Mike Posner: From His Mother's Basement To Here
Detroit native Mike Posner is no stranger to the world of Hip-Hop, and he's determined to let people know where his roots are. The singer, who climbed the industry ranks alongside friend and fellow D-town native Big Sean, has already worked with the likes of Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, Snoop Dogg, and Bun B, yet he's only released one studio album. There is something fresh, charismatic, and genuine about the 23 year-old that has had people talking since before his 2009 debut, 31 Minutes to Takeoff, hit store shelves and produced three giant singles that blew up both Pop and Urban radio.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Posner released The Layover in late November 2011. The 21-track mixtape, hosted by DJ Benzi and Don Cannon has a definitive album vibe and features rappers Slim Thug, CyHi Da Prynce, Machine Gun Kelly, Big K.R.I.T., Elzhi, and about a dozen more artists alongside the Michigan crooner on original records and covers of some classic songs as well.
AllHipHop.com spent some time talking to the R&B crooner in between recording sessions for his sophomore album, Sky High, which is set for release in March 2012 Posner spoke about the mixtape, why he chose to work with the artists that he did on The Layover, the current R&B landscape, and what fans can expect from his next album:
AllHipHop.com: What’s going on, Mike? I want to get right into the mixtape by asking whose idea was it to break The Layover into sections where you have “songs to drive to,” “songs to smoke to,” “songs to pre-game to,” “songs to f*ck to,” etc.? Where did that concept come from?
Mike Posner: I will take some credit for that one; I thought of that. I was just thinking about the big picture to myself, like, as a listener, what were the most magical moments that I’ve had with music? And I came up with a couple of categories. I wanted to make music for those moments for people so that they could have that and use those songs in that way for their life. And rather than just hope that they put two and two together, I wanted to tell them exactly what those songs were made for.
AllHipHop.com: That’s great. I also saw that as you were preparing to release the project, you were putting out a few videos explaining the concept and purpose behind some of the records. I want to ask you about a few songs that you didn’t do videos for, and see what you have to say about them.
Mike Posner: Definitely, man.
AllHipHop.com: Let’s start with “Henny & Purple” featuring Slim Thug.
Mike Posner: Well, that’s one of my favorites on the mixtape, and that started with a beat idea from my homie Bei Major. He sent me this sample that he and Cory Enemy had come up with and chopped up. My homies, Block Beaters, worked on the beat as well as this dude named Maestro, so there is like a bajillion producers working on that track; probably the most producers on one song that I’ve ever experienced for sure.
The lyrics on that song are really special to me. When I say, “We’re out here looking for something to believe in, slow it down, down, down, you see that clock ticking slow on the dash, picking up the pieces that we left in the past, with the henny and purple.” Basically, I’m talking about a moment that I’m about to have when I go home. Every time I go back to Michigan I find myself smoking and driving with my homies, and we’re trying to recreate the moments that we had when we were younger. As far as Thugga, I just absolutely love – pause – love Thugga’s voice, and I think he has the dopest voice in the game; like him and Jeezy are just some of my favorite straight up voices. I’m real big on the sonics of someone’s voice and how they sound on a track.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, well, those are definitely two distinct voices in Hip-Hop.
Mike Posner: Exactly, so I called Slim, and he sounds just as cool when he talks on the phone [laughing]. He did his verse in like three hours. As soon as he was done, he sent that sh*t back, and I actually put the finishing touches on this song between my session with Pharrell. I was just in Miami with Pharrell, and he went out to take a break, and I still needed to finish “Henny and Purple,” so I asked the engineer if we could finish the track real quick. When P came back, I was like, “Yo, listen to this!” and he loved it.
AllHipHop.com: Before we go onto some of the other tracks from The Layover, I have to ask, what were you and Pharrell working on?
Mike Posner: We did three tracks for Sky High, and that sh*t is just incredible. I’ve had good feelings when I left sessions, but, I left that session feeling like “I’m about to f*ck up the game in 2012, so you motherf*ckers need to watch out!” [laughter]
AllHipHop.com: It’s perfect that you say that, actually, because I want to ask you about the changing R&B landscape. I’m curious about what your thoughts are on some of the names who are making a lot of noise, like Frank Ocean and The Weeknd. Where does Mike Posner fit into the grand scheme of things?
Mike Posner: Oh, man, I think I fit in the same way that I fit in three years ago when I started. When I came up with this concept of, like, singing rap songs for all intents and purposes. I write Hip-Hop music, but instead of rapping the words, I sing them and, you know, nobody really was doing that in ’09, and still nobody does it like I do it now. So like I said, I really feel like nobody’s f*cking with this mixtape, and nobody is going to be f*cking with my next album, and I couldn’t be more excited.
AllHipHop.com: That’s great. Going back to the mixtape, what can you tell me about “Drug Dealer Girl Pt. 2” with Machine Gun Kelly?
Mike Posner: Kells is one of my favorite rappers, and if anyone gets the chance to see him live – there’s not too many people f*cking with that dude on a stage. His shows are absolutely insane.
AllHipHop.com: I can totally back you on that.
