The rising sensation on her new song with G-Eazy and working with Tricky Stewart.
Showcasing her genre-bending style with insurmountable energy is rising R&B star MK xyz, with her summer dance anthem “Pass It”. With dance breaks that’ll have you busting out a routine and cheeky lyricism, MK xyz provides us with an addictive R&B/hip-hop fusion, enlisting former Rollacoaster cover star G-Eazy for the ride. Accompanied by an impressive music video shot by Vanessa Beletic, the rising star adds elements of noughties R&B rhythms for a dance floor-filler tune.
Speaking on the tune the singer said, “My first time on the west coast was in LA & Vegas. ‘Pass It’ became the baby born from that first experience, sort of like I was a west coast virgin. But it’s a whole vibe in Cali. I had so much fun with Hitmaka and Chrishan trying to hit the nail on the head in translating that vibe sonically.”
Riding off the wave of her seductive hit “Lost”, MK xyz has been gaining attention for her fierce lyricism and captivating dancing ability. Now ready to take the world by storm, we caught up with the rising star and talked early beginnings, pushing boundaries and working with super-producer Tricky Stewart.
Check out the interview below…
When did you start calling yourself a singer, songwriter, and dancer?
If I’m giving an age it would be the age of 3. I started to officially call myself a singer/songwriter dancer really when I was younger because I was always prepped to sing and began writing on my own at a young age. Artist development with my mom was almost second nature to me. Not even knowing that I was doing these things and really just exercising the muscle. So, as a dancer, artist, singer/songwriter, it’s really who I have been all my life.
Where does the name “MK xyz” come from and what does it mean to you?
MK is short for Makaila which is my name and the XYZ represents the part of myself that I couldn’t define. It also serves as a community for other people who have that part of themselves that they don’t want to box into a label or don’t really know how to express it, but they know that it exists. That part of them is the xyz.
In 2019 you recorded the R&B track “Lost” about relationship boundaries and feeling you don’t have all the answers, yet taking a leap of faith; how did that prepare you for what is currently going on in the world?
After I released “Lost”, a lot of fans expressed to me that the song has helped them get through this quarantine and also deal with loss at this time coincidentally. The song “Lost” really allows you to be connected with all the different parts of you that might feel that way and really take the time to sit still and have music be that safe haven. That’s really what the song felt like to me because for me music is also a safe haven. Creating “Lost” and releasing it, I really wanted to share that different part of me with other people so I could talk about the experience and overall being an artist and what that journey looks like for me emotionally.
What has changed for you in a positive way during the pandemic?
My emotional and spiritual growth. I didn’t necessarily go into the quarantine thinking about growth. I was thinking about how I was going to respond to the pandemic, but because everything has spiralled politically and racially, I have had to find ways to cope and express all the different emotions and energies that are going through my mind. So, one of the most awesome things that I have been thankful for during this time is that I can just sit still with myself and go through this period of transformation with its highs and lows and fully accept that and be aware.
It sounds like your fans helped you trust yourself more, tell us about that process of feeling “at home” on stage with them? How are you feeling that vibe during home stay, being unable to be in the physical presence of fans?
If it wasn’t for my fans, I have no idea! Being home alone and being able to connect and learn more about them has been one of the advantages of this time. I have been able to go live on social media and share my platform with them. I love hearing about all the different things my fans and supporters have been getting into, whether it be new businesses or just talking about life and how it has changed for them during quarantine. It’s been a different way to connect because we all have been turning to social media since there is no other way to connect. As a result, you are able to see all the different things they are doing and are willing to share with you. It’s a lot more content since we are all spending so much time at home. I really, really, have to thank my fans, because as far as me not feeling alone, they definitely have helped with that process. Even the digital shows I have been able to do, they still get that taste of what it would be like for my in-person performances but there is a different level of appreciation when it’s online and digital-only.
When you posted videos of yourself covering songs like Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin'” and Daniel Caesar and H.E.R.’s “Best Part” you were also studying biochemistry at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Did you intend for those videos to help launch your art career? Do you feel like biochemistry is still in your future?
