Marisa Mendez: A few weeks back just outside of Philly, I had the chance to catch a Mike Posner show, and chat it up with him afterwards about everything he has going on. (Thanks to Karen Civil, Aaron Camper and Patrick on that!) The singer/songwriter/producer has been quite busy as of late, working on his next album, a Reebok deal, Justin Bieber’s new single and more. Decked out in a Coogi sweater and Timbs backstage at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center, Mike candidly spoke with me about all of the above, plus a whole lot more. (There’s a hilarious story about 2 Chainz’ recording process in there!) Get to know your favorite rapper’s favorite singer below.
InFlexWeTrust: So, I’m a newer fan. I kind of got introduced to you with the “Bow Chicka Wow Wow” song with Wayne in 2011. I know now that you had a whole lot going on before that, and you’d already had a lot of success with “Cooler Than Me,” but did the song kind of bring a lot more hip-hop fans your way? I mean, Weezy is an international hip-hop icon, and “Cooler Than Me” is pretty pop. What’s your fan base like?
Mike Posner: I definitely come from a hip-hop world. You know, I’m a hip-hop kid. The first mixtape I did was with [DJ Don] Cannon. And really how I came up is I was in Big Sean’s entourage. A lot of people don’t know that I used to just make beats for him. But nobody else really liked my beats besides him, so I figured what the hell…. I’ll start singing on my own tracks and see what happens. So I made this mixtape, Cannon helped me out and hosted it…
IFWT: How’d you even meet him?
Mike: I’d met him through a mutual friend one summer. I played him my music and he respected me off the strength of my music, I was nobody. So shouts to Cannon. Then Sean blessed me with 3 verses on that mixtape, and so that’s how my career got started. You know my old goal…at the time…was to be making like, pop songs BUT approach them like a rapper. For a long time, people would always say I’m your favorite rapper’s favorite singer. So like, I’d like to think I write great melodies, but a lot of my rhyme schemes and patterns are very hip-hop. Even on “Cooler Than Me” which is a big pop hit around the world that didn’t really get touched on urban stations, I say “designer shades, just to hide your face.” Only an MC or a hip-hop fan is going to notice that or appreciate that. I try to put little things like that into pop music and change what pop music is.
IFWT: How’d you hook up with Wayne for the other record? Was he a fan of yours?
Mike: Apparently he was! So shout outs to Weezy! What up kid! It was like the first record he did when he got out of prison. So I was really honored. It was definitely like a dream come true for me.
IFWT: Yea that whole track and video was what really put me on to you…but what solidified my fan-dom was the mixtape you dropped in the fall of last year, The Layover. Insane tape! [Marisa note: DOWNLOAD IT if you haven’t already!]
Mike: Wow, thank you. I really appreciate that.
IFWT: There were a LOT of collabs on that one. Big K.R.I.T., Bun B, Twista, Casey Veggies, Slim Thug, MGK and the list goes on! How’d you decide who goes on what and how are these even coming about? What’s your process?
Mike: You just kind of like, cross paths with people along the way. I try to be cool with everyone I meet. The people I respect musically, I always make sure I let them know that I respect them musically and I think when you give love, you get it back. There’s a ying and a yang to everything. I remember doing a show in Detroit with Big Sean and Wiz Khalifa in like a 700 person venue and it didn’t sell out. We were 200 short. You know what I mean? So like, you come up with these people. Everyone kind of knows each other. I met J. Cole on campus when I was a student at Duke University and he came to do a show. He was opening up for Wale. This was like 3 years ago. So, you kind of meet your peers early on. At least in the kind of “new class” of hip-hop. We’re all cool…Mac Miller, J. Cole, me, Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, B.o.B. We all love each other and wish each other the best. All these people are good people and I like them, I’m fans of them and it’s just kind of a friend thing.
IFWT: Have you used Twitter to reach out to anybody? It makes the world so much smaller these days.
Mike: Yea, definitely! All the time! When I’m feeling somebody or I’m listening to their music, I’ll always tweet like, “Yo, I’m listening to xyz right now!”
IFWT: And it seems they ALWAYS catch it! Celebs can have 8 BILLION people tweeting them but let another celeb tweet them and they’ll always get it and reply! Never fails!
Mike: Well the thing behind that is a lot of the fans retweet it so it’s in your mentions multiple times!
IFWT: Ah-ha! The mystery has been solved.
Mike: There it is!
IFWT: Now with your music process…I know you write and you sing AND you make your own beats. So is that like, 3 times the length of a studio session for someone that’s only doing a third of that?
Mike: [laughs] It’s kind of just one thing to me. I don’t really view it as wearing 3 hats. It’s like one music hat for me. I started off making beats, so I can’t really imagine my life without producing. I always tell people I view myself as a producer first. A lot of people don’t know that I make beats. As far as writing and recording…that really does happen at the same time. I don’t write anything down, so I’ll finish enough of the beat or sometimes the whole thing and then I’ll start recording vocals. But I don’t think of what I’m going to say before I get behind the mic. I just think of it right there and record it, then I think of the next part and record it. So then when I’m done writing, I’m done recording too. I’m pretty fast. AND I record myself. A lot of people don’t know that.
