Aspiring hip-hop star Richard W. Maye ’04 has received a lot of puzzled phone calls lately.
“One of my friends called me up and said, ‘I saw you on TV,’” Maye says with a grin. “That was cool. I didn’t realize that was going to happen.”
The Quincy resident’s music video has made the semifinal round of the “Best Music on Campus” contest, sponsored by the MTV-affiliated College Television Network (CTN).
Viewers next have the chance to vote for their favorite video among the ten semifinalists—including Maye—on CTN’s website until Nov. 2, when the competitors will be cut to three. Then the Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams and executives from Dreamworks and Atlantic Records will select the winning video on Nov. 17.
Maye need not wait until then to reap the perks of fame, though. His video, along with those of the other semifinalists, is already in the network’s video rotation.
Making the Video
The perks of winning the competition include co-hosting an episode of CTN’s video show, “Freshman,” and having the winning video in an episode of MTV’s “Advance Warning.” The video’s song will also get a spot as a bonus track on one of the “MTV Advance Warning” CDs, which promote up and coming artists identified by the television network.
Maye, known as Rich Power among his friends, didn’t plan for any of this. He entered the contest only after one of his high school friends found out about it. It seemed like a good way to make use of a music video they had made two years earlier.
“We did the video without knowing where we were going to show it—it was just to have it done,” Maye says.
With just one song—“For the Love”—and the desire to explore the inner-workings of the music industry, Maye left his home in the Bronx and headed to Los Angeles, where he says there’s never a shortage of aspiring directors.
In California Maye met the video’s director, University of Michigan graduate Brandon Kraines, and along with a crew of two others, proceeded to film most of the video in picturesque L.A. locales.
Most of the video’s scenes show Maye lounging pool-side, perched on a cliff overlooking a beach or walking among L.A. residents. Yet one thing remains constant despite the Maye’s ever-changing location in the video—he’s always intently writing what appear to be lyrics on the pages of his notebook.
This detail alludes to the meaning of the song itself, which Maye says centers on the stereotypical “thug” image that tends to be associated with hip-hop artists, and which he says doesn’t apply to him.
“I’m not doing this because I feel like I’m going to get a record deal, or I feel like I’m going to sell a million records. I’m really just doing this music because I like doing it—I feel like I have to do it, it’s a passion,” Maye says.
Out of the ten chosen semifinalists, Maye’s video stands out for being the sole hip-hop entry in a pool dominated by alternative rock videos.
Joining Maye in the video is the woman who lends a voice to the song’s chorus, Melissa Providence, an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania.
“She has a really beautiful spirit, really enjoys doing music and performing,” Maye says.
His New York background was precisely what allowed Maye to put his musical interests to good use—specifically, within the prestigious Collegiate School for boys in Manhattan. Described by Maye as “a pretty rich school,” its broad selection of musical equipment allowed Maye to experiment with different sounds.
“I started messing around with the computers and keyboards that they had there, and started sequencing music. That’s basically how I got into it,” Maye says of his early musical activities.
Although he played both the piano and the violin while growing up, his secret musical routine was to imitate the hip-hop songs he heard on the radio, thereby familiarizing himself with the particularities of the genre.
“That’s basically how I got into hip-hop—I wasn’t necessarily bred in a musical house, or around a lot of people who did hip-hop,” Maye says.
Maye says that the musical opportunities he had at Collegiate are not fully met by Harvard’s resources.
“I never really considered studying music at Harvard, simply because I don’t have much training in Western classical music. So I can’t really pursue my interests using Harvard’s resources, except for things like the Quad’s sound studio,” he says.
Maye applauds recent efforts made by Harvard’s own students to supplement the University’s limited musical offerings, particularly the still-in-planning Veritas record label.
“I feel like I personally know a lot of really talented musicians here, and a lot of the most talented ones don’t really have any publicity at all—I could just as easily not know them,” Maye says with a shrug of his shoulders. “So I think it’s a good idea for students to take into their hands the responsibility of exposing their fellow students’ music.”
Maye thinks that the success that Harvard-affiliated musical acts have had speaks for itself.
“I’m glad that people like Justice League have gotten out there and are performing,” Maye says. “There’s a great tradition of music at Harvard—look at Weezer,” he adds.