“Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” was Mayer Hawthorne’s first foray into modern soul music. The red, heart-shaped 45 released on Stones Throw in 2008 caught fire in year of forgettable singles, propelling Mayer Hawthorne’s career into the stratosphere. Four years later, he’s revisiting his roots on October 26 at the Pagoda Lounge.
With its doo-wop touches, minimal sound, and undeniable catchiness, fans of hip-hop and soul were instantly gripped. The record soon became a hard-to-get collectors’ item and Mayer took off on world tours shortly after. With his thick-rimmed glasses, vintage suits, and bowties, the rapper-turned-DJ-turned-singer has pushed his success further than ever imaged.
Mayer’s now a regular on the late-night TV circuit and plays huge international music festivals; he’s even collaborated on tracks with Snoop Dogg of all people. Not too bad for an indie-rapper who almost retired when “underground rap” began losing steam in the early 2000s. He’s since worked with modern dance troupes like SebastiAn while many of his songs have been used on major TV shows like Ugly Betty. And while he cites Curtis Mayfield and the late J Dilla as influences, he’s also performed with more modern, commercial acts like Foster The People and Bruno Mars. His latest release, How Do You Do, showed more of a focus on funk and modern R&B than the Motown vibes that marked his first album. Mayer’s undeniably strong songwriting keeps him busy regardless of genre.
In between official albums, Internet-only releases, and wild collaborations, Hawthorne sticks to his guns too, making one-off DJ appearances to the surprise of many fans. His DJ chops aren’t bad either, as he’s played alongside turntable maestros like Jrocc of the Beat Junkies.
Though his career is in full stride, he seems to always return to his roots. Everything will come full circle when Hawthorne returns to San Jose for a rare, live DJ set. After all, he has San Jose’s own Peanut Butter Wolf to thank for putting him on Stones Throw to begin with. His stop in San Jose also marks the two-year anniversary of the “Live at the Pagoda” series at the Fairmont Hotel, which has brought acclaimed acts like Adrian Younge and Toro Y Moi to the San Jose.