Kellee Maize
Gig Seeker Pro

Kellee Maize

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2008 | INDIE

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2008
Solo Electronic Hip Hop




"From Kellee Maize to Lady Gaga, artists find that brand deals can take the place of a label"

In the wake of the music-industry collapse, some artists walk a fine line promoting brands while pursuing art.

At this year's South By Southwest festival in March, Lady Gaga, the epitome of pop stardom, partnered with Frito-Lay — a deal that didn't endear her to some critics. As the festival began, music writer John Pareles slammed Gaga in a New York Times blog post: "My face, physical presence, and social media accounts are not a snack-food marketing tool," wrote Pareles, who said he'd skip Gaga's performance at SXSW. "Lady Gaga, feel free to scarf down my promotional bag of chips. As if."

But in a keynote speech at the indie-centric fest, Gaga gave critics something more to think about — and spelled out a mindset that a lot of musicians, including some based in Pittsburgh, are echoing.

"[W]hoever is writing or saying all of those things, you don't know fuck about the state of the music industry," Gaga said. "I think it's also about how the artist chooses to engage in these sorts of relationships. What's the type of relationship? What's the philosophy behind the collaboration? Do you have things in common?"

The controversy highlighted an industry-wide trend: While marketing partnerships have drawn a backlash from some musicians and fans, among many others there's been a gradual shift in opinion about partnering with corporations. And festival season, the extended spring-to-summer music-industry holiday, is the most obvious reflection of the change.

From Ultra to Coachella to SXSW, advertisers keen on reaching the coveted millennial audience have capitalized on the festival format. But beyond the branded stages, branded parties and branded dinners, there's been a change of ownership and power — from major labels to big brands. And plenty of artists are cool with that.

"I think 20 to 30 years ago, generally speaking, people were more apt to say, ‘Oh, that person sold out because they licensed a song to a commercial,'" says Kristian Dunn of the band El Ten Eleven. "I think these days, people aren't as critical in that regard because it's just harder to make money as a musician."

El Ten Eleven is comprised of Dunn and drummer Tim Fogarty (a Pittsburgh native). The pair creates a unique blend of post-rock-influenced indie music, with Dunn on a double-neck bass that he loops over Fogarty's electronic drums. While experimental in its approach, the band has gained a lot of experience making original music for film scores and commercials, so it can slip into a pop aesthetic on a whim.

"There's not really CD sales anymore," Dunn explains. "I think the general public is more forgiving of musicians licensing their music to commercials because they know they've got to pay the rent. In one shot, you can sell a song and it's like, ‘OK, cool: I don't have to have a day job for two more months, and in that time I can work on my art.'"

Local rapper Kellee Maize has also found success with a brand partnership. She signed a three-year contract with Toyota to promote the company's hybrid model, Prius. Maize, who's built a career on unconventional marketing techniques, admits that the offer initially blindsided her. But she has nothing but good things to say about working with the brand.

"It's definitely helping me, because I'm really committed to my music being free and continuing to learn and kind of be a guinea pig for this whole new way of copyrighting music to creative commons," she explains. "I'm not heavily distributed in normal channels. [The Toyota deal] pretty much funded my last album. And it continues to give me the opportunity to just make more music, and not be quite as concerned with selling in order to make it."

A marketing deal can cover everything from a few months' rent to a few years' salary, depending on the brand — and on the authenticity of the partnership. Maize, whose contract includes commercial face time and driving a Prius as a "brand advocate," says she has a lot of affinity with Toyota.

"For me to promote something that I really believe in, with the environment, there's so many fucking issues," she explains. "If we can't get people to start thinking about it and their everyday choices, then it's all a wash."

Just because some brands and artists are working toward an authentic outcome in a partnership, that doesn't mean they all do. According to one advertising professional, it takes all kinds.

"I've worked with many artists who will do anything for money," says Bonny Dolan, executive producer at Comma Music. "But I've had some pass up a million dollars because they don't believe in the product. My job is to always give them the offer."

Dolan, who moderated a panel discussion titled "The Shifting Brandscape" at SXSW this year, says she's watched brands infiltrate the music industry over the past decade. Having worked at Leo Burnett Chicago for seven years as a music producer, she's seen artists and fans alike take a more forgiving approach to partnerships.

"At Comma, I'll do a showcase when bands come through," she says. "These artist showcases happen with advertising agencies in New York and Chicago. And what we do at Comma is invite all the agencies, so the band can get in front of all the agencies to let them know they're interested in getting their music out there."

