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Des Moines, IA | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF | AFTRA

Des Moines, IA | SELF | AFTRA
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Hip Hop Spoken Word


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"MarKaus The Maverick"

When Media Fresh took the stage at Wooly’s at the DMMC’s GDP Music festival last year they made serious waves. With an under-represented hip-hop scene in Des Moines, the young hip-hop collective stood out, but none more so than its founder MarKaus.

Since then the 25-year-old MC has been hard at work on his solo debut “White Man's Burden,” which was released July 4th. Over the past year MarKaus worked with a handful of producers and recorded nearly 100 songs before settling on the 18 tracks that made it on the album. It sounds like an impossible feat, but to MarKaus it’s a natural part of his process. He’s always writing and records regularly. It helps that he has a steady stream of producers and friends sending him beats to work with.

“I’m constantly flooded with stuff so I just keep going,” he simply states.

It was from this process and wealth of material that ultimately resulted in a politically charged album and such a polarizing title. For MarKaus the album title has two purposes. One addresses the popular claim that hip-hop is dead, and with that thought in mind MarKaus puts the burden of saving hip-hop on the white man. As the largest purveyor of the genre they are the ones who could potentially save it, or be it’s demise. The other again burdens the listener by challenging them to give MarKaus’ brand of hip-hop a chance. While thuggish hip-hop with subject matter almost exclusively dealing with drugs, money, and women tends to dominate the radio, skilled rhymers and talented MCs with actual substance are often left out.

With the loaded album title comes several loaded tracks. While one or two appear to be harmless party songs, even those convey MarKaus’ much heavier message.

“It’s a weird project because most of it is conscious, but a certain point that consciousness turns into anger and it turns into riot music. It’s refreshing. And while you’re listening to that good music it can actually educate you about something,” he said.

To help illustrate this MarKaus plans to release a video for every song on the album, Beyoncé style. So far 2 of the 18 have been released with the rest to follow in the coming weeks.

“I’ll be playing tracks for people and they’ll be missing shit and that pisses me off so much, so giving a visual helps,” he explained.

The issues MarKaus’ brings to light on the album are real and sometimes uncomfortable. Several times he alludes to the Reagan era for much of today’s contention. He’s even willing to be downright offensive to get his point across.

“It’s a different approach. If it’s what I feel, then it must be right. Right?” he asks in earnest.

MarKaus goes on to explain the adversity he faces as a black man in Iowa. As much as people like to think we’ve made progress, his everyday experiences tell a different story.

“I get pulled over every night. Especially because I got a new car, the newer the car I get the more I get pulled over,” he explains. When I met with MarKaus in mid-June he had already been pulled over four times. “Every time I get pulled over in Iowa I have to get out of the car and get patted down. It always happens in the same street! You know who I am; you know I live in this duplex over here. You know this is me in this Charger. It’s ridiculous!” he went on.

When put in these situations MarKaus doesn’t keep quiet. He’ll tweet his disgust, sometimes directly at the governor or the police department. He worries his openness about society’s downfalls may make others reluctant to work with him, but he’s willing to risk it.

“If I have a voice and I have popularity I should be able to get people’s awareness up. Even if it pisses people off in the meantime,” he said.

The question of MarKaus’ popularity is another thing he struggles with. At more than 29,000 Twitter followers it’s obvious he has a strong fan base, but unfortunately that fan base is not in this city. While he’s been very well received elsewhere, booking several shows and music festivals both regionally and nationally, Des Moines has by far been the hardest market for him to crack. MarKaus believes the lack of a strong hip-hop community is part of the problem.

All of this makes his show at the Des Moines Social Club’s Basement Bar all the more meaningful.

“It’s cool to finally get that recognition in the town finally for being as dope as we’ve been,” he said.

MarKaus thinks more hip-hop acts in Des Moines could only help, similar to the way the hotbed of alt-rock and indie bands have elevated that genre. While he may have butted heads with local rappers in the past, he has since squashed those beefs for the greater good. The camaraderie could only make things better and he welcomes it.

“You don’t know how great LeBron is until he plays Steph Curry,” he points out.

In the interim the rest of the country is warming up to MarKaus. Datpiff, one of the top websites for mixtapes, is touting his release. In October he’ll be in Atlanta to play a slot at A3C, which is likely the country’s largest hip-hop music festival. That same month he’ll fly to New York to do an interview for 50 Cent’s blog This Is 50. Until then he’ll spend the rest of the summer playing all over the county to promote his solo debut, including a slot at Kansas City’s Indy Fest in August, and with Media Fresh in anticipation of the release of Volume II later this year.

