Being the little brother of New Kid Donnie Wahlberg, rapper Mark Wahlberg -- or Marky Mark, as fans of his Funky Bunch know him -- didn't exactly enter the pop arena as an unknown. In fact, many listeners and critics felt they had him pegged even before his first album, "Music for the People," hit the streets.
Fortunately, says Marky Mark, he didn't turn out to be quite what they expected.
"I think with my brother being in the group that he was, a lot of people had already set their expectations," the young rap star explains over the phone from a tour stop in Buffalo, N.Y. "I think that's why people got a big surprise when I came out. It was like, 'Wow, are you sure that's his brother?' It really was good that I did get a chance to establish myself as an artist."
But Marky Mark did more than merely "establish" himself. His first two singles -- the vibrant, house-style "Good Vibrations" and the quieter, slice-of-street-life "Wildside" -- both went Top 10, making the muscular Bostonian the most likely heir to Vanilla Ice's pop-rap crown. Yet as easily as the Markster scooped up the Ice Man's audience, he has somehow managed to avoid the sniping that eventually brought his predecessor down.
How'd he do it? Marky Mark thinks it's just a matter of being honest, both about himself and his album. "I'm not trying to be something that I'm not," he says. "I'm not trying to portray this big, glamorous image of this rough, rough life, you know. I was just an average kid who had a semi-tough life and wanted to make a positive outlook for myself.
"I made a good record, and people can appreciate that."
Marky Mark is quick to credit his big brother for much of the album's musical strength. Donnie, he says, "is the musical man. I was just all the time writing rhymes and stuff. I was never really into the musical aspect of things until recently. But the things that he came up with, and the way he went about it was just amazing to me. It really made me want to pay attention more."
One thing he's particularly proud of is the way his rap "Wildside" borrows the bass and guitar groove from Lou Reed's 1973 hit, "Walk on the Wild Side." This wasn't the first time a rap act had borrowed from that song -- A Tribe Called Quest used it, mixed with a touch of Elton John's "Rocket Man," for their 1990 rap, "Can I Kick It" -- but Marky Mark feels that his is the more appropriate appropriation.
Because A Tribe Called Quest just used the groove to rap about rapping, Marky Mark feels "they didn't really use it in a serious way. I figured the way I did the song made more sense, you know what I mean? It was more real, and with all the madness that's going on today, people are really relating to that."
Moreover, he says, having had a hit that deals with problems like drug abuse, murder and racism has helped him deal with some of the bad times he went through.
"Just having a positive outlook on it makes me deal with it a lot easier," he says. "I'm realizing what happened, what I dealt with, and what I'm doing to better myself. Now that I've been able to realize it for myself, I want an opportunity to help other people, you know? I know I can't change the world, but to be able to have a positive impact on one or two people's lives is a big thing to me."
Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch
When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Baltimore Arena
PD Call: (410) 347-2010 for information, (410) 481-7328 for tickets