By Joanna Folger
Island resident Mark Dwyer already knows what it feels like to be great, so when making music, the approval of others is not the first thing on his mind.
“I’ve already achieved success through sports, I know what that feels like,” said Dwyer. “With music, I’m not doing it to be great and successful, I’m doing it for me.”
To date, Dwyer has released two albums, one under the moniker M Dwizzy, “No Money No Problem” in 2012, and a second earlier this year “Neptune” under his label Yaad Nation. Mainstream success may not be Dwyer’s main focus when making music, but personal improvement and a feeling of satisfaction certainly is.
“If I keep doing it, I have to be getting better,” said Dwyer. “Discipline means everything to me, not just in music but in life.”
This work ethic was honed through years of playing lacrosse at an elite level. When he moved to the United States from Jamaica at age 15 Dwyer had never touched a lacrosse stick in his life, but was a skilled athlete and decided to join the high school team.
“I was terrible that first year, but by my junior year I was the best player we had,” said Dwyer.
From there, he went on to play lacrosse at Stevenson University, and then for the Jamaican National Team. These days, lacrosse is a less important aspect of his life, as he has turned to more creative endeavors.
“I always wanted to pursue music, but because I was so good at sports from such a young age I never admitted it,” said Dwyer. “When I was in college I realized I didn’t want to be a professional athlete, and I finally started making music.”
Still, the way he measures his success has been shaped by his experiences as an elite athlete.
“I understand that in life, you get out of it what you put into it,” said Dwyer. “You can be bad today but you can change that through working hard.”
Deciding to seriously pursue music has also forced Dwyer to grow in new ways. He decided to change his artist name to his actual name with his latest release, because he feels that this album is more representative of him as a musician.
“With Neptune, I became myself,” said Dwyer, “I’m a shy person, my natural inclination is to pull back, but when I put myself out there is when good things happen. So with Neptune, I sort of took a chance.”
Dwyer experiments in “Neptune.” He mixes genres, from more classic rap flows, to dancehall beats, and softer R&B tracks that feature Dwyer singing.
“I think I’ve moved from being a rapper to being a musician,” said Dwyer. “Because now I don’t just rap.”
The more eclectic nature of “Neptune” speaks to Dwyer’s experiences as a dual citizen of both Jamaica and the United States and the diversity of his influences. Bob Marley has been hugely inspirational, as have mainstream hip hop moguls such as Jay-Z and Drake.
“Bob Marley, a lot of his music is based around oppression because of the time period he lived in,” said Dwyer. “Whereas Drake’s music is all about success and being an underdog.”
These messages resonate with Dwyer, as he views himself as an underdog in his own right.
“You’d never think that somebody from Nantucket would rap,” said Dwyer. “Or at least, you’d never think they’d be any good.”
“Who would ever think that the next great rapper would be from Nantucket?”
But at this point, Dwyer considers himself to be more than just a rapper. As he grows comfortable taking more risks with his music, Dwyer feels he can finally call himself an artist.
“I feel like now I’m an actual musician, before I was trying to be a musician,” said Dwyer. “Being a musician is like being a reporter for your time. You have to represent the area you live in to the best of your ability.”
In “Neptune,” Dwyer also features Jamaican music more prominently than previous releases, which means less rapping and more singing. These tracks reflect Dwyer’s roots, as he remembers growing up in Jamaica with music always being a part of his life.
“I went to an all boys school in Jamaica and we would always be banging on our desks and freestyling,” said Dwyer. “I grew up in a scene like that, and as a kid I was always around family members who sang and played music.”
Dwyer’s broad influences allow him to appeal to a crossover audience, from friends and family in Jamaica, on Nantucket, and through social media all over the world.
Being able to publish and promote his music through social media has allowed Dwyer to stay on Nantucket even though the hip hop and rap scene on island is nearly non-existent. The tight knit community and influx of international summer residents are the unique advantages Dwyer sees in living on Nantucket.
“It’s easy to feel like a big fish in a little pond here,” said Dwyer. “But I just focus on building my brand and making my music.”
“Everybody from the real world comes to Nantucket in the summer, and I’m banking on the idea that people see what I’m doing and like it. I’m looking forward to collaborating and connecting with new people this summer.”
With his next release, currently titled “Rebel,” Dwyer hopes to experiment even more, and also push a message.
“Rebels change the world,” said Dwyer. “A lot of times, the world is messed up, and the popular opinion might be the wrong opinion.”
“If we are naturally group oriented, we may go with the wrong opinion. So we need rebels in this world to set our future on the right path.”