Underground Report (Finale & Mike Posner)
Charging through the city of Motown we came across an artist whose production choice exhibits just that: Motown undertones with well-composed conglomerate of old-school, electronic and even eclectic rhythms over original rhymes presented from Finale to you in A Pipe Dream and a Promise [click to read]. You may not have heard of him prior to the album (we havent either) but you will definitely remember him after spinning the record which almost boastfully houses a battalion of producers who came together only too perfectly to create this record (Flying Lotus, Black Milk, the late J Dilla). And if thats not enough, Finale gives you concepts to go along such compelling beats: that of a pipe dream and that of a promise. HipHopDX sat down with the man behind the One Man Show to elaborate on the conceptual meanings, his years worth of patience, and the story behind his and Invincibles Waiting Game.
Finale | Motor Music
HipHopDX: Introduce yourself please.
Finale: Im Finale from Detroit, Michigan. New album came out on April 7th. And Ive been rapping for about eight years.
DX: Why the name Finale?
Finale: Somebody gave it to me. When I first started rapping and I came back from Atlanta to Detroit there was a big emcee battle at this spot called St. Andrews, a real historic spot. Everybody rapped there from Slum Village [click to read] to Eminem. Basically there were ciphers all on the main floor; and I went from cipher from cipher. And when I would step into the cipher, everybody would stop rapping - I guess I would shut it down. So somebody was following me from cipher to cipher and it turned out to be this emcee called 50 Grand. And he grabbed me, said, Come on the stage with me. I went on the stage with him, and he said I want you to meet somebody. I just saw this dude go to six ciphers on the floor, shut it down and killed it. This is the Finale. Thats how it started.
DX: You practiced your rhyming craft for years, all the while being in school and working as an audio engineer. Where does such patience come from?
Finale: It was just a learning experience; as with everything, you need to study up before you step out there. Just working on my craft even when I was in school, even when I was working, I was trying to get my bars up or try to pick the right beats, learn from the right people around me who helped school me on what to do and what not to do.
DX: Where does the patience comes from?
Finale: Its weird, but I used to gauge my music. And I use to play it between other peoples records. I want to sound like Im from Detroit, but I dont want to sound like a local emcee. And thats not a diss. But I can tell the difference between a local emcee from around the corner and an emcee thats in the city but he still does things outside of the city; his music can reflect that. I told myself if I can play my music in between lets say a Pharoah Monch song and a song by [Black Star] [click to read] if I can play it at the club and you dont recognize the gap, you dont recognize the slip-up or you dont notice the difference in sound, then Im on the right track. So I always strive to get to that point.
DX: Is the Waiting Game a story of patience in a sense?
Finale: This album took a long time to come to light. Theres a paper here called The Metro Times; its a really big paper out here. Me and Invincible have been friends for a long time and people have been expecting solo albums from us for a while now. So three, maybe four years ago, I was still getting out of one management contract I had a couple of setbacks that deterred me from making music for a minute until I got out of those situations, but nobody really knew that. So they just saw it like, Hes just taking hes sweet ass time. So me and Invincible, we had a "Best of Detroit Award" every year; so this year, instead of just getting "Best Rapper" or "Best Crew," they voted me and Invincible, "The Two Dopest Rappers In Detroit To Take Their Sweet Ass Time." So we thought that was funny, that it was in the paper. It kind of pushed me to finish the record; it was motivation as well. The whole song was about that. Its just telling people that sometimes you gotta wait for certain things.
DX: What is the Pipedream?
Finale: Its Hip Hop. Its the one shot at Hip Hop. Its the outside perspective of how people around the artist view the artists struggle; its the label thats placed on Hip Hop around the artist.
DX: What is that label?
Finale: That its a pipe dream; its a dream. We label it as a dream and we follow it. But your family, your friends, your loved ones. In the beginning when its shaky and they dont really understand it it can be labeled as a pipe dream: things that you normally dont get. Hip Hop is a lottery; its really hard even to get an Indie deal; or to even stay on the road, like hustling or selling drugsits just hard. And only a few people can slip through the cracks. So Im definitely grateful for everything that happens.
DX: What is the Promise?
Finale: Its the promise the artist makes to himself to keep pursuing it and to know that its going to turn out Okay. If you feel that strongly about yourself and your art, and youre willing to take that risk to pursue it despite the odds, despite the struggle, thats what the promises are. Or it can be looked at as the promise we make to our loved ones the outlandish promises we make that we know are bullshit. Like telling your girl, telling your mama when you get paid youll buy a mansion or something crazy like that. The things we hold on to, the promises we make to people around us.
