Rapzilla Freshmen Marc Stevens: Persecution in Assyria, Classical Piano, & a New Found Mission; How He Got Here
Beethoven and Mozart, Hans Zimmer, church choirs, and Hyphy Bay rap are just some of the hip-hop layers piled into the sounds of Rapzilla Freshmen Marc Stevens. For him, he’s grateful to be here and despite a late start, now knows exactly where he’s going.
Stevens is a rare commodity within Christian music, he’s Assyrian. His father was from Iran and his mother from Lebanon. His family, however, is not Muslim, they were mostly Catholic Christians, but not necessarily practicing. Both of them fled persecution in the 70s and found their way to first Chicago and then San Jose, CA where Stevens was raised.
As a young kid, his parents forced him to take classical piano. That’s the early foundation of his love for music. His love of Mozart and Beethoven turned into the love of movie scoring masters like Hans Zimmer. He became fascinated with the epic scores of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, then transitioned to soul music and Stevie Wonder.
As he got older, he stopped playing piano and while in High School got really into Hyphy Rap which is a specialty known to the Bay Area in California. At the forefront were E40 and Mac Dre.
“I started to print out lyrics and memorize them,” he said. “I played high school basketball so in the back of the bus we’d hit the backseat to get a beat and then freestyle.”
Eventually, Stevens met a guy that was a Christian who ‘could freestyle for like 10 minutes’. He says until this day, he’s the best he’s ever heard. The young future rapper wasn’t saved yet but saw someone rap impeccably and that guy took him under his wing. Soon he’d be brought to studios and introduced to creatives.
“You could be Christian and super dope creatively…you can do music for God,” said Stevens who never knew this.
Marc became part of his university’s gospel choir and he wrote a song for the choir too, but after that music stopped for him. In his 20s he was making jingles and anthems for different companies. He made an anthem for the basketball team and his college ministry.
When he got saved, he graduated college and was called to do ministry but put himself in a box. He thought rap was a side tool to his ministry. Stevens said he regrets this.
Finally, he dropped his first track in 2018 and kicked things off in 2019 with Mission. Mission was the catalyst to get Marc Stevens off of hip-hop as a hobby and turned it around to a career that ministers.
Stevens met him through mutual friends. “I had never heard of him,” he said of Mission. “I kept hearing about him and was sent his number and texted him.”
The message was simple. Marc just wanted some of Mission’s time to learn. From their, the two became friends.
“Can I get you on one of my tracks? Does it cost anything?” Stevens asked him. “Put whatever God leads you to put,” replied Mission.
“I totally gave him a super low amount and with what I know now I feel bad,” laughed Stevens. “He was gracious and killed the verse he was on.”
Mission was getting ready to start a label and wanted Marc to be a part of it. That label is All of You and None of Me.
“For the last two years, we’ve been at this thing every day,” Marc exclaimed.
The Bay Area native learns much from watching Mission’s work ethic and how he crafts a song.
“He’s such a big believer in me too… every time, he’s really spoke life into me. ‘Marc you belong’.”
Now in 2021, Marc Stevens does belong. He was named a Rapzilla Freshmen in 2021 and was part of the first class that did a concert. He’ll also be on the Freshmen album and was in a cypher. It’s something he does not take lightly.
“I was holding back tears [at the freshmen event] the whole time, ‘thank you God for allowing me to do something that was so in my heart to do’.”
He continued, “I feel like a resurrection. This whole last year I didn’t want to do music or even perform. ‘I can’t do this anymore’ and then I come to Atlanta and, meet some of the coolest people in the world and perform on a stage with so much love…I thank God I got to experience it. It brought a revival to my heart.”
Stevens became infamous…in a good way…at the event for his positivity and encouraging attitude. “The Human Red Bull” brought energy and a kind word at all times. It definitely was felt and noticed by everyone around him.
“If you don’t love people and encourage people, then you’re in the wrong thing,” he explained. “I want to see people supported. I see the void of things where people don’t feel loved or welcome.”
Stevens has a lot more to offer in terms of music. He’s just scratching the surface.
“I feel like what I’ve created up until this point is just a medley of Marc Stevens…I mentioned growing up classically trained and in the gospel choir, so definitely more singy stuff as well. Just trying to figure out which direction to ultimately go to.”
There’s an album coming in the near future he says. Right now, he’s just releasing singles and enjoying the growth.
“Rock with me, no hate in me, I want people to feel loved. I want to see this genre win. Super excited,” Marc Stevens said in closing.