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Judnick Mayard, who also goes by Nikki,r is the kind of behind the scenes operator who has an outsize effect on the context in which you hear some of the most impactful artists of today, whether you know it or not.
We wanted to talk to her because her resume is basically a list of the different types of experience you’d need to get if you wanted to know everything about the music industry without having to perform — just look at her LinkedIn: event producer, including corporate clients, club booker, VIP coordinator on tours, advertising and assisting at a magazine.
There’s more that she hasn’t listed there tho. She also works directly with artists, in management type roles, helping steer and support people as they present their work to the world. She brings her perspective as a writer to bear as she thinks about what information should be imparted and when and how.
What she’s doing in all those different capacities is liaising between the world of artists and the world of listeners. From what I’ve seen there’s a looooot of miscommunication happening between those worlds, and people like Nikki, who live in both, can give musicians confidence that they can make what they most want to make and listeners can be prepared to receive it.
Nikki’s voice is important. We’re really grateful she gave us so much of her time and insight. And we’re really glad you have the opportunity to hear what she has to say.
JUDNICK MAYARD: And I'm Judnick Mayard, but everybody calls me Nikki.
FRANNIE KELLEY: Thank you for coming.
JUDNICK MAYARD: You're welcome. Thanks for having me. Thanks for having me.
FRANNIE: No. We're really really happy to talk to you.
JUDNICK MAYARD: I didn't actually think you were asking me to be on the podcast when you asked me.
ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD: Why not?
FRANNIE: What did you think?
JUDNICK MAYARD: Did she tell you that?
JUDNICK MAYARD: I looked at the guests, and I was like, "Me? Are you putting in a request through me or are you asking me?" And she was like, "No. Really." And I was like, "OK. Yeah. I love being on podcasts."
FRANNIE: No. I mean, I think that you occupy a really important place kind of between musicians and people who listen to music. It's a place that people might not even know exists. But I think that you have outsized influence on artists and fans, and so I think that it's important that we hear from you. Because people have a lot of misinformation.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yeah, I think one of the best things about what I do is that it is – for all intents and purposes, it's an old practice in a new frame.
JUDNICK MAYARD: And so now to look on the Internet and see younger people calling themselves producers or manager, really giving themselves the right titles for the in-between of stuff, is really cool. But for me, I didn't even know what to call myself till like three years ago, and I still occupy so many titles. And I just always knew that I wanted to be behind the scenes.
So I feel like most people think about working in the business as a spectrum of proximity to fame, and so you either really want to be famous, or you really want to be close to people that are famous cause you don't think that you have anything to be famous about or you want to kind of live – for me, it was I wanted to live a life where I could do a lot of things that are reserved for people who are famous, but I did not want any part of, like, being known or – I just, I don't really like people that much. So I just didn't really want anything front-facing. I didn't want to be front-facing in that way.
So yeah, it's cool. Now, at 32, I look back at how long I've been doing everything I've been doing, and even though it never really made any sense to me, I always felt like I was jumping around, I really am now able to put more into words like, "OK. This is what I do. This is my skill set." And it spreads throughout certain different industries, and it can manifest in different ways and under different titles, but it's still at its core the same thing. So.
FRANNIE: Can you say what that is?
JUDNICK MAYARD: I – amongst a million other things that I do, I'm a producer. So for me, when I say producer, everybody asks like, "Music production?" And I'm like, "Ha ha ha. Great thinking, but not the same thing." So for me, production is basically making anything come to life. So if it is music, a song, or if it is, for me, what I do, which is basically – I do experiential events, which is where I started, so it was kind of making – bringing brands and music and whatever else needed to happen – when you see festivals, pop ups, concerts, all those things are experiences, so producing is basically making it happen, producing it, showing up and building it from the ground up.
And I've been able to parlay that into a career that really has worked in media, and then now more to the sides of the artists. So now I'm that person that's really putting together an album rollout, pulling together if an artist wants to do some sort of exhibition, some sort of show, some sort of festival, all that kind of stuff. I'm out there doing that. Or if you're on tour and you want to present VIP experiences for your fans, anything where like I'm connecting your message and your vision and expressing it to your fans and expressing it to the people that want to buy into it.
ALI: What situations did you witness that made you want to go in that direction? What was it that became the calling of producer? Like, you didn't even have a title for it, so what was it?
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yeah, I mean, honestly, it was the people I was working with. To be honest. So when I started – I grew up in New York. I was born and raised in Brooklyn.
JUDNICK MAYARD: And so I – by the time I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to work in fashion, and I had thought about being a stylist, but the thing that really caught my eye were the fashion shows. And I was like, "Who does that? Who flies in the water, the glacier, when these guys go insane? Who builds these twelve escalators that these guys want in the middle of Manhattan?" And I also knew that I was very good at social stuff, so I worked in nightlife, and I knew that I was very good at working a room, getting people to come together.
So those are the first skill sets that I kind of – I knew that I wanted to rock with. And then I moved on to working at The FADER and working in music, and I saw the way that music was starting to be sold. So now with the Internet, music is a tangible thing that people want to touch. And I saw fashion and music starting to blend, with all the artists doing clothes and clothes kind of following the trend of the music and all that stuff.
And I went to the Fader Fort for the first time, and I was like, "I want to put on an event like this. I want to be part of the people that make stuff like this happen." And as I progressed in the company, and I became a marketing manager, and I started to see how these things actually get put together, where the money comes from, all of that stuff, how you actually reach out to all these people, these famous people, to get them to show up and all the things that you have to consider about when they do show up and how that's going to play out.
And it was really just that, going to those festivals, and then eventually I went freelance, and my friend was the director of production at a really big agency, and she really was the one that put it into words. So then I was doing it for corporate, and it was like, "You are a associate producer. That is what it's called." And I really got to understand what it means when someone – what production means. And so then I was looking at films. My roommate was a production designer, and she was doing films. And in film, production it – it makes sense, right? Cause a film has to literally be made. Whereas with music, we're really just now starting to do content and branding and that kind of physical out – not just your production manager on tour.
And so in doing those branded moments, in doing those corporate moments, I realized that I loved what I was doing, but I felt like I was doing it for the wrong side. So I always ended up working with the artists, because that was where my formal training was in. I worked at a music magazine, so those were the relationships I had. And I looked around and I was like, "Yo, I could take the knowledge of making all these big experiences happen for brands and put it in the hands of the artists, so that they can do what they want to do."
It was just kind of those experiences that kept me in that game, cause every time I did something, production gave me the space to do it in a different place. So if I was interested in fashion, I could do it. Music, I could do it. Now with film, I can do it. So it was like, I finally found the kind of niche where I could do the same thing but across so many – and bring it in so many ways to different people. So that really interested me.
ALI: Which was the even that you did that was your real a-ha moment? Like, "I got this. I know exactly what this is." And you walked away feeling like this is executed exactly how I wanted, and I'm clear on everything else that's to come.
JUDNICK MAYARD: So the thing about production is that never happens.
FRANNIE: Yeah, right, I was like –
ALI: I mean, I'm just –
JUDNICK MAYARD: No, no, no. It's great that you asked that question, because it literally is – when people ask me, "What does a producer do?" I go, "Put out fires." That's literally what you're there for. You're there to be on the phone when everything goes wrong, and so you set up everything to go right, but you know that it will go wrong. And your job – the best producers anticipate what will go wrong rather than just trust that they've done enough, because we're all dealing with humans. At the end of the day, it all comes back to humans. Your clients are literally humans, and what you're bringing is taste.
ALI: Alright. Maybe I'll ask it differently.
JUDNICK MAYARD: No.
ALI: Which was the biggest fire that you put out that you made you go, "OK" –
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yeah! Well, I was going to answer the question the same. So what happened was when I got to the end of my – at The FADER I felt like I had done the Fader Fort, and I was like, "Oh, I got this. I seen rappers fight. I've been through it all." And when I started freelance, the very first event I ever did was I did the Google media space at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in 2012.
FRANNIE: Oh, man.
JUDNICK MAYARD: So this is Obama's second term. Legally any company that gives to the one side has to give exactly the same amount to the other. So they were getting ready to go all in on Obama in North Carolina, so they also had to go all in in Tampa. And just by the luck of the draw, of course, the RNC side of the team at the agency was a mess, whereas the DNC side was pumping, cause everybody was motivated by what they were doing, whereas our side was like, "Ughhh."
And so it was first time ever working for this agency. I had never been freelance before. I was 25 years old maybe, and I had just come back from my – I had never been to Europe before, and I just – I had quit my job and a spent a month in Europe. And so I came back to this – I'm talking 16 to 18 hours a day of emailing with one of the biggest companies in the world. So not only are you doing it, but you're being watched. You feel like you're literally being watched, and the event is for this thing.
ALI: Big profile.
JUDNICK MAYARD: A really big profile thing, and a thing that ain't got nothing to do with anything I've ever done with before. These ain't people know or care about my music relationships. And the team fell apart, just because of the sheer amount of stress everyone was going through and the certain little cogs that were not working out right. The team fell apart, and I was just like, "What do y'all need done?"
I remember they used to get mad at me, because everyone in the office would stay till midnight just – we're talking 300, 400 page documents. I'm talking, like, dozens of union workers. We're doing builds. We're building – I'm talking mechanicals. And I'm going through all this stuff, and this is my first time doing anything like this. And I used to just – six o'clock on the dot, I'd be like, "Yo, I'm ready to go home. I did everything that I needed to do today." And finally they had to really be like, "Yo, the rest of the team needs your support. You need to be out here."
And for me, I come across very confident, but I just – I just know how to do my work, but I'm never thinking about it like, "Oh, I'm out here the best on the team." I'm just like, "I just do what you ask me to do, and I do it efficiently, and I want to go home." And when we got there and the team fell apart and all these crazy things started to happen, I made a really big call to call in a director to come down, and we really – me and her together really grinded out 11 days in Tampa and really made this thing really well-received and amazing.
