Terrace Martin doesn’t like to put his awards on display. “Some are in the closet, some haven’t even been unwrapped, but I’ll figure out what to do with them eventually,” says the producer and musician, who co-produced Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy-winning 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly, and whose own sixth studio album, Velvet Portraits, received a nod in the R&B category in 2017. “I try not to be reminded by anything I’ve done because I’m always trying to moving forward.”
Chalk it up in part to Martin’s close relationship with his own parents, who helped steer him towards a career in music. Born to a jazz drummer father and singer mother, Martin knew at the age of 5 that music was going to be his life. Versed in both the saxophone and keyboard, Martin started making beats for Snoop Dogg at age 18, before becoming the rapper’s go-to producer for albums including 2004’s The Masterpiece and Ego Trippin’ in 2008, as well as collaborations with everyone from Stevie Wonder, Raphael Sadiq to Wiz Khalifa and Travis Scott, not to mention new music with jazz legend Herbie Hancock.
Earliest memory of music?
EPMD’s “You Gots to Chill” playing on the radio. I would also go to swap meets with my mother and buy records, and go home and study them.
As a child, did you bond with your parents over music?
Yeah, but you know what, if I didn’t play music, I still would have bonded with them, music is just something that we all do, we really talk to each other. I know my parents. My parents know me.
Since becoming a parent for the first time at age 16, how have you evolved as a father over the years?
I'm ready now. At 16, you think you know everything, and you don’t know anything. I think now, where I am in life, I know how to nurture, I've seen the world through so many different scopes…When I was young, I didn’t know how to project my love in the right way, but as I've gotten older, I’ve truly learned how to be a parent.
How did your own father shape your take on parenthood?
My father is my best friend. I was never scared to talk to him because he never talked at me. He always talked with me. He taught me how to be my children’s friend—their best friend—and not to judge them, but to teach them, and grow with them.
What’s the biggest personal challenge you’ve ever faced?
Life. Life is beautiful, and life is a challenge, but I’m addicted to challenges because I’m addicted to breakthroughs. I look for a challenge every day. It’s putting myself out of my comfort zone, taking things on to learn, and just really trying to get through it.
Best piece of advice you ever received?
Be kind, be patient and treat everybody as an equal. My mom taught me that with her actions everyday.
Who are your heroes?
My mother, my father, my godfather Stemz Hunter, my uncle Richie Love, my cousin DJ Fresh Cut, and my cousin T.Lee.
What do they all have in common?
Love. Honesty. And all of them are very soulful musical geniuses. My family, they're all better than me [musically]. I'm the weak link. I mean people know me, but I'm the weakest link.