Tim Maxey’s involvement in Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers was born the same way many collaborative relationships are born: Someone heard something, someone liked that something, and someone sought it out. 

Fortunately for the Atlanta producer, that someone was Kendrick Lamar, and that something was Baby Rose’s 2019 debut album To Myself, which the beatsmith and eventual one-man alt band executive produced and toured. But Lamar isn’t just someone to Maxey. He’s his favorite rapper, an artist whose 2009 self-titled EP—and everything since—served as fuel when he was cooking up for the first time as a young creative making beats at Morehouse College’s production lab, and an artist whose legacy he is now permanently etched in. That part hasn’t yet settled in with Maxey, who does more than just contribute to the project through production. 

It’s impossible to miss, but his sounds serve as the album’s backbone. There’s opener “United In Grief,” the record’s middle track “Count Me Out” which effectively swaps between the double-LP’s two discs, and closer “Mirror”—all of which present themselves as the glue to Mr. Morale: an album about love, loss, spirituality, and everything in between. “It felt really important and intentional,” Maxey says of his first time seeing the tracklist along with the rest of the world. “It felt kind of like I led a narrative in a way. You know, I had no idea that it was going to end up that way. But it was something that I wanted to manifest.”

While not everyone was fortunate enough to discover Maxey through Baby Rose’s debut, his dreamy work with Summer Walker, or even his warm welcome on an album by the greatest rapper alive, we at Pigeons & Planes got our first taste of the producer’s solo work through an unidentifiable website, strangely enough. If you were to stumble on agirlthatsolddrugs.com before Mr. Morale dropped like we did, the stream of seven songs by an artist named NOT THE TWOS would’ve piqued your interest, too. 

This somewhat nefarious-sounding website, Maxey tells us, is the temporary home for the demo version of his still-in-the-works solo project, A Girl That Sold Drugs, with NOT THE TWOS being his moniker for when he gets in the booth and mans every instrument, from piano to bass to drums. 

On these tracks, which are now password-protected until he decides to drop the full 9-song project this fall, Maxey showcases his range as a multi-instrumentalist and DIY one-member alternative band who just so happens to open K-Dot’s new LP with a song called “PARADISE” that he wrote for his own album.

It’s easy to hear why Kendrick identified this track as a fit for “United In Grief,” kicking off his return after a five-year hiatus. It’s easier to see why Maxey is about to turn so many heads in the industry. He has a magic touch, and while he’s a bit modest when talking about it over the phone for one of his first-ever interviews, he can’t help but be proud of what he’s made happen. 

“I just wanted to show my range as a producer. That’s the reason why I’m doing it in the first place because, you know, I just have so much music in me,” Maxey says. “Oftentimes, if you look at most producers, they’re kind of limited to the hours that they work with, but I’m able to just create records by myself. And rock styles, alternative sounds like that. I just wanted to show what I’m capable of.”

After his appearance on Mr. Morale and before the world hears the full scope of his solo material for the first time (unless they have the lucky password, of course), we chopped it up with Maxey about how Kendrick got a hold of his work, sending his album to every girl on his phone to create momentum, and the meaning behind his password-protected, sort-of secret debut.

Hear “PARADISE,” which was just released this week, stream it on all platforms, and read the full interview below.

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