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You may not be instantly familiar with the name L Marshall, but with two Top 5 singles behind him, you’ve definitely heard his music. As a writer, L created Loick Essien’s No.2 smash, How We Roll, and he is also the writer and vocalist on Wretch 32’s critically acclaimed No.5 hit, Traktor.
Now London-born L Marshall is ready to take centre stage as a solo artist in his own right. A captivating, charismatic writer and performer, the 24 year-old is an incredible vocalist who treads the taut line between commercial appeal and underground credibility. Listen to his recently released mixtape, The Wait, and you’ll find it impossible not to be won over by L’s skilled songwriting, tempo-twisting compositions and genre-refining vocal; we might be familiar with the rapper that sings (Drake), but L is the singer that raps. L explains,
“I’ve always had this style, I call it ‘rhythmic singing. I actually started out as a rapper until I discovered I was a pretty good singer and I started to blend the two. But I didn’t realise, until Drake came along, that it would be acceptable to do both. Rappers like Drake, and Ja Rule to an extent before him, showed how it’s done one way; I’m trying to show you how to do it the other!”
Signed to Mercury Records in April 2011, L has spent the last few months recording his debut album with an A-list line-up of hitmakers including Jerry “Wonder” Duplessis (T.I., Lupe, Mary J Blige), Supa Dups (Drake, Eminem, Bruno Mars) and Novel (Gaga, Jason Derulo). He’s also been busy penning tracks with the likes of Fraser T. Smith (Florence, Adele, Beyoncé), for JLS, Kelis and Cheryl Cole. Of his debut album, L says
“I want it to have everything from dark hip-hop to straight up global pop.
Nothing less than that.”
With influences ranging from Tupac, Aerosmith, Enya, Daft Punk and Lady Gaga, you can be assured his debut album will be as eclectic, diverse and, indeed, global as his upbringing. Born Thomas Griffith in Willesden, L and his mother moved to Fortaleza, North-East Brazil when he was a one year-old. Returning to London when he was nine, his maths teacher father, who was a big influence on L’s decision to become a songwriter, died two years later. L struggled with having to conform during school,
“I was a straight-A student but I just couldn’t stay out of trouble”.
However, he found solace in music and emulating the different styles he heard. His behaviour at school didn’t improve, and after being expelled from several schools, L moved to his mum’s homeland of Nigeria, where he lived in Lagos with his grandmother. L remembers,
“From the age of 11, I was a troubled child. I was so much trouble that my mum decided to send me to Nigeria to learn some discipline. It worked! They don’t beat you there anymore but they’re old school with their punishments. Coming from England where kids could say pretty much what they want, well, that wasn’t flying in Nigeria!”
An incredibly bright student, the teenage L, now at boarding school, was torn between making music and following the career path of his cousins; lawyers, bankers, doctors and engineers. Finding a compromise in audio engineering, after attending the British International School in Nigeria (his roommate happened to be JLS’s Ortisé), he returned to London at 18 to study Sound Engineering.
During this time, he continued to build on the songwriting that he’d started as an 11 year-old. Choosing the name L both in honour of a character from the Manga series Deathnote, and as a nod to his joint hometowns of London and Lagos, he began to work with new producers. In late 2010, just before graduating, he was given the beat to a song by the producer Yogi (Professor Green, Plan B). What was initially meant for Tinie Tempah ended up in the hands of Wretch 32; Traktor became the rapper’s first hit and also saw the publishing industry take note of L’s work; songs for Mz. Bratt and Loick Essien soon followed.
Now L is concentrating on his album; his mixtape The Wait displayed a singer able to rock any beat; from gritty grime to emotive R&B, he flips effortlessly between fully-sung vocals to rap-sung choruses.
This handsome, polite, confident young composer who enjoys martial arts, Manga and movies is incredibly likeable and ultimately, and most importantly, fantastically talented. Inspired by everything from relationships, to paying the bills and drinking too much beer, this already proven hit-creator is modest yet ambitious about his future goals.
“I chat a lot about becoming known across the world – but really, despite all of the big talk I just want as many people as possible to appreciate my art. To be recognised and appreciated for what I do is really all I hope for.