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Mars Jackson

When Mars Jackson returned to his hometown of Pittsburgh after college and got serious about music, it was a strange time to be a rapper in the city. It was 2011, and “Black and Yellow” had just hit No. 1 for Pittsburgh’s best-known hip-hop export, Wiz Khalifa. Mac Miller’s Blue Slide Park was on the horizon, and things seemed ripe for a renaissance in the rap community in town. Every kid with a laptop and a rhyme thought he was next, and was grasping at coattails.

It was easy to rep Pittsburgh back then—it almost felt like the golden ticket, in fact. Nearly seven years later, though, most of the up-and-comers who were flashing their P-cards in 2011 aren’t even in the game.

Mars Jackson? He’s at the top of it.

While lesser artists were falling away, Jackson was building. His success thus far has come about because of his talent, for sure. But it wouldn’t have happened without his work ethic, and what the politicians call “coalition-building.”

There was ingenuity: Early on, resourceful college communications major he was, he faked a PR rep to make it seem like he had more resources than he did. There was dedication: He was unemployed, so he spent hours writing to industry contacts. “I was the first email they got in the morning, and sometimes the last one they got at the end of the day,” he says with a laugh.

It all worked. After some blips on the national press radar in the form of mentions on Pigeons and Planes and Noisey when the video for his song “Bravo!” came out in 2014, he had something of a watershed moment locally when in January 2016—and this is not expected stuff for a rapper—he was featured on the local NPR affiliate during “All Things Considered.”

Later that year, he was met with two new distinctions: Jackson was given top nod in the hip-hop category of Pittsburgh City Paper’s Best of Pittsburgh readers’ poll, and he signed with Misra Records, making him the venerable indie label’s first-ever rapper.

All that time, he was building relationships: With Pittsburgh clothing labels, with Pittsburgh photographers, with producers, including Nice Rec, a guy whose credits stretch back years and include the most notable names in town: Boaz, Mac, Wiz.

It was with Nice Rec that Jackson built his latest, Good Days Never Last Forever, engineered largely by another Pittsburgh rapper and singer, Benji. GDNLF is a smooth ride; less aggressive than Jackson’s earlier output, the album rises from Nice Rec’s electro-boogie beats, with Jackson laying down verses and singing his own hooks. In a town that raised Wiz and Mac, Mars Jackson identifies more with Chance the Rapper and Pharrell: the rapper and pop singer in one, code-switching seamlessly at will.

For six years, Mars Jackson has worked to get to the top in Pittsburgh; he’s put in his hours and earned the respect. His first full-length with Misra, GDNLF is an artist’s statement, an introduction to the rest of the world—Mars Jackson’s ticket to the next stop.


  • From: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Members: Mars Jackson