Rewind to 2015, and London born Ella Mai showed early promise with a mere four track EP on Soundcloud and a handful of DIY covers on Instagram. Fast forward to present day, and Mai's accomplishments are a reminder to persevere – she's since been discovered by DJ Mustard, has a trilogy of EPs on his label 10 Summers, and just wrapped Kehlani's SweetSexySavage tour as a supporting artist.
The meteoric rise of Mai's career is the American dream of the digital age. After the super producer saw her cover of Fetty Wap's "679" on popular entertainment outlet @theshaderoom, he contacted her for a magic making studio session in New York City.
Although Mustard's expertise and honey-warm beat gave Mai's infectious vocals a platform to shine, the slow burn of her sleek voice and the bare honesty in her lyrics are what really captures hearts. The EP trilogy, largely recorded in Los Angeles, offers unapologetic lyrics about bouncing back from heartbreak and struggle. Mai elaborates to EARMILK about the trilogy, which is methodical its lyricism,
"All of the EP titles have a double meaning. One meaning is in reference to feelings and relationships and the other is in reference to my life. 'Time' was about knowing it was time to move on from a negative situation and allowing [myself] to do so, as well as it being my time to properly introduce myself as a signed artist with a full body of work."
Self-love is intertwined with confidence on "She Don't," the heated collaboration with Ty Dolla $ign that's the second track on the Time EP. Mai fearlessly declares exactly what her ex is missing with the straightforward hook, "Bet she doesn't touch like me/ Sure as hell don't f**k like me." As her debut track on 10 Summers, "She Don't" reads with smart lyricism as a bold, passion fueled argument between two lovers.
But her unmasked vulnerability on "One Day" and "Don't Want You" reveal Mai's more vulnerable side, which she amplifies on the second EP in her trilogy Change. Inspired by Brandy, Lauryn Hill and Destiny's Child, Mai holds herself to the standards she deserves on "Down" and on the EP's standout track, "10,000 Hours." Mai applies the theory from Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours to master any craft to the practice of love.
"Change was about getting into a new relationship and understanding and appreciating the change in dynamics from the last situation, as well as the change in my life that I was going through with being signed, moving to LA and being a full time artist."
The first track on her newest EP, "Boo'd Up," contains a similar intimate outro to "Who Knew." Mai sheds any cool girl exterior she had before "Boo'd Up" with the words, "This is such a crazy feeling, like/ I don't want to get too attached, but/ I feel like I already am." Mai isn't afraid to open up about anxiety and confusion on Ready, connecting with listeners on a deeper level than ever before.
"Ready is about knowing how to deal with mixed emotions and being ready to take charge of what you want in a relationship, or in any situation, as well as me being ready for everything that is next and really make my name something people are talking about."
On each of her EPs – Time, Change, and Ready – Mai is poignant in her delivery of unashamed lyrics. Her mature navigation of love becomes more poignant and straightforward with each release. DJ Mustard found a secret weapon in Ella Mai, and the sky's the limit for the budding star.
As Kehlani's SweetSexySavage tour was recently put on hold, stay tuned for more updates on the next time Mai will perform live. Stream her newest release, the Ready EP, above.