I first met Markus Debuque at a hostel in Greece, where we bonded over a love of music. After chatting for a bit, he told me he was actually a musician – a rapper, to be exact. I was skeptical. It seemed to me that everyone these days was in music. What made this guy any different? But he offered to give me his CD so I could hear his stuff, and I accepted. One day when I was back home and the echoes of Greece had faded away I finally popped Debuque’s debut, The Build, into my computer. And the rest, you could say, is history.
Debuque was born and raised outside the city of Philadelphia, where his upbringing was more suburban than urban (his mom wouldn’t let him buy Parental Advisory CDs). Still, he developed a love of hip-hop from an early age. He was about 5-years-old when he acquired his first tape, smuggled home after being given to him at school by his friends’ older brothers, and it spawned a passion that would show him down the path he knows he was meant to take.
“Ever since I can remember it was the only thing that appealed to me,” Debuque says to me over the phone from New York, where he is currently based. “I think it was something about the syncopation of the words combined with this beat that wasn’t rock, it wasn’t disco, it wasn’t any of those things, or soul, it was something new. And when I heard it, as long as I can remember, it was what I wanted to listen to no matter what.”
He began taking it seriously early on, recording his first song when he was just 15-years-old.
“It sounded awful, I still have it somewhere,” he says. “It’s the worst audio quality. I guess it shows a growth over the years.”
This growth, says the 26-year-old, has been most evident and vast in the last three years. After studying communication journalism and English in college (something that resulted in a strong command of the English language, though he claims he’s getting “stupider” so he recently bought a pocket dictionary), he decided he wanted to focus on his music. So he picked up and moved to New York City with little more than the fire in his heart.
“When I graduated school I moved to New York City and it became a lot realer and I started to see what I needed to do, and that the days of getting discovered and getting a record deal out of nowhere are kind of over,” Debuque says. “You have to make your name first in order to be heard. So that’s what I’ve been spending the last three years doing.”
He’s already made a name for himself, and that name is PremRock – a moniker that derived from his original artist name, Premonition (his first album, The Build, is under Premonition but he is now only called PremRock). Working hard to show he’s worth a listen, Debuque has established himself within the New York hip-hop community, as well as more recently in various European communities; we met while he was taking some fun-in-the-sun days off of his busy tour. His experiences have resulted in some great companions, one being producer Willie Green. The two got along so well, in fact, after working together on The Build, that they decided to make a whole album together. PremRock & Willie Green came out on Sept. 28 on Isolated Wax Records. It’s a project dear to Debuque’s heart.
“I’m really proud of it,” he says. “You’ll see a lot of different facets of me as an artist on the record and that’s probably what I’m most proud of, is that I don’t think I come with one particular tone, cadence or style.”
And after listening to Debuque’s first album, I’m inclined to agree. What is perhaps most striking about his music is the ease at which it feels genuine, candid, honest; though well thought out and intelligent, the music of PremRock isn’t packaged or showy – it’s raw and it’s true, and that’s the way he likes it.
“You can have self esteem issues and all the issues that we all have, but as you grow as an artist it’s your way of dealing with them, is sharing them,” says Debuque. “On this record in particular there’s things that I told maybe three people – and I’m close with a lot of people, it’s not really that big of a deal for me to tell people stuff – and I go ahead and put it on a record. And this is something that I didn’t even want to talk about six months ago. So it’s an evolution and it took me a long time to do that and be comfortable with that.”
Debuque himself is charming, friendly, funny and humble (and, for all you Clueless fans out there, he does an incredible Elton impression). His undying love for his art form and his determination to succeed at it, to better it, to perfect it, makes it hard not to root for him. For a guy who in college “didn’t have a desktop computer [but instead] had a turntable and a beat machine,” and who defines personal success as nothing more than “living off [his] music and growing exponentially,” the rest is just icing. After all, he’s in it for the music. It’s his outlet, his release, his chance to open up.
“You don’t have to love what I said, but you’re not gonna question whether it’s true or not,” Debuque says. “Honesty to me is the most important trait in an artist. If the artist is not honest with themselves then they’re not gonna be honest with their listeners and then the whole situation becomes like, ‘Well, why are you really doing it?’ And sure, there’s lots of people like that, and that’s fine, but that’s not the brand of music that I’ve chosen to make. I think the older I get the more honest I’ll be, and by the time I’m done making music I’ll have no secrets.”
Stream “Diary Of A Dreamer” here