You recorded a theme song for Duke Basketball. Is Coach K head-nodding to the jam?
He’s never been to a show but he just did a video shouting me out. He said, “Mike Posner, boy is he talented!” It’s crazy.
Did you sign up for an American Express card after that?
When you look at recording Duke’s theme song, does it reference flopping, whining and choking in the NCAA Tournament?
Yeah. The first thing I wanted to do was just appeal to all the Carolina kids. I’m just kidding, man. The song is dope. It was an idea I already had for myself. When they approached me to do it, I said I would do it for them but it’s not going to be corny. I’m not going to say a player’s name in it or anything like that. It’s going to be an idea that I could relate to. Basically the idea behind the song is succeeding when nobody thinks you can succeed. After my first CD came, a lot of people asked me how I felt now that I’d made it. I didn’t make it. I was just getting started. That’s what the song means to me and to them, it means we’ve been not living up to our standards for the last four or five years and now we’re about to bring it back. They can never bring us down.
UNC lost a lot this year. If Duke’s gonna do anything, it’s got to be this year.
Yeah, definitely. I haven’t seen the team play or anything. I’ve been on the road every weekend. I’m friends with a few of the guys on the team and they seem extremely focused on taking Duke back where it belongs. I have faith in them, for sure.
Did Jon Schreyer like the song or not?
Of course! That’s my homie! I’m closest with Nolan Smith and Jon Schreyer.
How do you like balancing going to class and doing that work along with making music and keeping a buzz in the game going?
It’s definitely a challenge being a recording artist on a major label while being a senior at Duke but I think I’m doing a pretty good job. Since the year started I’ve done more than maintain my momentum. I increased it. I don’t think you wanted to interview me when I started this school year and I think I’ve increased my momentum since then. And I’m still doing pretty good in school. I haven’t had my midterms yet but I’ve done 20 bajillion shows. But we’ll see when grades come back. I have a 3.6 right now and I plan on maintaining that or raising it.
Do any of the professors cut you some slack on assignments because of your music situation?
Not really slack but they are very understanding since they know I'm not like partying or just being lazy. Some are very helpful and this goes back to last year. Last year I had a meeting with Jay-Z when I had a paper due and I think I got a few extra days on that paper. That was a cool teacher. But overall, Duke as a whole has been super-supportive of me. Professors, overall, are understanding and kids, if I have to miss, they’re giving me the notes or bringing me up to speed with what I missed in the class.
Do you get any groupies at Duke because you’re signed to J Records or do the girls just not get down like that there?
Uh…(laughs) I think girls are attracted to people that are doing well in anyplace. I do as well as any college kid.
I got no problem with you. It’s just Duke I can’t stand. As a college kid in music, what stereotype do you think you fulfill? The smelly hippie, drunk frat boy or geek?
It’s funny you ask that because my whole life I’ve always transgressed every social group. As long as I can remember, from the 3rd grade to now, I was always that kid that could bounce around lunch tables. I could be at the lunch table with all Black kids and talk about hip-hop and then sit with the Jewish kids the next day. I was on the quad playing Frisbee for the last hour and then I can kick it with the basketball team. I’m cool with everybody and my music is the same way. I think it speaks to different groups of people.
Do you ever piss your roommates off by making music in your room?
Oh, man, last year when I was in the dorms, I would really piss people off. They would call the cops on me and they would ask me if I was the one playing all the music and then they would peek in and see all the keyboards and guitars and speakers. They would tell me to turn it down or it was going to be a problem. But this year I’m in a house and I pay rent like everybody else, so they just gotta live with it. (laughs)
Why do you think J Records wanted to sign you?
Me getting signed happened in the most organic way possible. I put out my music to the people first in March and people liked it and it snowballed and it’s still snowballing now. But it wasn’t until after people were reacting to the music and fans were forming and movements were starting that labels started getting excited. It was about three months after my mixtape came out. I’m in the last week of school and going into finals week and I have meetings with, like, every major label. You go back to the end of April and early May and if you’re a major label that’s not trying to sign me, I haven’t heard of you. The last week of school, I took meetings on a Monday. I had five meetings in New York and then I went back to school on Wednesday and I had a show in Ohio and all my finals. Then I had to go and meet with Jay-Z in New York on Friday. That was the first week of finals and once I finished that year, I bounced out to L.A. and had a bunch of meetings there. I was able to pick who I thought was the best and that was J Records.