DX: Are your promises coming to fruition?
Finale: Yeah, every step I take is always been to a better situation so I can say Im blessed to be able to say that with every project Ive landed in a better situation. So its definitely dope to have an outlet to put music out, or to work around people that are like minded. So its cool; I stay busy on the road or be able to work with artists and producers that Im able to work with.
DX: You have a roster of eminent producers such as Nottz, Black Milk, J Dilla and numerous others who are established or are on their way to becoming so on this album. The words electronic and Motown keep popping up when listening A Pipe Dream and a Promise, as they did with Elzhis The Preface. Are you another Michigan artist who is going to make sure that you put Detroit on the map?
Finale: Detroits already on the map; its just a matter of me doing my part in the push. Im not trying to single-handedly put the whole city on my back and when Detroit blows up to claim I did it. Im just a part of the team. Ive come up with every rapper that everybody respects from the D. Ive come up on the scene with Guilty [Simpson] [click to read] and Black Milk [click to read], [DJ] Houseshoesits just one big family were just trying to make a push. Im just trying to play my part; most people dont know who I am and Im just trying to set my stage. So when people think of Detroit, you dont think of Finale, because you dont know Finale but you know Black Milk and you know Invincible and you know GuiltyIm just trying to set my own stage and maybe when its all said and done, if you dig the music then I might be able to sneak on that little list.
DX: The production consists of some great upbeats. What does that tell us in terms of Hip Hops direction?
Finale: I dont dictate my music on Hip Hops direction. A lot of the sounds are different on the album. I didnt know how it was going to turn out I didnt set out to do a different song with different producers but it just turned out thathalf of the producers on the record I told who else was on the record before they made their beats. I let them work it out. The joints I did with each producer I was able to find a song that meshed well with the other producer. I think they did a good job working well with each other.
DX: Is your One Man Show a spin on Timbalands 2 Man Show?
Finale: I never heard that song. Timbalands dope. When I wrote that song it was to kind of point out the fact One.Be.Lo pulled me to the side one time and he told me, No matter what issues you may got with any local rappers out here or whatever people may say when they turn their back or whatever, the one thing we can respect about you and we always have is that you did it on your own. You didnt need a crew or you didnt need nobody to vouch for you.
DX: On a similar note, is Motor Music Black Milks spin on I get Money?
Finale: Wow. I never thought about it like that. Its kind of similar...I never thought about it like that.
DX: Is it still cold in the D?
Finale: [Laughs] Yeah, its 40 degrees right now and it was 70 degrees two days ago. Its kind of hard to explain right now; it usually snows until April
Kicking things off with singer/producer/songwriter Posner, we are astonished to hear that the brain behind the hybrid of Pop and Hip Hop mixtape A Matter of Time [click to listen] is rather a charming 21-year-old Duke student studying Business and Sociology with an intent to build his career inmusic (did we mention he has his own band, The Brain Trust?) Yes, he is cooler than you. And as the culture of Hip Hop houses enthusiasts of various races, ages, professions and interests, it is no surprise that one of the more exciting producers today has pursuits in the periphery of Hip Hop. What is surprising however, is this youngins blueprint for success, which Posner sociably discusses with DX along with the tapes love themes, Auto-Tune and creating music thats bigger than Hip Hop.
HipHopDX: Would you please introduce yourself?
Mike Posner: My name is Mike Posner. Im a junior at Duke University. And Im your favorite rappers favorite singer and Im really awesome. Im a singer, songwriter, producer.
DX: How old are you?
Mike Posner: Im 21.
DX: What are you studying at Duke?
Mike Posner: Sociology and Business.
DX: What do you want to do with that combination?
Mike Posner: Music. [Laughs]
DX: Tell us about your band, The Brain Trust.
Mike Posner: Basically, a year ago, I was only producing for other people, and I brought in some live musicians for the beats; I was singing to people. And songs started to pour out of me so thats how the group started. The name Brain Trust comes from President Franklin Delano Roosevelts cabinet [which] was called The Brain Trust in The Great Depression. My group kind of works the same way Im the president and when I want peoples input, I ask my cabinet.
DX: Interesting. Do you play instruments?
Mike Posner: I produce everything so I taught myself the keys over the years. Pianos, solos or guitars, [thats] other people.
DX: When you formed the band, what genre of music did you anticipate to create?
Mike Posner: We never sat down and said, Were gonna create this genre. We started to play five songs and one of them was Cooler than Me. And the songs kind of were what they were.
DX: Are you creating Pop music?