And I mean, I was in a place where I didn't even support where I was. I was literally working in a place where I was like, "I don't even want to talk to y'all." I remember we did a studio and – oh man – I forgot which one of those devils was coming in. But it was one of the – it was like the defense secretary, and he was coming in, and I was like, "I can't be in this room when he gets here, but we gon' make this room look nice."
And so it really taught me that you can find pride in doing this, in the way that you organize and the way that you hold people down. Because at the end of the day, it's still a labor thing. So I'm still dealing with regular – I've dealt with the – you know the everyman in America? I've dealt with the everyman in America, all of it, because of the way my job works. And so often when you work in that kind of corporate environment, you think that you have to think up. Like, let me please the people above me. And I've always been really successful because I please the people beneath me, and the people around me.
And that experience, as crazy as it was, as tired as I was, when I was done I was like, "I can do this. If I can do that, I'll never have to do something like that again." Cause I already did it. So now, I bought myself the white card at that company to do anything else, so then I was like, "I don't want to do anything – I don't even want to do anything like that again." But that is the experience that I would say really was like, "You are a producer. That is what you do, and you can do it in any environment that you want to do it in."
ALI: Nah, that's pretty big hot seat. The whole world is watching at that point. It's not just the country. It's the entire world.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yeah, I remember I was wearing, like, a flannel, and I had my head tied, like a real head wrap head tie, cause it was humid and it was a hurricane at the time. We had a hurricane situation going on in Tampa. And I was walking across the floor, cause I had – I remember – cause when you get there, you have seven – anywhere between seven to 12 badges, and they each are color-coded based on where you get to literally put your feet. And I had the highest of all – like, I had every badge, and I'm this small, black girl walking through. And I literally walked – I was meeting my florist, and I walked across – I took the shortcut, and I walked across the floor at the RNC, the convention floor.
And you could see people's eyeballs – and remember, I'm in a flannel and leggings and Vans and with a big head tie on, and I'm walking across, and you can just see these people be like, "What the hell is going on?" You can just see people just seizing at like, "What is she doing and why does she have that giant" – and I'm – my big green badge. And I was like – that was when I was like, "Yo, this job affords me the access to spaces. As a writer, access to spaces means a lot to me."
And it's not about hearing both sides. It's about seeing it. Like, I don't want – I ain't need to talk to anybody, but I wanted to see. Like, "What are y'all doing in here?" And I realized that production really gave me an access to parts of the world that I had never really thought about stepping foot in, and in a way that was as safe as it could be.
ALI: I get it.
FRANNIE: Yeah. I'm of two minds whether to talk about you as a writer or about – now about –
JUDNICK MAYARD: It'll come back. It all – nowadays it all blends, so whichever way you go, you will end up in the middle of the maze.
FRANNIE: Right. I appreciate your confidence. But I think I would rather go with – so with that access that you have, it seems to me that you have a view on a lot of things that people don't do. I'm not talking about revealing people's secrets or anything like that, but that you have a perspective that – you've given yourself a perspective that other people don't have. Is there anything that you wish people understood that you know for sure is happening? I'm talking about the music industry kind of in particular, but not necessarily.
JUDNICK MAYARD: I think there are a couple things I wish people really understood. I wish people really understood what the machine of the music industry looks like in a micro level. I think we get really caught up in the macro level of it. Everybody thinks they understand how –
FRANNIE: You mean the numbers?
JUDNICK MAYARD: The numbers and the deals and this is where you need to be and – everyone in their mind can be a manager, even though nobody actually knows what a manager does. Everybody in their mind thinks they can be a manager, but I really wish people understood the micro level of like, literally, every artist, every group, is – it's a machine. It's a machine that either is working really well-oiled or is really working poorly.
How can you tell if it's well-oiled or if it's poorly? It shows. The production. Look at – there are artists that are really really famous, but you watch their show, and you can tell that the machine's not running right. The show is not really that banging. Or there are artists that are really small, but their stuff is really tight. And people are like, "How are they getting all these" – yeah, cause their machine is well-oiled.
And so I tweeted – I literally tweeted this the other day. I was like, "It's crazy how much we chase celebrities, and people can't tell you the difference between a manager, an agent, a road manager, an assistant." They don't know. People don't know.
FRANNIE: Right. They don't how to recognize them?
JUDNICK MAYARD: Everybody has the manager's number. How many times do you hear somebody being like, "I know his manager. I know blah blah blah's manager." And you're like, "Who the hell is that?"
JUDNICK MAYARD: You know?
JUDNICK MAYARD: And then at the door, they're like, "You didn't let him in." And you're like, "Do you know who that is?" There's always a, "Do you know who that is?" And I remember even when I was an intern and I used to Fashion Week, the publicists loved me, cause I had photographic of names, but I also read magazines. I read Vogue since I was 15, and I remembered who people were. So if I read an article about the head of this – LVMH, I remembered his name, and I remembered what the picture looked like. So I was always the first person to be like, "That guy's really important. That guy runs this agency. That guy is – you didn't see that guy in Adweek?"
Cause to me, that was the research I needed to know. I don't like the idea of talking to someone – and I've been surprised. I'm constantly surprised by people, and I walk into situations where I'm like, "Oh, I didn't realize it was you!" But I never want to be in a situation where I'm talking to someone, and I don't understand their value. And not in the value of clout, but literally the experience, because then I miss out on the chance to learn something from you or to see something from you.
And I think that's what really – that access informs my writing. That access informs my production, because I get onto the scene. I walk – you know, when I was touring, by the time I was on my third or fourth year touring, I could walk onto the crew and kind of identify who the tour manager was, and already let him know who I am. And as people introduce themselves to me and gave me their title, I knew where to place them. It wasn't just like, "Oh, OK. The lighting guy."
FRANNIE: Right. You mean you recognized them or there were things about, say, the tour manager allowed you to –
JUDNICK MAYARD: Well, I knew that the touring manager would be in the office on the computer doing budgets. I knew the guy in the office on the computer with the budget thing is probably going to be the tour manager. So it's kind of stuff like that.
ALI: Or the girl.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Or the girl. Sorry, yeah.
ALI: Sorry. Tribe had a – we had a – I don't know. Our tour manager's female. She's been our tour manager for 20 plus years, so – and she knows it down.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Oh, I – female TMs are goddesses in my eyes, just – just because of the – just the way the industry works in the first place –
FRANNIE: What they have to deal with.
JUDNICK MAYARD: – any woman on tour period is a G. And I don't mean like, 'Oh, she's" – I mean, just a G.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Because being on tour is a hustle every day.
And so yeah, knowing that, knowing what that looks like, rather than having the outside media idea of what tour is like, which is really weird –
ALI: Well, the details are important. I tell people that all the time, and it's just a simple thing that people know it, you know it. But you don't really – I think people's level of understanding with what that means is different, and I find that when you come across someone like you, it just makes everyone flow. It flows.
There's not – at least from my side of it, I don't have to worry about all the other things I have to worry about, like making sure I have my part down correctly and that I'm going to do the best. I do worry about what's going on in that back office, but I really don't want to have to worry about those sort of things. So it's great when you have someone who understands the detail, just the detail.
JUDNICK MAYARD: And for me, I think another thing that really works for me, a lot of the people that work behind the scenes in the industry and in the culture aren't of the culture, and there's a lot of translation that gets lost.
One of the reasons that I really moved over to the artist sides of things was because when I was doing all of these corporate shows and really explaining the artists. I was the only person in the room thinking about the artist as a person rather than an entity or a part of – a budget item. And being like, "Hey, man. I know this artist is going to work like this," or, "I know this artist is going to need a little more. And I know they're negotiating this way, because it's actually not in their benefit to do this for you." Or like – and a lot of times I got a lot of pushback, a lot of resistance.
ALI: I would think that would be a valued information.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Oh, it's crazy. But now I get to choose who I work with based on who can see the value in that information. But a lot of times what happens is, in those corporate rooms, it's a competition. It's an Olympics, right? So everybody is listening to everybody else, but they also want to talk louder than everybody else. So I knew how valuable what I had was because people kept me around, but they downplayed it, because they didn't want me to seem –
A lot of these relationships, because of my ability to speak to the artist and understand and think further than just how are we going to make enough money for this brand, those relationships became personal, more often than not. And so when they become personal, the big dog in the room is really stressed out by you. Because he knows that he's texting the artist to show off, but you're texting the artist on some homie stuff. And especially being a woman, and being a man, that – there's a lot of layers of that that goes into it as well. But that always made me feel like I was even more valuable, because of that. So I always thought it was like, "People are mad. I must be making them mad."
FRANNIE: Yeah, that's a lot of – you have to mentally and emotionally strong to be in those environments day in and day out. How did you – how do you take care of yourself in those types of things? Are you always like that? Did you have to learn?
JUDNICK MAYARD: I had to learn. I think age changes the game.
FRANNIE: Yeah, we were just talking about that.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Age literally changes the game. Like, you can do whatever you want, but age gon' hit you. I talk about that all the time. I have friends who are under 30, and I'm now 32, and just the way I get tired and I'm – there are people my age who are like, "I don't even know who you do what you do." Because I'm still nightlife. I still – I'm a vampire, so my hours are, when the sun starts to set, that's when I start to get my energy. But nowadays, I also – I moved out of New York so I could go to bed at, like, 10 p.m. Because it became imperative. I was like, "I can't do this anymore. I can only do it in spurts."
But I think taking care of myself was something I really had to learn, because when you come in this game, you work so hard. I haven't gone to bed before 4 a.m. since I was 18. Like that. Those days when I can do that, they're literally still precious to me, when I can do that. And also sometimes I wake up and I feel like, "Why did you go to bed at 8 p.m.? What did you miss?" And luckily, again, age kind of weeds that out. You start to not care anymore, but you pay your dues.
