Lincoln MarshallThe rappers behind Lincoln Marshall have always been overachievers. In their solo careers— with Sean Hunt performing as Approach and John-Alan Suter as MilkDrop— their musical personalities were distinct. Hunt, an obsessive beat maker (and collector) and nonstop ball of energy onstage, spent a lot of time in the studio with the poetic and lyric-drive Suter while he worked on his solo album. But when they ran into an overabundance of songs and ideas, they decided to lay the tracks down together as a new act and try to change the hip-hop landscape in Lawrence. “We were finishing Poet at Heart, and we had a lot of time in between,” Suter recalls after working on one of his solo albums with Hunt. “Approach, he’s very much like me in a lot of ways, but more focused. He’ll come up with the ideas and get inspired, and then I’ll end up with like 14 beats in my Inbox. He sent me a zip file one night at 1:00 in the morning, and he was like ‘We’re going to do a group project.’”

When Lincoln Marshall was born, he longtime friends became collaborators overnight. They were almost surprised at how well they hit it off in the studio. “It’s really weird because being a solo artist, I knew what it takes to create a song, and it’s unusual when a person like Milk can do so many songs with so many verses,” says Hunt. “The guy can do an album in a day, it’s unusual… So as we were working his album, I said instead of cold dropping Milk’s solo album out of the blue, let’s piggy back off of each other a little bit.”

A Breath Of Fresh Air

After an unexpectedly quick warm reception at their first couple of shows, Approach and MilkDrop decided to put their solo careers on the back burner for a bit. One of the challenges they faced was that while Approach already had a large fan base in the Lawrence scene, MilkDrop was new to it. “His fan base is a completely different type of listener than mine,” Suter recalls. “Then, once we released it, it was like they kind of merged together. Then all these new people that never listened to either of us became super engaged new fans.” Hunt agreed with this sentiment. “It’s one of those rare moments where we had an idea of what we were trying to do, and it actually worked,” he says. “You always have an idea as an artist, and a lot of times it doesn’t always line up. But the Lincoln thing, it happened really quick… We’ve both been doing this for so long— wether it’s been professionally, as amateurs, as fans— that it was like a breath of fresh air.”

Lincoln Marshall / Photo by Fally Afani
Lincoln Marshall / Photo by Fally Afani
They ended up putting all of their efforts into a three-part album release from Lincoln Marshall. Weight was released late last year, Water dropped earlier this Summer, and Wisdom is on deck. The three-albums, released in a timed manner over the course of two years, craft a narrative from the lyricists as their relationship with music (and with each other) progressed. “The beauty of music and art is it’s always evolving over time,” says Suter. “For me, as an artist, when you stand next to somebody onstage like Approach, it’s a different idea of who you are. I think that’s kind of a big thing in my progression as an artist. You start to have the nuances of the other artist dissolve into you.” Hunt was quick to agree with his comrade in creativity. “Just like a marriage or any other relationship, you take on qualities of the other person that you admire,” he says. “It’s a whole different world when you’re up there by yourself, and then when you’re up there with someone else and you have trust, you can let yourself go. If you slip and fall, and do something awkward, your partner’s right up there and they got your back.”

Lincoln Marshall / Photo by Fally Afani
Lincoln Marshall / Photo by Fally Afani

Shifting Back

Lincoln Marshall’s albums and performances were solid, but the next obstacle came from getting Lawrence to give a damn about local hip-hop. In the early 2000’s, hip-hop was strong in Lawrence. You could see a number of performers, the Wax Clash DJ Battle, or even a couple of B-Boy Battles. But then rock scene took over, and grew like a hurricane over this town. “It had been quiet on the rock scene in the mid-2000s to 2013, so now it’s shifting back,” recalls Hunt. He should know. As the doorman who’s faithfully been perched at the Replay for years (and a DJ on their popular dance floor), he’s seen everything that comes through. While he scoffs at today’s heavy reliance on internet promotion, Hunt sticks to what he calls his “grassroots” promotion methods. This includes handing out flyers and performing everywhere from sorority parties to on-air at radio stations. With Hunt, getting your act in front of diverse audiences (and on diverse lineups) is key. “I think shows in general, as a person who works in a club, don’t draw the crowds that they used to,” he says. “The same bands play far too often. One genre shows are boring, I’m a music fan.”

But Hunt, along with Suter, recognize that gigs at the Replay can be your bread and butter. Being a Leavenworth native, Suter has offers an outsider’s perspective. “A Replay crowd is a different crowd than you’ll see anywhere else,” he says. “You’ll see all types of music that we make pulls in all types of different people. Especially the way we perform, it relates to people in a lot of different ways.”

Lincoln Marshall

No End Game

When Hunt says he’s a music fan, it’s a bit of an understatement. His record collection is a testament to that (trust us on this one, we’ve seen it in person). Hunt collects music and moments, resulting in a catalogue of what has progressed as today’s music scene. But more than anything, Hunt wants artists to keep creating until the very end. “As civilizations, we learn by watching and listening. I think that as people gain experiences and have a true passion for what they’re doing, they age so gracefully. I think that’s so important, even though we’re at a point where younger artists don’t respect the OG’s, as they say,” he confides. “I still don’t think I’ve gotten to a point where I’m good at it yet, so I’m really eager to see when I really get some age on me, when I really get some old on me.”

As his musical confidant, Suter shares similar feelings. “I think when you are afforded gifts and abilities to create, the biggest travesty you could do is to stop creating,” he says. “I continue to make music because I want kids we run into all the time… I want to give those pieces to them to show that you can create for yourself. Because, especially in hip-hop, you find a lot of kids who have a lot to say and don’t necessarily know what outlets to use. I think that’s the foundation of hip-hop, it’s the voice for people who can’t speak for themselves.” Suter acknowledges that he hopes to set an example. “You get a kid like me from Leavenworth, you get kids like me who have a chance to give words to people all over everywhere. I continue to do it because I want kids to be able to know there is no end game to this. That’s the great thing about music, we can do this until we’re 90 years-old. There’s no rule book.”

You can watch Approach and MilkDrop break all the rules when they play the Replay this Saturday with Stitch81Classic and Ricky Roosevelt.



Fally Afani is an award-winning journalist with a career spanning more than 20 years in media. She has worked extensively in radio, television, newspapers, magazines, and more.

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