Marrio Shaw on creating music not only for others, but for himself too


NIU Media Studies Senior Marrio Shaw has spent the better part of a decade becoming a rapper and making music.

By Jamie O'Toole l Contributor

DeKALB – Senior Marrio Shaw studies communications with an emphasis in media studies and is in pursuit of making films, but behind the camera, he writes lyrics from his soul so he and his listeners can feel heard and understood. 

Growing up in DeKalb, Shaw and some of his closest childhood friends walked home from school together every day, forming a bond that still remains. It was during these walks Shaw first discovered freestyling because one of his friends dreamt of becoming a rapper when he grew up. Their tight-knit group decided to make freestyling a pastime for their walks. 

Despite his friend deciding not to pursue rapping, the passion and freedom Shaw and another friend, Airon Franks, found in it continued. They started a group and have been rapping together since 2009.

“We’ve always had the same vision when it comes to making music, so it’s nothing but good, positive vibes,” Franks said.

Today, Shaw mainly works on solo projects, but he continues to work with Franks. 

“We actually have a collab mixtape coming out soon as well,” Shaw said. 

Franks and Shaw have been good friends for 10 years, and consider each other brothers.

“He is one of the most humble human beings I’ve ever come across in my lifetime,” Franks said.

Franks has followed Shaw throughout his rap journey, and has collaborated with him consistently over the course of both their careers. Franks believes Shaw has become significantly more confident in his music compared to when they first started their rapping journey. 

“[Shaw] sounds and looks very comfortable as he believes in himself, which is shown by the music he creates and the pictures he paints with his lyrics,” Franks said. 

In 2009, the two started recording at Shaw’s house in his front room before recording at Franks’ house. They lost everything they recorded, Franks said. Now Shaw records in a professional studio, and Franks couldn’t be more proud of where he began and how hard he has worked to accomplish his dreams.

“I want the world to see [Shaw’s] art as a voice for those who aren’t always fortunate enough to speak up on certain topics or to even open up about emotions they feel on a day to day basis,” Franks said. 

Shaw typically writes lyrics about his personal experiences, creating a clear image of environments he’s lived in or visited so listeners can understand how Shaw feels and what he has been through.

This can take a while to put into words, though. Shaw said at this point in his career, he’s in the process of breaking the writers block and overthinking stage, so that he “can begin trusting [himself], which will allow [him] to write more and faster.”  

He usually only writes when he believes he has something important to say, for others to hear and relate to or if he knows he has a really good song on his hands. This mixtape, composed of six songs, took about a week to write. 

Shaw said finding the beat is the hardest part about writing. Typically, once a rapper has found a fitting beat for the rhythm and flow of the lyrics, they then buy the beat.

Shaw, however, went on YouTube, found some beats and started writing to them for this mixtape. A month after writing the mixtape, he went to the studio and recorded it in six hours.

As opposed to modern rap, Shaw wanted to give the world a mixtape that’s “real,” one that discusses mental illness and the distress it plants in many people’s lives. This project talks about depression, according to Shaw. Shaw was going through depression while he was working on it. On this mixtape, Shaw conveys the impact of losing people who “said they would stay in your life but didn’t.” 

This mixtape helped Shaw get out of his depression. He will play back his mixtape in private and listen to the music as if it was not produced by him. “I throw it on just to get through my hard times,” Shaw said. The process of writing, too, helped Shaw release some emotions.

Just as this mixtape aids him, he hopes “people can relate to it and can put it on when they are going through tough times and know that it gets better.”

Shaw would not describe this project as music for parties. “It’s more of a ‘I’m going through something right now, I can relate to this’ type of music,” Shaw said. When other people give it a listen, he hopes those “battling mental illness listen to this mixtape and know they can get past this, and keep going.”

People can find Marrio Shaw on all music streaming platforms since Nov. 15.