Hip hop belongs to a group of people that relate to it under the umbrella of individuality and conquering opposition. I guess the beauty of that is every one’s opposition is different as we say in Islam the greatest jihad, “jihadi naffs” is the struggle of one’s self. Hip hop now has so many interpretations and representations within it’s self that every one can get in where they fit in, or so it seems. So how can a very blonde, very feminine empowered caucasian girl from New Berlin, PA make a claim for a solidified stance as an MC in today’s mostly black male dominated game? If there’s a will, there’s most definitely a way because Kellee Maize is making her name known in a major way. I caught up with Kellee for a rather in depth look into who she is behind the mic.
Jaxx: I think the immediate question on my reader’s minds is, “who exactly is Kellee Maize?”
KM: Haha, I dunno. She is different in every moment, as I learn from the one before it and create the next one. But, to be more general, I am an activist, an entrepreneur, a seeker, a poet, a rapper, a singer, a dancer and lover of all things…and I really mean that, while I get apocalyptic sometimes…I have endless love for people, animals, plants, and everything in the universe.
Jaxx: Every one has that one person that actually leads to them down the path as an MC. Who opened the door for you?
KM: Hmm, it was a poetry teacher at Pitt name Stacy. I am spacing on her last name but, I was rhyming in my head, singing in public, and memorizing lyrics of others from hip-hop to pop to folk since I was a little girl. But I never believed that what I personally had to say was important or good enough…or that I was worth it.
Jaxx: That’s dope, my Grade 8 English Lit teacher convinced me to be open about pursuing my career as well. How did it all come about?
KM: The first or second day of class she played me the intro to Ani DiFranco’s poem/song, “My IQ”. It sent chills down my spine, not only cause I resonated with the lyrics, Ani’s pain, and the wishes she had for the world to transform, but because for a second I knew that I could do that. Her message was kinda like the one inside me.
But, that moment was fleeting and for that whole semester Stacy kept reminding me that I was a poet, worthy of being heard. I always wanted to perform and saw hip hop as the form of activism I followed. Like my favorite emcee at the time was M1 from Dead Prez but Stacy, and then many people to follow, have helped me get over the fear and just do what I know I am here to do. That fear is still present sometimes but its not debilitating like it used to be. Lots has happened since then but I see that as the start of a major transformation for me as an artist.
Jaxx: I think that’s an important quality to embrace. Having the fear and the anticipation, harnessing that as the urge to draw inspiration. Still at face value, a lot of people in hip hop may not be inclined to take you serious because its like, “Ok we gotta blonde white girl who’s coming from an angle we may not get.” What’s your tactic to combat that?
KM: This question reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Aquemini that I never fully say aloud. Andre says, “Is every N*&G% with dreads for the cause/ Is every N#$G$ with gold for the fall? Nah/ so don’t get caught up in appearance…”
Or my recent lyrics from the outro to my new album not released yet, ”Just consider a book, falls apart without its cover. We all come in strange packages, we must discover, the undercover, meaning deep inside each other…”
So yeah, I guess I combat that by saying, “give it a chance”. We all play a role in this world and when you have an aversion to something, or don’t get something, I find personally that it is usually for a reason that I should investigate. Humans are judgmental in nature due to how we are “domesticated”. Particularly when something is different then what we are used to, we judge and evaluate based on what we think we know which can be really limiting.
Regarding my angle that people may not get, I am trying real hard to explain all of my lyrics on my site (www.kelleemaize.com) as I release a video so that if someone really cares, they can look into it. A lot of what I say, can prolly seem kinda confusing like, my newest video that is about to come out for “Freakuency”, that song from my last album sounds like it is all about sex, but its not, not at all. Its using sexual words to describe the state of our world and the fact that I think we need to focus on the feminine qualities (love, encouragement, cooperation, nuture), within all of us, men and women if we are gonna change anything, and my belief that that is part of our evolution, from a spiritual perspective.
