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Interview: Adrian Marcel Talks Debut Album ‘GMFU’ + Wants R&B Artists to Step Outside Box

Trust the process.

Oakland, Calif. native Adrian Marcel — whose mentor is R&B legend Raphael Saadiq — made a splash in 2013 with his mixtape, 7 Days of Weak. In 2014, he released his debut single “2AM” featuring rapper Sage the Gemini on Republic Records. The club-friendly track was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in October 2015. At the time, Marcel was promoting his debut album, GMFU (Got Me Fucked Up) with intention to release it at the top of 2016. However, things didn’t go as planned.

Following his departure from Republic, Marcel finally released his oft-delayed debut album in April. The album is loaded with 16 tracks including “Mobbin,” which features Too $hort, Lil Boosie and M-City Jr.

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In an interview with Rated R&B, Marcel discusses the evolution of his debut album, the need for R&B artists to step outside of the box and more.

Check out Adrian Marcel’s interview below.

RATED R&B: You recently tweeted, “Don’t call yourself a singer or real R&B if all your songs are in the exact same key and tone. I lose respect almost instantly!” Do you feel like R&B artists generally put themselves in a box?

Adrian Marcel: I think R&B artists put themselves in a box. I think we tend to kind of feel like we have to be something else or we have to be the trend. For me, I’m kind of jumping out of that. I feel like there was a moment when I kind of got drifted that way but with this new project, GMFU, it’s me saying “Got myself F-d up” because the only way I can get distracted is by me. I have to allow that to happen and I think that’s what’s going on. So, I’m just focused in on the real fundamentals of R&B and soul music.

RATED R&B: Your debut album GMFU is out now. What was the process like for you creating that project?

Fun. Extremely fun. It was effortless — not to say it wasn’t hard work. It was a lot of hard work that went into it. It was just the people I wanted to work with, the people that wanted to work with me. It was a stress-free environment. It didn’t take a lot of effort and we when we get like that, that’s when we give the most effort.

RATED R&B: Although you describe the process as effortless, were there any challenging moments or obstacles you faced while creating the album?

Absolutely. Of course, when you’re dealing with other entities and other creatives, there’s always that time when we’re not on the same page or we aren’t kind of agreeing on this or the timing of this. It was things like that — again, doing this independently, there is no big budget. There is no major label or major machine that is doing that part of the work. There were a lot of conversations with producers and even other writers that we teamed up with. This is people’s lives. This is how they make a living. This is what they do. It was like, “Hey. I’m jumping out on a wing here. It’s something different. It’s not going to be like anything that’s out right now. This is what I see. This is the vision of how I think it will go and if you believe in that, let’s rock.” The people that are on this project are those people were like, “Yeah we believe.” So we had ups and downs on trying to figure things out but it all worked out how it was supposed to .

RATED R&B: You announced the title of your debut album a few years ago when you were signed to Republic Records. However, it ultimately got released this year. Did you feel any pressure about releasing the album years after it was announced?

To be honest, before we stepped into the label doors we knew that we wanted our first real project to be Got Me Fucked Up (laughs). It was just something that we knew we wanted to do. We kind of always played an underdog role in my opinion — from the beginning. The way we went about things was very underground. I guess the direction and point of it always changed. I think now GMFU has a real purpose that made sense. It was almost to me like — and I’m not at all comparing it to Confessions — but what that album at the time stood for for Usher and the timing of what was going on in Usher’s life and what he came from before….and for me, that’s what it was. It was like, nah this is so perfect because now it’s not a broad statement. Now, this is very personal.

RATED R&B: How did the creative concept change over time?

Honestly, I think the concept kind of change a little bit. I think for the better. I think that at the time, listening to so many other voices and so many entities that we’re the important part of this creative process. I think we were headed in another direction but now it just came full circle in what we were talking about. We made it more about self rather than the statement that it was.The statement is a little aggressive and for me it’s more self-aware.

RATED R&B: Out of the 16 songs on the album, which is the most personal to you?

“Eastside Story” because it was only two people who had anything to do with it — me and Jan Hancock. We produced it. We wrote it. Arranged it. Recorded it. It was the first record that we recorded in the process of doing this album. We had records already that were kind of sitting on but this was the first one we did for the direction of Got Me F-d Up. It was like, OK, “I want to be as real as possible. I want to be as raw as possible.” There’s a reason for every line and there’s a point to every line. I just put my truth in there that right now coming off of this label at this, we are happy — this is a good step — but it’s a scary step. You’re talking about being independent. To me it was the most personal song and that’s why it went last because I wanted it to be the last thought.

RATED R&B: How do you keep up with the world’s short attention span?

I’m always recording. I’m always working on new stuff. You’re absolutely right. Today, music just goes in and out. I feel like it has something to do with the music as well. Music should sustain itself. If it’s real, if it’s honest, if it’s relatable, if it’s universal, if it’s easy to understand — whatever the points of it that it has to be — music will sustain itself. People are still listening to Marvin Gaye. People are still listening to Stevie Wonder. People are still listening to Maxwell. People are still listening to their older hits. They’re timeless records. The focus for us was to make timeless records that we can continue to listen to — that I can continue to listen to. Just as I get bored with something else, I get bored with my own stuff even faster.

Stream GMFU on Spotify below.

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