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Jeremiah Marcel, former Heinz Fellow, and local Hip Hop Inspiration

Toledo, Ohio native Jeremiah Marcel came to Pittsburgh to attend the University. But once he planted his feet on the soil, his impact stretched far beyond the classroom. Being a former Heinz Fellow, Marcel mentored students and supported educators in and around the classroom. And as much of a passion he has for teaching, its also so deeply rooted in his love for music. Jeremiah shares a little insight into his music, inspiration, and goals in life.

(Source: Facebook/Jeremiah)

How long have you been making music? How were you introduced to lyricism?

I started rapping at 11. I didn’t write and record a real verse until I was about 18. I've been into lyrics since before I could remember. I used to listen to my dad’s (Rakim, LL Cool J, Tupac, and Naughty by Nature, etc.) albums and dub my own mixtapes from them as a kid. I knew all the words but I knew not to repeat any of the curses. After I started rapping, Outkast had a big influence on me - how fast they rapped on Bombs Over Baghdad really inspired me. Then Jay-Z introduced me to flow, Lil Wayne introduced me to punchlines and Lupe introduced me to metaphors and personifications within rap that I hadn’t really heard prior. That was around high school when I became a fan of Lupe Fiasco. 

Tell us about your earliest memories of music?

Singing the hook to Hip-Hop Horay by Naughty-By-Nature at three years old. It was my favorite song at the time.  

New F-E-A-R featuring Jacquea Mae is one of my personal favorites. What was it like collaborating and how did you guys come up with the concept?

Funny thing is that song was never finished. It was supposed to have a whole intro and everything. The song sparked from conversations that we were having about relationships we were in at the time and had been in. We realized how much our fears played a part in them not working. Then it dawned on me in the conversation that fear could mean “False Expectations Appearing Real”, hence the hook on the song. We came up with that song in a few hours and recorded it on like two different days at my house on a mic in my closet. 

(Source: TEDxPittsburgh)

Favorite collaborations? Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?

My favorite collaboration thus far would be with fellow emcee and homie Shad Ali on our song Think 4 A Minute that on his album. It’s the first song we recorded together and my verse touches on gentrification in like 2013 at a time when it was very well known but not such the buzz word that it is now. And he killed his verse as well. In the future, I would like to record and official song with my homie Cramer who is a very accomplished singer that I went to college with and now lives back home in DC. I got her to feature at the Shadow Lounge last year and she has a bunch of dope music you should go and check out. 

Who’s on your playlist right now? Top 5?

Right now, my playlist consists of songs and albums I really enjoy: 'Ugh, Those Feels Again' by Snoh Aalegra, 'May The Lord Watch' by Little Brother, 'Victory Lap' by Nipsey Hussle 'The Allegory' by Royce Da 5’9 ...and mad Stevie wonder songs, haha.

My top five artists are Lupe Fiasco, Nas, Jay-Z, Black Thought and Royce Da 5’9 

Some know you as Jeremiah the artist, but many have the opportunity to know you as a teacher and community leader. How has teaching shifted your life/perspective? What do you learn from your students?

Teaching has taught me not to be so presumptive with people and situations because there is always something you don’t know even if you know everything. It taught me that education doesn’t happen in isolation to the world and it has compelled me to connect the world to how I/we educate through whatever way I can. I learned that saying nephs, tizzy, goots, homies, etc all deal with certain areas in each hood and not a generalization (I’m not from here). I learned that you are the most creative when you are not worried about the destination of what you create but instead the meaning of it. 

How has COVID impacted the way you connect with your students, mentees, and family members? Have you participated in any virtual link-ups?

It shut it down a lot for me since the class I teach is an elective, it hasn’t been mandatory for students to link with me. I do morning meet-ups via Zoom in the morning with my 6th-grade student advisees. 

What have you learned about yourself during this pandemic? How has this shift changed the dynamic of your daily life and routine?

I have relearned that I am my biggest help and hindrance through how I spend my time. I have been working to focus my thoughts on things that are productive so that I can get to the next levels with my goals. 

Are you finding time to create? Any new/upcoming projects we should know about?

I have been finding time to create, but have been doing more reading to fuel my creative process. I am aspiring to complete a project entitled “Through Your Destruction Always Remember to Speak Life”. Got a long way to go with it though. 

What does your work aim to say? How do you cultivate your fanbase?

I write to either inform, enlighten, broaden perspective, or affirm others through my lived experience. That may sound holier-than-though, haha but that's the approach whenever I write. I have normally cultivated a fan-based mainly through live performances of some sort. I need to get better at it though with using social media and putting out more music and content along with performing. 

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.

I like building things and working with my hands when I get the opportunity too. I went to an engineering high school so that part of me is still alive. 

Out of everything you’ve created, what’s your favorite project/song?

I have yet to create my favorite song or project so I’m still on the hunt for that “this is it” feeling. 

What keeps you motivated and inspired? How do you translate it into your art?

The yearning to still speak on things that I see even if no one hears it. Also, I literally rap doing everything, praying, walking, talking to my kids, etc. So I can’t no rap/write even if I wanted to. 


Follow Jeremiah on Social and Check out his music:

Instagram: @j_marcel90



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Image by Jessica Felicio