Strange Music has been continuing to expand their independent empire as of late, and one of the steps on that road was the 2011 signing of ¡Mayday!. A band based out of Miami, ¡Mayday! offers a unique sound and set of skills for today's hip-hop climate. Earlier this week, they dropped their debut album on Strange, Take Me to Your Leader, which followed up Tech N9ne's Klusterfuk EP, on which they produced all the tracks. The average rap listener may not be all too familiar the sextet, but if their skills and Strange Music and Tech N9ne's last year are any indication, that won't last for long. Here, fresh off the album release and preparing to hit the road for a 90-date tour this summer, one of ¡Mayday!'s two MCs, Wrekonize, tells XXL about the band's origins, their new project, why it's hard to be a band in hip-hop and more. —Adam Fleischer (@AdamXXL) For people who may just be starting to become familiar, can you explain how you guys first came together?

Wrekonize: Bernbiz and Plex Luthor were a two-man group in the beginning, around 2005, I wanna say. They had put out an album together. Plex was making the beats, playing keys, and Bernz was the only MC. Me, personally, I was signed to the same Indie label that they were signed to in Miami. I was waiting to put out an album, but because of the label folding, I never got to put my project out. While I was working on my album, I was in and out of the studio while they were working on their first project. I personally was just hearing this shit, like, 'Damn, this is what I wanna do.' I vibed with them, we were all very like-minded, and the music they were making was super dope. So I kinda always wanted to be down with ¡Mayday!, anyways, but it didn’t come until they left the label after their first album was released. They told me they wanted to expand, and they had added, already, another bassist and a DJ. And then along the way it started to fall more as they expanded, they told me they wanted to add another vocalist, so they invited me in. At that point, by the time they told me they wanted me to join, it was already a no-brainer. We were already so close that, I was like, "Yeah. Cool. Let’s get it." I came in at the same time as the drummer, and that was the end of the additions. It’s been about three, almost four years together with the six of us in this arrangement.

What fans can expect from this new album? People who have been with you for a while, or people who are just getting into you cause of the Strange Music thing.

For the people who have already been with us, or got to listen to our last album, it’s definitely a more defined, more cohesive sound. We slowed down our overall tempo a little bit. We kind of wanted to play around with the slower tempos. It’s definitely got a little more rugged in the hip-hop vibe. We went a little bit grimy in this one. And for the new heads, it’s definitely a perfect combination of live instrumentation and real throwback classic hip-hop production, with basically the inspiration we’ve taken from Tech and everybody at Strange. You can’t really be around all the dudes that rhyme at Strange, and come weak with your bars.

How do you approach songwriting, both you guys and the band as a whole?

We break it up into sections. Just to make it more streamlined. Plex Luthor is the main producer from when the band first started. Gianni Cash is the new edition to the production team. So those two basically start the track and kind of layout the basic ideas. And me and Bernz will come in, either we like this or we don’t like this, and kind of go from there. We start to ask stuff, over their basic foundation. And we’ll go back and forth with them. Then we’ll bring in our percussionist, NonMS or the drummer we have, which is LT, and then we’ll start to really put the finishing touches on it, adding live hi-hats or layering drums over the programmed stuff. It’s real factory line for us.

How are you mentally preparing for tour?

It’s a tall order. That’s for sure. I think our whole crew feels a little bit more settled, because even though this tour is 35 more shows than our last one we did with Strange, knowing what we went through last time on that first tour, we kind of got a little more acclimated to Strange’s tour routine. And what you can encounter at some of these venues. We’re a little programmed for it, from the last tour. So for me personally, I know it’s a little more settling going in, even though there’s a monstrous amount of dates, because I kind of know what to expect. You gotta know your set back to front and be ready for anything. I mean, if your gonna play 90 some-odd shows in however many different cities, you're gonna run into different issues. So you kinda gotta be thinking on your toes at all times, on stage or off stage there's always random shit you can run into.

With record sales not being where they used to be, touring is a huge part of things now. That’s something that Tech N9ne and Strange Music kind of practiced and preached. Do you feel like, since you guys are a band, that you're kind of made for that atmosphere and able to pick up fans that way? In a way some other rap acts might not be able to?

Yeah. I'm pretty sure that’s one of the, if not the major reason that Strange and Tech N9ne wanted to sign us. We did an audition for them. We knew it was a chance, we didn’t know how much was riding for it, but they had us open up for his shows in Florida, for the Independent Grind Tour. And we went to Orlando and we did Fort Lauderdale, as well. They basically had the whole crew looking at us, what our whole vibe was. And they're so heavily into touring that it was the live show that ended up sealing the deal for us. It definitely helps because we put so much effort and love into our live show. And I know that they have such a well-oiled touring machine. We fit in perfectly to that.

Why do you think there aren't more hip-hop bands that are able to maintain some level of relevance?

I don’t know. That’s a great question. You try to cross that boundary, and put the live instruments in it, it runs the high risk of becoming really cliché. The more people you add into the mix, it’s harder to balance. You might get people who are really good with their instruments, but don’t understand hip-hop music, the production of hip-hop music. You might get a bassist who’s killer, but doesn’t really realize for hip-hop he has to pull back a little bit. I just think it’s tough, the more people you add into it. A lot of times it looks forced.