When I went to college, I was a first-generation student so for me it was all about how I can make the most out of my college experience. How can I be extremely successful? I’m the first to go, I want to be the first to bring it home and to do it at my best. So, when I went away to school, I wasn’t thinking about being on Instagram in hopes that it would start my career. I just used social media as a pastime in the beginning. It wasn’t something that I was thinking to be consistent with and hopefully it would bring a record deal. I was just like any other young adult I was using the platform for fun just to be expressing myself. And then as I started to curate a page of my taste and how I felt I was 1000%. I always said if I’m going to be on social media whatever I choose to share it’s going to be raw, it’s going to be me so if you were to meet me in person that is exactly how I am. The universe just aligned it so that it was the turning point for me.
As far as biochemistry, I studied both biology and chemistry. I don’t want to muddy them together too much. I definitely want to find a way to integrate that with my career in the future. Whether it be a foundation or research that I can contribute to, I would love to invest or donate to that in the future. I also would love to finish my degree eventually. It’s just about timing and what I am able to do realistically with me being so devoted and laser-focused on my music career.
Super-producer/songwriter Tricky Stewart found those videos and was impressed by your high and low octave range, when he reached out what were your thoughts? How did he help you develop as an artist?
Tricky Stewart is one of my greatest mentors, I’m absolutely thankful and grateful that I met him. He’s really opened doors for me. When he first reached out, it was very general like “I think we could make magic together”. It wasn’t super structured like “these are my hopes, these are my dreams”. It was more of a vibe and it was super organic and just feeling it out. From there, one thing led to the next and I just felt like I’m going to take this time to really trust him, trust the journey, trust the process and learn all that I can. Whatever happens. It can be lessons; it can be one of the greatest things that can ever be, but just allowing myself to seize the moment. It’s been amazing so far, I’ve already learned so much about the industry as far as the business behind the scenes and I have also learned what it takes to be an artist and an overall musical athlete. It’s something that’s ongoing. As years go by and time goes on, I’m just going to grow and excel. He and I when we met it was just a match made. Shoutout to Tricky Stewart!
How has the current civil movement impacted you?
As a woman of colour in the south, I was exposed to discrimination early on in my life. Everything that we are experiencing right now has been something that people of colour, specifically black people have never been dismissive of. I actually was in downtown Atlanta when the protests started and was there to witness all of this go on. It was something that I’ve always been aware of but the world shifted in a different way with everybody as a union collectively going out there protesting and putting their lives on the line. Now as an artist, not just as an artist but as a person, I stand by this – everyone has to have something that they stand for. I will continue to fight and be an activist for it in any and everything I do in the best way that I can.
When you feel a dark moment coming on you meditate and paint to keep your mind right, what kind of practice of meditation do you suggest? How did you find painting? What do you suggest for people struggling with their own dark times?
During this time of quarantine and civil unrest, painting was one of those things that helped me. It was a very healing form of meditation for me. When I didn’t know what to do and where to go. I was wrapped up in my thoughts. a lot of the time. I could paint that picture and it allowed me to hold that moment and remember it and not dismiss that emotion or feeling. It’s really capturing that moment. I think that for other people, I know that a lot of my other friends and family members are also doing that. Not even that you have to be consistent with it, but I know that there are moments where I felt inspired, my friends felt inspired. Art has always been a way of escape, a way of really taking moments, whether you are going through depression, loss, or grieving, or just trying to find yourself through healing. Painting has always been one of the greatest, if not the greatest ways to really depict that in all the different mediums. Painting, songwriting, singing, playing music… sometimes it’s just the act of thinking and really laying your thoughts out and organizing them and starting with how do I work on this and that, so you find your own way of doing your soul work (is what I like to call it). For me it’s been a multitude of things. Painting and creating other forms of content is what stuck out to me the most.
