Meet ¡Mayday!, Tech N9ne’s Strange Music Label Mates
Most know Strange Music as the driving force behind Tech N9ne’s illustrious rap career. Fans of Tech understand that he signs selected artists that connect with him in similar styles and sounds. In their early days, ¡Mayday! started as a two-member band that involved into the six-man outfit that signed to Strange in 2011. The Miami boys are an eclectic mix of rap, rock and pop that found a perfect balance, with live instrumentation and tough-as-nails reality raps they bring to the table. Their debut under Tech’s label, Take Me To Your Leader, was an entertaining collection of songs that pushed their sound toward the mainstream.
Last week, Mayday’s sophomore effort, Believers, which features Kardinal Offishall, Tech N9ne, Irv Da Phenom and Stevie Stone, hit stores. The response has been big from their loyal fan base and has sparked the interest of naysayers who found their distinct style undeniable. Intrigued, XXL got on the phone with key members Bernz, Wrekonize and Gianni Cash (Plex Luthor, NonMS and L T Hopkins were absent) to uncover the innerworkings of the highly touted group. Here, we learn the story on how they formed, the move to Strange Music, and find out about each member’s individual styles. Get familiar with the band on a mission.—As told to Eric Diep (@E_Diep)
Bernz: "I started the band with my homie Plex, who is one of the main producers in the band alongside Gianni Cash. We started the band six, seven years ago. Even longer than that. It started out as a two-man hip-hop project; he was on the beats, and I was on the rhymes. We always kind of worked together in that sense. We came up from the age of SP-1200 and MPCs and shit up until now. Along the way, when we ended up getting signed, that’s when we wanted to take the whole musical [aspect] of what we were doing to another level. We kind of decided to pick up instruments and start to really give it a go in the live direction as well. The founding thought of ¡Mayday! is that it’s always been a boom-bap kind of outfit. We just kind of wanted to make our own samples. That’s where the original melding of the whole shit came about—we really wanted to be in control with the shit that we were producing.
"The whole thing is that we are all musicians in the scene. Wrekonize, he was somebody that once we got signed to our first deal, he was a labelmate of ours, as well as a local MC that was kind of on the path upward. We just let destiny link us together, and we ended up working a lot within the label together. Once that kind of situation ended for us, and Wrek was kind of in a limbo in terms of his solo career, we took the opportunity to make it official. We were already recording a shitload of tracks together anyways. We were just like, ‘Man, why don’t you join the group?’ From there, we wanted to keep on gigging a lot. Our whole thing too is that ¡Mayday! is really an amazing live experience, which is really why we picked up a lot of the other members as well. We kind of needed to feed that beast of performance. We felt that it was just a cooler show when you have humans doing shit."
Signing To Strange Music And Their Debut:
Wrekonize: "I think when we signed on to Strange Music we did the first album, which was Take Me To Your Leader. We were stepping into a label that was filled with not only hard-hitting hip-hop music, but on top of that, just really elite MCs. Elite lyricism and cadences that could rival anyone in the game. So Bern, on that first album, and me, we were very prepared to batten down the hatches and go in on the lyricism and make sure we can compete with our labelmates. It was kind of like a schoolyard, man. You can’t really come with anything weak if you are going to bring out bars amongst people like Tech N9ne. You really had to come with it.
"So that first album, we were really conscious of that. I think we have gotten more comfortable with not having to feel like we have to show out all the time. So with the second album, we were able to relax into something that we feel was supremely natural to us without having to feel like we have to show out on the playground and shit. But, that’s definitely one thing—when you are putting something out on Strange Music, it’s a label filled with elite lyricists. You gotta know as MCs when you sign to Strange and you are putting something out, you gotta come with it."
Influences: "I have to say on the hip-hop tip, I like Digable Planets a lot. Butterfly really influenced me as an MC and a producer. A Tribe Called Quest influenced me a lot. Biggie a lot. Those are kind of in my hip-hop realm. There’s a lot of other producers. Wu-Tang. On the rock realm, I would say Zeppelin, the Stones. I like fun music. I have a wide variety. I like Motown shit. I love old school music."
Role/Style: "I’m the MC. Co-creator of the band. I try to drive the car as much as possible."
On His Contributions: "My contributions would be songwriting and a small portion of the production. I’d say the glass half-full attitude that I bring to the table and spread around as much as possible."
Influences: "Both my parents were musicians when they were younger; they played a bunch of stuff—anything from Peter Gabriel to Pink Floyd to Talking Heads. A lot of classic rock, and then once I started to get a little older, I started to get into Biggie and Snoop. N.W.A. I started to realize there was a bunch of hip-hop I have missed in my earlier years. I am 30. I missed a little bit of the golden era. I was just a little bit too young. I started to just go back and really get into De La Soul. I got crazy into Tribe. I also caught a lot of that Rawkus era stuff. I was into Mos and Kweli. I was into Aesop Rock. I was a huge Company Flow fan. I just really ran the gamut along the timeline."
Role/Style: "I’m the go-to technical guy. I feel like when there are sessions that need to be put together, or something technical that we all need. I am kind of the tech, IT guy of ¡Mayday!
"My style I would definitely say, maybe sometimes to my fault, I am the technical guy. I think me and Bern play off each other real well. Sometimes, he has to pull me back from being too technical. Sometimes, I pull him back from being too stylish. In between that, we find a happy balance and play off of each other."
On His Contributions: "I used to sing when I was a kid, like real young. What happened was I started to get into hip-hop music, my entrance into hip-hop was early gangsta shit. Biggie, Snoop, all kinds of [stuff.] When I started to get into that—for some reason—I kind of turned me away from chasing to be a vocalist or singing. I started to just want to rhyme and everything was about being as hardcore as you can be. There were cyphers and battles. It wasn’t like, ‘Yo, let me just sing you this hook I wrote real quick.’
"When I was 17 or 18, there wasn’t any place for that. It kind of turned me away from exploring what I did as a kid. I went to theater school. I was learning how to sing. I went to choir class. It was always in my heart as a kid. Hip-hop kind of fucked that up for me in the beginning. I was like, ‘Nah, I am just gonna rhyme. I am gonna keep it real.’ I totally shied away from it. I didn’t start to get comfortable and explore it until later on. When I joined up with ¡Mayday!, Bern and Plex started to really push me into it. That’s when I really started to develop it full time.
"I help with the visuals a lot. That is something that I help with. I help steer the boat. That’s the most I can say. I am kind of involved in a lot of the processes in the band. I am in there. I come with the building."
Influences: "Beastie Boys, Cypress Hill, A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots. Obviously, the old Motown shit. Santana as well. Classic rock. Jimi Hendrix. Some of the stuff that is coming out now. Some of the ill electronic music coming out now too. It’s wide spectrum of music that’s big and I am trying to tap into that and make that my own."
Role/Style: "When we try to make beats, we try to make the illest basslines. I don’t play the bass all the time, only if the track really asks for it. It’s one of those things where you need to know what you really want to put on there. I can put a synth bassline instead of the actual bass. Or sometimes, you don’t need that bass, you just put a kick. Simplicity is the key. That’s my new thing. You don’t have to put everything on there; you can just let things breathe."
On His Contributions: "I’m kind of the multi-tool. If I need to learn how to play the guitar, I’ll play the guitar. If I need to scratch on stage for the live shows, I’ll start scratching on stage. If I need to figure something out, I’ll make it happen. I’m kind of that tool in the group where we need to make something happen; I’ll figure it out and make it happen."