The label “conscious rapper” can be almost a slur, but that doesn’t faze rapper Bryan Marcel Williams, who makes music under the name Marcel P. Black.
“I don’t care. Nobody criticizes mainstream rappers for glamorizing black death or black violence, misogyny or rape,” Williams said.
Williams, a 32-year-old Southern University Graduate from Oklahoma, has been rapping since his cousins taught him LL Cool J’s “I’m Bad,” at six years old. At 18 years old, Williams started recording music with rap group The Outland.
The son of a social worker and a juvenile probation officer, social issues have always been on his mind.
The trick, Williams said, is to put the lyrical content he is passionate about into music that is modern, accessible and, most significantly, fun. He said conscious rap is too often stuck in a backwards-looking rut of boring drum beats and depressing moods. He cited the success of his 2013 release “Trap Hop,” a hard-hitting project that mixes club-ready beats with lyrics focused on black empowerment.
“I have the turn-up right next to the socioeconomic stuff,” Williams said with a laugh.
But for Williams, making music about community issues is only half the battle.
In 2012, he founded the Baton Rouge Hip Hop Project — a collective of rappers, DJs, music journalists and radio hosts — with the goal of providing a hub for independent rap in the capital city.
The Project has hosted a number of open mics and rap battles curated by Williams. Next year, it will ramp up its services to provide resources for up-and-coming rappers. He said his years of touring, recording and promoting his own music have given him experience he can share with younger artists.
“It’s about showing that you can offer them something,” Williams said. “I can show them how I have done it.”