It’s fitting that Detroit singer/songwriter/producer Bei Maejor is playing the piano as Rap-Up.com enters the room. Judging by his prolific discography, the 24-year-old, born Brandon Green, is rarely away from an instrument or machine, having already etched out a prodigious career dating back to 2003.
In addition to his own mixtapes, which include volumes 1 and 2 of his popular Upside Down series, the Grammy-nominated artist has worked with everyone from Trey Songz and Keri Hilson to Soulja Boy and Wiz Khalifa. Maejor boosted his profile with the release of his J. Cole-assisted single “Trouble” earlier this year. Now, the versatile hitmaker is focusing on his RCA Records debut, scheduled for release next year.
Rap-Up.com spoke with the rising star about his early days, the definition of “upscale music,” his most surprising collaboration, and how his music has literally saved lives.
1. Growing up, what was the first aspect of music you got into?
Definitely producing. I started when I was about 16, just having fun on Cool Edit Pro. It was low budget; I had my microphone taped to my ceiling with toilet paper wrapped around it because I thought that would make a cleaner sound. I didn’t think much. I just started making songs in my neighborhood and I sucked, man. I ain’t gonna lie. But I just kept practicing and then sold beats locally for like $100 or whatever. When I first started, Timbaland was, and still is, my favorite producer. I’m from Detroit, so J Dilla was big too.
2. At what point did you realize you could make a career from music?
The summer after I made my website, a lot of people started hitting me up online and there was a lot of interest from different managers. I got a meeting with Roc-A-Fella back in the day. I met Dame. He came in and was like, “Yo, whose beats are these?” They were mine, but back then, I was so scared of people stealing my beats, I was like, “Bei Maejor, Bei Maejor,” every five seconds. He was like, “Yo, man, why do you keep saying that? I can’t hear the beat. Stop doing that.” But that was when I knew it could pop off.
3. How did you link up with J. Cole for “Trouble”?
I was a fan of him already, so when I [originally] did this song, I played it for industry people to hear what they thought. Somehow, Cole got a hold of it, but it was in rough form. And he just loved it. I gave him a beat for his album, but he ended up not using it. I did another track with him, though, but I’m not sure what he’s going to use it for.
4. What’s the status of your own album?
I’m taking my time with it. I really want to make it a special piece of work, zone in, and take my time and not put that pressure on me right now. Maybe I’ll have the pressure the second or third album, but now I want to make it so that I take the time to shape it how I want. But I definitely got some people who I’m working with for sure. Trey Songz, Drake, T-Pain. I’d love to get them all on there, but we’ll see what happens.
5. How is making a mixtape different from recording your official debut?
From a buzz-building perspective, I think I did it the wrong way because I treated my mixtapes—especially my first two—like albums and the things that tend to get big fast are more eclectic; things that couldn’t really be popular songs become big on mixtapes. Because of the style of music I make, I think I made it too polished and too commercial for people.
6. Stylistically, how would you define your album?
I definitely created my own style called “upscale” or “upscale urban,” with “Trouble” being the first song utilizing this. If you look at urban music as General Motors, “upscale” is like the Cadillac. You got some leather in there, you got some rims. It’s not the Lamborghini like Usher or Rolls-Royce, which is distinguished and for an older crowd. Mine is still ghetto and can fit in the ‘hood, but is still a little sleek and clean.
7. You’ve worked with dozens of people. Name a collaboration your fans may be surprised to hear you did.
When I was in Nashville a couple of months ago, I went to Rascal Flatts’ house. I was cool with them from Ne-Yo. I thought we were going to go to the studio and they were like, “Aww man, we’re just going to write songs right here, man. We got the guitar.” We wrote a song right there in the house.
8. You produced on the soundtracks for Bratz: The Movie and The Princess and the Frog. How did that come about and how was the experience?
My whole life, ever since I was a little kid, I learned a lot of songs from Disney movies. Lion King? Those are crazy songs—”Hakuna Matata,” “Circle of Life.” [Sings] “Nants ingonyama…” I did [“Never Knew I Needed”] with Ne-Yo and I would come to the studio every day and he was working on huge stuff like Beyoncé. I’d be like, “Yo man, let’s work on Princess.” He was looking at me like I was crazy, like, “Why do you want to work on that so bad?” Because that was just personal for me and meant a lot to me. You know that’s the music I grew up on, so hopefully some new kid listens to that and be like, “Damn.” To see your name in the credits of a Disney movie like, “Damn, you’re in there. You’re in the game.” There are some things that may not be as big to the world or as big as a hit single, but they mean a lot to you.
9. A year from now, what do you hope to accomplish?
I hope to just make a positive impact on people and for my songs to connect with them somehow and to build something bigger than just the music. I wrote a song called “Teardrops & Telephone Calls” [on 2010’s Upside Down 2] about this kid who’s going to commit suicide and ends up hitting me up and we got cool and he didn’t do it. At the time, it didn’t really happen. It was just my imagination. I have this number by the way, (313) 242-7775, where people hit me up and sometimes I pick up, text, whatever. One night earlier this year, I was checking my voicemail and there was this kid who was like, “Yo man, this is such and such. I was going to kill myself tonight and then I heard that song.” I was like, “Whoa,” and I called him back because I wanted to see who this guy was and I found out his whole story. He’s cool now, but that type of impact is more important than anything. This kid almost killed himself, so I feel like that was a blessing for him to have heard that. But that’s the type of impact I hope to be having on a bigger scale in the next year.
10. What would you be doing now if you weren’t involved in music?
I’d be some type of businessman. I’m definitely not good at doing a job or cooperating with people. I’m gritty and I know what I want to do, so I think I would make my own company and figure it out. And I might be broke or I might be ballin’. One of the two; I’m not gonna be in the middle. I’m either going to not make it or I’m going to be huge and I’m cool with that. Take a risk and go all in.