Des Moines’ own hip-hop mogul
MarKaus is more than a hip-hop artist. In addition to releasing music, the 27-year-old also founded Media Fresh Records, Fresh Fest Hip-Hop Festival and plans to launch a hemp-infused vodka line called Ziyad later this year.
These are just a few of his projects.
“I’ve got a hell of a lot of hustle,” says MarKaus, whose real name is Marquas Ashworth.
A transplant from Kansas City and an Iowa State University graduate, his introduction to the Des Moines music scene came with a mix tape titled “Vol. I,” showcasing his music alongside other Media Fresh artists. The hip-hop collective then played at the Des Moines Music Coalition’s GDP music festival in 2014. Even then, MarKaus’ energy was infectious. MarKaus has gone on to play at the DMMC’s 80/35 Music Festival (twice), as well as several other Des Moines festivals and venues.
His latest music release (under his Media Fresh record label) “Riot Gear (Part One)” came out in March and is the first of a handful of releases slated for 2018. Prior to his new release, his most recent album was “White Man’s Burden.” When he listens to the 2015 album now, he still enjoys some of the songs, but he says some others are “total shit.”
“I just wanted a sound that was more honest to me,” he says of the new EP. “It’s vibrant. Sonically, we wanted to make it a full spectrum. I just wanted it to sound beautiful.”
A notable change in his new music is MarKaus’ incorporation of a live band — when performing together it is known as MarKaus and the Negative Space.
“I discovered the vibe I was trying to get from samples was actually just live instruments; it was simply that,” he says.
One might assume “Riot Gear” refers to the physical act of rioting, but it does not. The single was released along with a striking video, filmed and produced locally by DEFT.
“It’s a spiritual riot in the knowledge of yourself,” he says. “That’s what I think we need to be on as people.”
On an ambitious release schedule, MarKaus plans to follow “Riot Gear (Part One)” with “Riot Gear (Part Two)” and another video — which is currently in production. After that, a mixed tape is planned titled “White Man’s Burden Part Two” and another album, “Marshall Law.” All the material and lyrics touch on the same tough topics MarKaus has always been vocal about, such as racism.
“This project is so fucking aggressive, it’s ridiculous,” he says. “I had to stop and be like, ‘Am I really going to say this shit?’ ”
While his single already debuted locally, the national rollout was announced by “The Source” in April and has also been featured on prominent hip-hop blogs. Only a few years into his Des Moines career, MarKaus’ many successful endeavors put him in a league of his own.
“It’s just a beautiful time,” he says. ♦