Producer Mikey Mike was once kicked out of every bar in his hometown of Salisbury, Maryland. Granted, it’s a town with a population of roughly 30,000 and only two bars — but still, the lifetime ban was enough to for him to say “fuck it” and set his sights on Hollywood.

At the time, he’d already made beats for notable artists such as Wale and Sean Kingston but was having trouble getting his emails answered. So, rather than give up, he took an unconventional route and posed as a **** star — using the name of someone he thought the execs he was emailing would have grown up watching and fantasizing about.

As if by magic (yes, that’s sarcasm) — his emails were being answered and the execs on the other end of the line were suddenly more than happy to assist the person they thought was an adult film actress.

Ultimately, one of the beats Mikey made fell into Rihanna’s hands (although mistakingly) and she ended up choosing the beat for the song “Jump” off her 2012 album Unapologetic. The rest is history. Mikey finally had the money to make the cross-country leap and RiRi’s album wound up winning a Grammy Award for Best Urban Contemporary Album at the 2014 ceremony.

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Behind the scenes, Mikey was stashing beats for his own personal project and in 2017, dropped the song “Doin’ Me” with the help of illustrious music mogul Rick Rubin. His dream of working with the Def Jam Recordings co-founder had finally come true. With over 2.4 million YouTube views to date, “Doin’ Me” is taking Mikey to unexpected places — quite literally. (The song appears on Mikey Mike’s Life On Earth: Vol. 1, which dropped in August.)

After launching an ingenious marketing campaign to promote his music (keep reading), he inadvertently launched a therapy hotline.

Now, he and Isaac Heymann, executive producer of the HBO documentary Shangri-La and Rubin’s A&R, are plotting a show called The Search, which will follow Mikey to places all over the globe in search of people who stream his music the most.

In a recent interview with hitmusic, Mikey talked about his **** star ruse, meeting Rubin, how a beat intended for M.I.A. became Rihanna’s and why “doin’ him” was the best possible move for his career.

hitmusic: I am blown away by your story. I imagine most people who come across you are. I want to start at the beginning. You’re trying to push your music, you’re sending it to people and no one’s biting back until you pose as this adult film actress, right?

Mikey Mike: Shout out to Lacey Duvalle.

hitmusic: Once you started getting emails back from people, what did that initially teach you about how the world works?

Mikey Mike: It was interesting because I had all these people’s emails already. I had a buddy that worked with a publicist in New York, so he had Drake’s personal email, Lil Wayne’s emails and all their managers. I hit all of them up, from me, numerous times. I had enough credibility to be like, “Hey, I got these beats. It’d cool if you could pass them along.”

But nobody said anything. I knew they were seeing the emails. In my head, I was thinking there’s always a way. If they’re looking at these, how do I rope them in? I was in the shower and the water was hitting me … I get the best ideas in the shower when I’m sitting under the water. My landlord hates it ’cause the water bill is three times as high as everybody else’s, but I don’t tell her, “Hey, I sit in there for an hour because that’s where I get all my best ideas.” Anyway, so I was in the shower. It hit me and I was like, “Oh my God, I have to use the mystical power of the vagina to lure these people in.” If I can dangle that carrot, I will get every last one of those motherfuckers.”

All these people I was trying to get to were like Lil Wayne’s manager and were demographically 32-year-old black dudes in the Hip Hop world. So I was like, “Who would they have grown up jacking off to and loving?” I got on the internet and looked up Top 10 black **** stars and I picked No. 8 — popular but not conspicuous — Lacey Duvalle.

hitmusic: And that was the key.

Mikey Mike: I picked an email with Lacey.Duvalle1982 in it. If you put the birth year in, people just go, “Oh my god, it must be her.” Then I hit up everybody and they all got back to me immediately. To answer your question, I would say what it taught me about life is one, vaginas are incredibly magical. I knew they were magical, but now I knew they were even more magical and they knew no bounds.

Then the other thing it taught me, which has gone throughout my whole music career and then just in all of life, was that you have to do things your own way. You got to sneak in the back door. If everybody else is doing something one way, even if it’s the music they’re making, then I don’t want to make music that sounds like that. I don’t want to try to get on the same blogs everybody’s on. It taught me that you really got to blaze your own path if you want to have any chance at anything in life.

hitmusic: That’s what your whole video “Doin’ Me” is kind of about, right? That is another story in itself. I mean, the fact that somehow, it got to Rick Rubin and he’s like, “Hell yeah, let’s do this shit.” I am blown away. Rick Rubin is one of my heroes.