What’s the plan for you over there right now?
Well, we’re gonna let my story develop, which is organically first and then we’re going to slap them with some hit songs on radio. But I’m not going to go to radio right away. I have the new mixtape coming out and I think that’s going to take me to the next plateau. I’m not trying to be a pop singer who has a song on the radio out of nowhere. It’s all about building the right way. My album is slated to drop in the first or second quarter of next year. But they’re already doing a lot for me now. We shot a video with Rosa LaCosta. They do a lot. And they also me to record with who I want to record with and work with who I want to work with now because I have the budget behind me to do it.
How do you see your debut album coming out?
I want the album to just have no fillers. You can expect 10 songs of awesomeness without any corny filler. It’s like you can play it for your boys and your girl and shit and then your mom finds it in the car one day and she listens to it by accident and she likes it too.
What makes you effective for working with hip-hop artists?
Well, as much as it’s me bringing them into my world, it’s me going into their world. I think it first comes from me being a huge hip-hop fan. I grew up reading HipHopGame. I think just as I spoke on it earlier how I was able to bounce around lunch tables, I’m able to bounce around genres and collaborations. I can do a song with Pill like I just did and the next day I can do a straight up pop song. But I think overall, the most important thing in hip-hop is authenticity, as we all know. The worst thing that can happen in hip-hop is that people find out you’re fake and that’s something I’ve never been. In my music I was never talking about being the dopest dude or having the most hoes or having the most money. That was never my music and I think that’s what got the hip-hop fans to embrace me with open arms. I was just being myself and there was never any bullshit behind it and there’s not gonna be. Ever. Even though I got a little money now.
What makes a good hook in a hip-hop song?
A good hook encapsulates the song and what I feel and what everybody else is saying in eight bars or less. A bad hook, I mean, there’s a million ways to have a bad hook. But a hook should be anthemic by nature. And another thing, I have a much different background than a Bun-B or a GLC and I did a song with them. Or Big Sean even. It’s finding a way to encapsulate how I feel but also encapsulate how they feel with the same words. If I’m able to do that, which I’ve proven I am and will continue to do, then that song is going to be relevant to a lot of people just from the nature with which it was created.
How closely do you want to be linked in hip-hop as you grow as an artist?
I love hip-hop. It’s part of my roots. It’s not my only root but it’s a huge part of my roots. I plan on having really big pop smash records but I also plan on having really big hip-hop records with dope hip-hop artists. I think there’s always going to be a strand in the theme of my career. I don’t think there will ever be a day when I think I’m too big for hip-hop. I don’t ever see that day coming.
Why did you do a remix to “Kiss Me Thru the Phone”?
My covers, half the time, are challenges from people and from myself. When I do a cover, I take something that nobody thinks I can do. On my first mixtape, I did Beyonce, Gorilla Zoe, The Fray and Electric Light Orchestra. So you have an old rock song, Beyonce, alternative rock group and Gorilla Zoe. Now with this mixtape, I have the Soulja Boy remix and a John Mayer remix, a 3OH3! remix and an old doo-wop remix by this guy Ricky Nelson. I just try to cover all my bases and just prove to people that I can pretty much cover any song if I like it. Soulja Boy is the same thing. People tell me I’ll never be able to flip Soulja Boy but when I do it, it seems natural.
What do you want people to take from your new mixtape One Foot Out the Door?
This mixtape is awesome, dude. I know people are going to be like, ‘Wow, he’s getting so much fucking better’ and that’s the most exciting thing about my movement. When I put out my first mixtape, I had been singing for less than a year, like eight months. And at this point I’ve been singing for, like, a year and a half. I’m getting better at a crazy rate as a producer, writer and singer. This mixtape is ten steps ahead of where the last one was and the shit I got for my album is nutso. And the first mixtape got me a deal and I’m rocking shows all over the country and now this one is just going to take it through the roof. I’m just excited to see what happens.
Where do you want to be a year from now?
I get into trouble when people ask me those questions. I’d rather let time tell and the music speak for itself but I plan on having a very significant influence on music and pop culture as a whole.