Terrace Martin is a notable musician, rapper and producer from the city of Los Angeles and from the beginning of his career he has lent his skills to artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Quincy Jones, Snoop Dogg, 9th Wonder, Talib Kweli and many, many others.
Shattering the acknowledged rules of hip-hop production, he samples everything from funk to jazz to classical to create fresh and original tracks. His productions have made him one of the most sought after producers from the streets of Los Angeles to across the country. His father was a jazz musician, while his mother was a gospel singer, destining him for a life in music.
“I grew up in the middle with only hip-hop,” Martin says. “My parents taught me that there’s only good and bad music.” He began playing the piano at the age of six and at age 13, a friend encouraged Terrace to take up the saxophone and he did, finding one for $150 and learning to play it by himself. His Godfather Stemz Hunter, also a saxophonist, suggested Terrace enroll at Santa Monica High School to sharpen his musical chops. He walked in not knowing what a scale was and soon found himself practicing up to seven hours a day.
Martin made a decision to transfer to Locke High, an LAUSD school with a tough reputation within an earshot of gang-ridden Watts where the artistically-inclined gravitated. While attending Locke High, under the auspice of Reggie Andrews, Martin became first chair of the All-State jazz band.
As a child prodigy, Martin gained the interest of talk show host Jay Len who provided a $30,000 scholarship and purchased Martin’s first professional saxophone. Fresh out of high school, Martin attended Cal Arts but decided school was not for him and opted, instead, to go professional. Martin was not only recognized by Hollywood and music industry elites, he also found favor in the jazz world where world-renowned jazz musician, Billy Higgins made Martin a member of his World Stage All-Stars playing in the historic Leimert Park. From World Stage, Martin began touring with Puff Daddy and God’s Property, presented by Kirk Franklin.
“I didn’t believe in suffering to play, like why do musicians gotta suffer to play? Eating Top Ramen isn’t cool. I wanted to be main stream.” With that mentality guiding him, Terrace worked hard to get his beats placed for major artists’ albums. He scored a minor hit with 213’s “Joystick,” and went on to land beats on the Doggfather’s “Rhythm and Gangsta: The Masterpiece” and “Ego Trippin” albums.
Martin came from behind the board when he released his first project, The Demo and since has released a number of critically acclaimed masterpieces.
Martin’s projects feature many guest appearances from the peers and mentors he has worked with who have lent their expertise to encourage the budding artist’s career. That includes verses and production from the likes of Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, Pete Rock, DJ Quik, Kurupt, and plenty of others. In late 2010, Terrace Martin and radio personality Devi Dev released the EP “Here, My Dear”, inspired by Marvin Gaye’s critically acclaimed 1978 album of the same name. The EP has appearances from Snoop Dogg, Charlie Wilson, Kurupt, Problem, Kendrick Lamar and pianist Kenneth Crouch.
In 2010, he executive-produced Kurupt’s “Streetlights” album and formed a group called Melrose with LA underground rap hero Murs that put out a self-titled album in early 2011. In 2012, Martin released a number of highly regarded projects, and in 2013 he graced the airwaves with his first highly anticipated independent release, 3 Chord Fold, a fusion project that brings together some of music’s best, hitting fans with a vibe reminiscent of his 2009 release Hear, My Dear. 3ChordFold: Remixed was subsequently released at the end of 2013 and the three chords were completed with the release of 3ChordFold: Pulse in Spring 2014, which featured many live performances with guest appearances by Robert Glasper, Thundercat and more. Pulse also included new original tracks. Expect his latest project, Velvet Portraits to be released later in 2015.
While spending time with numerous luminaries in the studio, Terrace is one of the few artists in hip-hop who seamlessly works with underground, emerging and established artists; often on the same song. And it’s something he’s proud of. “To me, I just bridge the dope people with the dope people,” says Martin. His position in hip-hop music is unbridled, but it is his jazz musicianship that separates his sound from his peers.
From jazz to hip-hop, Martin’s role models include Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Jackie McLean, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Stitt, Grover Washington, Jr., Dr. Dre, DJ Quik, Battlecat, Premier, Pete Rock, and 1580 K-Day. “I started producing hip-hop tracks because it was the music of my time, but I never lost my love for jazz.” Martin says.
Terrace Martin is currently a staff producer for legendary Quincy Jones, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Top Dawg Entertainment (Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q) where he has lent his talents heavily to the critically acclaimed and highly anticipated To Pimp A Butterfly. He works closely with DJ Mustard and YG and continues to work closely with his mentor, Dr. Dre. Terrace can also be found performing with his live band for his growing fan base.
Bandleader, composer, producer, and saxophonist Terrace Martin took the stage at MoMA PS1 for Boiler Room Sunday Sessions. Terrace delivered a tremendous performance accompanied by a band featuring the likes of Keyon Harrold and Anna Wise.
Terrace Martin took the stage on January 31 for our fourth Sunday Sessions presented in conjunction with MoMA PS1. The event featured a conversation with Terrace moderated by Meghan Stabile of Revive Music, and a performance by Terrace and his live band We’ve taken bits from that discussion, done a follow-up phone interview, and added highlights from Terrace’s performance to produce 45 minutes of illuminating conversation punctuated by music. Topics of discussion include Terrace’s formative influences, the relationship between jazz and hip hop, the climate of music in Los Angeles, and his work with Kendrick Lamar.