“There’s probably nine months where the Bloods in North Carolina were rapping to the weirdest fucking beats,” Producer L’Orange says of the time in 2008 when he met his MC partner, Solemn Brigham. The two southerners met in what they described as a trap house frequented by local members of the Bloods gang who may or may not have paid for beats with sneakers. After freestyling for a mutual friend and bonding over Notorious B.I.G’s debut album, Solemn was brought to the seedy spot to meet the beatsmith to possibly work together.
“We get into this studio room that’s almost like in an attic part of the house. And there, behind a computer and a laptop, sits L’Orange and he’s making a beat, of course,” Solemn recalls. “That was the moment where he was the first person that ever told me that I could possibly have a career in music or that I had any kind of talent at all in kicking raps.”
Solemn, known as “Papa” to those close to him, wields a precise yet fluctuating vocal style that is reliable and engaging without being the least bit predictable. To call him lyrical would be reductive, but not wrong. With just a hint of Carolina twang he can trade verses with the best of them while still sounding like he has something to prove.
“At the time that I met Solemn I was really looking for an artist that I wanted to work with,” L’Orange adds, who has released music with the likes of Kool Keith, Mr. Lif and Stik Figa, to name a few. “And I had a really distinct idea of what that artist might look like, be like, or sound like, that I had a vision for what this was going to be.”
They recorded some songs under the group name Lost Arts but eventually parted ways for a time. Ten years after first meeting, they released their first group project, Marlowe, a name inspired by author Raymond Chandler’s fictional private eye, Philip Marlowe. That album contained the track “Fred Sanford” (this could be the big one) which appeared in a 7-11 commercial to promote Big Gulps.
However, the first exposure to Marlowe for many viewers (ie this writer) was during broadcasts of the 2021 Olympics, NBA Finals and NHL Stanley cup when a Gatorade spot, “Greatness Starts With G” featuring their song “Future Power Sources” was placed in heavy rotation. The track appears on 2020’s Marlowe 2, and can also be heard in video games like Saints Row and Fortnite.
Gatorade “Greatness Starts with G” from a52 on Vimeo.
With the anticipated release of Marlowe 3, HipHopDX caught up with L’Orange and Solemn to talk about these first impressions and what song from their third installment could receive the commercial treatment.
WHY THE NAME MARLOWE?
L’Orange: I actually just texted Solemn about this the other day. It’s a name that I had had for a very, very long time that I’d been wanting to use just because it resonates with me. And so when we were trying to figure out what the kind of group name would be, we played with a lot of different things. But at the end I was like, “I’ve had this for a long time. It means a lot to me. And I’ve been wanting to save it for something that I really believe in or I really feel like represents us well.” Everyone kind of got on board and yeah, that’s how Marlowe came together.
Solemn Brigham: Especially when you talk about the representation. Marlowe, to me, represents us both and it’s also a very solemn name. So I love it. I love it that people sometimes think that I am Marlowe.
MAKING “FUTURE POWER SOURCES”
Solemn Brigham: I was in Wilmington, he was in Seattle about the end of Marlowe 2, and we had already powered through a lot of the album, but L, he kept saying, man, “Yo. We need a single, man. We need a single. We need something that’s going to hit. We need something that’s exciting.” And here it goes, boom. And he sent me this beat.
L’Orange: Well, it wasn’t even just a single. It was that it was just missing. The whole time we were making Marlowe 2, I was so in love with every single song. But a lot of it, it’s a lot more intellectually driven in terms of the composition and in terms of the rhymes and in terms of the patterns and in terms of the flows. It’s kind of very heady in terms of how it’s structured.
The first Marlowe is just energy. It’s just every track, let’s just go crazy. This one, we were like, “All right. Let’s settle in. Let’s do something. Let’s grow.”
And then, once I looked at all the songs, I was like, “You know what I kind of miss is that sort of rawness.” When it comes back down, we have a moment to kind of groove with something. And so I hit up Track Star The DJ, who’s a great friend, and he did those scratches.
Solemn Brigham: So, when I heard “Future Power Sources,” you hear those horns, you hear that excitement, it’s a sense of urgency in that song. So a lot of the things that I want to present came to me. It’s a really simple song. And he did say he wanted something fun. And so I was like, “Okay. Something to get the people engaged, something fun that still represents Marlowe.” I was like, okay, bam, I’m in a stadium or I’m in something big and everybody’s looking at them, “Hey, you. Game on. Brand new day, put your face on.” I wanted to paint how I felt with words. I felt like it was early and I felt vibrant. And that was probably the quickest song that I wrote on the entire Marlowe 2.
L’Orange: Since it was at the end of the album, we were both kind of mid-stride. We had the momentum. Normally the reason people have a hard time finishing things is because they’re constantly gaining momentum. And at a certain point you just got to stop no matter how much you’re feeling yourself. And so, for that, it was like we had built up a lot of energy. I, again, had a really clear idea of the kind of track I wanted to make. And to be honest, Marlowe 3, I mean a lot of it is kind of inspired by that mentality of like, “Yo. Let’s just have fun. Let’s paint this picture in a way that people can enjoy and get to know us,” but also just rock with us.
