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The Duke student talks his talent, how his talent is better than your talent and how his talent—which is better than your talent, by the way—will penetrate pop culture after graduation

Mike Posner's"You Don't Have to Leave" 

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Musically, Michigan and North Carolina are kindred spirits: That is, for every underground hip-hop act that comes out of Michigan, North Carolina introduces an equal amount of artists. The one thing that North Carolina hasn't really bred, though, is a recent strong, R&B-oriented pop act. For now, however, we might just have to juice Michigan-native and Duke University senior Mike Posner for his pop music aspirations.

Even though Posner's newest mixtape, One Foot Out the Door features such recognizable hip-hop names as Bun B, Saigon and Big Sean and is hosted by hip-hop handyman, Clinton Sparks, the evocative dance number "You Don't Have To Leave" is this project's stand-out track. Produced by the Melbourne, Australia, electronic music outfit, Miami Horror, Posner's breathy omnipresence hydroplanes atop the disco-floor tiling. Dance tracks like these have a functionality that hip-hop-bedded vocal performances lack. If you think that pop music sucks these days, Posner is trying to just have some fun.

Here, a couple of days before his show with Kanye West's G.O.O.D Music labelmate, Big Sean and Philly's electro-kids Chiddy Bang, Posner tells us that he's promising to become a heavy pop presence after he graduates from Duke. He doesn't, however, tell us that humility is part of the plan.

INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: As far as singing goes, you're often lumped in with Kid Cudi and Kanye West. You don't want to get lumped into that category do you?

MIKE POSNER: Yeah, well, I can sing better than both of them anyway. [Laughs.]

The transition from moving from Michigan to North Carolina is an interesting one being that both states have thriving music communities. Did this influence your move at all?

When I first came to North Carolina, I used to always listen to the Little Brother and Slum Village song, "Hiding Place," and that would get me excited. Then I realized how much Michigan and North Carolina were alike. All except for the weather—the weather is the one thing that I really liked about this place. It drove me to make certain types of songs.

I come from a very diverse community, and I see the same type of diversity of at my shows. It makes me feel at home. I came here in Fall of 2006. My introduction to the national music seen was very viral. I never really came up through the ranks in North Carolina. I just became a national artist from nothing. There's nothing local about my music. I have lofty goals, and I work hard everyday to accomplish them.

What happened in Michigan that led to you become interested in music?

Well, I started out interning at a radio statio. I was alsoo an intern at Def Jux records for a while. Man, I used to wash El-P's clothes and take his stuff to the cleaners for him.

Do you see yourself as a pop gimmick in any way?

I'm not a gimmick at all. I put out my second mixtape and on the cover all you saw was me pictured as a cartoon character. People could choose to listen to it or not. I just want to have some fun with the music.

It seems like you're having fun on the Miami Horror-produced song "You Don't Have To Leave." It's different from any other song on your album. How did this collaboration happen?

I keep my ear to the street, and I pretty much hear about all of the good music before most people. The song happened because I sound good on those kind tracks.

You're receiving a degree from Duke University in the spring. Do you plan on hitting the job market, or is it just music from here on out?

I signed a record deal in July with Sony. I can't go get a job. By the time I graduate, it'll be very obvious where I'm going to go with this music. I'll be impacting pop culture after college. The most exciting thing about my project is that I've only been singing for a year and a half. It's really exciting to know that the things I can do with my voice now, I never dreamed I could do a month ago, or several months ago. I couldn't hardly sing at all then, but now I'm kind of a pro.

What do people say when they find out that you attend one of the most-hated basketball schools in the country?

Two weeks ago, I went to Maryland and sold out a show. If they could show me, a Duke student, love, I think I'll be all right. I went to Chapel Hill last year when I was junior, and I just kept on getting recognized over and over again. If Chapel Hill can show me love, I think I'll be all right.

Mike Posner plays with Big Sean, 2AM Club and Chiddy Bang at Cat's Cradle Thursday, Dec. 3, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15.

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