MC Question Mark
One of the most recognized and beloved voices of the North American drum 'n' bass scene, MC Question Mark is one of the original driving force of the still-growing sound on these shores.
Born and raised in the Peckham suburb of southeast London, England, Question Mark, nee Devon Andrew Morgan, moved to Los Angeles, California in 1987. Pushed to the United States on the insistence of his parents, it was a way to get Question Mark out of the distracting elements of his surroundings and encouraging him to attend college Stateside. Once settled in Los Angeles, Question Mark completed a degree in business administration at Los Angeles Trade Tech College and California State University Los Angeles.
Prior to the move, however, Question Mark was immersed in the acid house and techno scene that was blossoming in the United Kingdom. From 1988 to 1991, he spent most of his time going back and forth between the two countries. During this period he experienced the effects of the infamous Summer of Love (1987-1988). 808 State and the KLF were among the artists who had their lasting effect on the young ears of the impressionable lad. Additionally he spent a great deal of time at reggae sound systems, particularly that which Soul II Soul emerged from, the Coxson Sound System. Rare groove from Norman Jay and another sound system, Family Function, brought the soul and jazz element into his consciousness.
In April of 1991, the fateful visit to what has now become an institution and one of the starting places of the drum 'n' bass scene was made. Sunday Roast was held one a Sunday afternoon from noon 'til six pm, in time to get you home for Sunday dinner. Question Mark made his first pilgrimage to the event at its original location in Linford Studios. It was here that he first heard the sounds of MCing through veteran MC, Moose. There was an immediate connection to this medium for Question Mark. It was the musical direction he was leaning towards the strongest.
At Sunday Roast was the first time he heard drum 'n' bass heavy hitters, Fabio, Grooverider, Jumping Jack Frost, DJ Ron, among others. The Jungle Fever dances at the Edge Club in Coventry, England were another source for inspiration. Pirate radio stations fueled the new fascination even more. Taping programs from these stations and bringing them back to Los Angeles, Question Mark took the sounds of MC Det, Randall, Kool FM everywhere with him. His friends kept him supplied with fresh music by sending him tapes regularly.
Says Question Mark of those times: "Those were the dark times. I would jump in an airplane, get to London at two o'clock in the afternoon, go to the party, jump back on the plane the following noon, Sunday or wait 'til Monday morning and then leave. Fly home to dance.'
The early '90s, Question Mark started hearing the fresh sounds of drum 'n' bass making their way to Los Angeles. Through a college friend he was told about native Angelino DJ R.A.W. who was playing the type of sound that Question Mark was craving.
"I went to a real small rave, real nasty, rough, all graffiti. Rough in the sense of generally tore up, not good," remembers Question Mark of his first meeting with R.A.W. "The way they were playing it, the music was the same but there was no MC, didn't have the same vibe."
Offering his services, Question Mark just stepped up and did it. He MCed freestyle, along the lines of MCs over dubplates at a reggae sound system.
Things took off from there. He began doing local parties with R.A.W. as his DJ. During this time he also met drum 'n' bass enthusiast and publisher of URB Magazine Raymond Roker. When Roker started the first West Coast drum 'n' bass weekly night, Science, he asked Question Mark to be the resident MC.
During his time at Science, Question Mark go to meet and MC over the top names in the genre: Krust, Dynamite MC, Doc Scott, Bryan Gee, Jumping Jack Frost, J Magick. But it wasn't until another event that he got to meet the source of his motivation, MC Moose.
"I told Moose that he's the reason that I got into MCing," says Question Mark. "After [Moose] heard me perform, he told me I am the one who is going to hold the Americas because I'm living out here and I'm doing the MC bit with jungle music. Coming from him, that may be the most influential thing an individual has said to me in the drum 'n' bass world. It gave me the fire to continue to do what I was doing. I felt I was on the right path."
Atmosphere nights at the Viper Room in Los Angeles also had Question Mark as their resident MC. In the meantime, he was making his name across the continent playing places like Hawaii, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Detroit, New York, Miami, San Juan Puerto Rico, Little Rock, Tampa, Atlanta, West Virginia, to mention a few.
The response from the crowds was encouraging and funny at the same time. "People were just like, 'Wow, drum 'n' bass is so understandable when you have an MC," he says. "I heard people saying, 'How do you know when the beats are coming in? How do know when it's going to break? Do you know every track?' It's just a feeling. I'll have never heard a dubplate but after a few bars, the breakdown, I know where the breaks are coming in the track. I try and live it. All my stuff is freestyle, I do not write lyrics. It truly comes from my heart."
As the drum 'n' bass scene kept growing so did Question Mark's profile. He opened for Roni Size/Reprazent and has MCed for the likes of Andy C., Ed Rush, Fierce, Nico, Trace, Bailey, Ink, John B., Bad Company, J Magick, A Guy Called Gerald, DJ Rap, Jumping Jack Frost, Bryan Gee, Ben att, Dom and Roland, Doc Scott, Simon "Bassline" Smith as well as going overseas to MC at a Planet V party for V Recordings. Domestic talent such as DJ Craze, Dieselboy, Dara, DB, AK1200, UFO!, Sage, Hive, Phantom 45, Fury, Danny the Wildchild, DJ Phix, Dazee and Sub-Flow have all had the benefit of his talents.
"I want to take it to the masses. The masses need to know that this is our side," he states. "I've heard this statement: Drum 'n' bass is the first music that came out of England that was truly from the streets, a London ghetto boy type music. Some people think of Peckham as the ghetto. I'm not representing that ghetto, but I'm representing it as a whole sound. I want people in the world to know that even the ghetto has an artistic impact."
With the birth of his twin daughters, Katherine and Alexandria in the year 2000, Question Mark has become more selective in the gigs he chooses to appear at preferring to stay home with his kids and his wife of five years, Samantha. Learning the ropes in the studio with the help of Los Angeles native Sub-Flow (Mix 'n' Blen) he sees his future as more on the production sides of things.
"In time, there will be younger MCs who will take over from the older generation of MC who have been out there," he says. "I've been doing it so long, it would be such a hard fall to just totally turn my back on the game. I want to have some sort of artistic impact, even if I'm not going out on the streets or playing. When I do come out, it comes correct mmediately. There is some wonderful talent out there. If everybody could see that, this music could be as big as hip hop. Right now, I'm just MCing. The deal is getting everybody hooked. I want everybody to be as hooked in this music as I am hooked in this music."