New Again: Mark Wahlberg

By and
Photography Bruce Weber

Published March 12, 2014

Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg transitioned from rapping to acting and producing so smoothly that sometimes we forget he used to just be Marky Mark. The cover of Interview from February 1992 brings it all back. Dropped pants, white briefs, cocky smirk and all. In the years since, he’s established himself as a Hollywood mainstay in comedy and drama, sporting the stoic leading man look more often than his dusty Marky Mark image. All the more reason to catch up with the Wahlberg that still lived at home, and nurtured a feud with Vanilla Ice between crotch-grabbing national tours. MTV is honoring Wahlberg’s “renaissance man” status (MTV president Stephen Friedman’s words, not ours) with their annual Generation award at the MTV Movie Awards. We’re not really sure what that means exactly, but it gives us a chance to ogle at some throwback Mark Wahlberg, and there’s really nothing wrong with that. We interviewed him right as he started igniting Beatle-esque teenage girl mania with the Funky Bunch. —Kenzi Abou-Sabe

Marky Mark: Uh, Uh, UhBy Interview

Marky Mark Wahlberg, brother of Donnie Wahlberg and founding member of New Kids on the Block, dropped out of the group before they went big time. Now 20 and backed by the Funky Bunch, he is to New Kids what heavy petting is to a peck on the cheek. His first album, Music for the People (Interscope), produced by Donnie, is a slugfest of contagious hip-hop and synthesized funk—from the spiritual calisthenics of “Good Vibrations,” featuring Loletta Holloway, to the down-and-dirty “Bout Time I Funk You.” Marky Mark’s American tour continues in Miami this month and reaches L.A. in March.

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INTERVIEW: If you had had the choice to have been born black or white, which would you have chosen?

MARKY MARK WAHLBERG: It wouldn’t matter. I’m proud to be white. I don’t have anything against my color. But I don’t think color matters, either. Just like I feel it doesn’t matter that I’m a white dude doin’ black music.

INTERVIEW: Still, as a white artist your raps are going to be different from, say, Ice Cube’s “The Nigga Ya Love to Hate.” I think that that particular rap could have been made only by a black person. Do you agree?

WAHLBERG: No. It could be made by anybody who is going through things like that. I question a lot of rappers, whether they are really as hard as they say. A lot of people don’t even question whether N.W.A.’s for real, because they’re from Compton and they’re supposed to be in gangs and stuff.

INTERVIEW: But you must be the first Irish rapper, maybe since James Joyce.

WAHLBERG: [laughs] Well, you know, I’m not comin’ out in a leprechaun suit or nothin’. I’m just Irish. But I feel for the ones who have worked so hard to pioneer this art form. And a lot of people, like Vanilla Ice, for example, haven’t stayed true to it, don’t have the respect and love for it that I do. I grew up in predominantly black neighborhoods and went to predominantly black schools. And hip-hop is what I grew up listening to in my teenage years. Basically I’m just being myself.

INTERVIEW: So what do you want from your life?

WAHLBERG: Music is my life. The last job I had, I was a bricklayer’s apprentice. And I was happy with that job, too, because it was something that made me feel good. To build a wall for the side of a building felt really good to me.

INTERVIEW: Is that the same feeling you get from writing a song?

WAHLBERG: They’re both accomplishments, but in a different way.

INTERVIEW: You don’t have thousands of girls watching you stack bricks.

WAHLBERG: True. But one building we rebuilt was a place I used to hang at, and it was weird to see my name all over its walls. I go by there now and see a lot of the same faces—like a friend of mine who lived in a condemned apartment with his mother and his three little brothers and little sister. And now they’re tryin’ to redo the whole block and tryin’ to clean it up, but it’s gonna be tough.

INTERVIEW: Your family was on food stamps when you were a kid?

WAHLBERG: Oh, yeah. I used to be embarrassed as shit to go to the store with food stamps, because my friends would all be there. I’d say, “Dad, I don’t want everybody knowin’ we’re on the food stamps.” You know what I mean?

INTERVIEW: You still live at home?

WAHLBERG: Yeah. But it’s cool. Before there were nine kids and we were livin’ in a three-bedroom house. Now I have my own room.

INTERVIEW: If you were to walk out of here behind me, would I get trampled?

WAHLBERG: Nah, ’cause I got the girls nice and calm and relaxed. I hang out with them because they’re out there all the time and they just want to get glimpses.

