SoundCloud has been a platform for underground music artists to display work from their bedroom to the world for over a decade. Senior Ismael Martinez is no exception, putting out original songs since June 2019.
Martinez published one of his earliest singles titled “Tweaking Out of Reality” on SoundCloud on Sep. 27, 2019. The single has 700 plays on his Martinez’s SoundCloud profile, and it is the one he is most proud of. Martinez recalled the work he and his friends put into it and how they finished the song in under three hours.
“I wrote [Tweaking out of Reality] in under 30 minutes,” Martinez said. “All of it was straight from the heart, so it was easy.”
Now, Martinez is working on a secret project that he is excited to drop. Without wanting to spoil what it will be, Martinez only commented that people should expect something new from him.
The lyrics to Martinez’s raps are inspired by his everyday life experiences. Martinez has lived in a trailer park ever since third grade, and in several of his songs, he talks about what that is like. Martinez described how unwelcoming the RV trailer was when his family first moved in. The walls leaked, and there was no AC during the summers and heating during the winters. He and his sister had to sleep on the floor on a mattress as they were accompanied by an old TV, the noise of cars passing by on the freeway and neighbors partying until three in the morning.
“I used to live in this house on Cherry Street where I had my best memories, where I learned about music and where my dreams began to foster,” Martinez recounted. “But I kinda feel like when we moved to the trailer park, my childhood wasn’t as vivid.”
Throughout middle school, Martinez enjoyed writing lyrics. In 6th grade, Martinez wrote music in a boom bap style inspired by old school artists like a Tribe Called Quest. Without the right tools to record and transform his words to music in middle school, he did not fully produce and drop a song until his junior year of high school.
Martinez had a humble beginning as a SoundCloud artist. He and his friends recorded songs in each other’s bedrooms with the help of a USB plug-in microphone and a music production software.
“Most of my friends would tell me what sounded good and what didn’t sound good — they would tell me how to change my flow,” Martinez said. “I would also learn more about how timing works, how beat pounding works and stuff like that.”
As six months have passed since the demoing of Martinez’s first song, “WAR TAINTED DREAMS ft. kev”, which is about feeling stuck in old habits and trying to break free, Martinez has graduated to better equipment. He now pays 65 dollars an hour for time at a real recording studio at Skyline Studios in Oakland and buys beats instead of having free ones made by friends to use in his songs. His songs are now mixed by an actual music engineer.
Within this time period, Martinez has refined his work, making the new songs he is currently working on different from his earlier releases.
“My old stuff doesn’t reflect how my new stuff is,” Martinez said. “It’s much different now. It’s been a work in progress really trying to get where I was to where I am now. My new stuff is—let’s just say they’re anthems; they’re anthems for my life.”
Senior Joaquin Arellanes has been there since the start to help Martinez produce his early works.
“I assisted Ismael a bit in the beginning with production of his songs,” Arrellanes said. “But now, Nick Espinal, Chris Albert and I do more facilitating.”
Martinez’s friends help him with the bridges, verses, pre-verses, choruses, melodic structures and tunes for his songs. Arellanes said their favorite part of collaborating with Martinez is helping him create his vision as he sees it in his head.
All songs mentioned can be found on soundcloud.com/lil_ish14