Mike Posner: I think so. I like to call it that because it could really mean anything; Pop could mean anything. Theres strong Hip Hop influence in our music but I dont rap. Theres Hip Hop in Pop, so I just say Pop but its not corny. [Laughing]
DX: It doesnt have to be corny. Jay-Z can be Pop; Kanye West is Pop presently; Pharell can be Pop. Why do you think youre associated with Hip Hop so much? After all, HipHopDX is a Hip Hop magazine.
Mike Posner: Part of it is the way I chose to go about breaking myself. I made a mixtape, you know? [Laughs] I dont know if I was the first but I might have been the first Pop group to do a mixtape and call it a mixtape. And it was hosted by DJ Benzi and Don Cannon [click to read], so two Hip Hop deejays. And I worked with a lot of emcees on it, and its featured on a lot of Hip Hop blogs. And I think thats where a lot of association came with the Hip Hop music. But the music is I dont want to say "bigger than just Hip Hop" but its definitely not just Hip Hop. I always tell people that I knew I was doing something right when my mom and Cannon are singing the same song.
DX: What was your intention with this tape?
Mike Posner: I wanted people to get a taste of me, a different side of me, and at the same time create the space for me to grow as I get older as a musician and a person. Im only 21; I still got growing up to do. So its important that I dont dig myself in the hole on my first tape. I think I accomplished that; I have the space to go wherever I get to go in the future. I just wanted the people to get to know me a little bit and get ready for I think Im gonna do one more mixtape and then drop the album next year.
DX: Whats your favorite track on the tape?
Mike Posner: My favorite track is Still Not Over You.
DX: A lot of love story concepts; reminds me of Kanye Wests 808's & Heartbreak. Do you think that addressing such a universal and perhaps most powerful emotion expands your fan base? Was the intention to appeal to majority or does the song selection happen to include love themes?
Mike Posner: I think both. I dont force out songs so more people would like em. A lot of themes are from my real life, like a lot of the girls and the stuff that I say [laughs]. At the same time I dont want to make music that leaves people out. I can sit in my room and make songs that I think are awesome cause theyre about my life - thats easy. But to make something that Don Cannon and my mom can like thats a challenge, you know? When I can bring kids from the suburbs of Detroit down to the city and rock out with kids from the city to the same songs, thats a challenge. Thats what I definitely was trying to do.
DX: Michigan has really asserted itself over time, most notably with Elzhi, Black Milk, Royce, J Dilla, and once again Eminem. There is a common thread these artists have and thats creativity and stepping outside of the box; you are no different. What is it about artists from Michigan that allows them to say screw what everyone else is doing, Ill do it my way?
Mike Posner: Thats a tough question. I cant really speak for all the artists in my state; especially since a lot of them have been doing it longer than me and Im just getting started. I know for myself, I was born in Detroit but I grew up in Southfield and I was incredibly lucky to go to a high school where it was just super, super diverse. There were really rich kids there, really poor kids, all races. And I feel like that really got me ready to do what Im doing now. And I can be comfortable almost any place I go because of that. So that was my experience where I grew up.
DX: Contrary to present mainstream perception of Hip Hop, good records can be made without Auto-Tune. I assume youd agree with that?
Mike Posner: Definitely.
DX: So why do you think individuals are so quick to follow trends?
Mike Posner: Well I did a remix to Kanyes Love Lockdown. And I used it on there. And its really fun to use, I wont lie; Auto-Tune is fun. But I think anytime people see something working, they want to cop the formula cause everyone wants to be successful; cant be mad at anyone for that. But I believe that most successful people are the people that start their own lane and are the first ones that everyone else copies; so Im trying to be that guy.
DX: Youre 21 and trying to be that guy.
Mike Posner: Im really lucky that Im in school, Im not poor, I dont have a child. I can take my time and do shit the right way. I dont have to sign a record deal tomorrow. I can do my mixtape I can do 10 more mixtapes. So this year Ive been able to formulate my kind of the first steps of a long-term plan. Have a career and not just an album, or not just a single. So everything I do is for a career and not just a split second of success.
DX: What rappers could you see flourishing over your beats?
Mike Posner: Oh man. I love so many rappers, Mina. I just met Bun B [click to read] and hes the nicest guy ever - and he likes my stuff; so maybe Bun B. Andre 3000 [click to read], duh. Thats my favorite right now. Nas. Gucci Mane [click to read]! [Young] Jeezy [click to read], duh. Nobody believes me when I tell em I love Jeezy
DX: Nobody believes me when I tell em I love Britney.
Mike Posner: I love Britney