In our next segment of our series of interviews with South Asian artists from around the world, I talked to Canada-based emcee Marcus Haran. An up-and-comer in Toronto’s bustling hip hop scene, Haran is a talented rapper and producer of Sri Lankan origin.
Having supported the likes of Rich Homie Quan, Haran also may well be the first Sri Lankan hip hop artist to support a major western hip hop star (with the notable exception of M.I.A.). A man of many skills, he’s taken creative writing classes, plays multiple instruments and, like our last interviewee (link), is a self-taught beatboxer.
What’s most impressive about Marcus Haran’s music is his commitment to presenting universal themes, though. His tracks deal with topics that listeners can engage with whether they’re from, which makes sense considering his own personal journeys.
Q1: First of all, could you introduce yourself to Desi Hip Hop readers and what you do?
I go by the name of Marcus Haran. I’m a hip hop artist, producer and beatboxer that has emerged out of Toronto.
Q2: How would you describe your sound? You don’t seem to stick to one production style: some tracks seem to have a more old-school feel and others are more fresh and modern. Do you like to keep things varied?
I supposed you’d describe my sound as a mix of old school hip hop and jazz and electronic with a hint of trap. I like to keep my music varied most of the time. It’s been a process to find what my actual sound is.
Q3: How did you first get into rapping and how has your style evolved over the years?
I actually got into rapping through producing other hip hop artists in Toronto. I realised that I didn’t like the way these guys would spit over my music, so I decided take the toll and just try it out myself. I knew what sounds I liked so I just went for it.
My style has been old school for a long time but as time’s gone on I’ve tried different styles of rap. I’m happy with the style I have got now – it’s more jazzy.
Q4: You’re of Sri Lankan origin. Is there much of a Sri Lankan or South Asian community in Toronto? Have you lived there all your life or did you relocate there?
I was originally born in Paris, France, but my native language is Tamil and my parents are from Sri Lanka. My family migrated over to Canada when I was five. There’s a large community of Sri Lankans over here.
Q5: So how has your background and experiences – whether that’s cultural experiences or just the area you’ve grown up – influenced the way you write music?
I think I’ve been more influenced by the way I was brought up. I’ve also grown into writing more about my experiences growing up in certain neighbourhoods. It’s inspiring to write about both my struggles and good times growing up in such a multi-cultural city.
I’ve especially had to deal with family issues like my father leaving my family at a very young age. I feel like I now write about things that are relatable to all types of people.
Q6: How would you describe Toronto’s hip hop scene? Obviously, everyone knows Drake et al. But I know there’s also a big battle scene in Canada with King of the Dot and a few artists doing their thing internationally.
Toronto’s underground hip hop scene is dope. There’s a lot of battle rappers out here that are just ready to each other’s’ heads off! On the other hand there are a lot of people that just want to be the next Drake or The Weeknd, which leaves the scene pretty over-saturated with bullshit.
Q7: From an outsider perspective Toronto’s hip hop scene appears to be very multicultural – is that the case?
There are a lot of Black or Somalian emcees, yes. In terms of the hip hop scene I’m not aware of anyone of Indian descent that’s broken through internationally.
Q8: What do you think South Asian emcees could learn from the scene in Canada and vice versa?
What’s most important nowadays is being yourself and bringing original sounds. There’s only so much you can take when it comes to listening to the same shit over and over again, to be honest. Just be yourself.
Q9: How familiar are you with the scene in Sri Lanka and South Asia as a whole?
I guess I’m pretty known out there in Sri Lanka. I’ve often got people hitting me up telling me that they love what I do and that they hope to have me out there for a show. It’s definitely something I’m working towards. I want to be more known out there.
Q10: As an emcee what are your biggest achievements so far in terms of releases, support slots or anything else?
I’ve released three videos in the last two years. I’m constantly working, grinding and creating. Always. I’ve opened for some major artists, too, such as Rich Homie Quan, Fabolous, Young Jeezy and Camron from Dipset. I’m proud of these achievements.
Q11: Finally, is there anything you want to plug or anyone you want to shout out? What we can expect over the next year?
All I can really say is stay tuned to my Soundcloud (marcusharan) and follow me on Instagram. Stay in touch and let’s keep it moving. I want to shout out my boy Dharma for putting me on and supporting me from day one as a solo artist. Shout out to Commission Entertainment.
Connect with Marcus Haran