Now in its 18th year as an independent hip-hop powerhouse, Strange Music formally signals its foray into pop music with the launch of Strange Main. The division will roll out its inaugural album by flagship artist Mackenzie Nicole (The Edge) on April 13. That move—as well as Strange Music’s opening of its new Hollywood outpost — will be celebrated during the album release party tomorrow (2/23) heralding the March 2 arrival of Strange Music co-founder and flagship artist Tech N9ne’s 20th album Planet.
“If I had a label with a crazy partner and my daughter possessed vocals through the roof, I’d start a subsidiary pop label too,” says Tech N9ne with a laugh during an interview at Strange’s performance and event space in the Dolby Theatre. The company’s 4400 square-foot Hollywood hub overlooks the famed boulevard and what will also become the red-carpet area for the upcoming Academy Awards.
“We love all types of music,” continues Tech N9ne, referencing his work with acts such as the Deftones, Gary Clark Jr. and System of a Down’s Serj Tankian. “So it makes sense for us to expand into Strange Main.”
Actually, Strange Main has been in the works for seven years, according to Strange Music co-founder and CEO Travis O’Guin. Before initially signing to Strange Music in 2015, singer/songwriter Mackenzie Nicole had already become a familiar voice to Strange fans from singing hooks on various Tech N9ne albums. Classically trained in opera since she was six years old, Mackenzie was nine when as Mackenzie O’Guin she earned her first professional credit on Tech N9ne’s “Demons” featuring Three 6 Mafia in 2009.
Fast forwarding to 2015-16, Mackenzie Nicole began laying the groundwork for her debut album The Edge with “Actin Like You Know” featuring Tech N9ne. Appearing on Strangeulation Vol. II, the sixth album in the latter’s “Collabos” series, the song eventually accumulated more than 3.9 million YouTube views and 1.9 million Spotify streams. Mackenzie’s second single “Deleted,” about Internet bullying, was co-written by her and labelmate Krizz Kaliko.
As the title implies, The Edge embraces Mackenzie’s self-professed description as someone whose fearlessness “takes everything as far as possible.” Co-written with and produced by Los Angeles team The Jam (Lady Gaga, Santana, Becky G), the 12-track set has spun off the catchy-chorused lead single “Preview” about the on-again status of an off-and-on relationship.
Watch the “Preview” video:
“On The Edge you hear my hip-hop background, some of my opera training and my Strange macabre,” says Mackenzie, a 4.0 high school graduate who counts Rihanna, Dua Lipa and Halsey as inspirational sheroes. “I think all of those elements marry well on this project. You only get to debut once and I want to lay the foundation for the career I want to have. My ultimate goal is to be Strange Music’s Trojan horse into pop.”
In addition to Mackenzie Nicole, the Strange Main roster includes pop rock band Above Waves. Signed to Strange Music in 2014, the group will also release its debut album this year. “We love quality control here,” says O’Guin, “so we’re not going to put out sub-par music. We’re going to do it right without taking any shortcuts.”
Noting as well Strange Music signee/R&B artist Darrein Safron, O’Guin adds, “Hip-hop will always be the cornerstone of what Strange Music is about, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to limit ourselves to one genre of music. We just want to kick butt all the way across. That’s been our motto the whole time.”
O’Guin has recruited Ponch Hudgens as executive director of Strange Main. Hudgens is the former program director and morning show host at Top 40 radio station KMXV (Mix 93.3 FM) in Kansas City, Missouri where Strange Music is headquartered.
Strange Music recently reached a settlement in the trademark infringement lawsuit it filed last October against Strainge Entertainment LLC. The company, whose roster includes rapper Trippie Redd, was founded in 2016 by Elliot Grainge. Strainge Entertainment now operates as Elliot Grainge Entertainment with specific settlement terms remaining confidential.