Maesu: ‘The meat is still curing’

Photo: Courtesy of the artist


Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Born and raised in Alabama, Maesu is a California-based artist that has allowed a loss to grow him. In what ways he’s not entirely sure, but he has a vibe and voice that, to my ear, is growing in the right direction. 

With a groove that falls in pocket, and an aesthetic that flows in space, the minimalist yet grooved sounds are easy to gel to.

 After falling in love with his track, Amen (featuring Kari Faux and Supa Bwe) I did what every millennial does, I slid into the dm’s and set up a time to facetime. 

Read the interview below to learn more about the emerging artist.

Camille: Where are you right now?

Maesu: I just pulled over to make our call, but I’m out here today because I’ve been in the house all week. I edit videos on the side; I got into it after editing my music videos. I had no idea where I was, but I’m actually at a UCLA campus. I’m not a student. I don’t fuck with college. I tried it. I left.

I get that. One of the things that attracted me to your music is the spirituality of it. How do you describe your spirituality; and how do you think it interacts with your expression?

Since my mom has passed, I feel like I’ve shifted as a person. I used to feel, “Man, I don’t feel like church. I don’t feel like family. When I moved out here to LA, I didn’t tell my family I was leaving until two weeks before I left. Shit, I was a kid. When my mom left, it was… I don’t know. I had this visceral feeling to retreat to my roots. I grew up in the church. I grew up praise dancing, and all that type of stuff, but it was this visceral feeling to return to a child-like state of mind.

I’m very sorry for your loss. What has been the largest; or most impactful lesson for you?

It’s all right. It’s all right. It’s something that happens with everybody, and you learn from it, you grow, and you become a better person. Your parents are the people in your life that teach you lessons. You’re taught not to touch the stove because it’s hot. You touch it anyway, and… oh shit. All of the lessons aren’t as immediate; everything that she taught me is still settling in. The meat is still curing. It’s a certain feeling as an artist, you can never truly finish a painting. They have to like, let it sit for a couple of weeks down the marinade. Right. That the lessons are still marinating still curious. So I can’t put a finger on.

Continuing with the conversation on spirituality, I also noticed there are few allusions to nature in your work. Do you feel that your spirituality is connected to the earth in any way?

I don’t know. It’s just something that I tap into. I’m still trying to understand it myself. This is something new for me. The narratives in my music used to be very situational. Talking about something that I was going through and try to cool it, or pull back details to make it more relatable to others. I now let the records flow, and I’m just trusting where I’m going. I honestly don’t know exactly where the spirituality is coming from, or what it’s doing to my music, this very instant. But I have a feeling once I’m done with this leg, with this phase, I’ll be able to take a step back and have an “Oh, okay that’s what this was.” It feels like a flowing through, a trust fall, but with myself.

That’s truly beautiful. While we’re talking about ‘Amen’, how did it come to be? How was working with Kari and Supa Bwe?

Kari… it’s funny because, initially, she was supposed to be on my first project.

Oh, really?

Well, I was trying to get her on this record called “Echidna Oceans” for the remix. There was a lot of back and forth via in the email, whatever, it kind of fell to the wayside. Emailing is not really my favorite but, we actually connected, and in time we got in the studio. Studio time was us talking for hours, and then we recorded the record in fifteen minutes. She was – is super dope. From there, I liked the feel of the original but, I wanted to expand the record.

At that moment I felt Amen was just about my hurt, my particular family, and my particular thing. I wanted it to mean more than just that. I wanted somebody with a perspective because I’ve never personally lost a friend. So I don’t know what that’s like, you know?

I understand some things you have to live, but through this, I have a new understanding of loss. I didn’t want to just make up some shit; I wanted to get somebody who had something like that happen. 

When I first talked about the talk record to Supa, he put his first take on there and it fit. He’s super cool, I didn’t get a chance actually to meet him.

Maybe in the future? 

M: Maybe in the future, maybe maybe not.

I’m in LA. so I’ll get a chance to see a little bit everybody. It’s something that happens randomly. I met Tyler the Creator outside of some sushi restaurant, and I like I just walked up.

How’d that go? Are we talking a potential collaboration?

I was like Yo, and obviously, I’d be stupid not to play my shit. So and I played the record for him. He was like, “Dude I was worried, I thought your shit was going to be whack.” In general he just kind of stood there, and then, of course, he was like “yeah, this shit is fire.”

Collab? Maybe, honestly Flower Boy, that album, it was beautiful. Him, Kendrick Lamar, and Frank Ocean are three artists that I did not like when they initially came out.

