Meet Maceo Paisley
Maceo Paisley’s sense of style makes a young, polo shirt-wearing Kanye West look like his mom dressed him for his first day of school. His straw boater hat is straight out of The Great Gatsby, and his bright red glasses pop against his dark complexion and lead your eyes down toward his cardigan and tie. "I’ve always liked bright colors," the young rapper tells me at the whiskey lounge at Milk Los Angeles. "Bright, fun patterns kind of express who I am. I think style is a really, really important way of communicating to people who you are because it’s the first thing people see about you. So when people look at me, I want them to understand exactly what I’m about. Some people might not like it. Some people will. I feel like the ones that do will probably end up being the people that I want to hang out with anyway and the ones that don’t get it… we probably just wouldn’t get each other as much, but I like them anyways."
Although Maceo’s wardrobe stands out like a flamingo perched in an evergreen, nothing seems forced or out of place. Quite the opposite, actually — Maceo looks like a perfectly dressed mannequin in a Barney’s window display, all the way down to the brightly colored socks that he designed himself. "I’ve always worn fun, colorful socks. I think it’s a great way to add a touch of style to any outfit. I started getting known for it and people would come up to me and ask me where I got my socks. So many people were asking me that I figured maybe I should try and play with some designs of my own and see what people think and it did really well. Now I have some designs in American Apparel and on my site paisleysockwear.com. It’s just fun, I really just try and have a good time doing it."
Maceo’s vibrant style and desire to instigate a good time all the time comes out in his first single Vacation. "Yeah, I made the song for people who are driving to work or at their daily grind that just need to have some fun," he says. "I always want people to have a really good time when they’re listening to my music. I mean, I like that there is all kinds of music out there. I like listening to music that’s deep and heartfelt and sad and I like listening to music that’s hard and heavy just as much. All that music has a place in people’s lives and in their record collections, but I want my music to represent happiness. So with Vacation, I wanted it to feel like summer time when you’re young and school’s out. That’s why you see all the mini-mes in the video too, it’s all about me being like Willie Wonka or something and taking you away from your problems to a place like the chocolate factory where you can turn into a kid again."
The video shows Maceo dancing like Gene Kelly as he tries to win the heart of his newfound love interest. Maceo might be light on his toes, but he was never classically trained: "No, I never took dance lessons. I just have always liked to dance. I’d just watch Michael Jackson or Fred Astaire and just try and mimic what they do a little bit, and then just do my own stuff that comes naturally. Dancing is just sorta something that you’re born wanting to do, some people might get embarrassed and not want to do it in front of people, but secretly everybody can get down when they’re alone."
Maceo’s been writing rhymes and coining new dance moves since he was little, but you won’t find any of that info on Wikipedia because the rapper is still so new to the game he doesn’t have one. "Yeah, nine months isn’t that long for someone, but I’m happy with everything that’s happened so far. I’ve been recording and working a lot and we’re going to keep putting out new videos and things as the singles come together – at least in the beginning. I still don’t have a crazy amount of views or anything, but it’s cool to see the people that the video has reached. I mean, I’m sitting here doing an interview at Milk Studios, so obviously some of the right people are seeing it."
“I have a really good team of people I work with,” Maceo continues. “Sometimes I’ll write everything out before I get [to the studio] and we can just lay it all out when I get a beat. It’s been really cool just getting in the studio and just free styling and seeing what comes out when we all start working together. I write a lot of poetry; I always have cause I just need to for my own sake, but there is something different that comes out of collaborating with talented people that I feel couldn’t be born from just one person and their poetry. So that’s all new and I’m having a good time doing it.”
As our conversation goes on, Maceo begins to remind me a lot of the interviews I’ve seen of Will Smith when he was still The Fresh Prince. He’s well-spoken, driven and isn’t worried about being honest when talking about the things he’s still learning or about what his biggest fears are. “If the me now could go back and teach the young me something… I mean, there’s a video of BJ Tanner, one of the kids in the Vacation music video, that we shot while we were on set. The kid is such a fun little goofball, he’s totally fearless and hasn’t gotten to that point where he’s nervous around people or embarrassed to try things and have fun. That’s how a lot of kids are. That’s how I was.
“Then you get into high school and you have experiences that make you feel dumb or nervous and so you stop wanting to just put yourself out there. I wish I could tell the young me to not let that stuff affect him. All it does is slow you down or make you be less of the person you are. Then you have to relearn how to be bravely honest if you really want to go places and, especially as a performer or a public speaker or writer or whatever, to have a real affect on people. When I write a lot of my music, I’m not just talking to other people, I’m really talking to myself. I’m telling myself stuff that I want to learn and giving myself permission to be a certain way, you know? I think if you were able to talk to all the best song writers and poets that are trying to teach people lessons, a lot of them would tell you the same thing, that they are writing the lessons as much for themselves as anyone else.”
Photographer: Anthony Cabaero
Producer: Michael Bitar
Stylist: Joey Thao
Photo Assistant: Oscar Orosco
Delorean owner: Ryan Conferido