Marco Polo

Marco Polo
When Torontonian hip-hop producer Marco "Marco Polo" Bruno moved to Queens, NY in the early 2000s, he wasn't seeking rap superstardom. He was just looking for a chance to intern at one of the city's many production houses. Almost a decade on, Polo's worked with a virtual who's-who of East coast underground hip-hop, including Heltah Skeltah, KRS-One, and Masta Ace, and has become one of the go-to producers for the legendary Duck Down Records label. He's also become one of the pre-eminent users of samples in the modern era, sometimes layering multiple samples into one beat. He also has one production CD to his name, 2007's Port Authority, which featured vocals from artists like Kardinal Offishall, Ed OG, and Sadat X. Now, he's releasing his second album The Stupendous Adventures of..., which features songs recorded over the past half-decade, and includes vocals from both old schoolers like Grand Daddy I.U. and Large Professor, and up-and-comers like Skyzoo and Diamond District.

Where did the title come from?
Shylow, who is a DJ/MC/producer from Toronto - he's kind of like my right hand, one of the guys who taught me how to make beats and everything - came up with the title, on some funny shit. I was like "No, I want that [to be my album title.]" Stupendous is just such a ridiculous word. My pops used to say that all the time when I was a kid. That's me, I'm a joker, and that's what my journey has been, from New York to Toronto. It's been stupendous. I'm working with guys I used to listen to, guys that were my heroes.

What's that like as an artist, working with guys that were your heroes as a kid?
It's a dream come true, very humbling. I have to find a way to get out of that mode when it's time to work, though, and view myself as an equal creative part. It can be easy to be a yes man out of respect, but I always remain honest with whomever I work with.

Who would you like to work with you haven't yet?
Jay Z, Nas, Ghostface, Styles, Jadakiss, Outkast, Snoop, Busta.

You have a lot of different types of MCs on your album. You have Toronto cats, you have young, up-and-coming rappers, and then you have dudes like Grand Daddy I.U. How did you pick who was on this album?
When I made my last album, Port Authority, I set out to make an album. So when people call that a compilation, I get a little pissed off. That was recorded all together in one chunk with one vibe. These weren't recorded together. They were things that I'd recorded between 2005 and this year that were recorded between albums. They missed album deadlines, or they weren't released for some reason. Some of them were exclusive remixes that were only available on b-sides. So this is a compilation. I didn't think about having these MCs together at all... This is really the adventures.

Do you think it's important, as a Canadian hip-hop artist based in the States, to try and put other talented Canadian on when you can?
If I can shed light or connect other dope artists from Toronto with people, then cool.

Over the years, for a number of reasons, hip-hop has moved away from sampling, but your sound is all samples. What makes you want to go that route?
That's not true. Because the major labels and radio stopped playing [sample-heavy hip-hop], people think it's gone, or that it's some sort of retro thing. Sampling has never gone anywhere. None of the real New York dudes, none of the big East coast producers, ever stopped sampling. Radio just stopped playing it, so people thought it went away. That's hip-hop to me. I don't even consider it a genre of hip-hop. That is hip-hop. But I understand that when kids hear it now they're like "Oh, that's cool." They're not used to it. They think it's something we're bringing back... I don't know another way of making music. I'm starting to try some other things now. I'm starting to dabble with live instruments, but I still want it to sound funky like I sampled it.