As most of us have been pulling our hair out studying for midterms, now is probably not the best time for us to imagine being rock stars. In fact, some would consider being a performing musician and full-time student almost impossible.
Not if you’re Mike Posner.
The singer and Duke University student is the collegiate version of a superhero, spending weekdays in class and weekends performing. He keeps his grades up — he’s got a 3.6 GPA — and his music loud, constantly roaming the United States rocking new venues. As a sociology major and business minor at one of the country’s best schools, it is a wonder Posner ever sleeps.
“The weekend before finals last spring I had two shows,” the musician recalled. “Then I had a bunch of meetings that Monday, three finals on Tuesday, a show Wednesday, recorded a song with Wale on Thursday and flew to New York to meet Jay-Z on Friday.”
Posner’s career stems back to his former employment at a Detroit radio station where he met collaborator and mentor Big Sean. He wrote songs for the artist and fellow college students, but ultimately decided he was best suited to sing his own lyrics. Posner, who had never sung before his junior year in college, has seen much success since the release of his first mixtape in February, reaching heights his fellow students never could have imagined.
“On my 21st birthday this year, I went to the studio,” Posner said. “This was before anything had really taken off, and my friends all made fun of me. I just said, ‘You’ll see.’”
Posner’s confidence is by no means cockiness — he is modest and, above all, thankful for the position he’s in. He has managed to bridge the gap between pop and hip-hop in a way top 40’s biggest haters would appreciate. A Matter of Time, Posner’s current mixtape, is full of gems. The singer’s raspy voice croons catchy choruses over piano melodies and smooth beats.
Posner and his band, The Brain Trust, keep the album interesting with their remixes. When applying the term remix to Posner and his crew, it could mean a version of Beyoncé’s “Halo” sung by the student himself, or other types of homage to classics — you probably haven’t heard anything like the hip-hop twist Posner puts on songs like Donnie Darko’s “Mad World” and Electric Light Orchestra’s “Evil Woman.”
Posner’s mixtape was also free on iTunes U for most of this summer. (His label recently took it down, but he is working on getting it back up.)
“There will be a CD out in the first or second quarter of next year that you can pay for, and I saved all my really awesome songs for that,” he joked.
Posner’s current material is so fresh that it’s hard to believe he’s been holding out. Album highlights are “Cooler Than Me,” which features Big Sean, and “Drug Dealer Girl,” an ode to a pot-dealing female.
“My mom is not a fan at all,” Posner said of his tune’s marijuana mentions. He also explained that while most of his professors give him general career support, a few think his decision to sing proudly about drug pushers is a bit misguided.
“My reply is that I don’t make exclusive music or overly political music by any means, but I make fun and inclusive music,” Posner said. “At my shows, you’ll see boys, girls, black people, white people, rich people and poor people, all smiling and having fun at the same time. That’s where the power of my music lies.”
Posner has seen diverse crowds on his tours across America, which have taken him from Daytona Beach, Fla. to New Haven, Conn. While Posner’s job requires him to jetset across the nation, his roommates live the typical lives of college students, throwing house parties and making ramen.
“Every time I come back from a weekend of shows, there’s like beer cans and sticky floors,” Posner said. “Its like, ‘I can tell you guys had a good time this weekend!’”
Posner has sacrificed a lot of his college experience for his career, but he doesn’t regret a moment of it.
“I’m living the dream, and I love what I’m doing,” he said. “To get where you want to be in anything, you have to take opportunities when they’re presented.”
Somehow, Posner has managed to take advantage of it all, from his career as a musician to his senior year at Duke University. He has even created a webisode series (aptly titled One Foot Out The Door) to portray his life as a multitasker.
His career has come a long way since his first mixtape dropped seven months ago, and Posner has nothing but high hopes for the future.
“If my career was a basketball season, I’ve played just two preseason games,” he said. “I’ve only just begun.”