Commentary

Duke's hip-hop national champion

Originally Published: April 9, 2010
By Matthew Iles | Special to Page 2

Mike Posner is a cocky Duke kid.

Many consider that redundant, a description applicable to the entire student body. And it's a perception that's only grown sharper since the Blue Devils spoiled The Greatest Cinderella Story Ever en route to the program's fourth national championship.

But Posner is different. The pop singer/songwriter, with a record deal already inked and his debut album slated for September, is more likely to make a splash in the pros than any current Duke hoopster.

In fact, his meteoric rise has been downright astonishing.

As a freshman, he made beats in his dorm room with far-off visions of becoming a big-time hip-hop producer.

As a sophomore, he started singing over his own tracks and performed his first live show at a local Durham bar.

As a junior, he released his first mix tape, took meetings with label reps (including Jay-Z) during finals week, and signed a deal with J Records, which represents Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx and Alicia Keys, among others.

As a senior, he fulfilled a promise to his parents to finish school -- attending class throughout the week and playing multiple shows every weekend around the country. He performed on stage with the likes of Drake, Wale, Akon, 50 Cent, N.E.R.D. and Kid Cudi, all while earning a 3.59 GPA.

But everyone tastes success sometimes. Is it really an excuse to be cocky?

In Posner's case, maybe.

When the his mic cut off mid-song at a concert, the entire crowd finished it for him. When the Blue Devils warmed up before every home game this season, his music served as their hype-up song. And when the team visits the White House to commemorate the title, he'll be there, too.

Okay, not that last part. But even Coach K thinks he's got what it takes.

Page 2 caught up with Posner to see what life is like after graduation, where he draws his inspiration, and what he has planned next.

You scored the intro song for all the Blue Devils' home games. They went undefeated in Cameron Indoor Stadium and won the national championship. Do you expect to at least get a ring out of this?

No, I don't expect a ring at all. [Laughs] I'm close with Jon [Scheyer] and Nolan [Smith]. When I would do shows around Duke, they were always at my shows. Not backstage, but in the crowd. I was bummed I couldn't make it to Indy to support on a personal level because they were always so supportive of me.

How did it feel to earn such significant support from Duke basketball?

I'll never forget. I was walking out of class, and my phone rang: "Hey Mike, it's [associate head coach] Steve Wojciechowski."

I almost dropped the phone. I'm the biggest Wojo fan, because I feel like I'm the Wojo of the music industry. I work harder than everyone and that's how I get ahead even though no one thinks I can.

He had called to congratulate me. I told him, "This is still the preseason. I'm blowing everyone out by 40, which is great, but you haven't seen nothing yet. I'm sure winning the national championship is your goal every year. So don't congratulate me yet. Because that's my goal, too."

What does "winning the national championship" mean for you in your music career?

I get into trouble when people ask me that question.

Why?

Because I sound cocky when I say I'm going to do things before I do them. Maybe I'll be on a podium somewhere and I'll let you know then.

You used to record tracks for other artists. Then, you went off on your own when you "couldn't see anyone else singing" the songs you were creating. Explain.

There's just not another artist out there like me. The way I put things in my songs, nobody else does. If I thought anybody else could do it, I'd quit. That's why people have gravitated to my songs, and I sell out tours without even having an album yet.

Is life easier now that you've graduated?

It's not easier, it's just more stuff to do now. When I was in school, I would do three, four shows a week then back to Duke. Now, I'll be on the road for two, three weeks at a time. It's easier to accomplish what I want to accomplish. School was awesome, and I'm proud of what I did ... Now it's time for phase two.

You finished school despite already signing a record deal because you wanted to make your parents proud. What was it like to fulfill that promise?

They can't be mad at me ever now, pretty much. I'm going back in May to do the whole graduation ceremony -- walk across the stage, flip the tassel -- so I'm excited to spend one last night at Duke.

But I can't wait for the world to hear this music. And I promise, it's going to be very impactful.

For more Mike Posner, you can hear his music and check out his tour schedule on mikeposner.com.

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