Dolan says the roster of bands interested in such partnerships spans the spectrum from indie to mainstream. And while El Ten Eleven, for example, may not be getting sponsorships with American Express a la Jay Z, Dunn and Fogarty have found balance in making art and a living simultaneously. Having toured the festival circuit for years, they've landed spots at North Coast Music Fest and What the Festival, just to name a few, alongside names like Wu Tang Clan and Afrojack.

As for Gaga, her actual performance at SXSW was just about the last thing you'd expect to see in a commercial from the Frito-Lay brand. She spun around on a spit like a pig while singing songs from last year's album Artpop, as her backup dancers completed the tableau of rebellious revelry around her. To finish off her performance, she had fellow performance artist Millie Brown vomit paint on her.

Vomiting in relation to a snack brand? The Internet went crazy.

In her keynote afterward, Gaga praised the experience of "watching the fans have an experience with me and then having Doritos support that to its core, not telling me how to do the show, what it should be like, or putting chains around my neck." Frito-Lay, she added, "just said, ‘We just want to support you in having a great experience [at the festival]. We want to help your foundation. We want to help spread the message. How do we do that?' And they came up with ‘Bold Bravery,' and it all came together."

"The truth is, without sponsorships, without these companies coming together to help us, we won't have any more artists in Austin," she added. "We won't have any festivals, because record labels don't have any fucking money." - Pittsburgh City Paper

"How I "Made It" in the Music Industry: My Top 10 Tips"

First off, by "Made It," I don't mean filling up arenas or the sort of unlimited abundance that could "make it rain" everyday. I mean making music a full-time focus that pays bills, so that you can start doing what you love.

With all of this talk about Female Hip Hop Artists failing in the music industry and less and less female rappers being signed, I have been inspired to write this article and share what worked and what didn't ... and a LOT didn't. I'm still applying these new discoveries myself and learning everyday from them, so I can make no guarantees, but my hope is that this helps a next generation of conscious artists trying to let their voices be heard.

Who am I?
I am an unsigned rapper and singer from Pittsburgh. With Licensing, Shows, MP3 Sales, and a Toyota Hybrid Sponsorship, I can do music full-time and focus on evolving my sound and my SELF, building a team and working more in my community. Most importantly, I am building a fan base. (I don't really like the word "fan" and prefer supporters or better yet community, but for simplicity sake, we will say fan and fan base here in this article.) My hope is we get to a gift economy in the VERY near future. Meantime lets share in the spirit of collaboration and NOT competition!

So ... let's begin ... My 10 Tips to "Make It" In the Music Industry ...

1. Don't Do Free Shows
I love to perform and connect with people, I've probably done around 150 free shows over the years. It's amazing practice, but once you get to a point where you feel like you have confidence in creating an engaging live show, I suggest not continuing to do it without some compensation. Unless of course it's for a cause you care about, it can be a lot of effort and time that does not amount to very much tangible support. The sound systems at most shows asking you to perform for free could also be a poor representation of your voice and generally folks won't know your music, so there will be little engagement. Especially if you are a rapper, your lyrics might be too hard understand.

You may get a few die hard fans from a show, but that same effort you put into an online marketing campaign could yield thousands of new die hard supporters. At the same time, I don't suggest not performing for more than a month or two, to keep you limber and in touch.


2. Don't Contact Music Blogs
Smaller music blogs (that are still influential) like Gorilla vs Bear, Pigeons and Planes or Pretty Much Amazing get about 10,000 visits and 200 music submissions a day. How are you supposed to make your email to them stand out?

When I started reaching out to blogs many years ago, the volume of emails coming to these sites wasn't as large. I definitely received some blog love, and it helped my SEO a great deal, but more and more folks are making amazing music, (which is awesome), and this marketing strategy of emailing music blogs is now over-saturated.

Just imagine how many submissions Stereo Gum and Pitchfork get? And, getting no response, time and time again can be a discouragement that you don't deserve - but don't worry, blogs will start reaching out to you, once you build a fan base.

(Here's an interview I did with Cypress Hill's B Real TV. I never contacted them asking them for an interview ... they saw that I had gotten some buzz and wanted an interview. I was honored and beyond excited given I was OBSESSED with his music when I was young!)


3. Don't Worry About "Getting Signed"
95 percent of signed artists fail. With those odds, it makes more sense to learn the new music business on your own. You can stay Independent and keep control of your music by learning and applying the principles of marketing to your music. You'll have a better shot at sustainability than if you sign somewhere and let a label with a 5 percent success rate manage your career. (Not to mention the control they will have over your creativity and image.)

