More About Terrace MartinTerrace Martin makes hip-hop music but it is his jazz musicianship that separates his sound from his peers �" and not just because he doesn’t need to sample. Before graduating to producing songs for Snoop Dogg, Martin was an accomplished saxophonist who played with the late jazz drummer Billy Higgins at Leimert Park’s World Stage. It was inevitable that he’d gravitate towards jazz, because his father, Spanish Harlem-bred Ernest “Curly” Martinez, was a jazz musician. Meanwhile, his mother, from Bakersfield, Calif., was a gospel singer. When he was in seventh grade, Terrace’s parents divorced and his father moved back to New York. Terrace would spend summers and winters in the musically eccentric household. From the front of the house he heard Anita Baker, Luther Vandross and Karen White, while from the back of the house his dad was playing Sonny Stitt and Elvin Jones. “I grew up in the middle with only hip-hop,” Martin says. “My parents taught me that there’s only good and bad music.” At age 13, a friend encouraged Terrace to learn to play the saxophone and he did, finding one for $150 and learning to play it by himself. His godfather Stemz Hunter, also a saxophonist, suggested Terrace enroll at Santa Monica High School to learn to play. He walked in not knowing what a scale was and soon found himself practicing up to seven hours a day.
The music that he was learning to play wasn’t up to par, though. “I knew Coltrane’s Blue Train was a lot a hipper than the marching band music we were playing,” he says. “Every day I would practice to all the great Coltrane songs.” Jazz was consuming Terrace’s life so much at Santa Monica High �" he was constantly in marching band and jazz competitions and ditching high school to go to U.C.L.A and sit in on music compostion classes�" that he got off track with school and was told he’d have to repeat a grade. Instead, he transferred to Locke High, a school with a tough reputation within a earshot of gang-ridden Watts. “At Locke High, the mentality was you go to school but you’re not quite sure if you’re going to make it home,” Terrace recalls. “You take your life more seriously and your craft more seriously.” Naturally, Terrace found himself surrounded with like minds and talent. “ It wasn’t an arts magnet, but it was like everybody there was an artist,” Terrace said. “Whether it be rappers, a lot of dancers, painters, visual artists or musicians, it was artsy but these were kids who were like me, were regular and liked Snoop and Dr. Dre but loved John Coltrane.”
Learning from teacher and mentor Reggie Andrews, Terrace thrived as part of the prestigious Thelonious Monk program and was picked for a Jay Leno scholarship after a successful audition before the late-night show host. Not only did Leno provide $30,000 for college at the prestigious California Institute of the Arts and books but he also bought Terrace a saxophone and followed him throughout his career. Terrace’s first experience with the entertainment industry didn’t wait until college or after. It happened on a whim while he was a high school junior. Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs’ was in L.A. for the Soul Train Music Awards and one of the members of his band, a baritone sax player, fell ill. Terrace’s god mother got a call and Terrace was handpicked for the gig �" which was that same night. “I’ve never been to an award show in my life,” Terrance recalls. “I was just a jazz musician that loved hip-hop.” “Puff was the first real star I can truly say when he walked in you knew he was a star, he walked with an aura of greatness,” Terrace said. While playing in Puff’s band was a highlight, Terrace also started mingling with West Coast hip- hop royalty through a friend, piano player Kenneth Crouch, a session musician who played with Eric Clapton and Mariah Carey.
Although he looked up to Dr. Dre and DJ Quik, Terrace also admired producer/DJ Battlecat, who lived near him. “Me and Cat started working together and Cat would take me to Kurupt’s house,” Terrace remembers. “I was the Tuietest person in the room at that point, I was humbled being around greatness.” Hanging with West Coast gangsta rap heroes whose albums went multi platinum helped Terrace put his future in perspective. “Before i started hanging around Kenneth Crouch and Battlecat i had only seen the down side to being a musician financially,” Terrace said. “I didn’t believe in suffering to play, like why do we gotta suffer to play” Eating Top Ramen isn’t cool. I wanted to be mainstream.” With that mentality guiding him, Terrace worked hard to get his beats placed for major artists albums. He scored a minor hit with 213’s “Joystick,” and went on to land beats on the Doggfather’s “Rhythm and Gangsta: The Masterpiece” and “Ego Trippin” albums.
In 2010, he executive-produced Kurupt’s “Streetlights” album and formed a group called Melrose with LA underground rap hero Murs that will put out an album in early 2011. While spending time with numerous luminaries in the studio. Terrace is one of the few artists in hip-hop who seamlessly works with underground, emerging and established artists �" often on the same song. And it’s something he’s proud of. “To me, I just bridge the dope people with the dope people,” he said.