Written by Hero Magnus

Right away, while listening to “Harm” by Marcaux, I’m introduced to a barely-there soundscape, composed of snaps, hi-hat and hollow clicks. This continues throughout the whole song. It feels a little bit like a first-draft mix, only partially done, with many layers and instruments left to be added. But, by the middle of the song I’m convinced: this sonic emptiness is purposeful, meant to put all of the focus on his words.

“Mostly every beat I make is created in the same bedroom i grew up in. Which actually makes me feel much more comfortable in the creation process. I had just come across a bunch of new sounds and drums and decided to do something fun. Next thing I know, ‘Harm’ was created.”

– Marcaux

Long Island rapper Marcaux already has a solid body of work available: two albums and a handful of singles. He’s lyric-focused to a fault, and says his work is “high-quality music made on low-quality drugs.” His identity— so far— seems to be a combination of ironic usage of rapper stereotypes and genuine feelings which is echoed in “Harm.”

He includes the tropes of conspicuous consumption and bad behavior in rap music “Mama knew I couldn’t be an angel I’m too reckless / watch the halo falling from my head into a necklace,” he sings at one point. But, he pairs this with less-frequented phrases in the first verse: “Crippling depression / had a positive view / now I’m seeing a shrink and my confidence grew,” He makes therapy matter-of-fact, casually destigmatizing with a throwaway lyric. It also serves the purpose of priming the audience to think about the phrase “do no harm” as applied to physicians and medicine.

“The lyrics were already written. it was something more fun. A concept that wasn’t too serious but still had some depth. The lyrics were originally on a different beat that I grew to hate. So, when I made the ‘Harm’ beat it was a pretty easy decision to throw the lyrics onto the beat that its on now. This was for sure a more fun, flexing record in comparison to all of the more emotional stuff I usually write.”

– Marcaux

Early on, Marcaux gives the audience his central moral dilemma. “Mama told me that I could be whatever the fuck that I wanted / as long as I don’t hurt nobody in the process / I guess I just broke her rules now,” he raps. There’s so much ambiguous hurt and pain in this song; I wonder if the person he’s hurting is himself.

Marcaux, in the prechorus, introduces more rap stereotypes– singing about “these hoes”– with a deliberately unbalanced falsetto. “Big bro / told me not to stress about these hoes / as long as I connect with the people,” he sings. It’s unclear how much is irony and how much is serious, but the juxtaposition is clearly deliberate.

“I want [fans] to feel that way Pharrell & The Neptunes made people feel. They were able to talk about something unique, but still have your head involuntarily bobbing to the beat. That’s this record for me, so that’s what I want this record to be for everyone else.”

– Marcaux

And finally, he bends into the chorus. The way he pronounces the word “harm” is one of the best things about this song: he says it as though he’s the first one ever to say it. It’s a clever melody: “I mean no harm to you / but still I’m gonna kill you” he repeats.

In a recent interview with The Fader, Marcaux talked about how the video for “Harm” shows him shedding his old self and growing his new self. In this way, he’s a bit similar to Taylor Swift circa the “reputation” era. “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now,” snarls Swift In Look What You Made Me Do. Why? / oh, cause she’s dead!”

“And it almost feels like I’m on this road for the wrong reasons,” he raps in the second verse. It’s a powerful line because it’s so meta: I’m listening to his music, so he better not be making it for the wrong reasons! But I still sympathize.

Marcaux’s old self was already deadly original. I’m excited to see what’s next.

Check out “Harm” by Marcaux here.

Follow Marcaux

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram