Music gets us through struggle, Mars Parker says. He says it helped him and his family manage through hard times, and that it seemed to be everywhere when he was growing up. He wears a necklace with a “Purple Rain” charm dangling from the chain, a reminder of both where he comes from (his grandmother introduced him to Prince when he was a child) and where he’s headed: for the greatest of all time. Mars is a shapeshifter, one who doesn’t get bogged down by expectation. He’s put out rap albums, dim-lit R&B croons, and, most recently, a party album in the same vein as Prince and other 80’s throwbacks that inspire him. But writing emotional music and maintaining one’s masculinity, especially in musical circles that subscribe to toxic archetypes, can be a tricky line to walk. We talk about how he manages those expectations, as well as what keeps pushing his craft into new territory.