But, other times I am direct, maybe too direct and simple or repetitive for some tastes, but either way, I guess I just ask for an open mind. I think that is the key to everything working from understanding ourselves, to understanding each other, to understanding the world. We just need to give each other a chance, and an open heart and mind. That is all I could ever ask for. And, at that point, I can totally get down with people not feeling it. And, I know I have tons of room for improvement and appreciate the critique. We all have different tastes and are entitled to gravitate to what hits us in the right way and leave behind what doesn’t. I am just grateful for the chance to have an impact.
Jaxx: Female MCs in the game are becoming less and less rare so the impact is there, but the subject matter is more and more bland. Nicki is at the front no matter how you cut it, but the Trinas, the Diamonds you know, that format seem to overshadow the Jean Graes and Dominique Larues and Ra The MCs. What do you attribute it to?
KM: Well, unfortunately we are still under a strict patriarchal society and women are still not being respected in many realms for the talent, diversity and wisdom we can bring. This is an issue not only in hip hop.
Lots has changed though and I am happy to see progress and at least see some women getting props but it kinda sucks that it only seems to be when they are hyper-sexualized. Much like popular male MC’s are often talking about fairly simple, materialistic, violent and misogynistic themes, women can’t easily step outside that box either, and I don’t think that is always by choice.
I think there is a sort of vested interest by the corporations in charge to keeping listeners focused on these themes, to keep them focused on being consumers and not what they really are, intelligent beings that have power. And perhaps listeners themselves aren’t demanding much different? Although that seems to be shifting as the internet becomes the primary means of distribution.
I mean, I think its possible for everything to have its place and I envision everyday that this changes. The good news is, the music industry is no longer only being run by puppeteers. The internet has made it possible for independents to have a chance too. It is hard work but, I think its gonna keep getting more difficult to shut out the truth and the dope shit that so many independent artists are putting out there.
Jaxx: Let’s talk about the content, because you be rhyming about some heavy shit. A lot of it probably goes over the average listeners head. What exactly do you represent as an artist?
KM: Well, I have been through some unpleasant experiences. Lots of death, abandonment, heartbreak, mental illness, addiction, I am sure many can relate, we all have our own hell. It often kept me stuck in my own mind, and not out in the world making a difference where I wanted to be. From all of that I started to really question who I was and why I was here.
Over the last 11 yrs, I started dabbling in psychology, religion, astrology, physics and all sorts of stuff that speaks to how humans work and what this is all about. All I could determine was that I was here to Love, and give to others, and learn and in this dualistic world, to suffer a bit so I would even know what those three things felt like.
So you will hear all that in my music. And, those three things, love, contribution, growth, seemed like the key to me evolving from all sorts of negativity to being more and more content/happy and present, and thus more and more helpful to the world…which is all I ever wanted.
And being present is a major theme I work on and speak on in my music, because we are all so stuck in regretting the past or fearing the future. I have always been someone that wanted to be part of the change I wanted to see, like Ghandi says, and I really think at the core, all humans are this way. We are just stuck in a society that makes us totally focused on fear and on the material, which can never really get us anywhere or create the happiness we are striving for.
I hope my music speaks to ways to get ourselves out of the way, so we can really focus on what matters to us and just be in the moment we are blessed with, right now, even if that literally just means smiling at someone or dancing like nobody is watchin, every little bit counts.
That is what I feel like I have been doing, trying to get my BS out of the way, so I can create. So I try to address all that, the whole process before after and as it continues in music. It’s a never ending process, like an onion, more an more layers to explore that I feel compelled to share cause I know for me music has always made me feel less alone.
But, really what it comes down to, in a sentence – most of my music is about being aware of what is goin on in the world around us, recognizing the power of creation we all have within us to transform it, and BEING love in the face of anything.
Jaxx: You mentioned an album you completed? Where are you with releasing that?
KM: Yes sir, I have a third album written. I am hoping to write one more song with the hindu goddess on my squad Sangya Trivedi who was on my last two albums. I met her in Chicago this weekend and it is in the works. Then, I will finish up recording and release ASAP. I hope to have a release date soon to share but I feel like it will arrive with the hot sun this summer.
Kellee Is pretty ubiquitous online but check her website www.KelleeMaize.com where you can watch videos, download free music, all of that.