SF-based emcee Gark Mavigan recently dropped a new single entitled “Picture Day,” which was referred to in a press release as a nostalgic, College Dropout-esque record featuring the Detroit Children’s Choir and Joni Fuller, a world-class violinist/cellist. The track is the second single off of GOOD CHOICES, an album that he will donate 100% of proceeds to local non-profits in the Bay Area.
We wanted to learn more about this local rapper so we reached out Gark to talk about why he decided to partner with local non-profits, what his new single “Picture Day” is about, and what his favorite neighborhood is in the city.
How would you describe your sound?
At a high level, it’s feel-good hip-hop. Stylistically, I’m West Coast ice cream with East Coast sprinkles. Definitely from the school of traditional, punchline-driven rap, as flipping words has always been my forte. Sonically, I’m a sucker for dusty, sample-based production and chilled-out soundscapes, but I’ll spit over whatever’s put in front of me.
What are some artists you look up to and why?
Run DMC. They introduced me to hip-hop and I admire how they were able to make meaningful music while keeping it clean. Also had the chance to open for DMC at Neck of the Woods and he was the nicest dude ever.
What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you at a show?
A couple years back, I got paid to MC and perform at this festival in North Richmond. After I arrived, the event organizer told me she had to attend a funeral, and basically tasked me with making sure the entire event ran without a hitch. They also, for whatever reason, had zero microphones, so we had to pick up some second-rate mics from a random store and rush back. A chaotic day, but leastwise I made some cheese!
What are you listening to these days?
Smino has been in heavy rotation. So has the Black Panther Soundtrack. My playlist is way out there, though — it’s not unusual for me to bump Dolly Parton, the Home Alone Soundtrack, Fifth Dimension, Enya, and Rakim all in the same day.
You recently released a new single called “Picture Day.” What can you tell us about it?
Easily the song I’m most proud of. I somehow managed to collaborate with the Detroit Children’s Choir, a super talented producer from Louisville (Dr. Dundiff), and Joni Fuller, a world-class violinist/cellist — all over email. I love unique song concepts and I thought it’d be dope to make a track about school picture days: rocking the fresh fit, the fly honey in first period, using the complimentary white background ’cause you can’t afford the red/blue/green options, etc. It all came together beautifully and I think it hits home for a lot of folks.
All proceeds from your album sales are going to non-profits in the Bay Area. What made you decide to go that route?
GOOD CHOICES, the album I’m dropping on March 26, is about just that. So I figured it was necessary for me to give back to two non-profits that have tirelessly provided a platform for myself and other artists. One is Lyrical Opposition, of SF, and the other is With Our Words, Inc., of Stockton, my hometown.
What’s your take on all the live music clubs closing in the Bay Area and people calling the music scene dead?
Many artists can’t afford to live here anymore. That’s never good for any city, let alone an area that’s known for its creativity. However, the dearth of venues will only force artists to be more creative in getting their stuff out there. We might just have to mob over to the LinkedIn HQ on 2nd St. and play a set in the lobby before security strong-arms us out. Whatever it takes.
What does music mean to you?
It’s a hole I can either crawl into or crawl out of. If I want to remember my late grandfather, I’ll put on George Shearing or some Big Band; if something at work pisses me off, I’ll escape by slapping Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Brooklyn Zoo” in my headphones. Music allows me to come and go as I please.
What’s your favorite neighborhood in the city and why?
The Excelsior is dope. Pupuserias on every corner, hardly any suits, a good diverse mix of folks who keep it real. It’s also right next to Daly City, where I can run errands and hit up Jollibee!
What’s one thing that people would be surprised to find out about you?
Aside from making music, I’m also a writer and nationally competing spoken word poet. I represented The Bay at the National Poetry Slam in Denver this past August, and I’m currently writing a memoir about my early years in the 209.
Photos courtesy of Gark Mavigan