Video Premiere: HOLLISTHEMVRK's Vicious Debut "Jurassic"

HOLLISTHEMVRK is a Brooklyn-based rapper and producer whose debut single “Jurassic” is a powerful and raw lyrical indictment of the political corruption of our times. We premiere the song’s hypnotic animated video and Cell Vision correspondent Ben Hozie (aka Bodega Ben, singer and guitarist for Brooklyn-based art punk band Bodega) speaks to Hollis about his music, his plant-based lifestyle, and how COVID-19 has brought a new sense of urgency to his work.

words and interview by Ben Hozie

photos by Darryl Ebanks

HOLLISTHEMVRK is a rapper, songwriter, and producer from Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The video for his amazing debut single “Jurassic” gets its premiere today on Cell Vision.

the music video for HOLLISTHEMVRK's debut single "Jurassic"

I met Hollis last year through a weekly philosophy book club in Brooklyn, and as I got to know him became aware of the hip hop opuses that he was secretly creating in his basement. I was charmed (and inspired) to learn that Hollis had learned to seize the means of production completely—he writes, records, mixes, and masters all of his tracks by himself. Luckily for all of the hip-hop heads out there, life under quarantine has convinced the emcee to begin unveiling his music to the public. Living in a world of illness—both physical and spiritual—he came to recognize that if he didn’t start releasing his work now he may never get the chance.

A portrait of HOLLISTHEMVRK on a rooftop in Brooklyn

“Jurassic” is our larger-than-life introduction to his world. The swaggering T-Rex-coming-down-the-street beat announces the emergence of a powerful poetic presence in Crown Heights. Hollis’ verse is appropriately politically paranoid for these times of COVID-19 and corporate bailouts, but also empowering with a shape-shifting sense of play.

a clip from the "Jurassic" music video

Take note of these dynamite couplets: “Pain is on the plate before Louisiana Purchase / Landing on a rock until the hard place is a surface / You need to take a stand behind your life, what is your purpose / Look into the corpus and you jerking”. It wasn’t until my second listen that I noticed the subtle yet transformative image of “taking a stand”. The line of course urges the listener to “take a stand” in the moral sense, but also evokes both the literal image of physically standing on a rock (i.e. America or even Earth) and the historical implications of that physical standing (i.e. the racial sins involved in America’s foundation). These lines seem to suggest that taking a stand for the future must partially involve an awareness of whose shoulders from the past we are standing on. The punch line of these four bars may also be a subliminal literary nod to the standing an erection takes. Perhaps that’s a stretch or a mis-under-standing.

A portrait of HOLLISTHEMVRK on a Brooklyn rooftop

I recommend that you read along with the lyrics as you listen (included in the YouTube description). Multiple passes will reveal riches. I’m psyched to be able to introduce HOLLISTHEMVRK and his psychedelic collage video for ‘Jurassic.’ What follows is a conversation I had with him recently over the internet.

CELL VISION: Hollis, this is your debut as HOLLISTHEMVRK—tell me about that name?

HOLLISTHEMVRK: MVRK = Maverick

CELL VISION: That word reminds me of Top Gun.

HOLLISTHEMVRK: I don’t love Top Gun but I do know what it means to be a Maverick. I got the name from Mega Man X.

HOLLISTHEMVRK looking contemplative on a rooftop

CELL VISION: What should the world know off the bat about HOLLISTHEMVRK??

HOLLISTHEMVRK: I'm from Crown Heights, Brooklyn New York. Born and raised. I've lived through 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, and COVID—the holy Trinity of WTFs. I’m a performer/producer/songwriter. I’m really big on eating plants. Plants are useful. We really don't know how useful they are and it's a big thing for me that people know that.

CELL VISION: What about plants? I know that you’re vegan.

HOLLISTHEMVRK: Where do we start? How about weed? Or lavender, chamomile, graviola leaf, goji berries... Plants do a lot of things for my day-to-day.

another clip from the "Jurassic" music video

CELL VISION: How does it feel to be releasing your first single during COVID?