Despite Des Moines’ hard-to-get attitude toward MarKaus, he refuses to give up on the place he now calls home. “I’ll keep going and maybe Des Moines will be the last place to get it. I’ll go platinum and then Des Moines will be like ‘Oh, he is nice!’ But that’s what I got to do,” he said. - Caty Collisimo

"Getting Into The Head Of MarKaus"

MarKaus knows that Des Moines does not have the best relationship with hip-hop.

The Kansas City-born MC has been a resident of Des Moines for the past four years and has watched the town’s hip-hop scene grow and change during that time. He has also seen the stagnation.

“I feel like in some ways it’s improved,” he said of the genre’s level of acceptance. “I look at the scene and I think, ‘It’s gotten better for me. It’s gotten better for the guys around me.’ But if you’re new, it’s not the most inviting. There aren’t a lot of venues that are willing to invest in a hip-hop show.”

Vaudeville Mews has long served as the genre’s most reliable supporter, even while friendly places like The Marquee and House of Bricks have fallen by the wayside.

Additionally, many of the larger shows that have come to town have been marred by a violence that has only served to further stigmatize the genre in the eyes of Des Moines’ uninitiated. But that only serves to obfuscate the work being done by locals like Asphate, Prettygirlhatemachine, Angle, Gadema and MarKaus, all lyricists who write honest, scathing rhymes about the world as they see it.

Their podium got a little bigger this year when the Des Moines Social Club opened the Basement bar’s doors to hip-hop acts. It is a tiny space, but the Social Club has planted its feet firmly as a staunch patron of marginalized performers and genres. The venue also serves as a non-threatening environment for people who might not otherwise go to a hip-hop show to get their feet wet and experience first-hand the level of commitment and talent local DJs and MCs have.

In MarKaus’ case, that means being able to witness the purest form of his own thoughts.

“It has to sound exactly the way I imagined it,” he said, speaking of getting a track ready to perform. “I have a song in my head, and when it gets to the point where it sounds exactly like I dreamed? It’s done.” - Chad Taylor

"MarKaus Drops Debut Album and Performs at The Basement Bar"

Des Moines, IA- MarKaus, of the hip-hop collective Media Fresh, released his solo debut album “White Mans Burden” Friday, July 4. In celebration of the release MarKaus will be performing at The Basement Bar's 80/35 pre-party Thursday, July 9 at 8pm.

The listener can expect the same classic beats Media Fresh is known for and socially conscious rhymes from MarKaus. With this album The 25-year-old Des Moines MC puts the burden on the white man, the most common purveyor of the genre, to save hip-hop. - Cady

"Best of 2015: Bruce’s List"

By the time I got to the third track of marKaus’ White Man’s Burden, I knew it would become a steadfast album in my collection. I remember the specific line that sealed it for me” “Reagan did more to my block than Bin Laden did.” It was immediately clear to me that marKaus was out to be honest and true to who he is. He was rapping with purpose. As an emcee, you are given a voice, and marKaus has not let his voice flounder and fall flat. He is a truthsayer. I found a similar feeling of wanting to pull down the veils of society on these tracks, and I felt as if marKaus was someone to trust, so I listened closer.
By the time you get to tracks like “Counter Culture” or “Subtracted Morals,” the honesty becomes even more apparent. There are no apologies on this record, and marKaus consistently builds a case for how he sees the world. His views make a lot of sense, and it is obvious he carries a message with his artistry. His music has many levels and styles. Listen to “Sinners & Saints” featuring Gadema, and tell me you don’t feel it. There is something pastoral about it. White Man’s Burden is an album of thoughtful teachings, and the lessons you may find will surprise you. - Bruce James

"80/35 Music Festival just announced its 2016 lineup"

DES MOINES, Iowa —Organizers of the annual 80/35 Music Festival just announced this year's lineup Wednesday.

Some 30 acts are scheduled to perform including New York hip-hop legend Nas and indie folk veterans The Decemberists.

Advance two-day tickets are on sale for $65 and one-day tickets for $42 at Organizers said VIP tickets are sold out. Day-of tickets will sell for $90 for a two-day and $50 for a one-day.


Wolf Parade
Craig Finn
Holy White Hounds
The Pistol Whippin Party Penguins
Courtney Krause
The Smoothsayers - KCCI

"Monthly show brings 'fresh state of mind' to hip-hop scene"

“A fresh state of mind.”

That’s the slogan of Freshen UP, a monthly hip-hop showcase held at The Basement of The Des Moines Social Club.

Freshen UP’s put on by Marquas Ashworth, 25, a local artist who goes by his stage name, MarKaus. Dec. 12 marks the third edition of the showcase — the first two installments, on Sept. 25 and Oct. 31, drew crowds of about 160 into The Basement.

The lineup for the Dec. 12 show includes MarKaus, Steddy P., Aree Love and Illest Around.

MarKaus said he first thought of Freshen UP as a platform to showcase only the talent on his label, MediaFresh Entertainment, before he decided to open the doors to all artists.