IFWT: So you’re your own engineer too?
Mike: Yea like, I push stop and start. I bring the mic into the main room so it’s like, literally I’m the only person that touches my music.
IFWT: What happens if you had to pick only one of those things to do for the rest of your life?
Mike: I couldn’t do it! Man. That first part of writing when you have a great idea is probably the most fun. Then the producing, it’s a little less fun but it’s a lot more rewarding. You have to take the time and refine that idea to the point where it’s perfect. That’s the point you can look back and say, “I did this! All by myself. No one touched this track except me and it’s dope.” And singing, that wasn’t always a passion. I didn’t start singing until I was like 21. And like I told you earlier, I just kind of did it because no one would buy my beats. But since then I’ve really fallen in love with it. I practice every day for an hour and I take a lot of pride in being better. Now like…I’m a good ass singer! I hold it down live too!
IFWT: As far as writing, you write for a lot of other people too. You just did Justin Bieber’s single “Boyfriend”….
Mike: Did you hear it?
IFWT: Yes! It’s dope! Everyone has been raving about it on Twitter and I mainly follow hip-hop heads so, it’s hitting everyone.
Mike: Dope! I’m glad…that was our goal with that.
IFWT: To get it on the hip-hop side too?
Mike: Just like, when I was in with Bieber, we wanted to make something that me and MY homies could listen to. Like if me and Big Sean are in the car, we could put it on and not feel weird.
IFWT: Not be like “yo, why are we in a car listening to Justin Bieber?”
Mike: Exactly! Like, “THIS IS WEIRD!” So that’s our goal and approach to every time I do songs with him.
IFWT: Have you ever written a record just organically and looked over it when you’re done and realize it’d be good for someone else? Or do you really only write for someone when you’re in their writing session?
Mike: Most of the times the best things I write, I always want to keep a little bit. That’s kind of my golden rule. Like “if you wouldn’t say this, or something like it give or take a few words, it’s probably not dope enough for anyone.” I don’t want to give worse records to other artists. I want to push music in the right direction. I don’t want to give Justin Bieber a wack song. I want to give him an amazing song…and then also write amazing songs for myself. I feel like I’m better than ever as a producer and writer and singer.
IFWT: Is he going to be on your forthcoming sophomore album, Sky High?
Mike: Right now the people on my album are Pharrell, J. Cole and Big Sean.
IFWT: I saw you were just in the studio with 2 Chainz too, though…
Mike: 2 Chainzzzz! We just did some music together. I don’t know where it’s going to end up. Uh…ok I kind of do know where it’s going to end up, but I don’t think it’s my place to say.
IFWT: AKA it’s likely going to end up on his debut album.
Mike: He played me some music from that…his stuff is incredible! I love 2 Chainz!
IFWT: He is quite a funny character.
Mike: In real life too! I didn’t know what to expect. He’s really smart and very articulate and very witty.
IFWT: Surprisingly, the most ignorant ones on a record usually are the most intellectual in person.
Mike: Yea! They know what they’re doing. They’re doing that on purpose. That was my homie, though. Shout out to 2 Chainz. He’s SUPER dope. He takes the writing in your head thing to the next level. Like me, Sean, Cole, Wiz…we’ll all go in and do a section and then stop and then do the next section. Or do a reference and then fill in the words. Now 2 Chainz though…he just sits there, rolls weed up and drinks lean. And I’m like, “do you like this beat? You’re just sitting there getting wasted.” He’s like, “Nah, nah man! I’m almost done with my verse!” I’m like, “Really? I’ve just seen you like, chillin’ basically.” He’s like, “yea I only got one more line!” I’m like alright and then 5 minutes later he goes into the booth and does the whole verse, one take…perfect.
[we both take the next minute doing awesome 2 Chainz ad-libs…lmao.]
IFWT: Now since we’re here for In Flex We Trust, let’s talk about one of our favorites…Rosa Acosta. You had her in your “Drug Dealer Girl” video a while back, before she was even THAT big. How’d you two link up?
Mike: Someone had showed me a video of her stretching and I really liked it so I was like, “We need to get that girl in my video!” So we reached out and she came down to Duke when I was still going there and we shot the video. I remember just walking around campus and people being like, “SHE doesn’t go here!” The guys on the basketball team were like, “Who is that girl?!” And I was like, “Don’t worry about her, bruh. She’s with me!”
IFWT: Alright so the last thing before we got to get out of here. The Reebok deal! What’s up with that?
Mike: I been a big Reebok fan for a long time. I always loved Allen Iverson growing up. To me, all the Questions and all the Answers were dope. That was my hero so now I literally get to walk in his footsteps so that’s a dream come true for me. He still to this day is one of my heroes. I think the guy himself…like outside of basketball…what he stood for as far as his swag and stuff,I think he’s probably like the first true hip-hop basketball player. Maybe the best one there ever has been. I can’t tell you everything on the Reebok deal yet. But we just finished the first commercial. I can tell you that.
[Then we talked about how cool he thinks I am because I had on “fresh 3’s” (his words.) Yes I’m bragging. LOL!]