Walking into Lamar “My Guy Mars” Edwards’ dimly lit recording studio space in North Hollywood, the first noticeable view is a wall covered in dozens of platinum plaques from Kanye West, Jay Z, Chris Brown, T.I., 2 Chainz and Rihanna — to name a few.
Meanwhile, a Tuesday night interview was the only time he had to talk. For the rest of the week, he would be backing up Usher in Asia alongside the rest of 1500 or Nothin’. As November kicks off, Mars would do the same for Jay Z as the MC/mega mogul campaigns for Hillary Clinton in Ohio. Somewhere in between, he finds time to record his Dash Radio show alongside his own Astronaut Gang collective.
Right now, we’re here discussing his third mixtape appropriately titled No Days Off. Doesn’t hurt that his third full-length project features heavyweight guest spots from T.I., Kurupt, James Fauntleroy (also a 1500 or Nothin’ member), Jay 305 and Buddy. Mars understands he has much to prove on the solo tip despite having a resume that would humble artists with larger followings. From the looks of things, Mars is headed in the right direction.
In the meantime, the Los Angeles native discusses his delicate juggling act and even the possibility of a 1500 or Nothin’ project.
The Surreal Moment Of Getting Jay Z’s Co-Sign
HipHopDX: It’s been over a decade years since 1500 or Nothin’ came into existence. When did your existence in the collective come into play?
Mars: Well, we were all playing at a church. We were already a band in church at First AME. It’s like a huge establishment. We were at the church playing and stuff. Actually what happened was that we didn’t even grasp the concept of us being what we are now as a band nor entity. We were playing music with each other and we were already homies.
When I came back out here from living with my dad in Lancaster, California, I had a studio that I got through this lady I met whose husband was doing real estate. Then, the homies started coming there. I kind of had the spot where all the homies would come smoke and chill. That turned into me and Rance [Larrance Dopson] talking since he came through all the time. He was telling me he was on tour with Snoop and that I should play on some of his beats. That put us in the production mode, but as far as the band, that got discovered being at First AME and us playing in the church outside of doing tracks.
Bobby Valentino’s manager was there one day. Long story short, he kept telling us how much he loved our band and asked us our name. We said we need $1,500. We were like fuck what you talking about, we need $1,500. He asked, “how much are all of y’all?” All we said was we need $1,500. They were asking us who to make the check out to. Rance said 1500 or Nothin’. Chucc [Charles ‘Uncle Chucc’ Hamilton] was looking like yeah. We were on some LA shit like y’all about to get jumped if y’all don’t pull any cash out. We looked at each other like that’s our name. Ever since then, it’s a household name. Whether you know us or not, we’re playing some type of music.
DX: Individually, you guys have your own shit poppin’. However, you guys are always doing something dope collectively as well. What’s been the most surreal moment for you?
Mars: The most recent surreal moment I would say is when Jay Z said out of his mouth that “I would put this band against any band in the world.” He said that having to do a show with his band after that. We are our own band, it’s not like Jay Z’s band or Rick Ross’ band. It’s like Jay Z and 1500 or Nothin’, Future and 1500 or Nothin’, Faith Evans and 1500 or Nothin’, Rick Ross and 1500 or Nothin’ or Usher and 1500 or Nothin’. It’s all us.
I don’t know how that felt for them, but for us, it was like damn. We were all playing and he’s real quiet and soft spoken. He doesn’t say much. When he says something, it’s something. While we were on stage, we all looked at each other and had to remind ourselves to keep playing. That was one of the most surreal moments. Also with like producing in how the music is made, the producer may not meet the artist or the artist might know the producer had anything to do with this shit. From us doing “Show Me What You Got” to that coming out of his mouth. We’re about to go with him to India to play a show and this other shit with Hillary Clinton in Ohio.
DX: Out of all these platinum plaques on the wall, which one is the most significant to you?
Mars: That’s tricky. I would say “Stronger.” Though I didn’t produce the track, I was a part of the song. “Stronger” or Chris Brown’s “Take You Down.” Chris Brown is because that was probably my biggest song as a single and also I didn’t think that was going to be on Chris Brown’s Exclusive album. I went downstairs, smoked, got high as fuck, came up here and did some slow-ass Justin Timberlake and Timbaland drunk bass shit. Everything sounds high including the beat. The Bobby Valentino plaque is how we got our name. That was the first placement that we ever got. I was like 18 or something at the time.
DX: On average, how many shows do you guys even do a year?
Mars: I couldn’t say it’s a specific number. I would just say however many times artists that are worth calling. When they call and they’re worth us playing for it and they have the check right, then it’s easy for us. It’s so many of us that Rance can be a musical director for Usher while I do the same for T.I. The problem right now is that Jay Z wants us to do something the day that T.I. has a show.
DX: That’s an amazing problem to have, though.
Mars: That what’s someone just said to me. I got good problems. It’s a fine line because some of the stuff is a relationship and some stuff is just business. It’s easy. Just line up all the work and schedule your work around it. That’s how I do it.
Watching The West Coast Evolve & The Making Of “No Days Off”
DX: Considering you guys have been attached to nearly every significant artist to come out of the West Coast, what’s it like watching the scene evolve over the past decade and some change?