And paying your dues is something that people tell you – they tell when you have to pay your dues, but nobody tells when you have to stop.
FRANNIE: Oh, wow.
JUDNICK MAYARD: And if you don't make that decision, no one will ever tell you. They'll know – like, they'll literally be looking at you and be like, "Damn. She should be a CEO. But she's still an assistant. She's the best assistant I got." And you have to really – so people think that you get to that point of learning how to take care – what you need by pushing on, when you – "oh, I'm just going to hit the wall, and then I'll know it's time for me to ask for a raise or" – nah, you learn that by taking care of yourself.
You cannot categorize your work if you do not categorize your rest. And I think for us, especially freelancers, millennials, it's really hard to figure that out right now. Everything is so on all the time, and I remember when the music industry, when the magazines didn't have Twitters, and they didn't need a night blogger, do you understand what I'm saying?
FRANNIE: Right. Yes.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Because we weren't covering celebrity stuff. We didn't care. If it didn't happen between the hours of 10 to 7, your publicist could call me over night, and I'll have it ready for tomorrow morning. Now, there's a whole set of people that stay up when we all go to sleep –
FRANNIE: That, like, live in Hawaii and work.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yeah! Who's job is to, at night, scour all this stuff. And so you add that with the already – the way the industry already works with the, "You gotta work. They sleep. We grind." mentality, that's cute. But most of the people that stay up all night sleep during the day or have people handling other things for them. You as one human doing work in the corporate world, that's not gon' work for you.
And so every time I would feel myself losing – physically losing energy, whatever, I would look around – or my brain, I would feel really depressed or whatever – the answer always was change the boundaries of my work, change what I was doing. So fashion, when I was doing it and I was a kid, I didn't get to eat food. That started being an issue for me, so I went into music. Because I was like, "I don't want to be broke and not eating just to hang out with other people who are, like, not eating." That just – you know?
And music, same thing. I was like, "I want to work outside of the hours of – the office hours, so I gotta figure out how to get this done and work on my own where I can be up at night and do nightlife stuff." And then with the nightlife stuff, I got a point where I was like – I was booking a club in Brooklyn, I was doing Kinfolk, and I was like, "I love booking. I love being here every night and whatever. But I can't drink every night anymore. I'm tired. I don't drink like that. But I also can't sit in a bar and be the director of events and not drink."
So then it was like, "OK. I'm older now. I gotta do jobs that take care of me a little differently." So whether it's asking for more money, being very strict about your time with people. You go from being like, "I'm available all the time!" to like, "I'm only available for the next two months and then I take a three-week vacation and then that's that." The way you answer the phone. Even recent years, just learning to sleep with my phone on do not disturb and away from me is something that I didn't feel like I could afford when I was 23, 24.
So that's self-care to me. Rest informs how I do my job, and when it's time to move, when it's time to shake, when it's time to get to the next level.
FRANNIE: Yeah. On a slightly more metaphysical level, I guess, the other thing that makes it so hard to do the work that you do and be who you are in those corporate environments is that you're surrounded by people lying to each other and operating in paradigms that just don't make any – like, you know to be false, but they keep getting paid off basically. They keep working for people. How do you deal with that, just looking around and everybody else thinking it's a different way than you know it to be?
JUDNICK MAYARD: Two things. So me, if you ask me to describe my character, the very first word I will use is honest. But I grew up in a very chaotic home with a lot of lying. So I grew up with – my parents are really really good liars, and so – and I also grew up in New York where I was kind of shuffled from school to school because I was very smart, and where I ended up going to school was on the Upper East Side where I was totally odd man out. And I was seeing that kind of dynamic, rich people dynamic, that kind of getting – hustling and scamming and getting things out of people.
I saw that so much in New York, and I realized that my scam was being honest. I know how to be just the right amount of honest when I need to be, and also it puts people on a different level playing field when they operate with me. Cause they know – I know when you're lying. And that doesn't mean I'm going to snitch on you, but it means you know that the lie stops right in front of me.
And so in the industry, the other thing that I always tell people is you don't need to be a hero. This is not a heroic – this is not a superhero industry. Like, what does the hero win? The heroes are people that just make the music and get it out there and connect the vision to the fans. That's the most heroic thing that you can do, and it's not politics. We're not changing policy or law. It's art. Art is about connection. It's about empathy. It's about opening worlds. All the things that people think art are. And so there's no hero.
So I think when you work in the industry and you see everyone operating on this shady level, if you tell yourself you don't have to be the hero, then you also have this very quick and open space to be who you are and to decide, "Hey, man, my operation is, here are my thresholds and here are my boundaries. And I'm willing to participate in xyz, and I don't want to participate in the rest of that." And I think a lot of people – or the way the industry is sold to you is that you must be willing to sell your soul to the ends of the Earth to get what you need, and I'm like, "That's not really true." First of all, not in the modern industry, but also you just don't have to.
And for me, when I watch all that stuff happen, I'm finally in a place in my life where I can vet that kind of stuff. So there are lots of people that I won't work with, because I'm just like, "I just don't like the way your machine runs." And I'm not going to be out here writing articles about you or, like, railing against you, unless what you're doing is actually harmful to people. But I just don't have to participate in that. And it's not perfect, but I think the more that you set up boundaries, just like in life, the more you find more like-minded people that rock with you. Or you change the people around you.
ALI: Yeah. Absolutely.
JUDNICK MAYARD: But it's a mess. That's – I mean, I make concessions all the time.
FRANNIE: I mean, it's a day-to-day thing, right?
JUDNICK MAYARD: I see shady stuff go down all the time. You learn to accept a certain measure of minerals in the water.
ALI: That's so poetic. Oh my god. But true nonetheless.
FRANNIE: I see that. Ali, you have untold experience in that department.
ALI: Yeah, I'm listening to you, I'm like, "Ugh." But now – the more you speak the older I feel, I'm like, "Oh yeah. I remember that. Oh yeah." And I'm not going to speak about a lot of things, but I think the perspective is dead on. And I don't know if that's maturity, if that's just life experience, or being honest, and the most important person to be honest with is yourself first and foremost, so when you can live that way, then everything else, I think, really falls into place, and you're happier. And it's not just tied to the music industry with some of the things you're talking about. It's just way of life.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yeah, 100 percent.
ALI: The way I see it. But we were just – Frannie and I were just speaking earlier before you came, and I was like, "Yeah, Frannie. I'm the old man in the room." And I say that, and I wear it with a badge of honor now. And I know in hip-hop, there's such a distinction between age and – you can be called old, and it's like a, "kick you to the curb and underneath and you don't exist and everything that you've helped to build to allow this younger person to stand on just doesn't matter." No. I just wear it as a badge of honor. It's not necessarily age. It's just life experience.
And I've seen enough to educate me as to – to tell me, to inform me, what will make me happier on Earth and more harmonious with the people around me and the Earth at the same time, so it's a balancing act. It's no – it's not always an easy answer.
JUDNICK MAYARD: But I think that's where the honesty with yourself comes in, because your boundaries are your own and their subjective. And so you – only you know what you want from the world, from life, from whatever you're doing. Only you really – you can explain it to as many people as you want, but only you feel it in your chest. And so if you don't constantly check back in with that feeling and make sure that you're honoring it or really just try to explore it as much as you can, you do yourself a disservice I think in everything that you do, but also you leave yourself susceptible to everyone else's interpretation.
My friend said to me once, "If you don't know your worth, you always have a target on your back." And that's something I learned through my work. Me coming from Brooklyn – and I was raised in an academia. My friends went to Harvard. So it was like, I didn't have anyone from school, from high school – I had been talking about doing this since I was 13, 14. Even though I didn't know what it was exactly called, I knew what space I wanted to occupy. And I have friends who just heard like, "You're going to work with famous people. That's awesome." But nobody really understood. And even now, I go home, doesn't nobody know – in my house really know what I do. They know who I work with.
ALI: Yeah, I completely understand the description of hero as you just shared with us. Do you not see yourself as a hero?
JUDNICK MAYARD: I think now I'm older, and I'm finally getting – I just have a better view of myself, and I do see myself a little bit as a hero, and – now that I know that it's not arrogance. I think for a long time I told myself being the hero was an arrogant thing. That was something I've always been really really fraught with worry and anxious about, being arrogant. I'm a very honest person. I'm a very confident person, but I'm not an arrogant person. Because I'm always watching. To me, to be above means you can't really keep your eyes on things. And I like to be, like, right here.
And so now in my 30s, I've learned to appreciate my work, which is something I think you can't do until you have enough to look back on. And now that I've learned that appreciating my work also informs the way that I love my work, and that informs the way that I protect the boundaries of my work. And so now I've started to really see myself as a hero in the way that I've been able to – when I was doing this, I was the only black girl in those agencies. It was me and one other girl, and she was full-time, and I was coming in freelance.
Now, all the girls that I left behind in New York, all the women of color, I see them calling themselves producers. I see them working at agencies. I see them coming to me and being like, "Yo, I want to go freelance, and I'm trying to do this and this and this in my life and want to own my own – the rights to my stuff. And I want to own my own time, and I want to own my own money." And I have people coming up to me being like, "We all did this cause of you."
And I remember the conversations that we had, and how every little – every time I messed up, and I learned, I turned around and I told another woman like, "Yo, this is what I learned." And so that is where I feel most like a hero, and that's something I don't mind feeling like a hero, because I want to continue to regenerate that feeling in myself and to continue to do that. And so that stuff really makes me feel like you have to really keep what you do in perspective and really honor it in that way as well.
I think so often we sell people that humility and – or it's one thing or the other, right? It's either humility or gargantuan arrogance. It's ego or, you know, whatever. And I'm like, there is a space in there where you can be proud of what you do, and that informs how you keep doing it. And that doesn't mean that you gotta be anybody's punk or you gotta sit around and act like you're not really doing what you do, but put that energy back into doing more of it, and put that energy back into doing it better or doing it – innovating it, to me.