“I just looked at the need of the city and thought it would be ridiculous of me to have a show only for us and not include other artists,” he said. “It turned into an open expression platform based on hip-hop ... based on rhythm ... based on keeping it fresh.”

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Each showcase contains a different theme. The first event went down as a “kickoff” show, while the second was billed as a rap battle. This month’s installment is titled “Soul Sessions” and features slower, more R&B-influenced performances.

Jordan Wright, 25, known also by his stage name, DM Wright, works each event as the DJ. Wright’s been DJing for four years.

Wright said he’s seeing the showcase provide diverse live offerings within the genre.

“There’s so much talent here … (it’s) just ridiculous,” Wright said. “There’s so many people who are passionate about their craft.”

MarKaus said he thinks Freshen UP creates a live platform for hip-hop that hasn’t previously existed in Des Moines. He wants it to be a place people can look to when wanting to hear the best local acts in the genre.

And, he said, it helps raise the level of competition among artists performing in the genre. It’s a place not only for fans of hip-hop, but a place for other artists to come and see what others in Des Moines are doing.

“A spirit of competition’s what drives the scene,” MarKaus said. “That’s what a hip-hop scene needs.”

Mickey Davis, program manager at the Des Moines Social Club, said he sees Freshen UP as a way to both bring a night of hip-hop to people who enjoy the genre and help those individuals discover new artists.

“As an organization, the Social Club works to present music in all genres,” he said. “We hope that our stage represents the plurality of voices found in Des Moines' arts scene as opposed to any one type of music.”

For the music he releases and the showcase he coordinates, he said he wants to create an environment where everyone’s welcome.

“That’s what I feel hip-hop has the ability to do,” he said. “It has the ability to reach out and just bring everyone together. It’s hard to put into words, but with Freshen UP, the goal is to create an atmosphere of freedom … unrestricted freedom.”

Moving forward, Davis said he’d like to see the audience for the showcase continue to grow.

“I'd like to see MarKaus continue to pull from various micro-genres within the overall genre of ‘hip-hop,’” Davis said. “More than anything else though, I'm just excited to see more killer performances.” - Matthew

"Iowa Music Project reveals compilation selections"

The newly launched Iowa Music Project received more than 250 submissions from musicians across the state as part of its inaugural songwriting showcase.

Out of the 250, 27 were selected to be part of a compilation record to be released later this year. The compilation is set to be released both digitally, as well as on vinyl and CD via Maximum Ames Records. All of the artists selected also get free recording time at Flat Black Studio as part of making the compilation.

The Iowa Music Project, a non-profit organization and James Gang endeavor partly funded by the Iowa Arts Council, launched in January with the goal of promoting and supporting the Iowa music community through providing distinctive opportunities for the state's musicians.

“The big aesthetic goal for this showcase was to generate and catalog as many diverse types of music that are being made in the state,” said Iowa Music Project director Lucas Benson. “And we (received) a really broad range of sounds and styles.”

Included in the final selection are artists such as Iowa City-based alternative group Halfloves, Des Moines-based hip-hop artist MarKaus, Cedar Falls-based group The Pork Tornadoes and more. The full list can be seen below.

Veronica O’Hern, grant services and artist programs manager at Iowa Arts Council, served on the compilation selection committee. She said the final selections ‘speak to the vibrancy’ of Iowa music.

“I went in with the understanding the goal of the project was to find the Iowa sound,” O’Hern said. “And the most beautiful part of the project is that there isn’t an Iowa sound. It’s as unique and nuanced as the people who live here.”

Two of the tracks were fan-voted via a poll that ran at Little Village. More than 14,500 voted in the listener’s choice poll. The listener-selected tracks come from The Pork Tornadoes and Matt Van.

The Iowa Music Project is set to host a show — featuring Iowa group Middle Western — on June 2 at the Des Moines Social Club. - Matthew Leimkuehler

Discography Debut project hosted by sirius/hot107 DJ Iceberg



What happens when you move to a new city and find that the art that you want to consume and create is sorely under-represented by the local music scene? Well, you build your own damn scene. That’s what MarKaus has done with his label (Media Fresh Entertainment) and his debut album (2015’s White Man’s Burden). That’s not to say that Des Moines’ hip hop scene is non-existent, but the more voices that enter the collective conscious, the better.

A Kansas City transplant, MarKaus is not just challenging the music scene, but the societal mis-deeds and political climate most of us see every day. Speaking truth to power is not new in the world of hip hop, but MarKaus does it with a certain aplomb that only comes with supreme confidence. Not with the swagger of a champagne room denizen, but with the bravado of an underdog who knows he’ll break things open through the sheer will of his ability and the eagerness with which the words are bubbling with pressure to be released. 

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