Before the shady contracts, the record labels that just couldn’t help and the interviewers who saw a fish out of water, there were only kids. Hundreds of them.
From midtown Omaha, they would drive out to Tommy Os Rock N Roll Salon on 144th and Center streets by the carload. The only reason they had to venture into a part of town that was mostly cornfields in the late ’90s was Mars Black.
With friends and lifelong musical collaboators Jamazz and Ebabbs in the group Angels With Dirty Faces, Black says they were pushing harder and selling more records than any previous Nebraska hip-hop act. If there was an invisible ceiling to what Black and company were chasing, it may simply have been that they had no hip-hop godfathers, that after recording and pressing CDs, there was no one to tell them how labels operated.
Black’s story throughout the 2000s is one of personal lapses, rejuvinating success and relapses. At a moment at which his career had stalled almost entirely, serendipity brought him to Team Love Records, which released both his solo albums Folks Music and Stay Black. Even then, the rapper remembers that notoriety and a nationwide tour with Bright Eyes and The Faint came at a price — encounters with phony admirers and not quite knowing what to do with himself when it was over.
But perhaps the most appealing facet of Black’s sometimes difficult musical career is that it’s not an unexamined story. For this the tenth installment of Sessions, I joined Black in the basement art studio of his midtown home. As Black shoots through the tales — something like a grass roots hip-hop version of the classic American rock ‘n’ roll story — they’re framed in the paradigm of a man who’s thought about how each plotpoint has fashioned Mars Black the hip-hop scholar, Mars Black who wants to be the caretaker to Omaha rap that he never had.
Listen to the Sessions interview with Mars Black here:
Chance Solem-Pfeifer is Hear Nebraska’s managing editor. Reach him at email@example.com.