Marc Stretch on His Extensive Career in Hip-hop and the Impact of J. Dilla

As one half of hip-hop crew Foreign Legion, Marc Stretch has taken on many roles in his career, including dancer, battle rapper, emcee, and DJ. Currently putting his focus back on the DJ aspect his career, he shares with us his unique experience of obtaining his first pair of turntables.

“I ended up writing an album for a Christian rapper in exchange for two Technic 1200s. Of course, being a good Christian, he actually jerked me and bought me one Gemini PT-2000 and a Scratchmaster mixer,” he recalls.

Using what he had, he managed to learn the art of mixing with the help of a CD player, and once Foreign Legion took off, he was able to obtain a proper pair of Technics. Now he’s a regular around the Bay Area nightlife scene whether it’s behind the decks or his multitude of other projects, such as video production or Big Willie Dynamite.

He DJs this Friday, [08/26], for J.Dilla’s “The Shining” 10-Year Anniversary Bay Area Celebration at The Legionnaire Saloon in Oakland.

How would you describe your style of DJing?
At the center of it all, I’m a party DJ. I can cut, scratch, mix and even juggle a little. But at the end of the day, I really just want to send people into a euphoric frenzy of energy. I want people to go nuts, whenever I play, but not because I’m playing what’s popular. Nothing is really off-limits to me. I feel like my job is to play the songs that you didn’t know that you want to hear. Keep you on the edge of your seat and constantly surprising/confusing/delighting the crowd.

Who are your top 3 DJ influences?
Really?  I only get 3? Aight. If you pressed a gun to my head, I’d say…
1. D Sharp -For all the energy he brings to a set. He plays like the entire thing it’s a drum solo and spends the entire making everyone in the spot feel like a rock star. Getting everybody pumped and making sure that they have as much fun as he’s having. He’s a true showman when it comes to DJing.
2. Jazzy Jeff – For obvious reasons. Jeff is (to me) the best all-around DJ on the planet. You want to get technical? He’s got you covered. You want tricks? No problem. You want a bulletproof selection at any party? Jeff will destroy your favorite DJ and look and sound super fresh doing it. Seriously, the best all-around to ever do it.
3. DJ Craze – For his undeniable skill and total lack of fuck-giving. Craze (like myself) comes from a true school background so he’s rooted in the backpack/independent scene but when he plays, he goes in on whatever he wants and doesn’t care if you came to hear that song or not. Miami Bass, rock, trap…he doesn’t care. He’s going to rock it. You’re going to enjoy it. Plain and simple.

Since you’re based in Oakland, what’s the main difference in your opinion on Oakland vs. SF nightlife?
Things have really changed in the last 15 years. SF nightlife was always the glitzier side of the music scene. We spent years establishing a foothold there, trying to get our names up. Then the scene seemed like it just dried up in SF, while all the places that we’d been playing in Oakland just continued to do what they’d always done. I feel like the difference between the SF and Oakland scenes are that (with certain exceptions) is if you just want to go out and have a good time without worrying about keeping up with the Jones’, Oakland is the spot. Places like Legionnaire Saloon and The Layover have some of the sweatiest dance parties in NorCal, every week. In SF, it seems like more of a “take the wife out on a date” kind of scene (again… with exceptions).

Having been a battle rhymer, DJ, hip-hop dancer, emcee, member of Foreign Legion…which role has had the most challenges?
I never really though about it. They all have their own challenges. I think that because I was known as an emcee/battle rapper, becoming accepted as a real DJ and being taken seriously was the most challenging of all those transitions. I still DJ with a chip on my shoulder like, “I’m going to destroy this entire dance floor and make it impossible for anybody to follow me.” I love what I do and I love the people I spin next to and share nights with. I’m still highly competitive, though. I was raised playing all kinds of sport and DJing is still a sport, to me. Having the cuts that nobody has or hitting people with a mix they didn’t know existed is like dunking on somebody or blocking their shot into the 20th row. I get goose bumps when it happens.

Anything coming up for Foreign Legion, or are you focusing on DJing for now?
Nothing is really planned for Foreign Legion (as a group) outside of our exclusive single that we released with Stellium Music. They are a group that’s fighting child trafficking and we donated a new song to their project as well as a video and we’ll be playing their festival, Harm(onic) Reduction on September 17th. Individually, Prozack Turner is finishing up a solo album and I’m finishing a couple of projects as well. One with my guy Wax Roof under the name Chorduroy Boys and another with my group Big Willie Dynamite. I have another project that I’m probably 80% through, as well. Doing has definitely become more prevalent for me on a week-in week-out basis, but rhyming still moves me, when it’s fun. Working with lots of folks like Unjust, Grip Grand, Steven King and Ricephoeva.

Are you planning on making any new DJ mixes this year?
You know I am. I’ve been really digging into chill trap and a few other remix genres, I’ve been really rejuvenated so I’m looking to create new installments of some of my signature series: High School Fight MusicCarnivolume and New Workout Plan. I’m also part of an all hip-hop night called “Strictly Business” and I’m looking forward to collaborating with the other resident DJs (Deejay Saurus, DJ Riktor & Tim Diesel) on a new mix.

Switching to Friday’s party, what impact has Dilla had on your life?
Dilla was just such a prominent selector. He flipped things that other people didn’t bother to touch. The thing I feel like a really learned from Jay was patience. He always made beats that felt like he had all the time in the world. Nothing ever felt rushed. From that late swing on the snare to the last minute change in a song. He was also one of the best two-sport athletes on record. He was as nice on the mic as he was on the MP. Shit was crazy how he could just flip one and then the other.

What’s your favorite track from The Shining?
“E=MC2” was my favorite, hands down. When that first part comes in and sets up the anticipation, then the full beat comes in on like bar 7 or something. That shit is so hard! That was what I was talking about when I say that he produced with patience. He made you wait on that change. That song is all thing things I love about hip-hop. Scratch phrases. A dope chorus that makes you want to sing along. The bass and keys on it are classic Dilla but the talk box portion feels real future music-esque. Common is on there with a particularly unpredictable verse, from him. I love it.

Where can we catch you hanging out when you’re not DJing?
I’m all over the place: Dancing at Motown on Mondays in SF, playing kickball on Thursdays at Mosswood Park with Golden State Kickball or at home with my wife, kids, Playstation and electronics. I’ve been dabbling in video production so you might catch me and some random location looking like a stalker with a camera or drone. I’m ok with that.

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