Mikey Mike: I had the same thing where he was the person that I always … I knew that what I was doing didn’t really fit in a pocket and if it went straight to a Hip Hop and urban crowd, they might not get it completely. If it went to a pop crowd, they might not get it. If they went to a rock crowd, I knew I would get some people from each of those.

So, I knew Rick was the guy that I had to get my music to because he’ll just get it. It’s not like taking it to some A&R, like Capitol, that has no idea what they’re doing. Not to say none of them do, but Rick was the guy in my eyes that I knew would get what I’m doing. When I got to sit there with him, the only validation I ever needed from anybody was that guy.

hitmusic: What was going through your mind when you’re sitting there across from him?

Mikey Mike: He’s so cool and calm and just awesome, that it’s really casual. I remember before I went over, I was reading something about Eminem. Before he went to meet Rick for the first time, he said he was really nervous and shaking and shit. So I’m like fuck, if Eminem was nervous, I might take a shit on his floor or something. Not literally. But anyway, then I got there and you just meet him. He’s like, “What’s up man? Come in.” And then it just feels like you’re talking to an old friend or something. I guess that’s one of his real allures is that he can put people in that space and at ease.

hitmusic: Right.

Mikey Mike: That’s probably why people get the best work being around him is because you feel like you’re sitting with an old friend who’s not judging anything you’re doing or saying. They’re just there and present. I was a little nervous to walk up there, but I wasn’t really nervous. And then when I met him, I wasn’t nervous at all.

hitmusic: That’s dope. I kind of got that from the HBO documentaries I was watching. I was like, “Oh man. He seems like he’s just so laid back.” He’s interested in learning about you just as much as you’re interested in learning about him. That’s what it felt like to me.

Mikey Mike: Yeah, definitely.

hitmusic: I guess that remains to be seen if I ever cross paths with him.

Mikey Mike: I think you would find that is the case.

hitmusic: Let’s back up a little bit. All of a sudden, people are emailing you back and want to work. How does one of your beats end up getting into Rihanna’s hands?

Mikey Mike: I wanted to get to this dude Tim Blacksmith who managed Stargate at the time. They were the biggest producers in pop. They were doing all Rihanna’s stuff. I couldn’t find his email. Then I saw on Twitter him talking to somebody and I went on their Twitter page and they had their email in their profile. I hit them up with the Lacey email and said, “Hey, do you happen to know Dan Blacksmith? I need to get in touch with him.” They were like, “Oh, of course. I can put you in touch with him.” So they gave me his email and then I would always try people like that, coming from me, for the first time. And then if it didn’t work, I would go to Lacey. So with them, I used Lacey to get their email but then hit them up as me. I gave him my artist’s music and just said, “Hey, yada yada,” and they hit me right back. The beat that ended up on Rihanna’s album, I had made for M.I.A.

hitmusic: Oh shit. Really?

Mikey Mike: I never meant to send it to them at all. So it was crazy. I remember Tim called and he was like, “Yo man, I think this beat might be the dark horse, mate.” He had this crazy accent. He was like, “I think this is the dark horse, man.” And I was like, “What are you talking about?” He’s like, “That M.I.A. beat, man.” I was like, “Oh shit, I sent that to you?” And he was like, “Yeah you did, bro. Yeah, you sent it.” I was like, “I didn’t mean to put it in there.” It was another kind of random act of God — the fact that that beat slipped in there and it became kind of the first big, big break that I had.

It gave me the money to move here and pursue all this shit. It was just the little things that could have been changed by one percent, kind of that butterfly effect thing that, if I hadn’t have accidentally sent that beat in the batch — I was probably hung over and didn’t even know what I was clicking and sent it — I probably wouldn’t be out here. I wouldn’t have had the money to come out here. None of this would have happened.

hitmusic: So you accidentally sent an M.I.A. beat to the Rihanna people by mistake.

Mikey Mike: Exactly. It wasn’t like something she has used. I made it for M.I.A. It sounded nothing like any of the other ones. I was sending all these Calvin Harris-y up-tempos and stuff for her to write to. So, yeah, that one just slipped in there and that was the one that went on.

hitmusic: Wow. And that won the Grammy, right?

Mikey Mike: The album did. It was on the album.

hitmusic: Do you still work with M.I.A. at all? Did you ever end up doing anything?

Mikey Mike: I never did. It was just something I made for her and was trying to get to her. A cool thing I remember is somebody tweeted her and was like, “Hey that ‘Jump’ song on Rihanna’s album, the beat was actually made for you.” And I remember, she tweeted back and she was like, “That’s the only song I liked on that.”

hitmusic: I was like, oh, that’s pretty dope.