If you're not into learning business/marketing, get someone on your team that wants to learn it while you learn to evolve your music. I partnered with someone that loves my music and loves marketing, and it helps if you love and enjoy each other as people and have similar spiritual and creative interests!

Having my own marketing and events firm didn't hurt, but it was about making many financial and PR mistakes (and learning from them) that actually created the sustainability. Give your marketing person a piece of your potential profits and all the love you can muster as this type of support is such a precious gift to an artist. There is a ton of great music and lots of talented artists out there, but there seems to be very few talented marketers in the music industry.

4. Give Your Music Away For Free - The Legal Way
Don't just give away your music for free -- assign a Creative Commons (CC BY 3.0) License to your music.

What in the world is Creative Commons?

It's a copyright license you put on your music that allows you to let others download your music for free and use it for whatever they want. They just have to give you credit for it. This is a very unique and new marketing strategy that will get you many new fans. If you are not comfortable doing this, that's understandable, because I was not at first. Why would we spend hard-earned money and time writing, recording, mixing, and mastering my music only to give away for free?

I argued for a long time with my partner about it, and the value of art. It wasn't that I wanted to make a ton of money off of my music, but I wanted to stand for the value of all art in general. But in the end I trusted his instinct -- giving away all 5 of my albums for free. I also am not into the monetary system as it is anyway and loved that anyone could have access to music, even if they couldn't afford it.

Here is a great tool to choose a license - Choose a Creative Commons License >


5. Submit Your Music to Jamendo, Frostwire & Free Music Archive
OK, so assuming that you now have chosen a Creative Commons license, it's time to submit your music to some of the most awesome Creative Commons sites out there. Check out Jamendo, Frostwire and Free Music Archive. These sites host CC music and have large member bases so you'll immediately start to see plays and downloads. Congrats! You have begun to build a fan base! (There are definitely more of these types of sites -- Google them.)

6. Charge For Your Music
Wait but I thought I was giving my music away for free?

You are, but there will still be people that want to support you by purchasing it. Then there are the people that won't even know your music is free - they'll also buy it or stream it on Spotify. Even though Spotify only pays less than a penny a stream, don't worry about money, just be happy that you actually get streamed and are growing a fan base for your art!

You can use Tunecore (It's expensive since they charge you around $30 yearly per album, but easy to use) or CD Baby (One time $49 fee for an album and no yearly fees) to get your music on pay sites such as iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and Rdio. Those are the only ones that really matter IMO.

7. Let Others Make Money Off Of Your Music
This may seems strange and make some feel uncomfortable, but yes -- let others make money off of your music, without paying you anything.

What does this mean exactly?
Remember that Creative Commons license you signed up for? You already agreed to this. You're letting others use your music for their own financial gain as long as they give you credit. Good news -- this will get you even more fans!!! Here's how you can let others make money off of your music:

Just upload all of your CC BY music to a Youtube channel with a picture of you/your album art and your CC License in the description.
Next, start messaging content creators on Youtube and let them know your music is licensed as CC BY and provide a brief explanation of it just in case they need it.
What's a Youtube content creator?
Search on Youtube how to paint your nails, how to grow tomatoes, how to downgrade windows 8, how to learn karate! There are tens of thousands of content creators with millions of videos, and these videos need music!

In most cases, Youtube will not allow them to use traditionally copyrighted music (and so much is), and these content creators risk getting their video deleted, or even worse, getting their account banned. Music that is licensed by Creative Commons allows these Youtubers to use your music and credit you in the description.

Guaranteed people will be watching a video on how to do X, Y or Z, and they come across your song, like it, google your name since you are credited in the description, and end up following you on Twitter or Facebook, and buying your song on iTunes. And yes, that Youtube content creator will be getting ad money from Youtube on the video they made using your music.

How can I message all of these Youtube content creators about using my music?

Sign up for and follow their really simple instructions.

Yes, content creators on Youtube will be making money off of a video with your music in it...which I personally think is great. I am all about sharing abundance, but you have to be also.

(This video, by Youtube Content Creator, Mark E Miller, uses my song "In Tune" and has over 100,000 views and has gotten me tons of MP3 downloads and new fans!) There are over 12,500 videos (and counting) on Youtube that use my music.

Also, an added bonus ...
Since you uploaded your music to Jamendo, Frostwire and Free Music Archive - many content creators go to those sites to find music for their videos. Youtube search your name and sort by latest upload date and see if any videos using your music are popping up! (make sure you contact the video owner if you aren't properly credited.)


