Bantam artist of the week: Rapper "Spike" (Justin Martin '19)

Justin Martin ’19, otherwise known as Spike, gives off a unique aura to those around him. Hailing originally from the wooded Pascoag, Rhode Island, he began to write rock music early as a means of journaling and expressing the ideas that constantly floated around his mind. Three to four concept albums, Martin notes casually. “Nobody who knew me would ever believe that I rapped” says Martin, “but once they heard me, they would say ‘oh, that makes sense now.’” As an extremely introspective young man, Martin finds most of his expression and creative passion though his raps and even has created some recent Internet fame under the name “Martin the Dragon.” Martin initially copied a lot of what he heard on Odd Future and Eminem records, gradually creating what listeners can now see as a well-influenced but distinctive flow. With a poetic vocabulary and subtly cerebral bars, Martin portrays a bare-bones realism that is seldom seen in popular rap today. By shamelessly addressing bleak realities and bringing the depths of the human psyche to the forefront, Martin is easily compared to the urban poet Earl Sweatshirt. He admits and laughs that he takes so much of his style from Earl but still retains a distinctive voice through “a blunted omnipresent lyrical force” as he calls it, “simultaneously remaining present and personal.” Soon his lyrical talent became a way for Martin to show off to his “hip-hophead” friends who were not as successful when rapping.
The northern Rhode Island house in which Martin grew up, filled with old furniture and dusty signs of age, slowly became a church-like retreat for the boy. Sitting weekly, alone in this “unsettling” shelter, Martin was forced to think and be solitary except for the occasional interaction with his father. His album named “1676,” which was based off of his family hardships and time spent in that house “symbolized the weird aspects of life that ask to be portrayed.” Martin evokes a stirring image of an old wooden house in the woods—a strange temple of creativity that fed the young rapper with a wealth of inspiration and cynicism.
Martin does not believe that there is one specific way that he presents his art of the rhythmic word to his audience. Since many of his listeners find him through the Internet, it is difficult to display Martin’s music in a certain way. However, he tries to be honest and not to come off as “pushy” to the listener. Music is ever-evolving and his goals are extremely variable. This is why Martin dislikes but appreciates his older work as a landmark of where he once was.
“If there is one thing that I attempt to do with my music, it is to connect people with the ideas that are not commonly connected to through modern rap” explains Martin insightfully. Martin aims “to subvert what is popular and just depict a white kid trying to be a white kid.” In just one sentence, anyone can get a glimpse of his active mind and learn where this artist delivers such conceptual verse from. He captures a sound in his piano and digital drum-heavy beats that conjures a familiar innateness—one with a contemplative, yet frantic tone. On a day to day basis, creative stimulation comes to Martin in an agitated, commanding manner that requires “a frenzy of intention,” as he calls it. This encounter is vital to all moments of creation. Understanding the encounter and concentrating on it allows the artist to fully milk the situation for all its worth until the light dims and inspiration dwindles away. “It feels like a mass building up inside you,” says Martin “and you just need to barf it up.”
Here at Trinity, Martin has remained primarily where he finds comfort, continuing to write regularly and actively learning through experience. The Mill, though, is a place on campus where one could find the allusive rapper where he pursues his musical abilities on guitar and offers his talent to the Trinity Hip-Hop Collective. Currently, he is in an intensive poetry seminar, but in future semesters he plans to pursue more music theory and recording arts. Martin tells me that he also would love to begin working on a psychedelic concept album and thoroughly analyze what truly makes up a concept album.
“To create something that tells a story but also projects discovery on the listener” is an idea that he would love to bring to fruition soon. Channeling the mood and raw emotion of Thom Yorke, yet “in the vein of The Dirty Projectors,” Martin hopes that this sound will likely come. His abstract idea of what he wants his product to be is inspiring to any who listens to him. His passion for simply doing what he is commanded to do produces something that listeners can bob their body to but also contemplate and question. Surely you will hear more of Martin as time goes on and his music can be found at and

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