R&B Crooner Adrian Marcel Knows That Marriage Isn't About Perfection

"I don't play when it comes to my woman or the jobs that I'm supposed to do: protect, provide, and love."


With a baby sound asleep in the next room and his two eldest kids away, Adrian Marcel finally has "me time".

Though it's mostly being spent discussing everything under the sun from his debut album to his marriage, he is unexpectedly an open book and extremely thankful—expressing his gratitude for the opportunity on more than one occasion throughout our mid-morning chat.

Courtesy of @myles_standish

But perhaps what's most impressive about this Oakland-native is his dedication not only to his career but to his family as well. Boasting a successful roster of collabs that include names like The Dream, Kelly Rowland, and Raphael Saadiq, he admits that while initially his focus was just on singing and being an artist, thanks to his family, he's now come to realize that it goes much deeper than that; that the true measure of success isn't limited to just awards and accolades and that the example he sets in his career will ultimately be reflected in the lives of not only his wife but his children as well.

"With me having two daughters, I'm at a prime time where they're really soaking up everything," he tells xoNecole. "So I have to make sure that I'm selling something that I'm really with. I'm raising girls that I want to be able to pick true kings and the only way they can learn how to do that is for them to learn it from me. I want to influence them in the right way. There's a certain responsibility that we all hold and I at least want to be that representation. So I'm doing what I feel is right and I'm going to continue to rock like that."

In this exclusive chat, we talk to Adrian about his acting debut, how he balances being a father with his career, and why love doesn't have to be perfect.

Courtesy of Adrian Marcel

xoNecole: You starred in the Bobby Debarge story recently, it was your acting debut. What was that experience like?

Adrian Marcel: I got the bug now, once I got the taste for it I was like, 'This is a whole new kind of creativity.' I've been blessed for sure though, I can't complain. I think in everyone's career you have your ups and downs, but it's all about what you do with the downs. It was super dope, it was my first role so I don't really have any expectations because I didn't know what to expect. Everyone made this transition very easy, I may have been spoiled with the way everything was put together. Everybody was so welcoming, and in this industry, a lot of people can come across standoffish because they don't know where you're at or how you're taking it so walking into the first table read really set the tone honestly. Everybody meshed almost immediately.

In addition to that, you also released your album '98TH' recently. What vibe were you going for musically?

You know, at the end of last year I started my own label. I was able to step away and create my own legacy in the way I see it, and I wanted my first offering to be something for the fans who have been rocking with from the beginning. The fans who were there since I dropped my first mixtape, 7 Days A Week. I really took some time to live life, gain some new experiences, and to go back to who exactly I wanted to give to the people. 98TH was me getting back to that high school kid who was very confident and trusting in what I sell, what I wanted to do, and how I wanted to do it; 98th was the block I moved to when I first started high school, so I'm glad my team and I really stuck to what was natural and organic.

I noticed that you really emphasize the importance of love and the right relationship a lot in your music. You’re married as well. Do you find it harder to create musically as a married man and father now versus when you were single?

Not really. I never dove too far in to [a point] where I would get lost in just one thing. I've always been sort of a multi-tasker, if you will. And at the same time, my family has been where I get my inspiration from, my content, my experiences from. They've always been a part of my creative process. It's never been a problem for me to blend the two and I know that's been something that's sort of taboo in the industry. And I get it, but I think it's all about who you are, what you're looking for and what your goal is. For me, the goal isn't for me to make millions and millions of dollars and be the number one artist in the world. That's great if it does happen, it's always on the list, but what do you have when you get that?

Do you have family, love, and real people around you? I've always tried to make sure that one doesn't take over the other. Its a task, but I'm up for the challenge. As you grow, you want different things and different things entice you. But for me, I look at the legacy that I'm leaving, it goes past me. When I'm done and there are no more Grammys: who's there and how am I still moving forward? How do I still hold on to that happiness and I think it was important for me to know where that happiness was coming from, where the love was coming from, and where the passion came from; that love comes from the family and outside sources.

Courtesy of Dionne Green

"How do I still hold on to that happiness and I think it was important for me to know where that happiness was coming from, where the love was coming from, and where the passion came from; that love comes from the family and outside sources."

What initially attracted you to your wife, Danni?