HOLLISTHEMVRK: Over the course of the past two months (since the lockdown) I started to feel an urgency. I already had plans to release music this year, but this quarantine has made me work faster. I’ve been going through anxiety and when you're in a constant state of anxiety you do things that you're familiar with so the body knows that there's no new danger or stimuli approaching—which in turn keeps you calm. That's probably what possessed me to move forward in my art.

CELL VISION: Creation as a necessary response to an international state of anxiety: that’s an intriguing origin myth for this Maverick character you’ve created.

HOLLISTHEMVRK: Philosophically I’ve been inspired by Nietzsche - I love his ability to see through religion. That's been a powerful thing in my life. He’s also inspired me to be better as an artist. Nietzsche says : “Don’t be average. If you are average you might as well be dead.”

HOLLISTHEMVRK climbing up a ladder onto a roof

CELL VISION: Why “Jurassic” as your first statement?

HOLLISTHEMVRK: I originally picked a different song to be my first single, but when COVID happened something intuitively told me that record wasn’t a good idea. When the world spun itself upside down “Jurassic” felt appropriate.

CELL VISION: The track is heavy. Can you tell me about the production process for “Jurassic”? I know you produce all of your own tracks.

HOLLISTHEMVRK: Everything was built up around that hypnotic bass line. I wanted to make a song that had an agitated musical pulse. It had to feel like something urgent was happening or about to happen. That meant that the bass had to really slap so you’d be pulled in—perhaps against your own will. I later found these vinyl drum samples that I chopped up but really it was all about getting the bass right. Musically, I was going for this Travis Scott - Big Krit - Kendrick Lamar hybrid.

HOLLISTHEMVRK leaping off a railing with a tree in the background

CELL VISION: The title reminds me of Jurassic 5. Were you a fan?

HOLLISTHEMVRK: Total coincidence but I wouldn’t mind people thinking it’s an homage.

CELL VISION: Do you see yourself as part of the constellation of alternative hip-hop? Is that a relevant concept in 2020?

HOLLISTHEMVRK: Definitely, I’d embrace the term alt hip-hop.

CELL VISION: Can you tell us a bit about the video for the track—where did you find the source material?

HOLLISTHEMVRK: The clips were all sourced from different animators I found on Vimeo. Since I couldn't shoot a performance video during COVID (and I had a concept and team ready for a shoot that had to be delayed) I went back to my roots and watched as many things as I could on mute while listening to the music. Whatever I found visually appealing to me I kept in the video (after contacting the original artists). I believe that you can watch anything on mute and see it as art.

CELL VISION: “No art without transformation” - Robert Bresson. That’s a Neitzsche-esque idea.

HOLLISTHEMVRK: Yeah. The “Jurassic” video ended up telling a much better story than a more traditional video could.

a clip from the "Jurassic" music video

CELL VISION: Are you going to shoot a traditional performance video next?

HOLLISTHEMVRK: There are many ways to depict a person and you’ll see other sides of me eventually.

CELL VISION: Are you planning on releasing an album this year? It seems like you have enough musical ideas ready.

HOLLISTHEMVRK: I'm probably going to put out a project this year. I know I want to go single by single for now. The process of releasing singles will reveal to me the story of when the album should come out.

CELL VISION: What else can we expect from you in the near future ?

HOLLISTHEMVRK: I just launched a website for other producers —I’m selling sample packs, loop kits, drum kits, and other things that producers need. It’s called Openfire. (weareopenfire.com). I’ll also have HOLLISTHEMVRK merch soon for those who want to help me eat plants.

You can listen to "Jurassic" on the streaming service of your choice, check out HOLLISTHEMVRK on Instagram and visit his music production site OPENFIRE via the links below

Listen to "Jurassic"
HOLLISTHEMVRK Instagram
Openfire Website