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Mars Ill: Pain in the Process

By Jennifer E. Jones
CBNmusic Producer

CBN.comNashville, TN. - How long does it take to get some ProPain? Apparently 533 days.

The release of Mars Ill’s hip-hop triumph ProPain is the very definition of “long-awaited.” Rap fans were salivating at the dangling carrot of a new Mars Ill album. However, no one was quite sure when the CD would come out. Not even Mars Ill.

“The first release was October of 2004,” Dust tells CBNmusic. “There was a sample on there that the lawyers were not comfortable with. They decided to push it all the way to June of [2005].”

ManCHILD adds, “Then, it was just kind of dropping the ball on getting it ready to be released.”

The Atlanta duo of ManCHILD and Dust had to “revamp some things” after the June release date fell through. ProPain finally saw the light of day on April 25, 2006, to rave reviews. Mars Ill agrees with the critics. “We prayed about it definitely,” ManCHILD says. “It’s definitely our favorite record by far.”

This could be because the setbacks and delays afforded the group more time to perfect their masterpiece.

“We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it,” ManCHILD says. “We had time to take out stuff that didn’t work.”

Mars Ill has always been a group that marched to their own beat machine, and Dust explains that, while making ProPain, they weren’t looking for something that followed the current sounds in rap.

“We’re never the type of band that makes really trendy music,” Dust says. “I feel like whether it came out in 2004, 2006 or 2008, it’s timeless.”

“It still has legs; it’s still relevant,” ManCHILD concurs.

Mars Ill’s music has always stayed fresh because of their obsession with finding the perfect sample.

“Anything that we use is meant to be anonymous,” says Dust. “We’re not going to take somebody else’s popularity and transfer it to our own. I come from the old school production where our beats are drawing from all the classic music that came before you.”

It’s an art form that is lost on today’s hip-hop world where sampling pop songs for a catchy hook is a quick way to the top of the charts.

“Sampling is a necessary evil in our business. You just have to learn how to work within the game,” ManCHILD says.

“The game” has been especially good to Mars Ill. Few rap artists can say they get respect from both the mainstream and the Christian side of the industry. However, the hip-hop press has always had its eye on Mars Ill. So how do they keep a foot in both worlds?

“Quality… we’ve never compared ourselves with what’s happening in the Christian industry,” ManCHILD says. “Of course we’re both believers but we never said, ‘We’re gonna be the most credible Christian rap group.’ Instead we said, ‘What are the artists that we grew up on?’ If we want to do this, we want to do it to the best of our abilities."

He continues, "Also, we don’t speak a lot of Christianese. We don’t say things that normally a person couldn’t understand. We kind of compliment their perspective. It’s a respect issue.”

Dust mentions that another reason their music appeals to a mass audience is that they hold fast to the ideas and rhythms from rap’s roots.

“We both come from the era of what was special about hip-hop,” he says. “Not to say there’s not stuff that’s special now. A lot of the last five or six years has just been recycled ideas and music. You know how you felt when you first heard your favorite rap group back in the day. They were the first ones doing it – like Tribe Called Quest. When they first came on the scene, they were very laid back. That’s kinda where we come from with our music. We want to bring some new feeling to something that’s already a classic.”

Pro Pain

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