We can credit YouTube with a lot of things (from teaching us the important evolution of dance to keeping us up to date on Her parodies), but the YouTube sensation we’re most grateful is Maxine Ashley. The New York born and raised singer spent her teens posting videos of herself belting out Beyonce and Rihanna (you should watch them, they are really good) and racking up views. Lucky for Ashley, and for us, one of those viewers was Pharrell Williams (maybe you’ve heard of him?!) who took Ashley under his wing as his protege.
That was four years ago, and since then, Ashley has honed her pop-meets-R&B style. Her latest with Williams is “Perpetual Nights,” a groovy jam with a video that melds Jean Luc-Godard’s Breathless with Ashley’s New York brand of cool. “Pharrell is literally the coolest person on earth,” Ashley explains over the phone--her speaking voice just as honey-filled and dreamy as you’d imagine. “He allows me to be myself as much as possible and he sees the potential of the weirdness in me. He’s like, ‘You’re an aries, be fucking weird. Be as weird as you are.’ It’s comforting for me to hear this because people are so weirded out by shit. But he makes me feel comfortable just doing me, making mistakes and moving forward from it.“And if Ashley’s constantly changing hair color, growing list of tattoos and piercings, and ability to meld genres like pop blacksmith are the weirdness Pharell is encouraging, we are so for it. Part of the reason Ashley’s rise to the top is so great to follow is because she’s never the same twice. “Erykah Badu, Sade, Gwen Stefani in the No Doubt era, India Arie, and Outkast are some of my favorite artists--mostly people with their own personality really inspire me” she says, and it shows. Listen to her debut EP Mood Swings and watch her video for “Perpetual Nights” below for proof--we promise you’ll be hooked.
band crush: maxine ashley
pharrell’s protege is the new artist you need to know.