Life in America circa September 2008: The economy is in a bottomless pit, the insane cowboy-drones inhabiting the Midwest are poised to elect another useless president, and Josh Martinez is quitting rap. Drink up, people, it's going to be a long winter.
Cue the funeral tune—after more than a decade of making records, the recent release of The World Famous Sex Buffet will apparently mark the end of Martinez's distinguished solo career. "I don't know what else I have to say that hasn't been said on my other albums," says Martinez. "I'm running out of inspiration and I'm ready to do new things."
Once named one of URB magazine's "Next 100," few artists in the hiphop world have created such a unique and entertaining sound for themselves as Martinez. Drawing inspiration from vocal harmony groups of the '50s and '60s, Martinez's catchy hook-writing skills and effervescent verses have been featured on 12-plus albums over the past decade, all of them worthy of constant rotation. "When I started out, I just wanted to travel, get free beer, and women," Martinez remembers. "At least I got the beer and the travel."
What makes the apparent ending to Martinez's career so tragic is that Sex Buffet is easily his best work to date. From the first track to the last, it plays like a fond farewell from a departing friend; at times revealing a veiled sadness, but more often there is a bouncy sense of fun and wonder. While on the surface a "no regrets" celebration, the subtext of Sex Buffet is of Martinez performing his heart out and not receiving the acclaim he deserves. In the me-me-me world of hiphop, feelings of being slighted or cheated of fame are not uncommon, but in Martinez's case they are more often felt by his devoted fans than by the man himself.
"Some of my peers like Sage [Francis], Aesop [Rock], and Slug have achieved success that I feel I haven't," says Martinez. "But the feelings I get and give through the music are equal with those guys. That's made me a success."
In talking to the man about his career's ups and downs, any sense of bitterness or regret is hard to pick up. Martinez emanates a real feeling of gratefulness for the achievements he has made, all of which came from his own entrepreneurial spirit and drive. That drive has led him, over the course of the last decade, to be a man of many hats—and, quite conceivably, mustaches. While running his own record label (Camobear), viral marketing firm, working on the latest from Chicharones (his side project with local emcee Sleep), and awaiting the new disc from his rock band (The Pissed off Wild), Martinez is, of all things, deferring his entrance to law school.
"I've always been interested in the law," says Martinez. "It's the language you need to know to do good in society and make change."
That's great, Josh, best of luck, but I'd love to see those plans go to hell due to the raging success of the new record. With so much else wrong with the world—from war to the career of Carlos Mencia—it would be nice to hear more material from the best damn singin' rapper out there.