ap MC Mark Aaron Glacken — aka Trademark Aaron — exudes quiet confidence, sharp focus and clear humility when discussing his music, life and goals. The titles of Aaron’s sophomore full-length, Prelude to Greatness, and its predecessor, 2010’s Make Room, may seem frontloaded with typical Hip Hop braggadocio, but they’re a straightforward assessment of his intentions.
“I knew the title (for Prelude) before I put out Make Room,” the Northern Kentucky native says over a couple of Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ales at downtown’s Mainstay club. “The fact it took so long made the title more honest. It was a journey — it’s a prelude to greatness. We’re really working toward something. I don’t have it yet, but I’m on the way.”
Given Aaron’s musical diversity on Prelude to Greatness, the title seems more of a promise than boast. An advance from his previous work — two demo CDs, the Good Over Here EP and Make Room — Prelude is clear evidence of his potential.
“Make Room was the first thing I put out on a decent scale,” Aaron says. “I’ve been talking about Prelude to Greatness since I put out Make Room. That’s how long we’ve been working on it. This one is more about songwriting. I wanted to make complete songs. I think it’s better produced and better performed. We took two years to finish it and I think it could stand up to some major releases.”
The EP and two LPs, Aaron’s proposed gig schedule and his upcoming projects, already in process, are products of his almost pathological work ethic. Aaron’s full time crate assembly jobleaves little time for writing (he memorizes his lyrics, rather than physically writing them down), recording, video shoots and publicity, yet he manages to shoehorn it into his waking hours with just enough energy to spare for the show.
“I normally come offstage drenched and 20 minutes later I want to sleep,” Aaron says. “I give it all. It’s like hitting the gym. I want (the audience) to have as much fun as I’m having.”
From the jazzy slowburn of “Yeahman” to the infectious bounce of “Like Me,” Aaron offers a sonic hybrid of Soul, Jazz, Pop and Hip Hop on Prelude while weaving lyrical textures that view life from a refreshingly positive perspective. “This My Job” is a case in point — over a soulful beat, Aaron assures his girlfriend that late nights in the club are about work, not the party.
“I’ve really had that conversation with my girl. It’s not all fun and games. I work all day and then I go do this,” Aaron says. “This is a job. It ain’t fun every night.”
Aaron’s love of music in general was neither nurtured nor discouraged by his parents, who had no particular passion for it. He appreciated whatever music intersected his life.
“I didn’t hear a lot of Hip Hop growing up,” Aaron admits. “I came up on Rock and Punk; I used to go to a lot of Punk and Hardcore shows. I wasn’t around a whole lot of music. My parents like music but they don’t sit around listening to it. I’ll do that. The other day, I bought a Sam Cooke CD for five bucks, and I’ve been listening to it on repeat. I like all kinds of music; I like The Beatles, Coldplay, R&B. I like older music because it seems like it had more feeling and soul to it.”
In middle school, Aaron heard Nas and Wu Tang Clan and was captivated by the musical and lyrical flow. He felt a natural connection between Rap and the poetry he’d written since he was a child, which led to making his own music after graduating from Boone County High School.
“We would hang out in my friend Street Anthem’s basement. Me and him and my friend Juice Jones would be working on music all the time. We didn’t know what we were doing,” Aaron says. “From there, I’d be at parties with Juice and people would talk about how they were rappers and he would instigate a Rap battle. He’d be like, ‘My dude will kill you.’ So I’d always be battling people. Once I did one show I started to get more focused.”
On Prelude to Greatness, Aaron worked with local Fresh Records producers/co-owners Greg and Kristopher Yock. He credits the brothers with bringing out his best and keeping him honest.
“Greg was someone who challenged me in the studio,” Aaron says with a laugh. “I’d never had that before. Greg was like, ‘That was terrible. Do it over.’ If you (compared) those songs the day we recorded them to the versions that are on the CD, you wouldn’t believe it. We did so much to it after that.”
Aaron comes by his honest streak honestly; his mother is a pastor and he grew up in a church environment. Although his music is completely secular, he credits faith as a major component in his drive to excel, as an artist and person.
“I believe in God and what I’m doing is what I’m supposed to be doing,” Aaron says. “I curse and things, but that’s how I feel and it’s honest. I want to make the best music I can make. I want to represent Kentucky. I really try to put positive things out there. I don’t do that misogynistic, mistreatment of females thing. That’s not me.
“Earlier today, I found out I was going to lose my job. I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I gotta do this music. If you want it and you do it for the right reasons, you’re gonna get what you’re supposed to get. I like to say ‘Cherish the struggle.’ The struggle’s gonna make you who you are.”
Through hard work and respect for his audience (“You don’t treat them like fans, you treat them like family”), Aaron hopes to establish himself as a completely unique Hip Hop force. In that respect, Prelude to Greatness is an accurate description.
“I want people to say I sound like me,” Aaron says. “You listen to someone like Kid Cudi, and some Hip Hop fans say he’s not Hip Hop. I agree with them, but not in a negative way. I think it’s great. I’ve never heard anything that sounds like that. That’s where I would like to be. I want to make music that anyone can listen to. That’s my goal.” ©