by Mimi Chang
Photography by Jason Barbagelott & Van Van Alonso | Fashion by Lisa Bae
It’s no secret that the Bronx breeds musical talent. Maxine Ashley is no exception and is not one to be slept on. Broken into the music scene at age 13, the singer / songwriter is no stranger to the industry and intends to run it by her own rules.
Maxine is a true force to be reckoned with, donning a cast for her broken wrist as we speak to prove it. She got into a fight just days before.
“It’s one of those things where I get tunnel vision,” Maxine laughs, “I was walking home. This girl, she’s screaming out her window like, ‘Shut the fuck up, bitch!’ And i’m just like, ‘No girl. You’re gonna get your ass beat. You can’t do that.’”
But Maxine isn’t just a literal fighter.
“Throughout my whole career, it’s been nothing but a battle, really.” She explains, “People [were] trying to mold me to things and I’m just like, ‘Yo I love myself bro. You can’t make me change me.’ And even if what [they’re] saying is correct, imma have to figure it out for myself.Let me do me. Let me fall, let me get up. At the end of the day I know I’m talented.”
And so does Pharrell Williams, who signed Maxine when she was 17 years young. Soon after, Maxine put out an independent mixtape with Alicia Keys’ go-to producer, Kerry Brothers Jr. Aside from the music business, she’s most recently co-signed with one of the highest regarded makeup artists, Pat McGrath, as the face of her new beauty line.
Maxine has collected major merits throughout her career, but her biggest personal accomplishment?
“Having more control.” Maxine boasts, “[My path has] taught me to be an amazing business woman. I needed a lot of attention. I’m not gonna call you. [I’m going to] knock on your door and be like, ‘Wassup, what we doin?’.”
Not having received the attention she needed got frustrating, but Maxine soon realized she was capable of putting matters into her own hands.
“It was part of the universe telling me, ‘Yeah, you a great artist, but you strong headed as fuck. You know what you want, so learn how to do all these things so you can get it. Learn how to be the A&R. Learn how to be the management.’ [Now] I know what i’m talking about.”
Maxine started to call the shots, which caused quite the stir when she abruptly dropped the music video for her single, “Lobster” without the okay from her management.
“There’s always going to be a battle to put one fucking piece of music out. I had such a fucking argument with [Lobster].” Maxine explains, “Why am I waiting to put this [music video] out? Just put it out! If you’re not trying to spend money on me and put a million dollars towards me like everyone else, whatever fine then imma put this shit out and let it grow its own legs.”
Amidst the shit that seems to work against her, the songstress has a close circle to keep her level headed and focused.
“My mother had me at 15. At first she just felt like my sister. I knew her in her 20s and I was already hitting my teens. She has an attitude problem. I have an attitude problem. But we grew up. She became my best friend. When things get to a certain point and I need to speak to someone, I talk to her. She makes it sounds so simple. My grandma is crazy as fuck. She wild. There’s no like, ‘Girl just calm down.’ That’s my mother. My grandma [on the other hand is] like, ‘Bitch fuck her up. Why you let her talk?’.” Maxine laughs, “When I was in the studio while living in LA, my best friends would be in my house drinking and chilling with my mom. They would FaceTime me screaming like, ‘We lit!!’ Yup, that’s my family.”
Following what may have seemed like a few dormant months to the outsider, Maxine is ready to show the world what she has been brewing up.
“I’m working so hard behind the scenes. I want things to be a surprise and I have so much shit I’m developing to put out. I put my own money into it and I’m really proud and happy about it.”
As an artist that relies on real, raw emotions to create new work, Maxine’s latest drop “Happy (With or Without You),” is a smooth transition from her last mixtape Mood Swings.
“[My music reflects] pretty much what’s happening with me right now. My current relationships, what I want from my future.. That’s why I named my first mixtape Mood Swings because it allowed me to make songs connected to whatever emotion I [was in] currently. ‘Happy (With or Without You)’ is about any relationship, whether it’s friends, business, boyfriend, girlfriend. And that battle [of how] they can get me so tight, but I’m also crazy.”
There is something truly honorable about the way Maxine has been navigating her career. Rather than blindly pumping out content after content, she took the time to fall back, learn and master all the ropes and come out with work that speaks true to her character.
“I can’t fake things because it makes you feel uncomfortable and it makes everyone else feel uncomfortable. It makes things awkward. I had to separate myself from what people think is amazing like, ‘Wow, you’re signed to Pharrell and you get to be around all these celebrities.’ But what good are they to me if i can’t even take advantage for myself? I didn’t feel good being around successful people when I myself haven’t reached success yet. Like you’re part of the club, but not really. That was my situation. It was actually a learning curve i had to go through. I probably would have been out with more music a long time ago but you know because of it I have more inspiration from it and more things to talk about.”
And how exactly does Maxine measure success? The limit does not exist.
“You know there’s always levels of success you gotta reach,” she challenges, “You know I can win a Grammy and there’s still five more Grammys I gotta win. I can have a hit single there’s still five more hit singles. You gotta pass through levels of success.”
Hair by Victor Felipe
Makeup by Silver Bramham
Photo Assistant: Jim Swill
For the full story and more content, get your copy of Phosphenes #4 – “Music”