8. Use Social Media To Turn Your "Followers" Into Friends
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram - These all get lumped into 1 because I feel they're not as important as you would think. They won't actually get you new fans, but they will allow you to interact with them. Here's what I suggest when starting out:

Answer every person's tweet, comment & message to you
Follow them as well! (only follow people that mention you)
Build long lasting online relationships with them.
These people believe in you and most likely care about what you care about, which is so precious and beautiful. Everyone has a gift to share and you will likely learn and hear amazing art and ideas from them too.

On Facebook, post about your personal life. On Twitter, do the same. On Instagram, post really cool pics. Respond to everyone that comments or tweets and try to create ongoing discussion. Do this at least, daily.

Oh, and you will start to see repetitive questions, keep log of your answers for easy cutting and pasting, but also respond to the personal part so that fans know you did actually read what they wrote. This is also a great way to spread the word about whatever current campaign you are doing online. In the response, ask kindly to share, download, etc.

What about Youtube?
As far as Youtube goes, don't make a music video until you start to get some fans first. The song you want to make a video for might not be the song your fans like. Download data on all of the CC sites mentioned above and it will reveal what your fan's favorite song is, make a music video for it and share it with them!

Again, social media doesn't seem to really get new support but giving away your music for FREE will. These listeners will become your base on your social media and will want to interact with you. Be ready for them and reply to them -- build a community!

9. Make sure you have an AWESOME EPK
Sonicbids is expensive. You have to pay a monthly fee and then a fee for submitting for each gig. It seems to be over-saturated and less and less effective these days, especially since their latest platform update. I would avoid the free shows at Sonicbids ... for the same reason as above.

Make your own EPK.

Here is my EPK, as an example:

Update it every time something awesome happens.

The beauty of having this readily available is that the media (and fans) will LOVE a 1 stop shop where they can get everything they need about you and spend less of their precious time searching. Your bio, your latest accomplishments, your pics, your music and links to important places should be included.


10. Email is the Holy Grail
What? Email? What is this, 2001?

Email is still, by far, the highest converting online marketing tactic. From my experience, your number of fans is determined by the number of emails you have.

Not your Facebook fans.
Not your Twitter following.
Not your number of Instagram likes on your cute puppy.
And even crazier is that your number of fans = your email list opens, not your total email list. That number will probably be around 50 percent ... so for every 2 emails you get, consider that 1 true fan.

How do you get these emails?
If you ask, you shall receive.

Once you give away your music for free and post it on all of the Creative Commons websites (make sure you put your social media links in all of the descriptions), you will begin to see new fans on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, etc.

Engage with them, authentically and from your heart. Ask them for their email address so that you can continue to send them free music / concert updates / anything that isn't spam!

Since you now have someone on your team that is devoted to marketing your music, every new marketing idea you come up with should have an end goal of getting an email address.


This entire process will have a spiraling exponential effect. The more fans you get, the more fans you will get. Here it is, again:

1. Make music
2. Give it away for free using a CC license
3. Free music = new fans
4. New fans will reach out via social media and engage, be grateful and love them!
5. Collect emails from your fans
6. Make more music and give it away for free
7. Email your current fans and ask them to share it
8. Free new music + Current fans sharing that music = more new fans
9. Repeat 1 through 8 over and over again.
10. Magical things will happen

Blogs will start posting your music
People will want to book you
Your mp3 sales will start to appear
You will get licensing opportunities
Brands that align with you and your music will want to help you

Again, I can make no guarantees and also could share a lot more about what worked and what didn't but I know time is limited. I will follow up with some more articles very soon, so please, follow me on Twitter to get my updates.

I also believe heavily in putting focus and intention on what you want (the laws of attraction) and could suggest various things that helped me creatively, but if you have a method that works, keep it up! Every mistake is a lesson learned and no way is ever the right way. For example if you are a busker or living and playing on the festival circuit, you are a bad ass and I admire it so much! But, I just hope you find something of value from my suggestions. May the force of amazing music and love, always be with you! xoxo - Huffington Post

"How to Make Music: 10 Steps to Becoming a Recording Artist"

After writing my last article about how to make it in the music industry, I received a plethora of questions. It occurred to me that I left out some vital advice that might help aspiring artists who have not yet created any recorded work. I have recorded 5 albums over the last 5 years and released a remix album this past fall. I have made a lot of mistakes, as well as a lot of successful moves, and I believe it's a time in the history of music for all of us to share our stories and help independent artists evolve beyond the competitive mentality that pervades the industry.