Marky Mark’s fans talk:

After interviewing Marky Mark in his New York hotel room, I spent some time with the surest sign of his success—20 or so young fans dutifully encamped outside the entrance. In the spirit of his music, we figured it best to let both the adored and the adoring speak for themselves.

INTERVIEW: Why do you like Marky Mark so much?

XIOMARA FRANCO: I think Marky Mark inspires all nationalities, not just white and not just black, but everybody. He’s not a Vanilla Ice.

INTERVIEW: Is being a fan of Marky Mark’s different from following New Kids on the Block?

VERGI RODRIQUEZ: Definitely. Because, first of all, New Kids wouldn’t pull down their pants.

SERENA RIVERA: Though we wish they would.

INTERVIEW: Is Marky Mark’s pulling down his pants an important part of how he expresses himself?

RODRIGUEZ: I don’t personally feel he has to do that. I don’t even think he has to take his jacket off.

RIVERA: We can see his body through his clothes.

INTERVIEW: If you guys could say anything to Marky Mark’s mother, what would you say to her?

FRANCO: You should be very proud of both sons.

RIVERA: I think she must already be proud.

FRANCO: They had to deal with a lot of problems.

ERICA SALISBURY: Like he says, he came from a mother on welfare. That, to me, says if he could do it, I could do it, too.

JENNY VERDE: I don’t know how she did it. I give her so much credit for having nine kids. I’m surprised she didn’t pull her hair out. And two of her sons have accomplished something that is, like, greater than anything.

INTERVIEW: If you had a date with Marky Mark, where would you want him to take you?

SALISBURY: I’d want him to take me to a nice restaurant, a candlelit dinner where we could talk and get to know each other, and then…

RIVERA: I’d settle for McDonald’s with him, okay?

INTERVIEW: If he weren’t famous, would you still love him?

RIVERA: Be serious. He’s cute!

SALISBURY: If I saw him walking down the block, I swear to God I’d go up to him and I’d go, “Excuse me. What’s your name?” Just like any other guy.

RODRIGUEZ: I’m kind of shy. I wouldn’t do that.

VERDE: I saw Mark one day at the Studio. He’s really crazy cool, and his brother is just too fly also. [all laugh] I’ll take his brother any day, mmmmm.

INTERVIEW: Are you going to wait here all day to see him?

ALL: No, we just stopped by.

INTERVIEW: Are New Kids like the Beatles to you?

ANJELINA GONZALEZ: No, the Beatles put down God and all that stuff. I’m not with that.

SALISBURY: I don’t think they’re like the Beatles. Girls didn’t wait in front of hotels for the Beatles.

INTERVIEW: Girls waited in front of anything for the Beatles.

GONZALEZ: Listen, guys look at New Kids and they say, “How could you like them?” And even Marky Mark. They were booing him at the Ritz last night.

SALISBURY: Jealousy.

GONZALEZ: But in a couple of years, guys will be looking at them like the Beatles, saying, “Oh, they were from my time.”

FATIMA SAMBO: I’m not too into Marky Mark. I don’t even know why I’m here. But if I had a chance to go out with him on a date… well, it wouldn’t be nowhere fancy.

INTERVIEW: You might be the ideal woman for him—you don’t seem to be influenced by his fame.

SAMBO: Actually, I don’t like the way he pulls his pants down and grabs onto… [laughs] Well, anyway. That’s my opinion. What was the question again?

RODRIGUEZ: O.K., he’ll come and pick me up at my house, right? And then we’ll go to some secluded beach, like in California. And he’ll, like, start a little fire with wood.

INTERVIEW: Would he sing to you?

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. A nice little rap. And we’re just sittin’ there watchin’ the moon, watchin’ the stars—very romantic. Maybe roast some marshmallows. Oh, I forgot, I don’t like marshmallows.

INTERVIEW: O.K., this is the scenario: Marky Mark is standing in front of you in a towel, he’s just got out of the shower—

ALL: Oh, wooooow!

INTERVIEW: And the only way he’ll agree to go out on a date with you is if you come up with a rap for him in 20 seconds.

RODRIGUEZ: [immediately] Yo, Marky Mark, you’re dope, you’re fly—

VERDE: You killed it.

INTERVIEW: Don’t give up, you still have time.

RIVERA: Yo, Marky Mark, be the best you can be/ We hope you stay around for eternity. [all laugh]

THIS ARTICLE INTIALLY APPEARED IN THE FEBRUARY 1992 ISSUE OF INTERVIEW. 

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