ’cause every year back then there used to be a new style: like, "He’s rhyming four words together now as opposed to rhyming one line with another line," or, "Oh, shit, now everybody has a different voice when they rhyme," or "Oh, shit, Das Efx got people saying ‘iggity’ and this and that." You had to be original.
Nothing against none of these new rappers. I admit to being a hypocrite sometimes, but you’re not supposed to be going back dressing like the ’80s shit, you’re supposed to dress on the next level. I come from a time when you can’t rhyme with the same voice you talk with. You can use your real name — Keith Murray used his real name but he had one of the wildest styles. I don’t talk like I rhyme. I get into that persona and that’s what you get — the raw. It’s still me, but I’ve got so many different facets to me to where its like you can’t pigeonhole me and be like, "He’s an underground rapper." I do things these underground rappers don’t do. I fuck with dime bitches, I drive a nice car, I wear fly clothes. But I’m not gonna rhyme about that, ’cause I’m living it.