Nowadays, it’s hard to stand out in an oversaturated music industry. Thankfully, there are artists who continue to push and defy all boundaries when it comes to their sound, their brand, and overall persona. Insert Note Marcato, the alter ego he calls “Cardinal” of real name Nasir Dean who got his moniker as an Italian representation of the 3-4 music note—intended to be played the loudest. Whether you’re catching wind of his music or him in-person, you’re immediately hooked. Who’s this kid rocking face paint making music over these unique, layered beats?
He states, “Note Marcato is a musical entity who was sent here to defy all previous examples with striking initiative, to change the sonic of music forever.”
The 19-year-old producer and recording artist is son to legendary Swizz Beatz, which means he has big shoes to feel. But he feels no pressure, he’s simply doing what he loves. The music he creates is equipped with substance, speaking volumes to our current times and impacting the masses in a refreshing manner that most artists his age could never.
Now, Note returns with his highly-anticipated debut album, BeachBum Limbo, spearheaded by singles “Blackheart 39,” “Rafiki,” and “Cross Eyed Hike.” Ultimately, your Marcato is the climax of a song, and each of the 13 tracks on the album lives up to that exact standard. With the project telling his story and truth, Note sees absolutely no boundaries.
Flaunt caught up with Note via Zoom to discuss how he ultimately discovered his sound, debuting it at The Grammys, the meaning behind his visuals, and creating his new project.
How’d you come up with this alter ego of yours?
When I was making my album, I wasn’t so much making music, music was flowing through me. I had this different side of me that’d come out when I was making the music. I was very focused in my space. There was actually a point in time where I couldn’t use my name Note Marcato. I was supposed to be Marcato at first, but it turned out to be an African boy band. I started reviewing counter measures of what my name will be, then I came up with the name Cardinal. I’ve always had a connection with the bird, and so did my grandfather. The spiritual significance of a cardinal is someone who has passed, coming to visit you. People call me Cardinal sometimes because that’s how I introduce myself, I loved the name and what it stood for so much. I made him the side of me who wears the mask, so all of Note Marcato’s music is under the interpretation of Cardinal. When I’m performing, it’s Cardinal under the interpretation of Note Marcato’s music.
What’s the meaning behind the face paint?
It’s more of a psychological study. When I’m around someone I’ve known for years and I wear the facepaint, it’s almost an energy amplifier. Almost a spotlight of some sort. It allowed me to get the attention from all angles with me not having to do anything I don’t particularly want to do. I’m not here to be an entertainer, I’m an artist. That helped me forge the craft for me to set the tone and do whatever I see fit to, change music history as it stands today.
What was it like debuting this side of you at The Grammys last year with Swizz and Alicia on the red carpet?
The energy was so down that day because Kobe had passed away. My stepmom Alicia was scrambling to get the whole show back on course and get it right, then she did. Everybody, even all the security guards, that was Kobe’s home. That was Kobe’s heart. The Staples Center is Kobe Bryant, that’s basic to anybody who even knows the name Kobe Bryant. The energy was so crazy that day. The fact that I was able to make history on that day was so much love and energy, it all being focused in that direct way, it was very big. It brought it all together. It was a celebration of life, a big day for everybody. It felt good, that was my little introduction.
Do you feel any pressure being Swizz’s son?
No, I don’t feel any pressure at all. At the end of the day, that’s family and we work as a team. I run ideas past him, he runs ideas past me, but we both take our own distinct paths in forging our journeys. I never felt that pressure because I never compare myself to anything. I never compare myself to that, to anything ever. I never have expectations of others. Depending on who you have expectations for, that might be a mistake, but it’s never a mistake to have expectations for yourself. When it comes to family, this is the life I’ve been bred in. I didn’t know I was musically-inclined until I was 16 but my whole life, I was getting musically trained. I can teach my music theory teacher music theory today, in a way he doesn’t know it.
What happened at 16?