Now, my thing is innovating everything. How do I – now that we're here, how do we put our stories and our – cause production is about stories. You can't be a producer if you don't empathize – in anything. Music – I don't care what your production is. The real magic of being a producer is your ability to get on the phone with whoever needs to be get on the phone with and empathize with them, sit in the studio and empathize with the artist that you're working with, and give them the space to create or the vibe to get out what they need to get out. And so to be empathetic, to keep that practice in your real life, you have to keep that balance, like you say, of being humble enough to learn, but honoring what you know.
So those are things I've learned. For now. We'll see. I feel like there's more to come.
FRANNIE: So I've known you and known of your work for a long time. We've run into each other every once in a while. I ran into you when I was producing a thing for Thebe's Red Bull show. And you were basically coordinating, and you were there with Solange, and I was like, "What?" What is your function with her at the moment?
JUDNICK MAYARD: So with her, it's like with most artists actually that I work with. So I won't just say specifically with her, cause I flip around, but mostly I come in like a project manager. So whatever – or producer, creative producer. So it changes with every project, cause it's kind of – I'm facilitating at the end of the day, and I'm either facilitating the creative portion or I'm facilitating the marketing portion or I'm facilitating the teams. So when you saw me, I was project managing and running a larger plan for her.
FRANNIE: Got it.
JUDNICK MAYARD: In the larger plan, each of those little things is something that I have to coordinate. More often than not, I'm in a room like that because Thebe's the homie. I know that person, and sometimes being in the room and doing the – managing just means making sure it happens, and having that relationship where I also know you. So I can say to you like, "This is how I need it to be, before they even come" – but that's really what it is.
I'm usually managing production or coordinating. That's usually what my role is with any artist that I work with. With her, I was her – I did a couple of shows with her where I did her backstage VIP ticketing and stuff like that. And then I came on and did – she did a video where I was a creative producer with her that she did for a brand, and then now she asked me to do that. And so my title changes because the relationship with the client changes.
So I used to write for her site. One day when I did an interview for her site with Blood Orange, I talked about how I had just come off tour with Maxwell to do it. I had just flown in between dates with Maxwell to come in and do it. And she was like, "What do you mean you tour?" And I was like, "Yeah, I work on tour. That's my bread and butter." And she was like, "What do you do on tour?" And I was like, "I am the meet-and-greet coordinator. I do VIP – I handle the fans that pay the crazy money that – the cash that actually goes in our pockets." And then from there it was like, "Oh, so I have space for someone who can do something like that." And then I still write, and then I still –
So with everyone, and even her, it always comes down to just the idea of what can I bring to the project that we're working, what is the place that needs the most support, and where is my experience going to most help. Sometimes it's really crowd control. Like doing festivals and being on that end, sometimes the people need you to come in and literally, yeah, do seating, get the right people backstage. Sometimes it's like, you can manage seven different teams working on the 30 different things, and manage the deadlines for them to get all of these things out at the exact moment, whether it's literally the producer/engineer that I need to do vocal comping with xyz, or the label team that I need to have assets ready for my merch or whatever whatever.
So it really is just management. It really is my ability to not just manage but also call people who can make things happen.
FRANNIE: So on that day – so as we now know, she's got an album. It's forthcoming. She does this interview for Thebe's show. What purpose does that serve? What is that piece of the plan?
JUDNICK MAYARD: So I think the other thing – the same way that people don't know – the reason people don't know what all your different managers do is because people don't really think about, again, to go back to this, really the machine of things, and the way that everything is really planned. Entertainment is visual. That is what it is. It just is. Nothing exists without visual. You can't be a singer and not show who you are. Even Sia has to show some part of her body.
FRANNIE: Yeah yeah yeah. She's got a thing.
JUDNICK MAYARD: And it's very much a presentation to the audience. And so when you are managing and producing all these things, it's all about a delicate dance of how – it's basically – it's like starting a rainstorm in a movie, right, and you have to – the effects coordinator is in charge of making sure that it goes from small raindrops to real rain, and not just like, "Let's dump a bucket on the thing." And so that's what you do in that point. You are taking – you have a bucket of stuff, and you're making sure that it really looks natural in the way that it falls on the audience.
Because the audience sees what they want to see. No matter what you tell them about the behind the scenes, they see what they want to see. And so much of what the artist is, is how you present that to them. So the vision is a very – I love saying "the vision," cause it's really one of the most real words in music, but also one of the most fake words in music, cause it's misused so much. But the vision really is important.
So that's my job, when I come in, cause I work for a lot of different people. I stop working for people all the time. But usually when I don't work with you anymore, it's because I don't see the vision anymore, and I'm like, "I don't really know. I don't know how to make that look like snow."
FRANNIE: Right. That was the best metaphor for that I have ever –
JUDNICK MAYARD: I'm pretty – I'm kind of good at those.
FRANNIE: – ever heard.
JUDNICK MAYARD: I'm a little OK at those.
FRANNIE: So speaking about nobody in particular, but when you do that, when you execute a vision, are there things that need to be obscured?
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yes. Absolutely. No one wants to know how the sausage is made.
FRANNIE: Right. Can you –
JUDNICK MAYARD: People think my job is super super super super cool, but –
ALI: And probably super super super easy.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yeah! And then they listen to things – when I start to – I recently did a project where I was just, like, losing my mind, which is normal. I always tell people also, I'm like, "This is normal." And I always tell people –
OK. So when you first tell people you're about to work on something, the name is always what gets them. So they're like, "Oh my god! You're about to work on Solange!" Or, "You're about to work with Rocky! Or Tyler the Creator!" Or whatever the name is that I drop, right? And then I always hit up my industry friends, and they're like, "Oh. You're going with him? Yeah, so, you know."
FRANNIE: So true.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Like, I was supposed to go on tour with the Migos, and everyone just gave me the eyebrow lift every time I said their name. And they were like, "Oh, the Migos!" And I was like, "OK. I see what you saying. I got you." I hear you, and I'm – I hear you. And that can a multitude of different things. It could mean the team is a mess. It could mean the artists aren't nice. It could mean a ton of stuff. It's not to – it's not one condemnation over another. But that eyebrow, I'm like, "Oh, OK. Alright. I should ask a couple more questions then."
And so no one wants to see – they want to hear about how long it took you to make the album, but they don't want to sit around watching you do – sing the same verse, line, a hundred times. If they really knew the hundred times of blending and harmony, they don't want to sit through that. They don't want to hear the engineer constantly being like, "Let's do it again. Let's do it again." Nobody – they just want to hear about it afterwards. They want to take a tour of the studio, and imagine the glamorati way that you recorded the song.
And to be fair, you shouldn't have to tell them that. They shouldn't have to sit through that. That labor is very personal. There's a reason why you don't do it in front of everybody. If it was so easy, we would record albums in the studios and let everyone videotape it. But that labor – labor is a very personal thing. It's a very – because labor is you – you have to motivate yourself to do labor, and there's no one else in the labor with you.
So my job as management, as a producer, is to make sure that that labor still gets to be yours, and that the audience understands that that labor exists. So they don't need to see it – you don't need to see football players working out to know that they have to do that every week – and sometimes you can forget that it's not magic.
FRANNIE: Yeah, exactly.
JUDNICK MAYARD: But in many ways with music, I toe the line of wanting you to keep the idea of the magic, but also just respect a little bit of the labor that goes into the magic. So there's checks and balances for that. I think that's – that's where I live with my life. I want to the audience to understand that this is a labor of love, but I don't necessarily need to tell them how hard it was. Like, leave a little magic for them, you know?
But I also did, like, meet-and-greets, so I have an aversion to fans. Fans are delusional, so I take with that – I also know that I'm serving a bunch of fiends, and they're a little crazy. Cause there's entitlement. It's capitalism, so the entitlement in the music industry is one of the things that I try to be the most hero about.
Even the way that I know Solange, I did a – I did something called a Drunk TED Talk, and I talked about – this is before he became this version of himself, but I was talking about Kanye. And I did – I basically riffed off the dome about, like, entitlement and how a lot of that is because of the way the industry is set up, the systemic racism that goes behind corporatism and capitalism, and the idea that money is what funds art. That's so incorrect.
Sorry. I was about to curse like crazy.
FRANNIE: You can.
JUDNICK MAYARD: That's so fucking wrong! It's just wrong! Art is made in times of –
JUDNICK MAYARD: Art needs nothing. Art needs nothing but inspiration.
JUDNICK MAYARD: At its purest core, art needs absolutely nothing.
And the thing that people forget about money, money finds art after it already exists. You've never seen capitalism make art happen. You found me. I was broke. You gave me a little money. Now you trying to make it seem like you know where the – you make the cheese. I make the cheese. So that is a specific part of my career that I really – if there's ever been a part where I want to be a hero, it's in that.
So entitlement is what clouds a lot of this "for the culture, give back to the culture, we're part of the culture" nonsense. People think that you can just pay your way in, and they don't realize – again, that's what I mean about you not seeing the labor. That labor is not yours. Because I did it out of love. I didn't do it because I woke up in the morning and was like, "Oh, the label is going to give me money, so I have to write this music." I still have to sit here and tinker that note out and feel that and emote that and so you don't get to buy the inspiration that gets me out of bed every morning.
And for me, as a writer, I 100 percent understand that. One of the reasons that I'm so in production, not as much in writing, is because I refuse to be a writer for money. I was just like, "Y'all are not going to own my voice." I spent so many years cultivating this voice, putting in the experiences. I went through the things that I went through, so that I can talk the way that I do. You're not going to hand me $300 and then be like, "I need to use it to get my ideas across."
So that is a place for me. That is a specific part of my career and my work that I really hold onto real super tight. And I think that's what ingratiates me with the client, because I don't need to sing to know that you need the space to sing. I don't need to rap to know how much space you need to rap. I respect and understand art above all things. So I know that's a very unique thing about me, and that's a thing that I value about myself. And I present that as value when I – when people pitch me, that is very much part of the value that they find from having me on the team.
