Tue 2 Sep 2014
Last week, I met young Makonnen and his team of two, Pres and Adrian, at the station. Little did he know, the conversation that directly preceded his arrival was one that I’m sure jaded industry cynics have been having about Makonnen ever since Drake shoved the Atlanta-based singer-rapper-songwriter into his sphere of influence. “What’s the big deal with this kid? Why are you repping for him? He must have some famous team behind him? What’s in it for you?”
Continue after the jump…..
If Makonnen sensed the skepticism in the room, he never let on, and was perfectly gracious…which is the best way to disarm “the hate.” And explained that I brought him to the station because I’m a fan of his music (songs like “Tonight” make me imagine if Joy Division had a precocious studio intern from East Atlanta in 2014, lol)…by the end of our chat, I was also a fan of his charming lack of posturing.
Three weeks ago, Drake took Makonnen’s song of youthful abandon “Club Going Up On A Tuesday,” remixed it slightly, and added his own verse (mimic-ing Makonnen’s cadence) at the front. For many of rap fans, the remix “Tuesday” is now a Drake song, featuring someone they’re just hearing about for the first time. But for writers and fans in the urban indie circles, Drake’s discovery was an old one…well, “internet old”…sites (like Pigeons and Planes) have been singing Makonnen’s praises for almost 5-6 months (aka an eternity).
The choice of this song to remix speaks to Drake’s ability to find the like-minded artists that excel at that same emo-cool that he can make bigger and glossier without sacrificing the tiny details that make you feel like the song was made just for you. He’s adapted his sound to compliment his collaborator, whether it’s Little Dragon, Sampha, or YG, or Romeo Santos or…Brian McKnight, lol.
But I’m getting off track…the point is that in Makonnen, Drake has found the perfect foil. There’s youth, multi-cultural influence, art school irreverence, indie rock reference, and very important, the inside track into all the energy of what I’ve been calling ALT-lanta, where all the rules of macho vs weirdo are being turned upside down.
It’s no wonder that right after our interview, Makonnen told me he was finalizing his paperwork to sign to Drake and OVO Sound/Warner. While the singer has been working with powerful producers like Mike WiLL Made-It, Metro Boomin’, and Sonny Digital long before Drake ever touched “Tuesday,” he already felt a kinship with Drake that he trusted enough with his very bright future. We talked about everything from how racism freed him to be independent, how he unabashedly wants to be a big huge pop star, and how he found Adele while on house arrest.
But for this first clip, Makonnen talks about how “nothing was the same” after Drake remixed “Club Going Up On A Tuesday,” and how Gucci Mane inspired him (in absentia) to take his music career more seriously. Great stuff!