At 14 years old, you defined your sexuality to your family, friends and public, posting content on social media showing how you were living your truth, you have had fans share that your sharing helped them accept themselves, even some choosing to live over suicide: with such a massive contribution to your community already, how did this impact you?
For me it definitely is something that I don’t take lightly. At all. Mental health is such a big thing for me. It’s something that I’ve learned to be patient with myself in acknowledging things and accepting things because it is important that we take care of each and look out for each other. So, when young fans are coming to me and they are like you have helped me get through this depression or you’ve helped me come out to my parents. Especially in the community, I’ve seen many people get disowned. I’ve seen a lot of different things happen which is an experience that I had to acknowledge privilege. MY parents didn’t disown me and that was a privilege that I had to acknowledge. A lot of my friends who have had negative experiences especially in the family which is your first socializing agent. You think ok how can you help relate, how can you understand somebody else. For me it was a lot of talking and communicating and sitting there and hearing them out. Whether it be my friends, other family members, fans and supporters that I met through social media platforms, I spent a lot of time really learning about them and them seeing me be so raw and authentic to myself, they saw that I didn’t want to box myself in. It’s a lot of what the xyz stands for. Even now the fans that have supported me for years, there’s this community, this thing about me that makes sense and I don’t have to sit here and figure out what to label it or what to name it. It just is what it is.
You’ve said you understand there’s a responsibility that comes with how you choose to influence, what advice do you have for people struggling with their own truth?
I think everybody has a time. For me, I definitely had moments of struggling, I still have moments of struggling and it’s a matter owning up to it and holding yourself accountable for the things you haven’t learned yet or experienced. You have to understand everybody has their own timing. It’s going to make sense. If you want it to make sense, put it out in the universe that you want to learn more about yourself and not what you think you are supposed to be. For me that’s how I have been moving since I was a young teenager to now as a young adult. I just wanted to be able to be free from a lot of things that I thought I was supposed to be, those expectations and not even adhering to that by just creating new looks and different angles, being able to tap into different parts of myself and being raw and honest, not what I think it’s’ supposed to be.
You teamed up with Bay Area’s G- Eazy on “Pass It,” how did they happen and what did you want fans to feel from that song?
That song is honestly not only an introduction of who I am playfully, but it also is just for you to have a good time. I did that song when I was in Vegas for my birthday. It’s just super west coast vibes and energy and as a dancer it just moved me creating that record.
Who else would you most like to collaborate with?
Chika, Billie Eilish, and some of my OG’s like Missy Elliot! It would be dope to be in a video with Missy Elliot, I am a huge fan of hers.
What is your writing process?
As a dancer, my body is where my energy is and I like to move first. My writing process is a lot of my body responding to sound and then melodies and then lyrics come from there.
Being a dancer, what are the physical ways you stay in shape? What’s your favourite music to dance to?
I love Latin Music, Dancehall, Reggaeton and Afrobeats. Staying in shape really comes from a lot of focus on my diet. Still getting the athletic and working out part down but it’s really mostly my diet that allows me to be healthy and stay in shape.
Which fashion designers do you like most both known and unknown?
I love what Jerry Lorenzo is doing at Fear of God and I’m a fan of the creative direction and styling from Kerby Jean Raymond who founded Pyer Moss.
Do you have any music you’re loving right now that we may not know of?
There are a few indie artists I love. I discovered this group called Midnight Trust and another called Crumb. I also love listening to Harry Styles’ new record Watermelon Sugar a lot.
Which sounds help you get out of a funk?
Music that is super peaceful. I love Alina Beraz. I’ve listened to her whole album hella times. She definitely knows how to get me out of a funk
Who has been your biggest inspiration and helped you through hard times the most?
Family and friends are my biggest inspirations but as far as idols definitely Queen Latifah, I’ve always looked up to her. She has always been one of my biggest inspirations from her being a Cover Girl model, her many roles in different films, her music, being a rapper in the game and also, as a fashion icon! She is fire!
When the world opens back up, what is the first thing you want to do?
Tour! I would love to go on tour as soon as the world opens