FRANNIE: I wrote this question this way: what is the biggest lie being perpetuated by money at this very moment?
JUDNICK MAYARD: What I just told you. The idea that you bought –
FRANNIE: This entitlement.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yeah. That your money buys me, person, heart and soul. Your money doesn't do anything for me but give me more opportunity to bring you what you need.
So when you hear – I was yelling at my friend the other day, not yelling, but she was talking about giving back to the culture. And I was like, "What the hell are you talking about?" I hate that term. And I was like, "What you mean give back to a culture? You're a black woman working in the – you are the culture." They are selling what you naturally have done since you were a child.
Streetwear, that's what I used to wear to school. You know what I mean? Rap, that's the music of my experience. Fashion, beauty, all this stuff, you're copying me, my day-to-day. This is my life. And so if you create the culture, what is to give back? You're part of it. You're the living, breathing organism. Every time the cell recreates and the amoeba becomes bigger, you are part of that. You are part of the function in that that makes that happen. The people who need to give back are the people who gave money, and then told you that their money bought you something.
So that wordage comes from the corporatism of hip-hop. Y'all incorporated hip-hop. Y'all added capitalism, and now y'all want to tell me I have to give back. Why would I have to give back to the thing that literally is inside me? I'm part of it. You are not part of it. You bought your way in –
ALI: And you're profiting off of it.
JUDNICK MAYARD: And you're profiting on it. So yeah, you gotta give back to the culture.
JUDNICK MAYARD: You have to fund people like me. It's not that I need you.
And then I always tell people – here's the other thing. So they come in, right? You're an artist. You're a rapper. You're a singer, whatever. Your community is how you become known, right? You sing and people pay – your broke friends come to your shows, spend the gas money, big you up, play your stuff, request you on the radio. The local stations put you on. Everybody goes through that, even in your SoundCloud. Your homies retweeted your SoundCloud. They tweeted it out. They put it in their Spotify playlist. Maybe they DJed it at their party. But it was your community that put you on.
So your community puts you on, and then here comes this angel down, and it's like, "Oh, I got money. I'ma give you access. If you come with me, I'll give you more money so you can make more art." But what's the number one caveat? You gotta perform your art for my people. Because your local people don't have enough money to help your little investor angel, but you know who does? Suburbia. Those kids. Those kids who have nothing to do with you, who didn't care about you until the people in your community hoisted you on their shoulders and was like, "He's popping." "Oh, is that what's popping?"
So they sell that to you as, "You owe me because I gave you better access." But if you were really holding me down, you would've given me money to keep the access within my local community, right? You would've given me money to give back to the people who actually informed and supported and literally watered the plant of my art. You wouldn't then ask me to – "oh, I need to give you the money, but in return you gotta go dance over here for these dudes. And you should always keep" –
And then what's the next thing? "Oh, well, they pay, so their priority." Well that doesn't make any sense. They're not regenerative. They're people I perform – they don't inform back to my art, so if I have to give them all the time in the world, when do I get the time to give to the people that actually are still down here informing my art, are still living the narrative that gives me the space to talk about what I'm talking about. And this is where the lie gets perpetuated.
So then you sitting there – it's like when somebody do you a favor. They give you $50, but then they're like, "$20 of that, I need you to do some other stuff for me." And you're like, "Man!" Or somebody ask you to be on something for free, but they don't think about the fact that you had to pay to get there, pay for the drinks when you got there. They don't think about that. Expenses. So that to me is the biggest lie perpetuated in the game, and that's the lie that I always try to break, which is the idea that anybody who's given you money owns you.
That's incorrect. Nobody's doing anybody any favors in this game. Do you know how stingy people are with money in this game? And it's vapor. Money's vapor. Somebody puts a – somebody prints something differently or puts a little number. It's whatever. So you not going to convince me that you own me with vapor.
When people talk about lies – cause I think a lot of people focus on like, "Oh, is the artist really like that?" Don't worry about how the labor gets done. Cause you gon' enjoy it anyway. If you gon' dance to the song, don't worry about who had the credit or whatever whatever. They're worried about it. Don't worry. They're taking care of it. But unless you gon' fight for it, don't concern yourself with that.
But me, where I'm at in my position, I am. I'm concerned with that. I'm concerned with making sure that the people that are making this stuff understand like, "You still make this stuff." They're just paying for something you already do. If they stop paying for it, you, crazy person, will probably still have to do it, because that's how much it matters to you. So don't let them tell you that the money is why you're doing it. It's never been why you've done it.
FRANNIE: Feel like you feel validated by today's episode.
JUDNICK MAYARD: I know. I'm looking at you, and you're, like, nodding, and I'm like, "Yeah."
ALI: All the things I know, I'm just –
JUDNICK MAYARD: Cause I'm thinking you know more than me, you know?
ALI: No! I mean, you know. When you know, you know. It's interesting. As you were speaking, I was envisioning a whole bunch of other artists that should be here –
FRANNIE: At your feet.
ALI: – that could really then be like, "You right."
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yeah!
ALI: And then walk out and do something better with their ideas, their being.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yeah. And you know, I had to do that. I am really good at my job, because I had to face that fact as well.
When I was getting out of school in 2009 and it was the recession and I was a hundred thousand dollars in debt, and these motherfuckers turned around and was like, "Yeah, so remember how we told you your degree was going to get you a job? Yeah, bruh. We gon' renege on that actually. There's no jobs." And I, praise god, had done so much work. By the time 2009 came around, I'd been working full-time crazy – this already crazy – I had two internships and a job in school, on top of school, and I was doing 18 credit semesters. Every minute of my day was accounted for. And I still found time to be in nightlife and be like, "I still got to know the plays and the" – cause I was just like, "I'm just never gon' sleep again."
And so that was the only way I carved out a job for myself, and I was getting paid nothing. I didn't know the value of my labor. I just knew that if someone was willing to pay for me, then I should be blessed that someone was willing to give me money. But the older I got, the deeper I got, and the more I realized like, "Wait a minute. Y'all don't even know what you're doing without me. You don't even know how to talk to people without me. You don't even know the value of the things that you" – in corporatism, people will be like, "That's really valuable." But they don't know why. They just have – they're like, "I heard y'all talking about it in the" – you know?
That's why now social media is so insane and harmful in many ways, because you have a bunch of people that are just mining it. And they're like, "That looks valuable. Pull it. Pull it, pull it." The algorithm just pulls stuff out. It's AI now. It's just artificial. It's just an algorithm that pulls stuff out, and so that algorithm was made by people who did the same thing in real life, sat around listening in to the barber shops, calling in to the people that were in the local communities, and then being like, "So-and-so said that's what's bubbling and popping. Put money in it, and let's take it."
So when you don't connect yourself empathetically, when you don't connect yourself spiritually, mentally, physically – like, these people don't even come to where you be at – so you have no connection to this except for financial, you're going to always make the person feel bad. You're going to always make them feel like it's a favor. But the reality is there's no labor on your part. You pay for labor. That's what being a corporation is, paying for labor and upselling it.
So if – I feel like if more artists, more people, more – everybody, everybody who's really in the culture, because now we're not just artists. We're in the agencies; we're in the media; we're behind the camera; we're writing the content; we're tweeting on the Internet, because, let's face it, black Twitter informs all of marketing at this point globally, globally. Not just in America, globally. So when you really understand – when you can identify the labor that you put in, can't nobody make you believe that money is why you do anything.
I be trying to put the younger ones onto game like, "I don't care what you making." Hip-hop been around – what – like, 40 years now, 50 years?
JUDNICK MAYARD: We have always been the race that makes the new thing, and we're all getting tired and crazy cause it's time for the new thing, and I don't know what the new thing is going to sound like. That's the point. When it comes, we'll know, and we'll ride it. And it was never meant to last forever, because culturally we don't let things last forever. We re-use them, re-purpose them. We put them back in, and we build an oral history that is layered with what we've done before.
So the reason that I feel like we're stuck right now is because the art is being stifled by the idea that it's entitled to those who fund it, and I'm just – the quicker we can get more people realizing that money is money – they're always going to need your money, because they need the idea. Money is – money sits on top of ideas.
ALI: I think – well, you're absolutely 100 percent right. In addition to – my opinion on why the art is stifled is just because I think people spiritually are stifled.
JUDNICK MAYARD: As well.
ALI: Which leads to the belief system that the money is the – is what's directing. So there's so many different things. I'm just happy. You're here to really just –
JUDNICK MAYARD: I'm, like, vibing with you too.
ALI: – to lay it down, from your perspective, cause you're really inside, and nothing you're saying is jaded. It's so pure.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yeah. I'm not jaded.
ALI: It's so pure. And so I'm really hoping that people – like, this particular interview, I really hope people really listen to. They're all important. I don't want to make any of our guests – to say that and make any guest feel diminished, it's not that. But it's rare to really have someone who – like an artist, you come, and sometimes they sit on that couch with the purpose of really just trying to deliver their art, but in a persona that's not them standing on the stage, and so it's slightly different. But when you have someone who's like – yo, you in the trenches. "So I'ma tell you really what war feels like, what it sounds like." And that's more valuable I think.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yeah.
ALI: I won't say more. It's just equally valuable.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yeah. I think – the same way that I say I like to protect the magic, but I also like to be honest. And I think if you focus too much on protecting the magic, then everyone has to perform and dance. And you don't – you're not being fair to both sides. You're only honoring one side. The point of the balance is so that both sides get to be themselves and also have a touch of reality with what they're doing.
And I think we're at the point now where access has become so commercialized that what I do is so – even more valuable to people as knowledge. Because now they sell you the idea that you do know what's going on. Before with it, it was like, there's a total curtain. Your ass is not backstage. You don't know what's going on back here. We sometimes let you know what's up. And now it's like, nothing – there's no curtain. We're all backstage. We're all backstage all the time. If you're not backstage, you can be in backstage on Snapchat, Periscope, Twitter. We're all backstage. And people don't realize that's fabricated too.
