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If You Ain’t About It Get The Fuck Up Out My Zone

Interview

OFFICE – How’d you end up in this spot? 

 

MAXINE ASHLEY – I AirBnb’ed here once a long time ago, and I thought it was amazing. So when I was moving to LA a few months back I found it again and was like “Yes, this is lit! I got it!” Frat house. My friend, she stopped me in the street recently she’s like “Oh hey, what’s up? Where you living at?” I’m like “Right here in Hollywood,” and she’s like, “Girl, that’s ratchet!” [laughs] You know what though, this gives me such a nostalgia feel. It reminds me of my childhood in the Bronx, but like, this is mine. To be honest, I see beauty in ugly. I love ugly shit.

 

O – You’re headed to New York next week, what are your plans there?

 

MA – I’m playing LES Festival, SOB’s, the Puerto Rican Day Parade—they made me the ambassador, the PR Princess! But yeah, just playing shows, seeing family, friends, studio as much as possible. I always book studio because if I don’t make music I think I’m gonna go fucking crazy.

 

O – And you grew up in the Bronx?

 

MA – Till I was thirteen years old. But I was also back and forth from Puerto Rico, cause I have family there. Then at thirteen I moved to London for like three years.

 

O – Was your childhood very Puerto Rican influenced?

 

MA – Well not just Puerto Rican, it was very everything influenced, cause the Bronx has like, heavy Italian spots, heavy Jamaican spots—and the Bronx is big, but as soon as you know that my grandmother’s from that hood over there, and I’m from this hood over here, I’m going to know somebody within that perimeter, you know?

 

O – Was it a good scene musically? Did you feed off that as a kid?

 

MA – My whole family does music. I grew up on salsa and bachata bands every day. I hated it when I was young, I was like “Ugh, I wanna vomit, this is so boring.” But now—we’re our parents now, pretty much. Yeah, I grew up with my mom performing, my dad in a band, my uncle, both my brothers play guitar. My whole family dances. Like, everybody. I can show you videos.

 

O – How do you stay up on music?

 

MA – My friends turn me on to shit. Like right now I was just blasting Post Malone’s new mixtape. It’s lit, it’s so good. I really appreciate it. And I was blasting, um, Azizi [Gibson]. Then this morning I was blasting Sade. But mostly it’s Romeo Santos, bachata, salsa, old school La India and shit. So much so they want to kick us out.

 

O – You ever sing in Spanish?

 

MA – I have. Actually, it didn’t come out in Spanish, it came out in Portuguese. But yeah, I have songs in Spanish. My Spanish is really…bad. It’s like my English. [laughs]

 

O – So what brought you to London?

 

MA – Music. I never had a real job in my life. The first video I ever posted on YouTube, people started hitting me up. I met with these people and they were like, “You ever been to London?” I was like, “No—yeah, I’ll go—the fuck?!” It was a record company that did just UK pop—pop, pop—pop shit. I just wrote a bunch.

 

O – Writing for other artists?

 

MA – Yeah I never wrote for myself! I thought it was for me. I just didn’t know, I was thirteen. I didn’t know shit. This is something that I have to understand now, is that I grew up in it, and I always loved it, but business-wise I never understood it. Growing up in it was great, was fun, but I had to learn a lot of shit—when people see you growing up in something, later on when you finally take it seriously, people are like “Oh, I saw you at seventeen, you wasn’t paying attention.” You’re like, “No no no no, I’m my boss now, I got it now, I know how to pay a bill now.” It’s good and bad, everything comes with good and bad.

There’s people who are going to be like “Nah,” “No,” “Nope,” “I’mma sue you,” “No, bitch,” “Shut up,” “I’m gonna steal your money.”
You ever seen that video of that guy pushing a boulder up, and it’s falling, and he keeps pushing it up? That’s me right now.

O – It must be especially tough as an artist, learning as you go—fans and industry people must expect a level of consistency from you, expect you to have a set persona and style.

 

MA – It sucks. That’s the thing, I’m not afraid to make mistakes, I want to make mistakes. I want people to be able to see that, and I can fix it, because that’s how I learn from it. What’s unfortunate with the industry is that they don’t want you to make mistakes, so if you do they think it’s really bad. It’s a lot of pressure, and we’re in an era where I just have to push it out. Like, let me fucking just push it out. “No one’s going to understand it!” They’ll fucking understand. Because I understand who I am, and in order for people to understand me they’re going to have to see it. This song feels like me right now, I want to put that out. But there’s people who are going to be like “Nah,” “No,” “Nope,” “I’mma sue you,” “No, bitch,” “Shut up,” “I’m gonna steal your money.”

 

O – But do you have people in the industry who are repping you, who understand you and are letting you do what you want? Or is it all industry resistance, and you having to push back?

 

MA – It’s both. This is what people mean by yes-men—just because they aren’t saying no doesn’t mean they aren’t lying. “Nah everything’s cool, everything’s cool.” In reality it’s like, this is not cool. And how am I supposed to fix it if I don’t know? If there was a reality show on this shit, it would be crazy. I’ve been doing this for so long, and what people see is just this much.

 

O – You’re going independent, which has got to feel empowering, but also scary I imagine.

 

MA – I would say the only thing that would be scary about it, is like, how do I get ownership of my music? How am I going to go about this, do I be a rebellious bitch, and just do that and have big problems? The only part is my music, that’s it. Ownership. I did the majority of my songs within a label.

 

O – So they own the rights to the masters and all that?

 

MA – Mhmm.

 

O – Do you see that music as being held hostage?

 

MA – [nods] But Lobster was held hostage…

 

O – OK, so people love to talk about how Pharrell discovered you, can you talk about how that partnership came about?

 

MA – I met him at seventeen, when I first came back from London. He was super cool, but I wasn’t going to sign with him right away. People told me not to sign with him. But eventually I did, and he was cool, he was my brother. We just separated recently, just now. You can’t be loyal to everybody. You gotta be loyal to yourself, you know?

 

O – But did he help you out?

 

MA – I would say his name alone is cool. And I learned, being with his label made me learn those steps—at one point I felt like I was being carried, because I was very young. Then at a certain point you have to be like “I can’t be carried anymore.” My friend told me a quote, and I was like “Damn…word.” He said “An arrow can be carried around, but it needs to be pushed back to be shot.” I was being carried around, and now I’m being pushed back. This is like “Oooh, I know something gotta give, why is there so much shit?” But it’s cool.

 

O – So that’s where you’re at now?

 

MA – Right now I’m like—you ever seen that video of that guy pushing a boulder up, and it’s falling, and he keeps pushing it up?

 

O – Yeah, I know that dude.

 

MA – That’s me right now. – END

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