Please talk to me on Twitter or Facebook if you have any questions about what I am sharing. My team and I are here to help! - Huffington Post

"City Paper - Google <3s Kellee Maize"

Plenty of Pittsburgh-based musicians are skilled with Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other standard online promotion tools. But Kellee Maize operates on a different level. Just Google "female rapper," and behold her spot at No. 1.

"That was a goal, awhile ago," Maize says, via phone; an intern with a knack for search-friendly websites helped make it a reality. Now, she estimates that people Googling "female rapper" drives 6,000 monthly visitors to her site.

What does that mean? Well, it means she has the eyes and ears of a lot of people, including 20,500 Twitter followers and 19,000 Facebook fans. (To put that in perspective, City Paper has 1,118 Twitter followers and 4,479 Facebook fans.)

And her mailing list, she estimates, has 200,000 subscribers.

Like Jonathan Coulton and Marian Call, Maize's an independent musician who banks on her unique style and personality -- or more accurately, "personalities." Maize sees her many roles -- which include rapper, businessperson (she's founder of promotions company Näkturnal) and spiritual seeker -- as "archetypes," each with its own web presence, music, videos and photographs. For one archetype, "Ms. Apocalypse, Protector of the Fourth River," Maize dons full-on superhero garb.

Maintaining this online presence "becomes a conflict in terms of how I'm spending my time," says Maize (who once worked for City Paper's marketing department). But the outreach is a priority. She also has support, in the form of advice from boyfriend and College Prowler co-founder Joey Rahimi, and Näkturnal's resources, including its small army of interns.

"My company is very much supporting my music," Maize says. But there's a reason for that: She's "a guinea pig" for developing and testing marketing services Näkturnal hopes to offer other artists and companies.

Maize's trajectory suggests that being an independent, Internet-savvy musician doesn't mean nerdy music or doing it all yourself. But it probably helps when one of your archetypes is a promotions wiz -- and another is a superhero. - Pittsburgh City Paper

"MSN Rediscover - Feminine Phenom"

"This is why I love hip-hop so much. You can say so much in one song."

If you search online for "female rapper," the first hit will be Kellee Maize, the Pittsburgh singer-songwriter who has burst onto the male-centric rap scene with her feminine rhymes.

Her website takes her thousands of online fans to downtown Pittsburgh's Market Square, which serves as the backdrop of her cleverly titled music video "Google Female Rapper." Bystanders do double takes of the long-haired blonde as she chases the camera and removes layers of heavy winter clothing until she is down to a tank top and shorts.

As she struts, she bares her soul in a rapid-fire rap:

I don't know much but I venture to prove myself wrong
to keep rewriting my songs
to unattach and play gongs
to never worry 'bout right and wrong
and instead create a space where everyone can create
not assimilate
let each voice be heard without hate

It took Maize years to achieve her moment in the spotlight. As a college student at the University of Pittsburgh, she immersed herself in the local hip-hop scene. She would organize events or sing backup for male rappers, saving her own songs for the privacy of her house. "I was pretty much the only girl," she says. "I didn't have the confidence."

Then her father died in 2005. And she knew she couldn't delay the dream she had nurtured since she was a little girl in central Pennsylvania, singing and dancing before she was walking and talking (or so her mother says).

In 2007, she released her first album, "Age of Feminine." The death of her father and other personal issues came pouring out in her lyrics, some of which railed against the inequalities of the world. "I was honoring the feminine," she says. "There is a feminine and masculine in everyone."

In 2010 she came out with her second album, "Aligned Archetype," a compilation of more spiritual tunes, and last year she released "Integration." Her words about bettering the world just flow out of her. "This is why I love hip-hop so much," says Maize. "You can say so much in one song."

She fashioned a sound booth out of a closet in her house in Lawrenceville, a vibrant Pittsburgh neighborhood that feeds her artistic energy. In her video "Notice the End," she is shown getting a "Love and Trust" tattoo from Octeel, who works for the Drawing Room Tattoo Parlour & Gallery in Lawrenceville. Jasiri X, a rapper who inspires Maize, also performs in the video.

Maize's career as a rap artist has been given a huge boost by her marketing firm, Näkturnal. She and her partners have focused the full force of online media and guerrilla marketing on her career.

It's worked. She's also the No. 1 female rapper on "Everything we do for our clients, we do for me," she says. "I am like the guinea pig."

Pittsburgh has embraced Maize as a rapper, and she constantly gets emails and letters from fans around the world. "When are you coming to Trinidad?" a recent fan email implored.

Though Maize has been approached by a few labels, she still produces her CDs independently. She's not rich, but she's happy to earn enough to produce her music. "We want to get the music to the people," she says.