The music industry is a chameleon. It goes – entertainment – the point of entertainment – the reason I remind people it's visual is when something is visual, then you can manipulate it. Your eyesight can be manipulated by sunlight, by – this light is manipulating my eye right now, which is – so visual is easier to manipulate than anything else, and – so now you have a group of kids and fans who are like, "Oh, I have access. I don't need access, cause I have access."
And that's when I go back to the everybody has the manager's phone number, you know? Somebody big enough, everybody has their manager's phone number. But if you say, "What's the name to that number?" Everybody's name's going to be different. And the funny part for me is always when I come in, I'm like, "None of those motherfuckers are managers. That's the weed carrier. That's the roadie. That's the PM. That's the agent, actually. That's not even that." And I'm like, "You don't know who the manager is, because you're never supposed to have his number." And there's that.
So the reason I stay so honest in the work that I do is because, to me, now more than ever, this work is important, showing people that this is – what you see is fabricated, down to the access that you have. I control what you know about this artist, so when you see them posting on Instagram after three months or the little interviews that we do, that's me telling you, giving you access to the labor, giving you access to the magic. And I decide how it's fabricated.
So if I work from an honest place, then I let the artist also be able to be honest within and with – outside of the persona. You want to switch it up? I got you. You want to stick to it and make it a little fine-tuned? I got you. You don't want to talk to anybody anymore? I got you. But we have the vision. We know what we're trying to do. We know where we want it to be, and we know what we want the audience to see.
And now in the age of Internet, I'm like, "Y'all need to get in the know of how this works." Because now the money is going in places that it's never been before. And when money shows up, lies – money is the curtain. Money decides who knows what and what knows – who knows what. So now that everybody wants to be in the business, everybody feels like they can be a part, I'm like, "It is even more imperative that I let you know that this is the structure of the way that these things work."
Because these structures are also dying. And as they die, we – I think people get really excited. People got excited about the end of labels, right? Till you realize the streaming services are a whole different kind of chokehold. You understand what I'm saying? And that distribution now looks a little different, because you don't have people in place to keep doing that every day and running the little deals. And so it's great to be excited about the end of certain structures, but if you don't actually know the functions, you stand to just repeat them in worse ways, in more exploitative ways.
And so I try to fight exploitation. That's where I'm at. That's my endeavor in all of this. When people be like, "Why you do it?" I'm like, "Because I just don't want people to be exploited. I want to people to make art and to have a space that's real." And if they're aren't guardians – there have always been guardians of that, in my mind. There have always been people who have stood on the side of art from the beginning of time and just been like, "I'm going to give this artist space to" – it used to be the people that funded and commissioned stuff.
FRANNIE: Like patrons.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Patrons. But there aren't – patrons nowadays in capitalism, it's a little different.
So my life is invested in your art getting out there well, and sometimes I get a little disillusioned and I'm like, "This is all frivolous and no one's going to die and the world is ending and why am I doing stupid videos?" But then I always come back to: the world is ending, and people need art more than ever when the world is ending actually, because it's what tethers people to life. Anything else is death. So it feels imperative to make art that's also honest as well.
JUDNICK MAYARD: The reality of it is I'm an artist. I'm a real creative human being, and this is how I chose to really develop my art and my creativity, to really be behind those that I think are really innovating, and be a part of the story.
FRANNIE: Yeah, but you're also a writer. Artist period. And I feel like a lot of what you're saying applies to sort of the writer life, the writing industry, especially the way that it's dying and nobody really knows what to do, and so it's just gotten more exploitative.
JUDNICK MAYARD: The writing industry is dying is because it was always exploitative, and the writing industry is dying because it wasn't open as many voices as exists in the world. That's literally it.
JUDNICK MAYARD: The writing industry, corporate-wise, not – writings have always obviously existed in all cultures, and you can read anything.
FRANNIE: We're talking about music media or whatever.
JUDNICK MAYARD: But yeah, music media is dying because it thrived off the same entitlement. Music media saw itself as part of the machine that paid you and made you big, instead of seeing itself as, we need to be archiving and keeping an oral history of what is happening and how the labor is being produced. Even music criticism!
FRANNIE: We had this exact conversation right before you walked in.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yo!
FRANNIE: Yeah, yeah.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Music criticism used to be, you get the album a month ahead of time. You sit with it. You experience it, and then you, person who is expert in this, who really puts your soul into this, can speak back to the audience and the artist being like, "I didn't like it, cause it just didn't feel like you." And that artist can take that and be regenerative with that, be like, "Damn. They didn't like the album, but I hear what they were saying." Or, "They didn't like it, but I'm going to keep forging ahead and fine-tuning what I'm doing and get them to see what I'm seeing."
But the person had time. Now it's entitlement. It's like, I need you to get me money, so I'm going to write about you as fast and in the way that gets me money. And so the person who may be coming into the industry or the work or – the writer comes in and their idea is, "I'm going to write about what I like and that's going to inform – my life experiences are going to inform what I like, and you're going to be able to learn about me because you see the kind of music I like and what I don't like. And if an artist really bangs with the way that I think" –
Because think about it, artists can't talk to their fans. Because fans are – they're coming from a place of – they're in wonder that you can even do the labor that you do, so they don't even have time to really critically think about it. One day they think your album sucks. The next day they're sad, and it works right into their emotion, and they're like, "Oh, I get it now. This album makes total sense to me now. Now that I'm divorced, I get it." All that stuff. And that's fine. That's what their experience is supposed to be.
But the people who are part of the industry, who are supposed to be part of the machine, theirs is to be like, "I've been watching you. I've been growing with you. I've been paying attention to your labor, and I think you're acting kind of funny. I think you're off. I think maybe you're not seeing yourself for what" – I'm the one fan you can talk to, as the writer. That's how I felt. I was like, "I'm a fan, or a critic, that you can talk to, and you can read me" –
When an artist reads my piece and reaches out to me, that is number one compliment, no matter what they say. Because it means that they read it, and they – something connected with them, and they felt like they could talk to me. And I'm the fan that you're supposed to be able to talk to, that I can say to you like, "I know a little bit enough about the labor to be able to give you critiques, but I also still respect the fact that I'm in awe that you can do this."
And when you add capitalism to that, when you make it corporatized, and you focus on the voices of people that are not connected – that's the thing. People just have to never let go of that. When the focus is on the voices that are not connected to the narrative, how can they regenerate anything? How can they regenerate anything? They don't even know what they're looking at, and they're adding their perspective.
So music media is dying, because y'all prioritized the perspectives of people who are not connected. And they get so mad when artists say – they get so mad when artists get mad about it, but that's silly. If you walked into a court, and nobody studied law, it would seem stupid to you for these people to be talking.
JUDNICK MAYARD: So why can't we add that technicality to art. If we're making art so technological, why does it all of sudden seem crazy for someone to be like, "Yo, you're not connected with this, so I can't listen to what you're saying." And now we have a whole business of if you can talk about it, then fine. It's not about if you're connected with it. If you can talk about it, fine.
ALI: You sound like Frannie. I hear her say these things all the time. She's extremely –
JUDNICK MAYARD: Well, once you pick up on the thread, everything starts to –
FRANNIE: Yeah, that's very true.
JUDNICK MAYARD: And I feel like a lot of older artists I meet, to me, that's what makes the difference. Sometimes I meet older artists that are really jaded, but still are like, "I understand. I'm jaded now. I'm jaded because I had to go through it, but I really understand where it falls into place. And I've made a place for myself where I got my boundaries locked up, and that's where I do what I do. And nobody's going to come in and tell me" – and I love working with old – I toured with New Edition. I love working with older artists, because they also – I see how they learn their limits of what they're gon' do and what they're not gon' do, and that really informed me as a young person
But then there's a whole other slew of people who never got the thread. And it's fine, because the game is set up for you not to get the thread, so it's not that you're dumb. It's that you drank the Kool-Aid or whatever it may be, and you're still informed by the idea that these people own me. My art couldn't be made if these people didn't give me money. Like, nah. You would've kept making it. You wouldn't have reached as many people, but who cares. Art reaches the people it's supposed to. It always gets there.
I think now more than ever that thinking, it's very important that we really repeat that, repeat that, repeat that, exclamation point, neon lights that kind of stuff. Because now we have a whole generation of kids who are coming in under that belief. So they're not learning about money. They're coming in like money is how I'm going to get there. I can't start making my art until I have money. And I'm like, "That is a terrible way to think about making art." Cause there's so much more that happens to your life when you have money, and you don't have time for art.
So like, that's what horrifies me about the music industry now, the idea that – and writing.
FRANNIE: Yeah, it's the same thing.
JUDNICK MAYARD: People thought I was crazy when I started writing, and one of the things about me as a writer that's probably the worst thing – if you're a freelance writer, do not follow this – I don't pitch, anyone, ever. Never. It's never happened. A pitch is me tweeting. Every article I write is an editor emailing me – first of all, because they all think I'm really busy, so they're always like, "We don't know what you're working or who you're working with, we saw that you was with blah blah blah, so I don't know if you on tour or not." Then never even know what city I'm in. But I don't pitch.
And that, one, comes out of an insecurity that I have – I always think my ideas are terrible – but also because of the way that I came in. I spent so much time developing my voice, people think of me when they think of what they want to hear my voice for.
FRANNIE: Right. See, that's the thing about pitching though. See, pitching is a fucking scam though, because what you're doing is you're – you look at the outlet. You think about the audience. You maybe even think about the editor or whatever.
JUDNICK MAYARD: You're doing all the production.
FRANNIE: Yeah. But you're also like, "How can I take this thing that I've noticed or that I'm thinking about or whatever, and make it fit your thing." You're giving them something that is for them, and that's why pitching is a fucking scam.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yeah, you're doing all the production. It's free production. It's a scam. It's free production.