Mike Posner: Yeah, I mean, I saw him live in L.A., and since then we’ve done a bunch of shows together. Right when I saw his show, I knew I had to do a song with this guy, and we struggled for a really long time because he doesn’t do girl songs, so I would send him these ideas, and he’d come back like, “Yo, I don’t talk about girls in my music, that’s just not what I do.” That’s pretty much all I talk about [laughter], smoking weed and b*tches. So there was this moment where I was really struggling on what to come up with, and I was on tour and made that beat on the bus and came up with that melody, and sent to him, and he loved it. It was all his idea to do this “Drug Dealer Girl Pt. 2” and put this totally dark twist on this kind of happy song that I had created before. The hook came first, and that’s where it took him.
AllHipHop.com: Well, nice job because the track is dope. What are the chances of you and MGK coming together and putting out an entire project ?
Mike Posner: We haven’t really talked about that. We do have another song that isn’t out, and I know I would really love to do more songs with him, but I don’t want to comment on that ‘cause that’s not a conversation we’ve had yet. But he’s awesome though.
AllHipHop.com: Fair enough, but if you did have the opportunity to do an entire project with one other artist, who would it be?
Mike Posner: It’s gotta be Big Sean.
AllHipHop.com: Interesting. Why is that?
Mike Posner: That’s a dude that, I was in his entourage, you know, for three years. People don’t realize that I started off making beats for him, and on my first mixtape, he blessed me with like three or four verses, and I was a nobody. So that was somebody that I knew before he was signed, and he knew me before I was signed. We made “Don’t Tell me You Love Me” for his album Finally Famous in my mom’s basement, and “Smoke and Drive” was like the first song that I ever sang on for him, so there’s a relationship and a friendship there that’s different then when I work with anybody else that I met, you know, after I got on. He knew before I got on, and he was f*cking with me then, so that’s my dude forever.
AllHipHop.com: That’s great! So since you were riding with him before you were doing your own thing, how does it feel to see your boy achieve all that he has commercially in the past year? I’d imagine that has to put a smile on your face.
Mike Posner: Oh yeah, it does more than that. It makes the hairs stand up on my arm and brings a tear to my eye, you know? He worked harder than anybody I know to get where he’s at now. On the few shows that we’ve done since he’s really blown the f*ck up, we just look at the crowd sometimes and say in each other's ears, “from my mom’s basement to this" [laughter].
AllHipHop.com: I can only imagine what that must be like for you two. That’s amazing.
Mike Posner: Yeah, it’s pretty cool, and when he says that to me on stage, I always say back to him, “just wait till next year.”
AllHipHop.com: That’s great. The last song I want to ask you about is “Mittens Up” with Elzhi and Dusty McFly.
Mike Posner: Yeah!
AllHipHop.com: How the hell did that come together? [laughter]
Mike Posner: Let me break that one down. It’s pretty much the same story on the production end as collaboration between Bei Major and myself on the beat. I came up with my part first, and “Mittens Up” is something I’ve been saying for a long time at my shows in Michigan. For people that don’t understand what that means, Michigan is shaped like a mitten, so every time I do a show, instead of saying “put your hands up,” I say “put your mittens up,” and it’s kind of just become a thing. I wanted to put that in a song and, you know, there’s so many incredible MCs from Detroit, so I wanted to get someone on it that I hadn’t worked with before.
I met Elzhi like five years ago at Burn Rubber Sneaker Boutique and gave him a beat CD, and like a year ago I was giving him sh*t on Twitter like, “Yo, man, you never listened to my beats. Where’s my CD now?” [laughter] And he actually took a TwitPic of the same CD from way back in the day, which I thought was dope, and we started talking and he came to some of my shows, and I just have as much respect for him as anybody as far as lyricists go. There’s not too many people f*cking with Elzhi on the planet, you know, and he happens to be from my city so he was a no-brainer. Now Dusty McFly is someone who I’ve known for a long time and was kind of in me and Sean’s circle, and he’s really starting to kill sh*t in Detroit, and I wanted to make sure that he was being heard outside of Michigan as well.
AllHipHop.com: The last thing I want to ask you about is Sky High, which is going to be your second album. You actually included a snippet of the first single “Looks Like Sex” on The Layover, so what happens for you now in between this project and the album’s release?
Mike Posner: Man, this album is going to have the same vibe and feeling as the mixtape. I just think the records on the album are a little bit better, and I have a budget with that, you know what I mean, so you might see some more awesome appearances on the album. But I’m basically taking the exact same mindset, and there’s going to be no disconnect or difference in how the music sounds. It’s going to be a f*cking Hip-Hop singing album. I wish I could play some sh*t for you now, like I’ve got some sh*t that’s just going to f*ck everyone up.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, I wish you could, too [laughter]. How much of the album is actually complete?
Mike Posner: I’ve done like 70 records, so it’s just a matter of me taking what is going to make it, and also, I will continue to record. I’m actually in the middle of a song right now. I think I get cut off in January, so I’m working for as long as I can until then.
AllHipHop.com: And where do all the songs you don’t use end up? Seventy is not some miniscule number - do you plan on giving some of those away to other artists, or putting out another mixtape before the album drops?
Mike Posner: I don’t really know [laughter]. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it; maybe pull a Nas and make a Lost Tapes album. I’ll say this though, if you’re an artist thinking about coming out in 2012, you might want to reconsider.
AllHipHop.com: I love your attitude [laughter]. Thanks so much for your time, Mike. It was a pleasure.
Mike Posner: It’s an honor, man. I’m a huge fan of the site as well, so thank you.
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