For most rappers, a chance to perform at the legendary Bonnaroo music festival and gain national exposure would be something to relish in as long as possible.

Pittsburgh rapper Kellee Maize was struck by the response to her hard-bitten lyrics that earned her the performance at the festival in 2011, but instead of basking in the adoration of a legion of fans she hopped in her van and drove 600 miles back to Pittsburgh to participate in two little-known benefits.

“Kellee is willing, at the drop of a hat, to go and participate in things that she believes in,” said Matthew Macri of Lawrenceville. “She is really dedicated to changing and helping the world.”

That experience reflects Maize’s life, one that fuses hard-edged commentary among rap beats that are turning her to fame along with social justice and women empowerment ideals that she lives by and writes lyrics about.

Maize was infatuated with political and social themed hip-hop music while growing up in her sparsely populated hometown, where she realized the powerful social advocacy potential of the genre. This cognizance of music as advocacy would ultimately drive her to the city to refine her craft and start a career as a hip-hop artist.

“It was the first time I saw music as being bigger than the person,” said Maize, who stands out in the hip-hop scene as a Caucasian blonde with a short stature.

Orphaned at birth, Maize was picked up at 7-days-old by her adoptive parents, Chris and Terry Maize, in the rural, central Pennsylvania town of New Berlin.

Maize, whose parents informed her of her adoption at a young age, did not know other adopted children growing up, leading her to question her self-worth having no contact with her birth parents. Despite this, she saw the positive implications of being an adoptee.

“I think that it made me be an exploratory person,” said Maize about delving in to her own psyche and using what she learns about herself to find perspective on life.

This zen perspective would lay a foundation for Maize’s proactive outlook exemplified in her hip-hop music.

A young, bombastic Maize was enrolled in a gymnastics camp around the ages 6-7 years, said Chris Maize who sought an outlet for her daughter’s mass amounts of energy.

Maize said she was exposed to female hip-hop groups TLC and Salt and Pepper for the first time at the camp. Mesmerized by the groups’ songs over the radio, she said that she choreographed a dance routine to the groups’ songs with other girls at the camp.

“When she was young she and her cousin would put on little shows with dancing and singing,” said Chris Maize about Kellee when she was enrolled at the camp. “She told me one day that she would be a rock-star.”

During high school, Maize’s exposure to the genre would evolve after a boy from California introduced her to rappers with socially loaded lyrics and large lexicons; such as the song she remembers listening most vividly on loop “JFK to LAX,” about black empowerment by hip-hop duo Gang Starr.

“I remember sitting around and downloading all this music,” said Maize about exploring the genre with a newfound voracity. “It was like downloading a whole new world.”

On occasion, her friends visiting her house would seek clarification on hip-hop lyrics and ask Maize to reel off song lyrics that she memorized, according to Chris Maize. She would enthusiastically oblige, rattling off the lyrics in emulation of the original songs.

“In high school she knew the words to rap songs that no one else knew,” said Chris Maize. “People would go to her for the lyrics.”

At the same time she was listening to female alternative artists, such as Fiona Apple and Tori Amos because of their messages of female empowerment, she was also developing a lust for urban music because of their messages of racial oppression, such as (above mentioned) hip-hop artist Guru from Gang Starr, said Maize.

This affinity for urban music would be a driving factor for moving to Pittsburgh, away from her small hometown of about 870 people, where she would begin to build a foundation for her future hip-hop career after meeting with local hip-hop artists and DJs.

As a freshman at Pitt, Maize met young adults who were immersed the hip-hop scene in Pittsburgh, and who would be her main motivators for becoming a hip-hop artist.

“My friend Shar who is an emcee [colloquial for rapper] actually encouraged me as well as one of the first people I met in Pittsburgh, Brandon a.k.a. Bonics,” said Maize.

“They were my friends; Bonics was always doing amazing things and I just kinda played the back and learned from him, but Shar was always pushing me to sing and rap…”

Maize joined the communications department at Pitt as a freshman, noticing the large numbers of students in the music and theater departments at Pitt left her little chance to perform on stage, a desire incubated by her passion for hip-hop.

