MUSIC One morning, I woke up to a call from a woman named Tasha. "Messy Marv wants to speak to you," she says. Uh-oh, I think, what'd I do? Mess isn't the kind of guy who calls just to chop it up. "He wants you to write an article," she says. This isn't my usual method, but given the difficulty of touching down with the Fillmore District native, I'll tape first and ask questions later. Mess has largely been out of state since getting out of jail (for a weapons charge) in late 2007, and his absence has inspired controversy in the Moe, so I'm wondering if he wants to address it.
But Mess has other things on his mind when he phones from Miami.
"Let's talk about 400,000 units independently," he begins, an impressive tally of cumulative sales in the Bay. Mess's fanbase extends well beyond the region; he's been featured on discs by the likes of Killer Mike and Tech9ine, Snoop Dogg shouts him out on Malice in Wonderland (Doggystyle/Priority, 2009), and he provided a 20-year-old Keyshia Cole her first real exposure on his third album, Still Explosive (M Ent., 2001). Cole's returning the favor by recording a single with Mess, "Luv Somebody," for his album, The Cooking Channel, slated for July 7.
But even this isn't what he wants to talk about. Right now Mess is all about his corporation, Scalen, LLC, whose name derives from one of Mess' aliases, Messcalen. Scalen began as Mess's record label, which he recently rebranded Click Clack Records to signify its integration into the new company whose other divisions include Scalen Films and Scalen Clothing.
"The beginning of my career was all music," Mess says. "But now I'm a CEO." In the era of Jay-Z and P. Diddy, most rappers have aspired to their own corporations. Yet in the perpetually underfunded Bay, such dreams tend to remain unrealized. But Mess, who's been moving units since age 15, appears to be realizing the goal. Scalen Films already has two DVDs in the can for release later this year: Gigantic, a documentary on Mess' life, and All Gas No Breaks, his dramatic debut. He's shopping his reality show, Mr. Ghetto Celebrity, whose trailer can be seen on his Web site, scalenllc.com. He's got dudes like Big Boi wearing Scalen t-shirts and plans to launch two lines in the fall: Cupcakes (for women) and Slick Talk (for men). But the most immediate project is a 12-disc, limited edition set of Mess's back catalog, Project Suppastarr, due April 1. Priced at $50 and including a Scalen shirt and autographed posters, the project is designed "to give the consumers something for their money." ("It's a $340 value," he claims on his Web site infomercial.)
As we wrap up, I ask Mess about the Fillmore controversy. Two Fillmore rappers formerly on Click Clack Records, Young Boo and M-Kada, have released a harsh diss video, "Last of Us," challenging Mess' hood credentials. It's included on Where's Messy Marv? (Homewrecka Ent., 2010), an entire DVD devoted to Mess bashing. All this is on top of a major beef last year with his childhood friend and collaborator, San Quinn, which, despite being quashed, has left lingering ill-will in Fillmore. Mess, however, just laughs at the turmoil.
"You grow out of situations," he says. "This is based on me growing up, and a lot of people don't understand that. I just look at it like promotion — they my street team. I'm not paying for once."
Nonetheless, Mess wants to leave the drama behind, going so far as to rebrand himself as the Boy Boy Young Mess for this new stage of his career. "I've transformed into another person. I'm a whole new entertainer, man, father. I'll still always be 'Messy Marv.' But a lot came with that name, so I'm going to leave it where it is."