Makin’ it

Scapegoat Wax’s Marty James is Chico success story

Courtesy Of WAX ON

If aspiring Chico hip-hop artists want a blueprint on how to succeed in the cutthroat music business, they need only look to Marty James.

“Marty is definitely the prime example, being that he’s already done it,” said Aye Jay Moreno of the Becky Sagers. “We all went to school together, and we all saw Marty’s drive and determination.”

In 1999, Marty James, now 26, was signed by the indie hip-hop label Good Vibe. His pop-flavored single, “Aisle 10,” was an immediate hit. Now, he records for Hollywood, a Disney label. His videos are on MTV.

“I came up doing hip-hop,” James says in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. “Early on, when I was really young doing music in Chico, people were really supportive of me.”

While he and his “multicultural group” of friends were attending Chico Junior High, they’d listen to hip-hop and rap—artists such as NWA and the Ghetto Boys. “There was nothing like that going on in Chico,” he says. “I was really intrigued by how the music was made—the beats and how they used the samples over beats.”

When, at only 13 or 14, he tried to explain to Chico studios the type of music he wanted to record, they didn’t know what he was talking about. “I was on my own in the beginning,” said James, who looked in the back of BAM magazine and found ads for Bay Area studios charging only $15 an hour to record. He’d save up the $180 to $200 it took to record four songs and get a friend’s mom to drive them to San Francisco.

Each time he got better, and he started sending the demos “to any address I could find,” such as lawyers and producers listed on CDs. “Finally, I started getting calls back. Persistence is everything, and it’s hard to stay persistent if you don’t get any immediate feedback.”

“It was us being that naïve that made me believe this could happen,” James says. “We didn’t realize what we were doing.”

When James was in high school, DJ Rubbaban included his work on some remixes for his show, and he’d get to hear himself on the radio after school.

James has been out of Chico for five years, but he still mentions the town in his songs and even featured Melody Records at the corner of Main and Fourth on one of his CD covers. “It puts an identity to my music,” he says. “It’s real, and it’s very honest. It was so exciting to be from Chico and have this record deal. That’s such a big part of my life, coming up from Chico.”

James, who did an impromptu performance over the December holidays at Paradise Lost, is heading to the studio March 18 to start recording a new album—this time a solo venture.

“I’m really proud of what I’ve written for it. I’ve been working hard to become a solid songwriter,” he says. There are plenty of beats to the album but no rap. “I wanted to branch out a bit and do something new. But all my music is rooted in hip-hop.”

“I never would have thought I’d get this far,” says James. “I’ve made quite a bit of money off this stuff.

“My whole world is music now. I get up to wake up and go to my studio and make music all day."