FRANNIE: But also you probably gotta do it.
JUDNICK MAYARD: I mean, you have to do it if you create your career that way. I didn't.
JUDNICK MAYARD: I was like, "Nah."
FRANNIE: There you go.
JUDNICK MAYARD: And when I started writing – people don't realize this, but when I was at The FADER, I was the ad assistant to the publisher, so I was literally his assistant. I had a column.
FRANNIE: Yeah, I remember.
JUDNICK MAYARD: I had a weekly soul music column. And I remember as I would be writing it, I would be like, "What?" And really what it was – I'ma keep it really funky – it was the black people column. It was the black version of the website that then got shrunk down into a column and then – think about that. They were so worried about it, they gave it to the ad assistant. I'm not even on editorial. I'm in the business part of the business, and they were like, "Can you just, like, every week write about, like, black people and their music and stuff?"
And I enjoyed it, but I also did it because I could write. Nobody does you any favors, so it wasn't like I was writing crap. And I remember the day I stopped writing it, because they weren't paying me for it.
FRANNIE: Ooh, yeah.
JUDNICK MAYARD: And I didn't even – I just sent an email. Like, I literally – I was like, "Hey, man. I don't have the column today, because you pay all the other DJs that write columns and stuff, and y'all don't even throw like an extra hundred with my check for this stuff." And I spend all week thinking – I have to write it. There's a labor that goes into writing this column. And then I remember I sent the email and then I took the day off. I left. Cause I knew they were going to come at me with like, "You have to" – and I was like, "Nah nah nah nah." I didn't know how to negotiate yet, but I knew that I had to be out the building after I sent that email. I sent it, bounced.
And so I think about that, and I'm thinking about – there was no reason for me to stop doing that. They could've sold that to me as, "You write for The FADER. What's the problem? We're giving you – what other ad assistant in the business gets to write?" And I was writing editorial too, cause the editors liked my voice so much they were like, "Yo, if you have a second every day." I was blogging videos, and I was loving it.
But that's when I was like, "Y'all need to pay me, cause I'm doing this labor out of passion, and I have a talent, and so" –
ALI: And they're profiting off of it.
JUDNICK MAYARD: And they're profiting. I'm like, "I'm watching people click, but ain't nothing coming to it."
And so the same thing happened when I became a freelance writer. When I became a freelance writer, it was because I wasn't going on tour as much as I needed to. Are you kidding me? I make a 350 percent markup on my writing on my touring. That's a day rate. And so – but I was broke, and I was like, "I don't really want to – I can't get a full-time job, cause I need to be ready to go on the road." But I also want to stay in the industry so that people respect me and the people I work with understand that I have a load of talents. And I knew I wanted to end up being a writer at the end, cause I was like, "I'm not going to be able to do this running around after people forever." I want to do something that really allows my thoughts about the world to come out.
And the first thing about when I was a writer is everyone got really excited and thought I was just going to be pitching them and everybody was like, "I don't understand why you don't write for" – editors used to send me – pull up to me in the club and be like, "Oh, I really like that piece you did for The FADER. I really like that piece you did for Vice. You can always pitch me stuff like that too." And I was like, "Look at y'all. Y'all want me, but you want me to do the work to come to you." You literally finding me in the club, where I'm working my regular job, and you're telling me, "You could've given me that idea." And so my response always became, "I didn't pitch that." And they would be like, "Oh." And I would be like, "I don't pitch."
And I remember going home and feeling really crazy about it for a second and being like, "Who are you to not pitch? What kind of writer you think you are? Everybody else been writing for years. All your friends went to school for it. You just started doing this as a side hustle." But I was like, "Nah. I went to the best school in New York, and I've been writing since I was in eighth grade."
JUDNICK MAYARD: I studied with some of the best writers. I took AP Logic and Comp and got a – I was like, "This is a real talent and skill that I have, that I've always had, and I'm not going to let anybody tell me that it's a perk that I can use so other people can make money."
FRANNIE: And in addition to that, all of your work experience –
JUDNICK MAYARD: Exactly.
FRANNIE: – makes you a far better writer than you can learn in college or in a Master's or whatever, and the sacrifices that you made to get that experience need to be valued and compensated.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yeah, absolutely. Realizing that when you work with the artists and you see the labor, that informs your criticisms.
JUDNICK MAYARD: That informs the – people are always like, "I didn't think of it that way." Of course you didn't, cause you're not empathizing with both sides. You're not really thinking about the labor and the way that this all happened. You're just going with whatever side feeds your dogma or your personal subjective idea of what happened. I am a writer who comes from a space of, "I know these people."
So when I say – and I'm not scared of anyone. That's the other thing. The great thing about production and client is I can be friends with the artists I work with, but we also understand that this is a professional thing, and if we're friends, we're friends in a different way. So there are friends that I have where you might – I love writing about artists that I love and that I'm friends with, because I am still able to objectively talk about the labor of what they do. And then my empathy informs it.
I'm not empathetic to the idea of your persona. I'm empathetic to the idea of the work that you've done. So if your persona is, you know, bad boy or super whatever whatever thing, that's on you. That's not really my place. I can comment on it as it infers your work, but it's not my place to clap for you and this fake thing that you're doing. But if you want me to write about what it looks like for you to sit and write and work and be in your community and the way that you work your machine, I can do that. And I can allow what I've seen to inform the way that I tell people about what you're doing.
It's a really crazy way of doing stuff. I'm sure I could've been making way more bread doing it differently, selling tell-alls about the time that I spent backstage at some crazy – either nefariously or, "Please, guys, beg for my bread." I could be doing it way differently. I could be writing 75 $200 articles a week, and there are people that do that because they have to. That's what it takes. And I just chose to go a different way. And in the grandiose scheme of things, yeah, I'm coming out on top, but also I've been eating ramen for years too. I'm broke too. I still gotta scrape pieces together to make it happen.
But the sacrifice is worth it to me, because I want to be the kind of writer that is just honest. I don't really care which side loves me. I don't care about the fans, and I don't care for the artists to love me. But I appreciate when they do, and I appreciate when both sides feel seen.
FRANNIE: Yeah, and I think yet another thing that you have as a leg up on other writers is what you said before about you have to see it for yourself. You have to leave your house. You have to really really be out there and see people in a lot of different circumstances and meet a lot of different people. So that you can know, that you can recognize what's happening.
JUDNICK MAYARD: A lot of writers won't face the fact that their opinions and the way they write are informed by the way they work. So the toxicity of their corporate jobs and the way that they have been taught to see the industry that they're in informs a lot of the way they talk to artists and a lot of the way they talk about the art. And especially now in times of real political – we're really in a place where you really gotta motherfuckers know where you stand.
It's too dangerous out here to be inferring. But people really don't realize, again, you see what you want to see. So if you don't know how it's made – that's the glory of a magician, right? Everyone can have their idea of how the trick is done, but once you know how the trick is done, you can never unsee it again. So for me, I need to know how the trick is done, because I want to talk about it, and I want to present another opinion. Some people don't really want that, because they like to see the magic. Totally fine.
But I don't think that as writers – I think there are really – I think we are living in a golden age of writing, because the people who are really good have had to sort it from this mess. And the people who are really good – I don't mean the people who are celebrated or the people that make money, I mean the people that – your writer's favorite writer. Because every writer has a favorite writer, and usually that person is loads better than them. And because – the idea is they present a heroic virtue that you want to work towards, whether it's – for me, Robin Givhan, the fashion critic, her critique style is something I live up to, because she honors the labor of people who make. She's not critiquing for the fans. She's critiquing for the artist.
And that always informed my work. I want the artist to read my stuff and be like, "OK. I want to call this girl. Let me have a conversation." Or don't have a conversation with me and just be like, "Alright. I take that in, and I'm going to process that however I want into whatever it may be." Because if I'm not helping you regenerate, then I'm not helping the art in anyway. I'm not giving back to the culture. Seems pretty simple to me. I speak like it's really simple. It's really hard, but it's really not.
I think everything takes work. I think everything is about spirituality at the end of the day. It comes back to the center. The vision matters in your third eye. The vision matters in your chest. Music, for me, to this day – I grew up in church. To me, catching the holy ghost – and if you've grown up in church, this has happened to you. I refuse to believe it hasn't. There's a moment where someone in the choir hits a note, or the bass or the melody or something, and you are overwhelmed with emotion. For me, I start crying. And I used to have those moments in church all the time, cause I was in the choir and I'd be like, "Oh, man. This song is – the jam of this song is getting me, or the words or the way we're all singing together as a community."
And the same thing still happens to me with music. So much of the music I like, I could listen to an album in the middle of the night, which I usually do. I usually listen to an album at the quietest part of the day. So usually around 2:30 in the morning, me and my best friend Ty will get in the car, and he'll play – we'll listen to the album and drive.
FRANNIE: It's the car.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Or usually when I used to work at the clubs, I would come home at night, and I would literally lay on the couch upside down so that I wouldn't fall asleep and listen to the music. And I always tell people I know when I love an album, because even if I only listen to it once and I go to sleep, I'll remember which song resonated. Cause I feel it. It's not about the brand. It's like ASMR. I'm just like, "Oh! That beat just made everything tingle."
Still having that about music makes working in music rewarding still. Having that about fashion, having that about art still makes working in it rewarding. And I think if I ever lost that, I would never be able to do not even one more day of what I do.
ALI: Can I ask you as someone who is well informed and who's an advocate for artists and someone who has empathy for artists, but also as someone who's a fan of the art, when you have an artist that has been around let's say at least a decade in hip-hop – cause I feel like after four, five years you get shipped off.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yes. Absolutely.