She said her dormant aspiration to perform resurfaced while - Whirl Magazine

"Jamendo - Kellee Maize : the vibe with the smile"

"This talented artist from Pittsburgh mixes hip hop/electro music with spirituality and activism. Add on it a tight flow and deep lyrics and you’ll obtain a unique style in the rap game." - Jamendo

"Frost Wire - Kellee Maize -’s Top 10 most downloaded albums"

"Kellee Maize understood the power file sharing and creative commons as positive promotional tools, that’s a screenshot of her album "Aligned Archetype" among the top 10 most downloaded albums on" - Frost Wire

"Pigeons & Planes - Kellee Maize "Start None""

"Kellee Maize has quite a loyal following. Last time I posted about her I got 96 comments.Her subjects range from spirituality and astrology to government brainwashing – basically, things you expect to hear at a Phish concert from the dreadlocked white guys burning incense and refusing to wear shoes." - Pigeons & Planes

"The Smoking Section - Don’t Start None With Kellee Maize"

"What separates her from the majority becomes apparent one minute into
the song when she begins a double-time flow, attacking the track with a
ferocity that isn’t present with many femcees in the game right now.
Lyrically she’s a blatant hippie; speaking on peace and love like it was
1966 all over again, with a song structure that is engaging throughout." - The Smoking Section

"Pittsburgh Post Gazette - Kellee Maize: House full of hip-hop"

"Kellee Maize doesn't fit the demo of a hip-hop artist, unless that includes
spiritually empowered, platinum-blonde white female social activists from
small towns in Pennsylvania." - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

"Pretty Much Amazing: Kellee Maize"

"Kellee, a Pittsburgh native, takes pride in being a wholly DIY sort of artist,
relying on grassroots support to find her footing. It comes as no surprise
then, that her music has a distinct East Coast sound, most notably a
powerful leaning towards the Baltimore club scene that would make
Xaphoon Jones blush." - Pretty Much Amazing

"XXL Magazine - The Break Presents: Kellee Maize"

Name: Kellee Maize

Age: Age of Aquarius

Reppin’: Pittsburgh & Mother Earth

My style and/or skills have been compared to: Comparisons do not serve the evolution of anything or anyone but in terms of what I have heard from listeners, people compare me to Nicki Minaj, which is flattering, but I think that was just because she was just blowing up when I started getting some love online. People also say Lauryn Hill … she is a goddess. I think this is because she takes on a lot of social/political issues as well as spirituality, although it is more religious in her expression and not in mine. It really is a huge honor to be compared to Lauryn, but nothing compares to her!

My standout records and/or moments have been: My standout moments were when I learned to meditate, when I did soul retrieval work, and when I watched the movie “Kymatica” for the first time. These moments are what source my music. In terms of linear accomplishments, when my third album, “Integration” hit 160,000 downloads in January 2012 on Jamendo and Frostwire. The daily emails and tweets I get from fans are also very empowering and exciting for me.

I’m gonna change the game by: Rapping & singing about things that aren’t found in mainstream hip hop like yoga, environmentalism, oneness, spirituality, beings from other dimensions, and indigenous wisdom, to name a few.

My goal in hip-hop is: To inspire, excite and assist everyone who is working to elevate consciousness on the planet through sound healing, sacred self expression and movement. I hope people feel good and less alone when listening. I hope they realize that loving and accepting their shadows will help the shadow in the world become less powerful. I want to allow people to access the hope within themselves so we can open up the amazing potential on this planet to heal and create peace and unity. If nothing else, I hope to make people smile and dance, that is just as powerful as the particulars.

I’d like to work with: Michael Franti, his music warms my heart and makes me hopeful. M.I.A., I love how she makes political statements easy to swallow and dance to. OutKast, I fell in love with them when I was a teenager and appreciate their creativity. Alexander, – his song Truth has been a theme song for me for several months and his voice is magical. Lauryn Hill, I know every song by heart that she has ever done. Azealia Banks, her “212? song recently rocked my world. She is so talented and witty.

I’m gonna be the next: I don’t dig comparisons. Everyone on this planet is so different and has their own gifts. I don’t know of another rapper like me so I will not be the next anyone.

To check out more of my music go to: Google “female rapper” – my website comes up #1. - XXL Magazine

"Huffington Post - Kellee Maize's Music will Enrich Your Soul"

Kellee Maize's thought-provoking, multi-sensory experience book, Integration, is one that helps guide her soul back to center every day. In her GPS Guide below, Kellee shares visually stunning excerpts from her book, a collection of her music and four personal tips that get her back on course. - The Huffington Post

"MTV News - Mac Miller Makes His Picks For Next Big Pittsburgh MCs"

Yes, the world knows Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller, but Pittsburgh has a wealth of hip-hop talent. With the Steel City's two breakout stars already accounted for, MTV News took a trip to the 'Burgh to see who's got next.

Mac Miller Introduces Pittsburgh's Up-And-Coming Artists
"A lot of people are talented. There are just a million talented people out there," Miller told MTV News when he took us on a tour through his hometown in December.

