Bei Maejor’s music career began while he was still attending the University of Michigan, producing records like Bun B’s “Hold You Down”, “Ur Behind” by Trey Songz, and songwriting for artists like Trey Songz, Three 6 Mafia, and Plies. Now he has released his fourth mixtape, maejorMaejor, hosted by DJ Ill Will and DJ Rockstar, which is bound to garner some serious attention from internet bloggers and fellow hip-hoppers. In fact, Maejor has already hooked up with Roc Nation poster boy J. Cole to put out, “Trouble”, a breakout single which has placed on the Billboard charts, peaking at number 52, and continues to gain momentum. Keep an eye open for Maejor on MTV very, very soon (if he’s not on there already), if not on the album credits of some of your favorite LPs.
How come maejorMaejor is the first project we’re really hearing about?
I don’t know, man. I think a lot of it we did ourselves, just on our end. It takes time to build. I’ve been putting stuff out for a while. I signed last year, as an artist, so I’m about to go in on that. A couple of my other mixtapes helped me a lot though. I got to do a bunch of shows, people recognized me, but this maejorMaejor is the one I really went in on.
You hooked up with DJ Ill Will for that one. Ill Will claims he has a great talent for discovering new artists. What does he see in you?
Ill Will is cool. He finds all the new stuff. It’s an honor for him to stamp my music, like, “This is it.” I think he’s creative when looking for new stuff. He can feel from my songs it’s a positive thing, that I’m expressing what’s really going on, even though some of the songs might be different. It’s still coming from a place where you can tell who this person is.
Your music is quite diverse. You think that comes across in your records, sonically?
That’s actually how it started. I wanted to sing, rap, produce, and write. But when I started, I didn’t know, being from Michigan, it’s not the same music scene. There are people doing music, but it’s a different scene. Like I record my own stuff too, I had to learn how to do it. If I wanted beats, I had to make them. If I wanted songs, I had to write my own songs. That’s how I ended up with that diverse sound.
I read you worked on Bun B’s album while attending University of Michigan…
Yeah, in my dorm room. It was crazy.
I’m a former Badger. I played tennis for the University of Wisconsin. You a fan of the Big Ten?
Big Ten is crazy, man. Shout out to the Big Ten. I love the Big Ten.
Do you think going to school helped your music?
I can’t say directly because I didn’t study music, but I think all the experiences you go through in life shape your craft. I think it definitely gave me a more diverse outlook. Because at that school [University of Michigan] there are kids from Asia who just came here to go to school, so you come into contact with so many different cultures. I’m sure some of that came across in my music.
You grew up in a suburb of Detroit, right?
Yep, I grew up all over Detroit. I lived in Detroit. I lived in the suburbs. I lived in Northern Michigan. I lived all over Michigan all my life.
Did you ever feel at odds with the Detroit hip-hop scene, coming up?
Back then, I was into sports. I wasn’t into doing music like that. I never really got into that scene.
Yeah, back then, when I was in high school, I started out doing music just for fun. I never took it seriously. It took off on its own. It was a blessing. I never really felt at odds with the scene. I was cool with all those people.
maejorMaejor has like a West Coast vibe to it. Where did you actually record it?
That’s crazy, you said a West Coast vibe. I did some of the songs in Michigan. I did some of the songs in Atlanta. And I did a couple of the songs in L.A., so maybe those are the songs you think have a West Coast vibe. You been getting your Crip Walk on, throwing up your set? [laughs]
[laughs] Well, some of the new West Coast music has a different vibe. Like, you ever listen to Kid Ink?
Yeah, that’s my boy. I did a song with him.
Your new single, “Trouble”, with J. Cole, is doing quite well. How did that record come about?
I made that beat on my laptop. I recorded the record in my hometown, and right now it’s on Billboard. Hopefully that’s some sort of inspiration for new producers, artists, who want to do it, but don’t have proper access, you know, to equipment and stuff. I literally did that song at my house. I did the beat on my laptop, and J. Cole was the coolest dude. He heard it, loved it, and he got on it. That was big for me. It helped me start off my career with the label. Everyone was excited, and it seems like it’s doing pretty well. We’ll see.
Why’s your artwork, like mixtape artwork, upside down?
All of my stuff is upside down. I try to make them put it that way in magazines. If you go on Jive’s website, next to Britney Spears, I’m upside down. That, for me, was a tough thing to get. At first they would say I can’t do that, but that was my style. It was cool though because I got the support of a lot of kids who liked the music, who liked the movement, and they would put their pictures upside down. The label started seeing that, and they called me, like, “Woah, that’s genius.” Now I’m next to Britney Spears upside down.
A lot of the graphics on your blog move, they’re like animations. Could that be an evolution in album art, like having animated album covers on iTunes?
Hey man, I’m going somewhere with that. Don’t put people onto that secret yet.
I tried to do it on my mixtape. Next time you talk to Ill Will, mention it to him. I tried to do it on the maejorMaejor cover, but for some reason it didn’t work out. It’s a crazy style. I’m definitely looking to do something like that in the future.
What’s the story behind your chain with the electric outlet?
That’s no electric outlet. That’s a little man. [laughs]
People are starting to know that chain, because I gave it a photo shoot and everything. It’s actually like a toy. I made it into a chain, and crafted it. I’m making a new one now.
A lot of your production has classical instruments in it. Were you classically trained?
No, I never took training.
I guess you just like those sounds.
Yeah, I like the sounds.
How do you think fans would react if Jay-Z made a record like “Bundle of Joy”?
If Jay-Z did it, man, that would probably be the biggest song of all time. Hey, ask him to do the remix. You got his number?
That’s a good attitude, man. Yeah, hit Jay up if you talk to him, be like, “yo, I got this record.” If Jay was on that, man, that song would be outta there. It would be the biggest song ever. I’m going to hit up J. Cole, be like, “Can you send this to Jay-Z?” Get Jay-Z on that, and then we good.
Yep, we’re perfect.
Perfect timing, with him having a kid. Good idea, man. I might need to hire you for A&R.
What new music you working on?
I’m still producing and writing for other people. I’m working on my album right now, which hopefully is going to be incredible. I’m taking my time to make it really good. I got new singles coming out, new features. I got a lot of stuff coming out, man. I’m excited.
Door Peter Marrack