ALI: Shipped off to retirement. So if you've been around for at least a decade, and have made a great amount of impressionable work and having a lot of artistic license to pretty much say anything, whether it's good or bad, you do that. But at some point, this artist then continues to put out music where there's a mention of love, which to me shows an evolution where it may not have been mentioned directly, loosely. But then directly, there's a mention of love, but at the same time, in that body of work, there's a discussion of just still killing people.
Do you look at that and accept it as just that's the frame of where this artist is right now, and it's all good, or do you look at it like, man, the two might not go together, and I wish was there more growth?
JUDNICK MAYARD: I look at people like that. I look at my friends in my life that way. I've known you for ten years. You've been talking or doing or whatever it is that you're about for ten years, and then ten years later you're – there's insight, but you're still holding on to the old stuff. And I tell people the same thing. I tell everyone who's like that: you're not doing the work. Now if you're making slappers, I can – there's bangers. Bangers are bangers. That's what it is. And I can dance to it. But that doesn't mean that you are continuing the loyalty, commitment, and relationship we have as a fan.
There are a lot of people who – artists now who I can dance to their music, but I'm not checking for your message anymore, and I'm not really connecting with you. And also you put yourself in a bad place when you do that as an artist, cause then you have to make bangers. Then you have no choice. If you're not evolving and you're not doing the work in your music, then you better be making bangers. Cause that's all I'm getting out of it.
ALI: That's a good point.
JUDNICK MAYARD: We literally had that conversation last night, cause my friend was like – I have a friend who was like, "I don't know how to be a Future fan anymore. In today's climate, he's still talking about drugs and girls and bitches and this and dah dah dah dah dah. And I just don't know how to" – whatever. And I was talking to my friend about it, and I was like, "Yo, my friend is duh duh duh, and this is the conversation we were having." He was like, "Yeah, but Future's always been about that. So why the change now?"
And I was like, "Well, it's just like anybody else. If you have a friend who's been doing the same thing for ten years, and you've been telling them, 'Man, you have the potential to do more. You could do'" – cause you have some friends where you're like, "This is the best it's going to be for you." And sometimes you even cut off those friends –
FRANNIE: [01:28:29 ?]
JUDNICK MAYARD: – cause you're like, "You don't have a place in my life, because this is the best that you can do." And I can respect that and also respect myself enough to say, "We gotta part ways, bro. This is where your road ends." But it's the same thing for music. And my friend – after I said it, he was like, "So it just that the tape doesn't slap?" And I was like, "Yeah, pretty much. That's what I got from it."
Cause I'm like, if somebody's loved you for so long, and they've been OK with what you're talking about, and all of sudden they're noticing how redundant it is, how irresponsible it is, how out of touch it is, a, you're not making slappers, cause that means that they're trying to focus on other things. All of sudden they're like, "Wait a minute. The lyrics are just not bumping like they used to." And also they're outgrowing you. And that's the risk of making music that is stagnant, making art that is stagnant.
You risk – what you're saying when you do that is – it's like companies. When you work at a media agency and you ask for a raise, it's like the worst thing you could ever do. They're like, "You want more money? What?" And they act like the money's coming out of their pockets. And so you have a lot of agencies, a lot of magazines, and this is also the fall of music media, turnover is what matters. They want the youngest kid who will take the less money and do the most work. That's what corporatism is.
Corporatism doesn't care about the actual evolvement of what it's selling. It only cares about the evolvement of the market. So the evolvement of the trend, the evolvement of the market, the evolvement of profits. So when you have that evolution of capitalism that's the focus and not the evolution of the art that you sell, that's your risk. What you're telling to your fans is: I don't care if you ride with me forever. I just think there will always be people that'll want this, that'll re-up on that.
And as an older fan, I have – what is it that old people always say? "When somebody tells you who they are, listen to them." So that's how I feel about those artists. I get to the point where I'm like, "Alright. Bye. I hear you. So I'll just be looking to you for the club bangers." Or, "I'll just be looking to play you in the car." Or, "If this is what you want to do, then this where my fandom comes from."
And I think we don't often talk about the relationship that way. You as a fan are allowed to evolve out of your fandom. You are allowed to also stop liking your artists and come back when they make better music. That's the glory of art. Every major artist in the world that has had a long period of time, there's an avid fan that didn't like a period of their stuff.
ALI: Yeah, of course.
JUDNICK MAYARD: And that's beautiful when the fan doesn't like it, because you don't owe them anything. And sometimes, like in real life, when you're going through, evolving, you're trying to fix yourself, you have some friends that are like, "Ooh, I don't know who this new you is. But I'm really not here for it." And sometimes you gotta let that happen so that you can get to the next place, when they come back and say, "Oh, I see now. You had to go through it to get here. I'm back. And maybe now, I can even revisit what you were doing in that time, now that I know where you were going with it."
So that's my thing with when the artist is still preaching love and killing people. I really believe in anger in art, and I really believe in violence as a political movement. And people don't talk about that. Peace comes at the hands of violence. Peace comes at the hands of threat of violence. That's why democracy is a thing, the idea that the populace can one day overpower the top. That's the magic of democracy.
And also to be black and to grow up in the inner city and to not believe in violence is ridiculous. I've seen not just violence – people focus on the violence that we do to each other, not realizing that that is the traumatized reenactment of the violence that we experience. So you can't talk about how people are mean to each other until you talk about how mean the world is to them. And that there is no value in being nice to each other, because no one is nice to us.
So when is someone is evolving, and they can still talk about that anger and that rage and that like, "I want to kill somebody." I'm like, "I feel you, bro. The world sometimes really makes you feel like you want to do that." But you still evolve with that. You still have to show people that anger – "In the context of where I'm at right now, this is what it is. So there's love now in my music, and the anger still informs my love. And the balance and yin and yang and the light and the dark exists within me, and I'm tinkering with it, and I'm playing with it, and sometimes it's like this and sometimes it's like that." But your audience is listening to you, so they know when you're selling them evolution and when you're selling them season spring/summer 2019, autumn/fall 2018. Like, "We know that."
And so a part of being honest and a part of doing what I do and being real true to it is in helping people maintain the discernment and feel the empowerment to be – cause that's what is – where you empower art. It's in the choosing to participate and not participate, not just the financial, but the literal like, "I don't have nothing to talk about your music with anymore, because you're not talking about anything." And as an artist, too often, they lie and they hit you with the, "Oh, you're a purist." Or, "You're blah blah blah blah blah."
And it's like, yeah, there's some people that are too much on one side and too much on another side, but you have to stop lying to me and just tell me that you don't want to grow with me. If you can be honest as an artist and say, "I don't want to grow with you. I just want to keep peddling my shit to whoever else is ready to drink my juice. I've been making the same lemonade on the same corner. You don't want to drive by here anymore, you don't have to." But be honest with me. Don't tell me that as a fan or as a critic that I am hating, when you know that you're not selling me substance.
So that's where I'm with it. Everyone has to be accountable for their behavior. That's the way I see it. In everything, you're accountable for your art. You're accountable for your narrative. You're accountable for your vision. So if you saying that people don't understand what you trying to do, you gotta hold yourself accountable for you not explaining it well.
ALI: I accept that.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Thank you for having me.
ALI: Thank you for being here.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Very very happy to be here. I could literally talk for another two hours, cause that's how I am.
FRANNIE: I mean, we are here for that. But yeah, I mean, thank you – just thank you for doing this, for taking the time out of your day and for being so open and straightforward. We just really wanted our audience to hear what you have to say. I think it's going to help them be able to better discern what is really happening and make, like, choices.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yeah, man, I'm telling you. My three things right now: discernment, empathy, and boundaries. It's like a devil's triangle. They go together so well. They apply to everything. No one is above it. From artists – I want more discernment, empathy, and boundaries from artists, and I want more discernment, empathy, and boundaries from fans.
I was saying this to Thebe like, micro-communities for 2018. If you create the world that you want with all the rules and all the morality and ethics and all of that within the micro-community, within the people that are directly around you, it inspires them to do the same, and then that's how the one-by-one stuff happens. It's not by one person who has millions of views expressing the view that is right. It's about every single human being holding themself accountable for every human being that's directly around them.
And so when I do work with an artist, it's the same thing. I fuck with you till I don't. And there are many reasons with many artists why I don't fuck with them. And it's not even I don't fuck with you like when I see you in the street, it's beef. I just mean like, I don't want to be behind the wheels of your machine.
I don't want my name caught up in whatever you got going on, because I'm holding you accountable to the standard of my life, and that standard is non-negotiable. There's no money that changes the standards that I have for the way that you have to treat people, the way that you have to connect to the world, and the way that you have to hold court in your own space.
So I'm grateful for the life experience and the maturity to get here. I'm grateful that I'm not jaded. Because I have been – it's not to say I never was jaded, but that I have never allowed other people's negativity and disrespect of my boundaries to inform who I'm going to be as a human. If anything, I take that in, and I – I process it, and I go through the bad time, and then I come out being like, "This is who I am, and my character is now more informed by this experience." So because of that, now I'm protective of not being jaded, so I remove myself from situations before I become jaded, you know?
And that's the discernment that a lot of the fans don't have now. It's all about clout. Clout does not leave room for discernment. Clout has no boundaries. Money has no boundaries. So when you follow that, you let that inform your work, whether it be your art or your fandom, you will always end up somewhere you don't like. And that's just facts.
JUDNICK MAYARD: So that's what I stick to.
ALI: Exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point.
FRANNIE: Our listeners are so lucky.
ALI: I feel lucky.
JUDNICK MAYARD: I mean, I feel really lucky to have this conversation with y'all.
ALI: I say fortunate. Sorry. I didn't mean to step on you, but –
JUDNICK MAYARD: Yeah, fortunate. Much better.
ALI: – fortunate.
FRANNIE: Very, very fortunate.
JUDNICK MAYARD: As a writer, yes, I love switching the word to be more correct. People hate that about me. I'm always like, "Nah, that's not the word you want to use, bruh."
ALI: Cool. Thank you so much.
JUDNICK MAYARD: Thank you.