For some reason their sophomore works, I don’t know if it’s all of their sophomores, but their most recent projects really hit. Fucking amazing, like DAMN., is everything to me. I love Blonde. I’m not gonna lie. I’m still listening to that album. I listened to it daily.

It is ridiculous. I’m right there with you about Blonde. I was lurking on your Twitter, and I saw your tweet “it’s dark and hell is hot” now, was that a personal reflection, or was that an allusion to the DMX album?

It’s funny you saw that. I was thinking about how DMX moves, and that album. I remember how fucking vicious he is. Yeah, I was remembering how much I love DMX.

Would put him on the list of your major influences?

Nah, I mean, you know. See this… This is what I was just saying for as like as I move, I don’t know exactly where I’m going. Now, I’m thinking about DMX, and how his music is connected to spirituality throughout. I see the correlation between that, and some of my new works, because I got a couple of records that are kind of doing certain little things, like a man. I don’t know if you did that correlation on purpose.

I was just. I just looking at what you’re feeling.

I’m just like him, you see, that’s what I’m saying. It’s like, I don’t want to have the hubris to know exactly where I’m at and what I’m doing all the time. I like to think that I do, but I know it’s just like certain things. I don’t know where it is but it’s taking me somewhere and I have to trust it. That’s the way it seems to be a part of it. I like that though because I haven’t thought about the DMX thing at all. Self-discovery, you gotta discover something about yourself every day, every single day.

Going back to who you were before, how do you feel your music has changed from 2017?

I know I’m blessed to say that I feel my music is changing. I feel as soon as you stop seeing a change in your music, and you think all your shit is so fucking amazing, that’s when you stop growing completely. I feel my vocal quality has improved, it affects the subject matter you can talk about all of it.

I definitely hear the improvement of vocal quality.

Thank you. I’ve been I’ve been working on it. Honestly, I haven’t done any vocal training this past month because I was editing and stuff, which is a horrible idea I’d never I would never suggest but I’m getting back into it now. Content wise I decided to open up more because I wasn’t doing that at all.

I guess I felt it wasn’t time. I’m getting older, and I felt I should speak on my feelings, learn to express more, at least lyrically. It’s like, I like to be. I like to be indirect with my direction if that makes any sense. My least favorite genre is country music because it’s so on the nose all the time. It kills me how I can’t relate to it because it’s so specific to that time when you were in your truck in the mud got on her dress, and you told her that you loved her.

It’s so fucking specific. I like my works to feel like abstract paintings. Because another thing I don’t want to have the hubris to think that I can make someone feel exactly like this like I want. I want to evoke. Everyone’s different. This one topic or one lyric can’t evoke the same emotion in everybody. So, I try to figure out how can I express without being too abstract though and I’ll be into direct.

Speaking of abstract paintings, what nonmusical influences inspire your work?

Watch abstract Es Devlin’s episode is amazing.

The show follows artists in industries that you didn’t even think about. But Devlin, she’s a set designer; specifically, she designs stages. Watching her speak about how she treats art, her relationship to negative space. But her freedom and acceptance, and the way elements speak to her for some reason; she doesn’t know why. She just lets it go and see where it takes her.

Anyway, she put me onto the negative space thing. I want people to take their time with my music. I feel now people are so focused on “let me just get to the thing” that’s gonna get you before you go anywhere else because they’re so worried that they won’t get the play. A lot of people do that, which is cool, but I feel like it takes confidence to say this is what I want to do. You are going you are going to hear it, you’re going to feel it. It is going to resonate. I’m not pressed that you’re not going to get to the source yet.

So you’re not about the clout?

No, I’m not. I’m not pressed to make sure they all get to know. I enjoy negative space and simplicity. Minimalism is is a thing for me. It’s like one side of music. I know I have some newer music and some stuff that I put out last year is not minimalist, or minimalistic at all. I’m actually working on a double EP. The two facets of my music, one is more dark and chaotic, and high energy and the other is more minimalistic kind of like a semi-perfect and in like a slow burn style.

It sounds like a good listen, when can we expect that out?

I want to release it as soon as possible. Possibly in April, but I have some things lined up, some leading lined up. So I want to see what that’s about.

So, what are you doing with the rest of your day?

What am I doing? Well I’m at UCLA, I’m gonna leave campus promptly I’ll probably keep driving, I enjoy being around Beverly Hills, the air is fresher…here and Burbank. I have like a meeting with some labels and next week, so I’m gonna also head to the studio to rerecord some stuff I’ll be playing some unreleased stuff for some people. I don’t think I can say much, but we’ll see.

Alright. Exactly. I’ll be sitting here, ready.

Written by Manny King John

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