Infinito 2017 speaks out about his life, his influences, and the state of hip-hop culture

Infinito 2017, a.k.a. Marcellous Lovelace, has been a part of underground hip-hop culture since the late '80s and continues to be a fixture of the scene. Most recently, he opened for both KRS-One and Mos Def.

Interview by Pam Nogales

F News: What kind of hip–hop did you grow up with?

Infinito 2017: The first thing that comes to me is Busy-B, Kool Moe Dee, and stuff like that, then KRS-One, Public Enemy, and then I started listening to De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and it just kept going and going on that same type of genre. And you know I listened to gangster rap, not necessarily everything. I liked some things but not everything. I listened to the Getto Boys because they were real, you know what I mean?

F: Gangster rap contains negative messages that mostly derive from experiences on the streets, with a tendency to romanticize delinquency — whereas underground hip-hop which has arguably a more positive message and consciousness. What is your take on gangster rap and its content, and do you yourself listen to gangster rap?

2017: Have I listened to it? I don’t listen to it for enjoyment, [but] I listen to it to see if it does have any consciousness in it, and if it has a message or validity to it whatsoever. Because, you know, the public searches for [the point] in music and most of the times you are like, “Hmmm, [isn’t] hip-hop supposed to have a point?” And sometimes things just don’t have a point...It’s like 70 to 80 percent of the time it don’t have a message at all...its just there.

F: When and why did you cross the line from simply appreciating hip-hop to becoming an MC?

Black Tripod

Style Wars

2017: My cousin, he rhymes. I guess he’s rhymed since, like, '83 until now. And I was there, and I listened to him, you know what I mean? I’m looking at him and he was my main influence...not saying, “If he can do it, I can do it,” but he inspired me to do it. Just listening when he was rhyming, or breakin’, graffiti or whatever, and I wanted to be a part of that culture, and since I couldn’t break, I started rhyming. So I looked at the situation like, “He rhymes, and he lives in my house,” and I just started picking up the extra beats and really started in '88, '89. I just took it from there and never stopped.

F: When it comes to MCing, breakin’ (break dancing), graffiti and DJing, we are talking about the four elements of hip-hop, in which most MC’s either dabble or are proficient. Do you participate in any of these?

2017: I dabble in DJing, I dabble in producing, I dabble in graffiti...without the tagging. I don’t tag...I like the art part of graffiti. I incorporate the spray painting into my art, but it is still graffiti regardless. I don’t break, I wish I could break, or be a DJ for real. (Exclaiming at the thought) I’d be tearing it up. All right? So 2017 I’ll DJ and 2048 I’ll be a blues singer (laughs)...I’m just playing.

F: What do you feel is the most important aspect of being an MC?

2017: Presence, articulation, your energy, your charisma, character, and personality. The problem with most MCs is personality...they don’t be themselves, they just think, “Look, I can rhyme.” “They” just meaning cats in general. Not just mainstream, it could be anyone...I guess I’m trying to be a teacher right now, as far as I’m concerned this is what I do, I figure if I am not doing it then tell me I’m not doing it. I want to be on point. Also, make your words flow, and the content steady. You can rap off- beat or on-beat but always make your own rhythm. Most important, you can have energy and stage presence but without content you are percent there.

F: We’ve touched on the subject of mainstream versus underground hip-hop, and it’s true that today there is no middle ground. You are either extremely underground or are mainstream up at the top. In your eyes, what defines mainstream?

2017: ...I guess it’s like, when it’s all for the money, you don’t have no other point or purpose to do it. Because there are cats that are “mainstream” that are more hip-hop than people who are “underground”, which is ridiculous. For example, someone told me that Kay Slay was in Style Wars...that just gave him some credibility. To be in [the 1983 PBS documentary]Style Wars is to be true hip-hop.

F: What are your views on “underground” hip-hop and what do you find defines it as a style?

2017: I guess my personal definition, would be just pure, raw, keeping it to what it was back in the day when people didn’t have the technology that they have today, when it was all about the content. Keeping it dirty, keeping it raw, without being a thug or a killer, or, you know, hurt somebody. Do not preach about being a “gangster” or a “thug,” people blow these words way out of proportion. Some people that claim being a gangster, while they do this...they don’t even claim being a gangster in the streets, or ain’t never seen a gang bang in their life. I mean, I’m from Chicago, I know...and I think you know that say all that gangster this and that,” but they are not really about something.

F: How did you get signed to Molemen records?

2017: (laughs) Signed? ... it’s not really “signed.” I mean, when you are with an independent label, it’s like more friends and family oriented. It’s not like, “Hey, I’m ‘SIGNED.’” Even if you were signed to “Def Jux,” it’s not really anything different, apart from having more exposure. You do gain opportunity; they give you more of a chance to promote yourself to a lot of audiences. They had me open up for KRS1, and they are about to do it at the Mos Def concert. I don’t know if I’m gonna get to do it, but that would be a highlight.

F: How was it opening for KRS-One?

2017: It was this past summer on the Fourth of July. Some said that my energy was lacking. But its like, when you get older sometimes you don’t have as much energy as the younger cats.

F: Did you have a chance to speak with KRS-One at all?

2017: A little bit...I talked...I said, “Wuz up?” He said, “I got to go” (laughs). We did get to open for De La Soul in June, and we talked to them. They were real cool.

F: From what it sounds like, you’ve had pretty steady appearances. Do you feel pretty steady in your MC status, or do you not know what will happen next?

2017: (Shaking his head) You never know what is going to happen next. I always got something ready, but you never know.

F: How has being an artist influenced your rhyme, or has it at all?

2017: Yeah, yeah, definitely today I blend it all together. But it was real hard to do that at first [because] I wanted to keep everything separate. But now it’s kind of all complimentary, the same as 2D is complimentary to 3D or 4D, I see all my work as working together. It also makes me see things differently, while other people that don’t have the same eyes for things, can’t see what I see. In art you learn a lot about life, you understand concepts in different ways, and that helps my nerves.

F: On the Moleman Records website you are called a “political activist.” Do you see yourself as a political activist?

2017: I think it is blown out of proportion, I mean, that would be nice, you know, to be like a real political activist. But with music it’s kind of ridiculous not to be about “something.” I mean, if you care about a certain topic, it’s going to come through your music, and I guess, in that way, you can be called political. You are just putting a positive spin on it. I guess what I mean is that you might not be walking around with a picket sign, but you are being political in your stance, voicing your opinion. For example, this whole process is in my music, the whole anti — war...I don’t know, there are just some things that are wrong, and you have to bring them to light. You can’t avoid them, you have to talk about them and let them be known. And I think that a lot of cats that are “money making” powerful voices, just avoid the problems. That is why I incorporate a lot of them into my rhyme, letting problems be known in a positive light. I guess in a way I am an activist, you just have to find a way to voice your opinion without being preachy. That’s how I see it.

F: Do you feel you are different from other MCs?

2017: You know, that is hard to say. I mean, you can always look up and see somebody like you, you know what I mean? But I always felt like I got my own type of voice. Also, the fact is that I can make my own video with nobody helping me, period. And others might be able to do it too, but I am doing it now. And just being self — sufficient always, that’s how I am different, being myself all the time. Constantly never being afraid to be myself.

2017: All right F News, peace out. Go to and check it out, represent Chicago hip-hop, east coast, west coast, wherever you at. Go see it...and we out!
Photography by Roy Gardner


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