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April 22, 2010 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Mike Posner loves to use feminine hair products — especially because they inspire hits.
While taking a shower in his mother’s bathroom, a Maybelline shampoo bottle caught his attention, and inspiration struck the then- 21-year-old Duke University student. He started to sing, “Now you may never be on a Maybelline commercial.” And then, the next line came: “But you always let me know when you got some purple.”
The day after the fateful shower, Posner hit the studio to record the verses, which became the first lines in his viral YouTube video “Drug Dealer Girl.” Within a few weeks, that track, along with his debut mixtape, A Matter of Time, changed the singer’s life.
The mixtape sparked a label bidding war, and during the 2009 spring semester, Posner, a junior at the time, met with Jay-Z in New York City. After the conference, Posner returned to Duke to write a 20-page-paper and received a contract offer via e-mail from Roc Nation, Jay-Z’s label, with a hefty signing bonus if he finished school. Although he chose not to sign with Jay-Z, he did finish the paper and signed a major recording contract with RCA/J Records in July. Now Posner is working on his debut album with Benny Blanco, co-producer of Ke$ha’s chart-topping single “Tik Tok.”
Posner, 22, saw his dreams coming true even before he graduated from Duke in December. Sure, he belonged to a fraternity and had to stay on the academic grind, but he had more than classes on his plate. The pop singer/songwriter/producer was busy with a whirlwind music career.
He spent Monday through Thursday in class, and during the weekends he rocked two to five shows across the country. In addition to touring and class, Posner found time to drop his 2009 sophomore mixtape, One Foot Out the Door, which features collaborations with radio regulars such as Kid Cudi and 3OH!3. Despite opening for the likes of Drake, Akon and 50 Cent in more than 35 cities during his final semester, Posner still managed to walk away from Duke with degrees in sociology and business and a 3.59 GPA.
Despite initial fears that his music might not fit the Duke scene, Posner’s doubts were erased when he rocked a concert on campus without a microphone during his junior year. The audio controller cut off the mic before Posner’s set was finished, and when he continued to sing the lyrics a capella, the concertgoers helped him finish the song. His track “Bring Me Down” was even the Duke basketball team’s official song this past season.
Posner’s personally crafted, danceable beats and unique, scratchy voice owe credit to the environment he grew up in outside of Detroit. “As a teenager I was listening to everything from Mos Def to Talib Kweli, J Dilla to Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Luther Vandross to Marvin Gaye,” Posner says. “And, of course, Motown.” He started playing the drums when he was in fourth grade, and by age 13 he’d convinced his parents to buy him a keyboard. For the next seven or eight years Posner experimented with producing beats. Then he realized that instead of giving his ideas away to other people, he should make his own music with the beats.
Mix Posner’s influences together, and add his adventurous appetite for sampling — check out his Electric Light Orchestra “Evil Woman” sample on A Matter of Time — and you’ll get what he calls “uncorny pop music.” MU senior Maria Grasso discovered Posner’s material on iTunes U two years ago, and she’s been hooked ever since. “His creativity is really what got me,” Grasso says. “I appreciate how he spins elements of old songs into his own tracks and is able to create his own niche by producing what’s not already being done.”
Monday, April 26, that unique sound will reverberate from The Blue Note’s sound system. Posner describes his shows as the craziest house party ever. “I’m ready for Columbia,” he says. “It’s going to be ill.”
Where: The Blue Note
When: Monday, April 26; doors at 7:30 p.m.