What's funny is that we weren't really into each other when we first met. I was performing somewhere and she came with a mutual friend of ours and me being in that mode, I was flirting with everybody. So of course, I started flirting with her, but she was NOT giving me the time of day. But as time went on, we just started kicking it and hanging out and I think it was just how different she was. She was never really into the material things; whenever we would hang out we wouldn't be doing much of anything. She was just very interesting and it was always interesting to just watch her be who she was. It was one of those opposites attract-type things. She always remained true to herself and also, every time I was with her, something positive in my career would happen. She's my personal good luck charm. So it was really organic and it happened when it was supposed to, so that kind of sealed it for me.

I also read that your parents have been together for over 30 years. Has their relationship affected your perception of love?

I've always looked at my parents and admired the respect level that my mother had for my father and vice versa. For so long though, I saw the power in my father, you know, he's a strong Black man; everything I want to be, he is. His energy is very loud and strong. He's strong-willed, strong-minded, but I see now that the power really lies within my mother. She's really the backbone to it all. I watched my father start a business and the whole time I thought it was him, but it was really my mother who was pushing him into it. He allowed himself to really let whatever guard and walls down to let her be a woman and a queen, so I always took marriage seriously. I don't play when it comes to my woman or the jobs that I'm supposed to do: protect, provide, and love.

Courtesy of @myles_standish

"I watched my father start a business and the whole time I thought it was him, but it was really my mother who was pushing him into it. He allowed himself to really let whatever guard and walls down to let her be a woman and a queen, so I always took marriage seriously. I don't play when it comes to my woman or the jobs that I'm supposed to do: protect, provide, and love."

You’re an R&B guy, so I have to know. Do you have a go-to Mood Music playlist?

Oh for sure, I'm all about setting the mood. I've always been sort of a hopeless romantic, lighting the candles even back in the day; my mom knew she was going to have a problem. That's my thing, my favorite time is sexy time (laughs). My playlist has always been in a certain flow so like song 1-4 is where we set the tone, you spit that game, get her in the mood. After that, the next four to five records are all about the foreplay and getting into it. We're still taking our time but we might get a little aggressive. The music might get a little aggressive and then you take it down. It's all types of different artists but I'm definitely on my list. I have no problem hearing my voice, Trey Songz, Maxwell, Usher, and some old school, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, 112, Dru Hill. It's all about the vibes that's coming out of the speakers. But we're not mixing rap in there, it's definitely going to be some R&B vibes going on.

What's something you’ve learned now about love or marriage that you didn't know before?

That it's not supposed to be perfect. I was always under this impression that you get married when everything is perfect and you have everything figured out already but I've learned things will never be perfect because you never have everything all figured out. We're two different people, I don't think like my wife and she doesn't think like me. She's into certain things that I'm not into and likewise for me. And as we change, as we get older, so does the marriage—the relationship. And it's either going to change for the better if you're growing together or it's going to change for the worst if you're not, but it's never going to be what you want it to be. It's always going to be what it's supposed to be for you. That just makes more room for growth; you always have to know what you're fighting for. It won't be perfect and that's okay because now you know you're still working for something.

"I was always under this impression that you get married when everything is perfect and you have everything figured out already but I've learned things will never be perfect because you never have everything all figured out. We're two different people, I don't think like my wife and she doesn't think like me."

Last thing, what's the biggest difference between the Adrian at the beginning of your career and relationship and the Adrian now?

The Adrian at the beginning was more susceptible and open for outsiders to come in and direct. But now, I'm in this zone where I understand me, I understand everything around me. I understand why things have happened and do happen the way they do. I am very in tune with my spirituality and everything that has to do with me; there are no more questions now. Before, when I was younger, there was a lot of 'Should I be doing this, should I be doing that?' But now I'm completely living in the now; I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be, doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm not doing what I'm not supposed to be doing, I'm with who I'm supposed to be with. I'm able to be Adrian Marcel, give my passion the full time and energy [it deserves], but at the same time, make sure that the career doesn't affect my wife and my kids and how they think and feel. And that's the only way for me to succeed the way I know I'm meant to.

98TH is available to stream everywhere now and to keep up with Adrian, be sure to follow him on Instagram @AdrianMarcel.

Featured image by @myles_standish.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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