On the hazy opening track to Mahji’s debut EP, Crybby Blue, Mahji sings “Mary Jane, Mary Jane/take away my pain.” His soulful and slightly raspy voice flutters over the atmospheric alternative R&B production.
Mahji, a rising R&B star from Norfolk, Virginia, is the latest subject of “New Artist Spotlight.” Mahji is as gifted a lyricist as he is a vocalist; he is an artist with a fully-realized sound. I sat down with Mahji for a quick interview to get some insight into his vision, inspiration, and next steps!
What inspired you to start singing and making music?
Music was one of those things that ran in my bloodline… it’s more genetic! [laughs] But it also became an outlet for me, personally, becuase that’s how I express myself.
What is your earliest musical memory?
I was in elementary school and I had to act out and play the piano while reciting the legendary Stevie Wonder’s life story and major achievements. It was like a audio biography for music class. It was fun and challenging in a way because I had to act like Stevie wonder (head movements and all) while playing the piano!
Who are your biggest vocal influences?
Wanya Morris from Boys II Men, Mariah Care, and Donell Jones!
Who are your biggest songwriting influences?
Missy Elliott, Kamillion, Mariah Carey, and Babyface.
What is the inspiration behind your stage name and the title of the EP?
My god daughter, Kaidence, named me [laughs]! My real name is Mario and she couldn’t say it. Instead she would say MAHJI (ma-gee) so my bestfriend, Chelsea, started calling me Mahji as well. I was going through some things at that time in my life where I just buried myself in music. Because I was someone else before I became “Mahji,” it’s kind of like I found myself again. Somehow, I did that even while going through things like terrible breakup, giving up my apartment… and it gets deeper than that though. All that being said, I’ve cried a lot, I’ve felt blue om most days (in private), so I came up with CRYBBYBLUE.
On “Rather Be Alone,” you shift from the mid tempo sound that dominates most of the EP into a lot uptempo sound. Why close the EP that way?
Honestly, I knew people wouldn’t have expected it. It’s a bop for the summer and it gives you that real R&B feeling from the early 2000s. I feel the music industry needs that. I could dig even deeper… originally, I wrote the song for Keyshia Cole, but that’s another story for another day!
Your voice sounds a bit fuzzy and muffled at times on the music which really accentuates how emotional the lyrics are, is this a vocal styling you are going to further explore?
I’m glad you bought this up because in fact that is a vocal styling of my own. When I get in the studio nowadays, the best way to actually deliver the emotions I want my listeners to feel is by actually feeling them myself. I’m a stoner; I get in my feelings a lot, so I can take you anywhere you wanna go.
All time Top 5 songs? Favorite song right now?
1. Xscape, “Do You Want To”
2. Jesse Powell, “You”
3. Tyrese, “Sweet Lady”
4. Joe, “All The Things (Your Man Won’t Do)”
5. Mariah Carey, “Babydoll”
My favorite song right now is “Shotgun” by Future!
Any news about the album you’re willing to share?
Yes! I worked very hard on this tape and there’s a part 2 of the tape coming out. You asked me why I ended the tape with “Rather Be Alone.” I sequenced the tape that way because I want people to get ready for the second project coming later this year! The first single is already out and it’s titled “One Night Stand.” I’m working on so many things connected to this tape. I’m excited and nervous all at the same time! Most importantly, I can’t wait to share the visuals for “Mary Jane” and “One Night Stand!” I’m excited!