Beats are life. Marco “Polo” Bruno, by way of Toronto and now making his home in Brooklyn, lives by this mantra. In a few short years the T. Dot native has gone from green producer with a new MPC 2000XL to a highly sought after purveyor of boom-bap, laying down tracks for the likes of Masta Ace, Boot Camp Clik and Sadat X. Now the 27 year-old production wunderkind is set to release his own debut album, Port Authority on Soulspazm/Rawkus.
A Hip-Hop head since copping the first A Tribe Called Quest album, in 2003 Marco Polo was fresh out of audio engineering school and despite sending his resume to over 20 recording studios in NYC, was without a single job prospect in site. Unfazed, he made the move to New York, staying with a friend in Queens before moving to his current Brooklyn confines. One day while meeting with recent acquaintance Ayatollah at The Cutting Room Studio, Marco finagled his way into an internship at the studio. From then on it was grunt work-fetching coffee, cleaning up, answering phones-and in a few months he landed a gig as an Assistant Engineer/Manager (coincidentally, the same job held previously by one Just Blaze). It would prove to be perfect locale for Polo to shop his beats. “I would have my beats blasting out of the office so that when clients came through they would hear my stuff,” he recalls.
After having a hand in engineering records from the likes of Fat Joe, Talib Kweli and even R&B crooner Carl Thomas, a Juice crew member put the battery in Polo’s career after sliding him some tracks. “Masta Ace came through a Beatnuts session and I gave him a CD and he hit me back a couple of days later for the “Do It Man” beat that I did on “A Long Hot Summer.”
Ace wasn’t Polo’s first placement. He had already been working with respected lyrical crew Brooklyn Academy which includes Jean Grae, Block McCloud and Pumpkinhead while he had showcased his work at a Beat Society show in NYC, which led to his relationship with Soulspazm.
But the “Do It Man” track placed Polo on plenty more radars. Since the song was a late addition to A Long Hot Summer, in lieu of Ace’s depleted budget the two decided on a trade. In turn, Ace recorded “Nostalgia” which ultimately became the first track recorded for Polo’s Port Authority project. Says Polo, “That’s what set off the whole idea for me to do a whole album. My ode to Soul Survivor, that type of album.”
Polo left The Cutting Room a couple of years ago, saying, “That was the best thing that ever happened to me cause it forced me to go into producer role full time.” Since then, Polo’s beats have sonically benefited folks like the Boot Camp Clik, Supernatural and Sadat X. Polo’s creative sampling, knocking drums and throwback grooves are fresh, never dated; while the warmth of sounds he is able to achieve has also led to mixing work for rap legends. “I learned enough [at The Cutting Room] to take it into my crib and I get a really good sound. So when O.C. or G. Rap were hearing the sound I was getting and it was sounding better than the studios they were paying for so I ended up following into that too.”
Upcoming benefactors of his skills at flipping samples include Large Professor, Heltah Skeltah and Ed O.G amongst others. But for now, the focus is his Port Authority project. Boasting lyrical contributions from a who’s who of today’s most talented lyricists including O.C., Buckshot, Kardinal Offishall and Kool G Rap, all over his own production, the album will sure to please fans of progressive hip-hop old and new.
“Not [to] sound cliché, but I’m just trying to bring up that type of hip-hop that I grew up listening to that inspired me to get into it,” says Polo of his debut, before adding, “Hip-Hop is definitely not dead, you just gotta make quality music and you gotta work extra hard to get it out there. I gotta just let the music speaks for itself. I’m trying to show anyone from anywhere, if you work hard enough you can make it happen, and stay true to it and make some real shit.”