The online community has dubbed Ella Mai, DJ Mustard’s British signee, the new “Breakup Queen” and she sure as hell lives up to the title.
Laid back in a black and white Stüssy tee, burgundy cargo pants with her lion’s mane cinched in a half up, half down do Ella Mai saunters onto Toronto’s REBEL Nightclub stage.
“Toronto what the f*ck is up?”
She commands the room’s energy. One of the first tracks she performs is a fan favourite, “Don’t Want You” off her first EP TIME and the crowd goes bonkers. Hopping over to her succeeding project, CHANGE, Mai croons the sultry lyrics to “Found”. It feels almost as intimate as lying in bed, watching her perform covers in Instagram videos. She bellows with the same passion and laces each word with tangible emotion, but this time around they are her own songs.
The online community has dubbed Mai the new “Breakup Queen” and she sure as hell lives up to the title. When Mai performs tracks like “Anymore” and “She Don’t”, the ladies in the crowd get riled up, singing along, telling off the ghosts of their long-lost ex boyfriends, while waving their hands to the sky.
First-time listeners are floored by her vocals and moved by her words.
Straight out of South West London and performing in the 6ix for the first time, Ella Mai says that Toronto feels like home. The 22-years-young R&B songstress is a little sweet, a whole lot of sexy and, like most, can sometimes be hella savage. It’s no surprise Oakland singer Kehlani enlisted Mai as an opener for her SweetSexySavage tour.
In the last few years Ella Mai has gone from 500 followers on Instagram to performing in front of hundreds of fans on stages across the world. The social media platform acted as an outlet for Mai to share short 15-second videos of her singing a series of covers in her bedroom. Adding her own unique take on each track, Mai garnered hundreds of thousands of views on songs like “Hello” by Adele and “Back to Sleep” by Chris Brown — who recently posted an Instagram clip of him jamming to Mai’s “Boo’d Up” joint.
It’s no surprise Oakland singer Kehlani enlisted Mai as an opener for her SweetSexySavage tour.
In summer 2015, Mai received a direct message in her Instagram inbox that would change her life. Top 40 dominator DJ Mustard, famed for the beats to hit singles by the likes of Rihanna, Rick Ross and Jennifer Lopez, had taken an interest in Mai’s melodies. He signed her to his label soon after a studio session in New York. Since then, she’s released three EPs under Mustard’s 10 Summers Records: TIME, CHANGE and READY.
Back inside REBEL, a frantic front-row fan suddenly gets Mai’s attention and presents her with a backpack with the image of The Lion King’s Simba plastered on the front. It’s a sweet gesture considering Mai often refers to herself as “young Simba”. After graciously accepting it and thanking her admirer, she goes on to shout out Def Jam Recordings signee and Toronto-native JAHKOY who performed just minutes before her, as well as headliner Kehlani.
As the end of her set approaches, Mai executes her hit track “10,000 Hours”, which has accumulated over two million views on YouTube. By this point, we’re all likely praying that her set would also go on for a few more hours, but for now that’s not the case.
Ella Mai has achieved so much in a short amount of time. First-time listeners are floored by her vocals and moved by her words. Following this tour Mai is expected to return to London at the end of the year for her first solo concert in her hometown. There’s no release date yet, but our fingers are crossed for a debut album sometime soon. Ella Mai’s TIME is now and we’re READY.
Photos © Anthony Ameyaw + Urbanology Magazine