Few cities know how to party like Miami, and as an up-and-coming artist, Bernz learned the ins and outs of rocking a crowd from some of the city’s most infamous nightclubs. It was a lesson that would later help lead him to a career of doing just that.
The 305-bred spitter and his partner-in-rhyme Wrekonize capitalized on their propensity for making music to set the party off, and in the process caught the ear of rapper/independent mogul Tech N9ne, who signed the duo (collectively known as ¡Mayday!) to his label, Strange Music.
With his debut solo album See You on the Other Side dropping this Friday (July 8), BET.com caught up with Bernz, who spoke about how Miami shaped his sound, one serendipitous night in Vegas and how one of those fateful party nights ended up in Jay Z paying his rent.
BET: With ¡Mayday!, your sound could best be described as “lit.” Is there a general theme to your solo album?
Bernz: What I really wanted for the album was for it to feel light and quirky. I think the s**t that I end up liking or I end up making is usually left of center, so really that was it. I wanted to be as honest as possible with my stories, but sonically I wanted something that was a little fun. I feel like a lot of times an artist will put out a record on Strange [Music] and their first one they feel like they have to go dark and as technical as like Tech N9ne, and they feel that pressure from the fan base. And I really wanted to stay true to the s**t that I do in ¡Mayday!, which is fun kind of hooks and light-hearted stuff and leaning towards mainstream or pop.
That said, did you work with the producer Seven at all on this album?
I could not work with Seven. He is so swamped. I tried and I tried, but he is the No. 1 producer at Strange right now, so unfortunately my album came out right around the same time that Tech was working on his album. So Seven was in the studio with him the whole time. Production-wise, I got my homie Infamous, who’s produced for Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz and a bunch of people. He was one of Wayne’s main producers. I also have this amazing production crew out of Miami called The Pushers that ended up doing about five records on the album. We came up together and there’s a large pool of untapped talent in Miami and a great example is The Pushers. I also worked with the homie Numonics. And lastly, I worked with a producer out of Las Vegas named David Grants and there was a cool story behind that. My mom is an astrologist and on my birthday she always sends me places or tells me places that I should be at for a good result of the year and she randomly told me to go to Vegas. I called up a few of the homies and asked if they knew any producers out in Vegas and I was introduced to David and David’s been a great collaborator. The guy ended up locking in the first single [“Outta My Brain”] that I did with Jarren Benton and this next track that’s about to drop called “It Don’t Go” with Ces Cru. That’s a guy that I literally met that day and we ended up being really great collaborators, so the next time somebody talks s**t about astrology, tell ‘em that.
How do you balance catering to the Miami fanbase with the Strange Music fanbase?
It’s funny, in Miami we would have to come on after a deejay. In Miami, there aren’t that many bands, especially like us so we had to cut our teeth playing after the deejay when people were there to dance. So the first incarnation of ¡Mayday! was this very dance-oriented, hype, party kind of thing. As we signed to Strange we kind of had to mold our music and learn how to make music all over again because we would play 20-minute songs in Miami that were just about dancing. The main thing now is keeping in mind that when people go in Miami, it’s for different reasons than when we play. For example, in Denver – where we have our huge Strange fanbase – people go because they love the record, whereas in Miami people go because they want a dance party and that’s what we’re known for down there. It’s been a tightrope kind of thing but it’s been fun.
With Tech N9ne being an artist but also the owner of the label, what is the vibe when you talk to him?
Tech is about the bulls**t. He loves to talk about rap, he loves to talk about business and music. What’s cool about talking to Tech is he doesn’t really talk to you like an executive. He talks to you from an artist’s point of view and his perspective is from an artist’s point of view. The other thing that’s great is he listens to the music. I’ll get a text from Tech N9ne spitting like half my verse on a text and he’ll follow it with something like, ‘You killed that s**t. This is crazy.’ He’s maybe the label’s biggest cheerleader as well as its best rapper. It’s really inspirational because he doesn’t have to promote my s**t. There’s a built-in audience, but he takes the time with every release to do that and make sure it’s promoted properly.
Lastly, with you being in the Miami party scene for so long, what is your best story from a night out in your hometown?
My best party story? Let’s see. I got smacked with a thousand dollars on my head once by Jay Z at a club. I think it was called Crobar back then. It was a dope party. Jay Z and Jermaine Dupri were there, and they were up on this balcony in the VIP and I’m down at the bar. So I’m just chillin’ and of course what song comes on? Jay and Jermaine’s ‘Money Ain’t a Thang.’ So when that song comes on, there was some chick that was with them and there was a commotion behind me. I look back and this chick was throwing money down from the balcony – ‘cause ‘Money Ain’t a Thang.’ She’s throwing dollar bills. So Jay Z sees that, and they’re all crisp, new hundred dollar bills. She’s got a stack in her hand and she’s tossing them down one-by-one and people are going crazy. He sees that and he grabs the whole stack and he just chucks it as hard as he can. Now of course they’re all stuck together ‘cause they’re brand new bills, and I swear to God that s**t flew halfway across the room and hit me right on the head, brother. Right on the motherf**kin’ head, and next thing you know I got myself a thousand dollars to pay rent that month. If I ever meet Jigga, I’m gonna be like, “Dawg, you paid my rent for a month, brother. Thank you so motherf**kin’ much.” I paid for the homie’s drinks that night and my rent!
(Photos from top to bottom: Courtesy of Juggernaut Sound/ Liquid 9)