HOW THE SONG WAS PLACED IN THE GATORADE SPOT
L’Orange: That was a dude who was a fan of ours and he was filming the spot and he used our music as the temp track. And so he had based the whole commercial around that song [and] when it got time to go to the next draft where they normally replaced those songs, they just felt like they couldn’t find another song that did that better. And I think, to that dude’s credit, he really edited the video to our track in a way that I think he intentionally was trying to push this song through. And so he said that he had tried to work with me in the past on a couple different albums. And this one, he just felt so strongly about that he really wanted to get it in there.
THE IMPACT OF THE PLACEMENT:
Solemn Brigham: I’m going to tell you, at every cookout, at every family event, when I’m cooling with my people and that commercial came on–because it came on a lot–”Oh, Papa, here go your song again.” You know what people do after that? “Oh, big money, Papa. Oh, you big time now. Where’s the Lambo at? Where the Ferrari at? So you got change?” I’m like, “Dang. For one, I can’t front like I’m broke, but I’m also not paid now.” So I’m like, it’s a rock and a hard place.
But it felt good because it kind of makes everything a reality, not for you but for the people around you. It’s validation to a degree. And we don’t chase that, but it feels good to get it.
L’Orange: It was crazy. I’m a big NBA fan. And so I’m a big Hornets fan. My wife and I, we watch almost every Hornets game. And I probably saw that commercial eight times a night, every time, probably 30 times a week.
They spun it a lot. And we saw it during the NBA finals. We saw it during the Olympics, during the World Series. It was crazy, man. I mean, I’ve never had anything like that before. I’ve worked with Adult Swim and I’ve done some really cool stuff that I’m real proud of, but that was wild.
Why “Future Power Sources” is a great intro to Marlowe.
Solemn Brigham: I mean it just epitomizes everything we’re about. It has the energy and excitement. I think it has the lyrical content without being too overbearing. I think it has a lot of the dynamics and range that L’Orange can bring to the table when it comes to his production. And I’m definitely showcasing the best of my lyrical talent, at least at the time for Marlowe 2, because you know your boy done stepped his game up since then. You got to level up. I think it’s great. I think it might be the best introduction to us.
Solemn: That was on Marlowe 1. If you listen to that song, it reminded me of like a junkyard, a place that was really, really messy. And once again, going on with that theme, this has to be a big pivotal moment. I started picturing Fred Sanford and Son, what was he always doing? He was always claiming [to have] a heart attack. And so that’s why I was like, “Yo, this could be the one.” That’s telling everybody, yo, this could be the one to take us out.” It was kind of further along the album. I was just trying to give people that big feeling again.
L’Orange: I think it was the day before Christmas and on Christmas day I was making these joints and I was just calling Papa like, “Yo, I’ve made five [beats] today that are just fire. Every single one of these is fire.” I was just in a process where I knew exactly what Marlowe sounded like in that moment. And that’s a weird, surreal feeling just because it didn’t exist. But I was like, this is how the threads get tied musically. This is how I want it to sound. It’s got this rock kind of component to it. And that was real inspiring because I’d never done anything like that before. It’s a genre that I don’t really know that well, to be honest.
Solemn: You want to know how I found out about the 7-11 commercial? I’m hanging out, just doing whatever. Probably looking for something to grab on. I’ll get a phone call, ring, ring. I’m like, “Yo.” It’s my grandma and I’m like, “Hey grandma.” She’s like, “Baby, congratulations. I just heard your commercial. I knew it was my grandson’s voice. I knew it was him.” And I’m like, “Grandma, what is you talking about?” They said “On the 7-11 commercial, baby.” So then I’m calling, I’m checking my emails. I’m like, yeah, what happened?
L’Orange: No, this is so funny, man. We got an email three months before that was like, “Hey, this 7-11 thing might happen.” Then never heard anything back. And then I get a call from Solemn, who’s like, “Hey, my grandma just told me that she heard me on the thing.” I was like, “Well, we haven’t got anything back. Are you sure?” And he’s like, “Well, that’s what I told her.” I said, “I think, are you sure? Because I don’t think we got this.” And he was like, he was like, yeah. But then she said, “You think, I don’t know my baby’s voice.”
L’Orange: She was dead-on. Turns out Solemn’s grandma was right. There aren’t even 7-11’s in North Carolina.
What song from Marlowe 3 they think should be in a commercial next.
Solemn: “My People” actually is one of my favorite joints on the album because It’s one of the more exciting joints.
L’Orange: So this album is more collaborative musically than any album we’ve ever done because Solemn has so much more experience than he had when we first started. I don’t feel like I need to protect or mentor or do anything because we’re peers, equal absolutely now. We’ve done albums on albums. He knows what he’s talking about. There are just some compromises we always make. And so “My People” is one that I felt very strongly about. And so I really, really like that track.
Rough mercy’s a video guy. He also did all the covers for Marlowe album. He and I kind of both worked on it, but he does Run The Jewels, Danny Brown, a lot of the aggressive rotoscoping kind of stuff. So he’s doing a video for “My People” as well. It’s going to be dope.
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Marlowe 3 is available now on all platforms.