[Introducing] RocNation Artist Mayaeni
At the RocNation Emerging Artists Showcase on October 27th, co-founder Ty-Ty Smith stands quietly near the rear of the room. Smith is fastidiously attired in all black — his only accessory being a button featuring a drawing of RocNation signee, Mayaeni. The eclectic songstress takes to the stage after a few opening acts to a small but, enthusiastic crowd with smartphone cameras pointed at her like lasers.
Mayaeni graces the stage as if it was where she was born to be. Her curls float as she is rocking out with a light blue electric guitar that she affectionately calls, Maria. The daughter of a Jewish musician father and a mother from Sierra Leone, the Detroit-native’s diverse upbringing contributed to her musical influences.
“When I was growing up, my parents had this box set collection of Motown music,” she states. “I loved listening to it when I was a kid. I thought Chuck Berry was the coolest man ever.”
Being from Detroit also deeply influenced her passion for music, “Motown and the kind of classic soul or pop music that was made here, I always loved that classic sound and vibe. It was just good music with no gimmicks.”
While she was deeply influenced by being from Motown, she often struggled to find her place and voice in the city where R&B and Hip-Hop reigned. At 17, she moved to London where she worked for cash in clothing markets and worked on her craft. She then spent eight years in New York playing in small clubs and writing songs.
“I wrote a lot about struggle, not being able to pay rent and having a bunch of jobs, a lot about coping with pain. Hard times, heartbreak,” she expresses to JETMag.com.
The struggle paid off in 2012 when Mayaeni signed to Jay Z’s label/management company, RocNation.
The self-professed “shy hippie kid” is now a part of one of the most coveted music rosters in the world. She describes the last four years at RocNation as having a “real family vibe.”
While other labels might have tried to change her or her image, she’s “lucky to have a team and a label that supports me. I’m in a situation where everyone is on the same page.”
She laughs at the idea of Smith wearing a button supporting her at the showcase, “He has a t-shirt too that he usually wears.” The support and platform that she’s been given at RocNation have led to great collaborations including a video for her first single, “Black Jeans,” produced by Complex debuting through the Pepsi Pulse Artist Spotlight.
On her newly-released EP, Elocution, Mayaeni creates heavily instrumental rock/soul music that sounds like love and longing. On the single, “Million N1” she sings, “Darling, Darling/would you take me as I am/cause I sure ain’t flawless/would you get it/would you understand?”
She says that she initially thought of titling the album after the meaning of her unusual name which is “All my mothers.” Instead, she thought it would be interesting to call it Elocution because, “there is so much that is interesting about the way people speak and the things they have to say.”
Like Mayaeni, Elocution is a beautiful and enigmatic blend of instrumentation, rock n roll, and Motown soul with a little funk sprinkled in for good measure.
“I like to describe my music as what it would sound like if Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin had a baby, and then raised that baby in Detroit.”
The result is powerful and deeply personal music that redefines what it means to be a Black, female singer-songwriter.
Elocution is available now on all digital outlets.
*Photo: Courtesy of RocNation
Biba Adams is a New York City-based writer with a heart for hip-hop. Keep up with this urban culture scribe at bibathediva.com and on social media via her handle @bibathediva.