Mikey Mike: That’s a great compliment. Granted, the whole finished song is a whole other story because they had these dudes, Chase & Status from the United Kingdom, add this dubstep part to it just — in my eyes — destroy it. When I heard it, I almost jumped out the window. It is what it is.

hitmusic: Yeah, I just revisited the Rihanna song and there’s no way I would’ve thought, “Oh, M.I.A. for this one.”

Mikey Mike: Yeah. It was just the main beat minus terrible stuff. No offense, but it was terrible. I’m actually still a little bit salty about it to be honest. Because it was the last single and if it hadn’t had that awful part, it could have done something.

Then you’ve got to go around and be like, I didn’t … For a year, people were like, “Oh, you did the ‘Jump’ track?” And I was like, “Yes, but disclaimer, I didn’t do the terrible dub step part. Never would have put that in there. It ruined the song.” People were like, “Yeah, it was strange. I wasn’t going to say anything, but that part was pretty awful, huh?” I was like, “You’re telling me, man.”

hitmusic: I understand.

Mikey Mike: It sucks, but it’s just part of it I guess.

hitmusic: You’ve come up with all these amazing ideas for marketing yourself — the child support posters, the “You’re lonely in L.A.” posters. Are you still doing that kind of marketing?

Mikey Mike: We just actually did it again. The album came out and we put out new flyers that said, “Have you seen this man?” And then it was an updated picture of me still looking deranged, but older, so you see the progression. Then instead of the 2.3 million child support, it says he’s dropped from the label, still laying pipe. Call this number.

hitmusic: (Laughs)

Mikey Mike: For me, I knew we’ve burned this one to the ground, but it’s so fun and it never gets old. I think that’s the most important part to me is that it’s fun. And when people see it on the street, they’re like, “What the hell is this?” I get a kick out of that just as much as the fact that it might actually promote the album. The promotion is a bonus.

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hitmusic: You set up a hotline for people to call?

Mikey Mike: That number that people will call, it started on the billboards. So, people would call it and troll it. Then people started calling and randomly asking for somebody to listen to, and I don’t know if it was a word of mouth thing, but people started calling and being like, “Yo, I’m having this going on and yada, yada, yada.” It just kind of turned into this organic therapy line more or less. Not that I have the best advice in the world, but I guess if you just listen, a lot of times the answer pops up if you have a completely outside perspective. So yeah, it started with all these people trolling and then it became this therapy thing and now, a lot of fans call it and random people. There’s people I keep in touch with that’ll hit me up once a week. It’s become a really interesting thing.

Mikey Mike: It’s cool for me too, because it gives me a sense of purpose besides the music, in the way that I’ve got 16-year-old kids that are calling up like, “Hey, I really like this girl and blah blah blah,” and all these things that I’ve been through and that, when you’re 16 or 20, you need guidance on. But it’s sometimes hard to talk about it with people you know. When you can call a stranger and just say anything, people tell me some crazy, crazy shit.

hitmusic: Wow. So how much time would you say you spend a day talking to people?

Mikey Mike: Just sporadically, all through the day. If I’m in the car, I’ll get a call and I’ll put it on speaker or if I’m walking somewhere. I stay on the phone, maybe an hour a day, but texting and going back and forth just kind of all day.

hitmusic: Yeah.

Mikey Mike: Sometimes, it’ll be a Saturday night and some kid will call, and I’m just sitting there kind of pre-gaming in my house before I leave. We’ll get on the phone and next thing you know, it’s like two hours later because it’s hard to leave when you feel like you’re really onto something with somebody, you know? In my head, I’m like, I’m going to go to a bar and getting trashed right now, or I could be here doing something that means something.

hitmusic: Yeah, like giving back.

Mikey Mike: It’s not hard to find those opportunities in life, I think. This kind of got presented to me in this way of like, here’s a way to just serve people and do something positive, and you don’t even have to leave your house to do it. You just pick up the phone.

hitmusic: Tell me about the show you’re doing with Isaac Heymann.

Mikey Mike: Streaming companies, they’ll give you data that says, “A 39-year-old male in Kalamazoo, Michigan played one song 3,764 times.” So the whole thing has become, how do I go find these people? Who the hell plays one of my songs almost four or five times a day since it was released? The craziest part is that we don’t even have the data for “Doin’ Me,” which is by far the biggest one.

When we get back to New York, the whole next tour we’re setting up and this will turn into a show and be tied into the people calling the line and roaming around and meeting these people. We’re just going to find the biggest listeners and playing for them and then playing in their town.

For more information on Mikey and the project, head to his website or call (323) 457-8794.

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