Full name Marvin Young; born 1968 in London, England; came to United States in 1970; son of a telephone company executive and nurse. Education: University of Southern California, B.A. 1988. Addresses: Record company-- Delicious Vinyl, c/o Atlantic Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.
Young M.C., the winner of the rap Grammy in 1990, is a G-rated musician in an X-rated genre. Most rap artists try to shock their audiences; Marvin Young, the real name of Young M.C., merely tries to entertain them. "There's a lot of impressionable people listening to the music," Young told Newsweek, "If I wasn't to take notice of that, I would be shirking responsibility." Profiled in People as having only "a flair for language and a love of big beat" in common with his hip-hop peers, Young boasts humorously in his lyrics, "If every rapper were Hawaiian, I'd be Don Ho."
"His lyrics don't reflect a hard, street kind of vibe," DJ-producer Michael Ross told People. Ross, who signed Young to his independent label Delicious Vinyl, recognized that Young was capable of writing lyrics which could give rap broad, commercial success. Young told Jeffrey Ressner in Rolling Stone, "I was in my dorm room after classes one day, and I didn't have any homework. They called and asked if I could do some lyrics, because they felt I'd be able to write something that would be more conducive to pop radio. I said I'd call them back in a half-hour, and about thirty-five minutes later, I read it back to them." Young's contribution to the writing of the platinum single "Wild Thing" and "Funky Cold Medina" for Tone-Loc, followed by his own platinum LP Stone Cold Rhymin', put rap in the mainstream of pop culture.
Young was born in London in 1968 and raised in Hollis, Queens, the home of rap stars Run-D.M.C. and L.L. Cool J. His parents are Jamaicans who moved to New York in 1970, where Young's father is a telephone company executive and his mother is a nurse. Young told Ressner in Rolling Stone that he composed his first songs during childhood. "When I was small, I used to write lyrics about fairy tales like 'Little Red Riding Hood,' 'The Three Bears,' 'Old McDonald,' all that stuff."
Recuperating in a hospital when he was twelve, Young discovered that his rhymes could entertain. Young related in People that he wrote a poem for the nurses which ended with the lines: "He's fully recovered; he's come right back/Then he saw the bill and had a heart attack."
Influenced by the pioneer rappers Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, in addition to the Jamaican artists Yellowman, Young joined some rap groups while in high school, but his career did not spiral until college. Young told People that he enrolled at USC, from where he graduated with a degree in economics in 1988, to "have a good job and make decent money." He explained further his decision to pursue the knowledge gained through academics instead of through street-life to Ressner in Rolling Stone. "I stayed in school because I wanted to. Now I can sit down, have a meeting with someone in a business-oriented position, and not be totally out of place."
While a college student, Young auditioned a cappella over the phone for Mike Ross, whom he had met previously through a mutual friend. Ross was the DJ-producer who, along with Matt Dike, had begun the independent label Delicious Vinyl. Ross and Dike signed Young in December 1987. Young's debut came early in 1988 when he received good notices in the United States and the United Kingdom for his single "I Let 'Em Know."
In 1989 Young co-penned the lyrics of "Wild Thing" for performer Tone-Loc, a song which not only graced the pop singles chart at Number Two, but also set a new precedent in rap music. Before, rappers and producers had written their own lyrics, eschewing outside writers, but Young's contribution as an outside writer to the lyrics of "Wild Thing" changed the old format. Young then contributed some key lines to "Funky Cold Medina," an acclaimed follow-up single for Tone-Loc.
Young's next successful project also came in 1989, while still a student at USC, with his platinum LP Stone Cold Rhymin'. "Bust a Move," a hit single from the album, demonstrates the vocal style and smooth articulation that won Young M.C. this year's rap Grammy.
Young does not opt for a flamboyant lifestyle. Commenting on his small, modest apartment in Hollywood, the rap star told Ressner in Rolling Stone, "This place is just somewhere I stay until I can get something more permanent. I'm out of town a whole bunch, so even if I had a house, I wouldn't be able to take care of it."
Promotional trips take up much of Young's time. He also prepares new singles and opens shows for acts on the road that range from Fine Young Cannibals to Boogie Down Productions. "I'm exhausted," Young joked to Ressner, "I've been busy prostituting myself all over Europe."
At home, the twenty-two-year-old Young does not party much as he revealed in People; neither does he drink nor smoke, as he states in his lyrics. He visits the club scene occasionally, but most of his time is spent working out rhythms and composing lyrics. Nor has he any serious romantic involvement at present, since he is "too busy."
Since much of Stone Cold Rhymin' was written while Marvin Young was still in high school, he foresees a new direction in his future work which will have political overtones. He has already contributed writing to the album Silent Assassin by the reggae stars Sly and Robbie, where Young also appears, which reflects this new bent. Confident about adding another dimension to his rap, Young told Ressner in Rolling Stone, "That's the kind of direction I want on my subsequent albums. I felt that if I came out singing things like 'Under Arrest' [one of the tracks on Silent Assassin ] right off the bat, people wouldn't necessarily listen. Now that they know who I am, I'm going to talk about more political issues. It's all well and good that people can identify with school or shy men meeting women, but there are other things that need to be addressed as well."
by Marjorie Burgess
Young M.C.'s Career
Hip-hop rap music; signed by Delicious Vinyl, December 1987; single debut "I Let 'em Know," 1988; coauthored "Wild Thing" for Tone-Loc, 1989; contributed writing to "Funky Cold Medina," 1989 (also for Tone-Loc); made LP Stone Cold Rhymin', 1989; contributed writing to Silent Assassin for Sly and Robbie, reggae stars.
Young M.C.'s Awards
Platinum single "Wild Thing," 1989; platinum LP Stone Cold Rhymin', 1989; Grammy nomination for "Bust a Move," single from Stone Cold Rhymin', 1990; rap Grammy, 1990.
- Stone Cold Rhymin' (includes "Bust a Move" and "Principal's Office"), Delicious Vinyl, 1989.
- "I Let 'em Know."
- Contributed to "Wild Thing" and "Funky Cold Medina" for Tone-Loc; and Silent Assassin by Sly and Robbie.
- Billboard, December 16, 1989.
- Newsweek, March 19, 1990.
- People, February 26, 1990.
- Rolling Stone, February 22, 1990.