Now is the Time. Memphis is the Place.

Marco Pave: Memphis Hip Hop Artist Uses Platform to Advocate for Social Justice

Photo: Connecting Memphis
Photo: Marco Pave

Photo: Marco Pave/Memphis Flyer

Between earning national recognition for being an Unsung Hero of the Black Lives Matter movement, having his art highlighted by national publications like The Source, and delivering an  inspiring talk at TedX about how the arts saved his life, Marco Pave is an outstanding example of the grit and heart in the 901. We found it important to share Marco Pave’s story!

In Memphis I can control my destiny.

How did it feel to have activist DeRay Mckesson blog about you and online news site The Root profile you as one of the unsung heroes of the Black Lives Matter Movement?

I’m super excited. The Hip Hop Scholars like Mark Anthony has utilized his blog to really push and support the work I’m doing here in the city. From there, the woman from The Root magazine called and was interested in hearing my story. To be honest with you, I wasn’t expecting to be the profile picture of the article, but I was excited nevertheless.

It also shows that you don’t have to riot and protest to be a part of the BLM, however, you can use your art to connect with the youth and create social change. That’s what I’ve learned through this entire process.

In Memphis you can see the impact of the work you put in more immediately than other cities. If you’re passionate about purpose, Memphis is the place to be.

New Album coming out soon. What should we expect?

The album releases in 2017. The last EP which was titled “Perception”, told the stories of unheard voices that suffer through the racism that impact many lives.

It’s also a testament to my story. As a kid from North Memphis, people foresaw me taking this career choices would leave me either dead or in jail. I heard, “Get a real job, you can’t be a rapper and plan to be successful”.

I can’t reveal the name of the next album, but essentially, it also represents the stories that illustrate struggle and triumph. I had 3 friends that were locked up or buried before I even got to HS. Not all the stories are beautiful, but we can’t ignore these stories. We often talk about the crime happening and look at certain communities in an adverse light. But the impact of growing up in these communities is what I will tell with the next album.

Essentially, racism doesn’t allow you to be full human beings. As black people, you have to bear the burden of all people that look like you. I’m not responsible for all black people. There is crime in every race, but in our culture, we are responsible for all black people and that’s an impact of racism.

What creatively inspires you?

Being in a city where there’s a lot of artists doing the work and also a city where a lot of this work gets overlooked. Overall, Memphis creates artists that are underdogs so I’m inspired to get the rest of the world to know about not just me but other great artists in the city.

Why Music?

I grew up around music. It was always around. As a kid, my dad and family played music in the house ridiculously loud.

In 3rd grade when I started picking up rap, I saw that people enjoyed it and was able to listen. It’s an opportunity to tell some of the unknown stories through this art form.

Why Memphis?

Memphis was the place I was born and raised. Memphis chose me. I don’t want to confuse me being here as if I don’t have choice. I was at that point at one time. When I thought I should be in Atlanta where music is booming. But here, I can control my destiny. Memphis is a place that needs a lot of help, I recognize the help that it needs. I’m able to travel to other places and learn inspiration that will fill that need through my art form.

What is the importance of BLM?

It’s probably the most important movement out. It gets people to recognize the terror black people suffer from in this country. We went from slavery to Jim Crow, to the crack epidemic to mass incarceration to police brutality. That’s 239 years of Grade A oppression. We’ve never had an opportunity for complete freedom and civil rights so we can’t pretend as if everything’s okay now. It’s a deeper form of oppression that we have to acknowledge. The BLM puts black lives on the forefront to recognize the people that are suffering from such systemic and long-lived oppression.

How do we change the narrative?

We have to first acknowledge the needs of correction. We’re only putting policies in place, but we have to change the thoughts of the people. Until we change how we think of each other, policies won’t give us the impactful change we need.

Why Choose901 ?

People not from Memphis should choose 901 because it’s a great city, cost of living, etc.

If you’re here, you don’t have to choose 901, just love 901. Explore your city. Cross racial barriers, cross artistic barriers, cross any barriers that stop us from connecting. We have to be realistic about the change needed, but essentially, we have to embrace our rich culture.  

You can be on the forefront of change as a new citizen. You can see the impact of the work you put in more immediately than other cities. If you’re passionate about purpose, Memphis is the place to be.

See Marco’s TedxMemphis talk below:


These stories are created by those who #Choose901. Passion, heart, and grit are characteristics that Marco Pave possess, and have always been an essential part of making the 901 so special. Find out more about Marco Pave here.

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