Mars: It’s awesome, bruh. A lot of people I’ve known from Ty Dolla $ign to BJ The Chicago Kid to DJ Mustard and YG. I’ve known them for over five years. I’ve watched them come up. Mustard was in my studio in Inglewood quiet as fuck. Just sitting how you sitting right now not saying anything. Nobody even knew he did beats. He sitting there just learning shit and just chilling. That nigga told me he used to watch us and how he and YG figured it out. Shit like that you have to respect. That’s what I’m proud of in regards to the city. Everybody that’s coming out doing they shit. I don’t feel like anyone out here is making bad music. Like for real. And, I’m talking about bad music. We’ve heard bad music before. Niggas in the South be putting some shit out just cause they getting paid to play it. Ty’s album dope and Mustard just put out a dope album. Niggas is putting out albums and mixtapes that sound great. Look at Nipsey Hussle. How can you not be proud of your city?
DX: Now the solo work. You’ve released two mixtapes already.
Mars: It’s never been something that I haven’t done. It’s just something I haven’t shared with the world. I got literally like 200 songs just working because being a producer is like playing basketball and going to school. It’s not as complex as you would think because it’s hand and hand. You want to be competitive and the best at what you do. While I’m in the airport tired as fuck doing nothing, instead of me not doing anything, I want to be better than the nigga doing nothing next to me. I’ll pull a track out in my headphones and start writing some words or coming up with concepts. Maybe later it’ll make sense. You just never know. A lot of those songs came from me doing that. It’s just finding time to keep yourself busy and being in love with your craft. It’s easy when you’re in love with it. You don’t have to ask your girl to make love or she doesn’t have to ask you. You got the whole play laid out.
DX: Where did the concept for No Days Off come from?
Mars: The concept was basically trying to take this project in so many different ways because I had so much music. I wasn’t stopping and wasn’t taking any days off for this shit. That’s where I got the concept from. It is what it is. This is what I’ve been doing. Obviously, you see me all over the world with your favorite artists, but how do I find the time to do this and this? This is what I’m doing when I’m not on stage. We grow every day so of course, that’s something for the moment that will resonate and become an appetizer for something new. I know where I want to take it, what I have in mind and what I can do. I’m not worried about being in a box or being the new hype. 1500 or Nothin’ has never been about the hype. It’s always been about the music. That’s why we been low-key with it. The producers that have great names and the establishment is tight. For us, I want people to feel how I felt like “who did this song” and stuff.
DX: Any lessons taken over the years in being a musical director?
Mars: I’ve learned patience. Musical directing is a different aspect because you get to see the artist outside of the studio in another light. I have learned a lot from being around Tip and even being in the studio with Kanye for one day. Kanye will call me and recognize me while I’m walking down the hall on some random shit. Why are you asking me what the fuck I think? Like bruh, I ain’t got none of these Grammys. If Kanye, the guy on top of the world, can ask me my opinion, that means he removed all his shit and cares about the music and consumer. All that ego shit, after he does it he has to own it. I learned that you can learn from anybody. You can take a melody from anybody because everyone’s music is an expression. I think that’s the most powerful thing I’ve learned because Kanye has never played a chord or none of that shit, but he’s the man. It’s all knowledge.
Playing Organ On Frank Ocean’s “Godspeed” Track & Possibility Of 1500 Or Nothin’ Project
DX: 1500 or Nothin’ started off in the Church. How do you feel about Hip Hop’s current fascination with gospel from Chance The Rapper’s recent mixtape to Kanye working with Kirk Franklin or Frank Ocean getting features from Kim Burrell?
Mars: I actually did Frank Ocean’s “Godspeed” track. It’s just me and Frank Ocean. That’s me on the organ. Frank called me. I was out in London and he called me asking me to do the song. I forgot and two or three months later, he hit me while I was out in LA. Matter of fact, James [Fauntleroy] hit me since he was with him. I came up there and rolled two packs of blunts. I put all my weed on the table first thing first. Before I play anything I had to get my mind right. He asked me to take it there. He played me the song and I was on.
I’m not opposed to that because I would rather us have a message and say things that need to be regurgitated as opposed to saying the same shit all the time with a different beat. Saying I’m fucking yo bitch or how you ain’t nothing and I’m everything. What’s the fun in that? How many more years are we going to keep doing that shit? I get this vibe is for this vibe. That’s why with No Days Off I just didn’t want to have all the “fuck that nigga” songs. I wanted to do something relatable. I fuck with it, though. I’m not going to say that I fuck with all of it because some shit be like “you playing with this.” Like that song “Amen” where the hook is “Bad bitches in the building, Amen.” I am in the club going in until that part because I ain’t trying to get struck. I ain’t saying Amen to that. I heard Chance The Rapper’s shit and didn’t even know it was like that. People keep saying that it was like a gospel album which made me want to get it. This had a choir and everything on it. I rather people give thanks and spread the message. They could be rapping about the devil.
DX: Final question, will the world ever hear a collaborative 1500 or Nothin’ album?
Mars: The question is are we planning on putting out an album or have we planned on putting out an album. Yes, we have. That has been the talk of our album since we’ve been an entity. But, I think right now, we’ve been more serious about it because we are more comfortable in our individual situations and lives. And, we all do the same shows. We see each other enough. During our off time at Usher rehearsals, we’re making up songs. We’ve been doing some stuff. We have two or three songs now that may be on the project. We’ve been building and making music.
DX: That has to be over 1o years worth of music.
Mars: The thing is revamping because you don’t want to put out a 1500 or Nothin’ track from 2002 that’s out right now. Even though it’s dope, we want to revamp it. It’s going to be a lot of stuff to look out for including live instruments which are going to be on there. I can’t tell you everything, but it’ll be a jambalaya. Some of everything.