Acts like Boaz, Chevy Woods, B White and Mayo of the 58's, Jabari X and Varsity Squad have been repping Pittsburgh locally for some time now, and while Mac supports all the city's homegrown talent, if he had to pick one act to break out nationwide, it would be the Come Up, a.k.a. the duo of Vinny Radio and Franchise.

"I brought them on tour and I plan on bringing them out on tour, so if it's up to me, they're gonna be the next people that come out the 'Burgh," Miller said. "But there's definitely a lot more people who could; it's not just Vinny and Fran."

Mac Miller introduces Pittsburgh's hottest producers.

The Come Up exist as a part of a larger hip-hop collective called the 58's, along with rappers B White and Mayo. That union exemplifies the type of unity that exists in Pittsburgh's rap scene.

"It's a small city ... so pretty much we've all been familiar with each other for a long time," Franchise said. "Everybody in this city who's pretty much doing it legit, we've all been trying to get it and put the city on."

Taylor Gang's Chevy Woods echoed a similar sentiment. "Everybody's hardworking, and it's not like a big music scene out there, so when you got somethin', you just go with it," he said. "Everybody sees the light that shines on [Wiz Khalifa] and Mac [Miller] and now it's trickling down to everybody else."

Wiz Khalifa motivates Pittsburgh's up-and-coming artists.

There is a pretty diverse group of rap characters that come out of Pittsburgh. Wiz is a hitmaker who dedicates a lot of his catalog to partying and getting high, while Mac embodies a youthful spirit. Boaz is street, and female MC Kellee Maize spits sociopolitical bars. "To be honest, I do think Boaz is right there on the cusp. I think I'm maybe close to the cusp too," Maize said, laughing.

"I just bring that underground feel," Boaz said, describing his deeply rooted street sound. "I embrace the culture of that poverty line that I'm speaking about." - MTV News

"Sonicbids Blog - Lessons to Rocking Bonnaroo from Kellee Maize"

Last year Sonicbids and Bonnaroo teamed up to bring emerging music to the stages of Tennessee’s biggest party, Roo! And to spice things up, we even let music lovers around the world help send two talented artists to one of most anticipated festivals of the summer. This year, we are looking for 10 more artists to join this year’s lineup. To spread the word we caught up with last year’s winner, Kellee Maize. Read on to hear how she landed the gig of her life. - Sonicbids Blog

"40 Under 40: The Goal"

"Her style is hip-hop—singing and rapping lyrics that reveal her interest in New Age theory and global change. Her second album, “Aligned Archetype,” is available for free on and ranks among the most-downloaded, thanks in large part to her Pittsburgh-based grassroots outreach." - Pittsburgh Magazine

"Kellee Maize – “Third Eye” Video"

"Apparently, Kellee Maize – ‘The #1 Female Rapper on Amazon’ – took our hard-nosed review of her debut video in stride, as the follow-up proves worthy of the Pittsburgh native’s high musical quality score" - Smoking Section

"Kellee Maize – “Third Eye” Video"

"Apparently, Kellee Maize – ‘The #1 Female Rapper on Amazon’ – took our hard-nosed review of her debut video in stride, as the follow-up proves worthy of the Pittsburgh native’s high musical quality score" - Smoking Section

"Free Music Monday: 10 Free Downloads and More"

"Pittsburgh’s Kellee Maize brings together hip hop, house, dubstep and more on her second album, Aligned Archetype, a work that weds feel-good dance energy with spirituality and mysticism." -

"Kellee Maize - Hasta Abajo (All The Way Down) - a single from her upcoming album"

"One of FrostClick's favorite artists, Kellee Maize, has just released a
single from her upcoming album, Integration. Known around as THE female
rapper (try googling it!), her last release "Aligned Archetype" has been
downloaded over 300k times and has reached #1 on Amazon MP3s
downloads." - Frost Wire


Age of Feminine - 2007 Album, 12 Tracks
Aligned Archetype - 2010 Album, 23 Tracks
Integration- 2011 Album, 18 Tracks
Owl Time - 2012 Album, 11 Tracks
The Fifth Element- 2014 Album, 11 Tracks
The Remixes- 2014 Album, 9 Tracks



Kellee believes we all have the power to help positively affect the world by "being the change we wish to see", as Ghandi puts it. While this can be incredibly challenging given our human tendencies and emotions, she believes we are entering a new stage of evolution in human consciousness. Music and art will usher in the peaceful revolution we need from our current fear-stricken society.

Band Members