I was in school and started making music a lot off of expression. Of everybody sitting in my class, everybody always has such a distinctive vibe. Any room full of people is going to have its very specific energies. School was stressing me the fuck out. I didn’t want to be there anymore so I started producing. I started studying energy and sonic physics a lot, even learning music theory on my own instead of doing the homework they’re giving me. I started practicing and doing it everyday. I know for a fact that if you want to be the best, you gotta put in the hours. Not even the best to other people, but the best to yourself. You have to put in the hours so you know what you did, because everyone doesn’t believe until after anyway. As long as you’re working your ass off and you know that, you should be fine. You gotta sacrifice though.
You released your debut single “Blackheart 39” in April, who or what inspired this record?
That’s one of my favorite songs. The time in which I made it in my life, it’s a love song. You’d probably never be able to guess but that shit came from the heart. When I studied chakras around that time, I didn’t even graduate high school yet. My senior year, I recorded that song. When I closed my eyes and listened to that song, the energy came out green. Green is the heart chakra, that came from a very specific place. I remember when I first listened to the song, I heard the shit as if someone was whispering the melody to me across the room. When I finished making the beat, I heard the voice. It sounded like “shawty’s like a melody in my head” [Iyaz “Replay”], but it sounded completely in its own realm. I could hear the tone of the melody, then I forged the words with me following the tone. The creative process was groundbreaking. Even the beat, the way that shit feels. The energy of it all is phenomenal, I fucking love that song. The fact that people get to hear it and have the option to love it too, even more now because my album’s dropping and it’s on it, it’s lit. That’s the ultimate blessing because I made that song a year ago.
What was the meaning behind the visual? The people have bags over their heads.
You know when you go to a party or gathering? Everyone‘s showing you a certain part of themselves. Maybe the real them, maybe not. Everyone wears this protection because of people around, everybody acts accordingly how they see fit depending on the environment and the situation. The bags over their heads was me expressing how you don’t know who people are until later. You don’t know who they really are, they show you a certain part of themselves. That’s why when people came in, they’re able to draw on the bags what they wanted. People show you what they want. Some people are more susceptible to it, some people maybe not. Definitely something I noticed at parties, especially with me literally wearing a mask. [laughs] People show me a different side of themselves and they’re not even wearing a mask, I’m wearing a mask. That one’s special. The fact I got to release one of my favorite songs as my debut song is wild.
Talk about your second single, “Rafiki.”
This one was a very complex idea too, meant to break a bunch of barriers. Our main point was to continuously break the fourth wall for the video, make it like Deadpool. Deadpool is one of my favorite superheros, I’m a fanatic. I was paying attention to the movies, certain comic book characters that have certain freedoms always break the fourth wall. Joker is diagnosed with this different insanity, he knows he’s in a comic book so he’s able to break the fourth wall. Deadpool is a Marvel character who’s always known for breaking the fourth wall, I find that very interesting. We shot “Rafiki” with a couple weeks notice, so I thought “let’s do something fucking cool that people can feel and see the intricacies of, something that’s complex.” I’m really huge on actually saying shit. I can see shaking ass, but I’m not learning. I can see fast cars, what am I learning? The newest version of that fast car? I love giving people something to be able to extrapolate on their own, so they can take themselves to better heights and places with their imagination and creativity. And for the better self, for people to be happy. My music is medicine for me. There’s a standard of better medicine that has to come after that, because prescriptions get old. You need stronger medicine after a while, that’s always the incentive of me making better music.
How was co-directing “Cross Eyed Hike”?
“Cross Eyed Hike” was the biggest film I’ve directed so far, with my amazing team which consists of my guys Art, Luke, Shafto, Cole Cook. They’re all part of Timeless Eye, they really help me. I was sitting in my grandma’s house in South Carolina, we were all on a 4-way FaceTime. We came up with this groundbreaking, chronological cohesive story that we could execute with the music and the vision. It brought everything even more up, it’s only up from here. This is one of my favorite videos, probably gonna be a lot of people’s favorite videos that they’ve seen this year for sure.