Sixteen-year-old Mackenzie Nicole is an exceptional student from Kansas City, Missouri taking her former casual hobby of singing to a whole new level. The talented Nicole is becoming known in her hometown and beyond, thanks to her recent buzz cut with Tech N9ne, “Actin Like You Know.”

Balancing school and music success isn’t the easiest task, but Nicole is yet to fall short on any end and is currently an accomplished honor roll student. With a potential Ivy League education ahead, plus a single at radio and more on the way, it’s safe to say this rising star has a very bright career ahead.

What inspired you to begin your profession and when did you start?
The obvious answer here is that my upbringing in the music industry inspired me to remain in the industry for my career. However, I do not wholly attribute my love of music to being raised in a record label. I’ve always naturally taken to music, and while I obviously can’t claim this with total objectivity, I believe the same would be true if I came up in more typical circumstances without the industrial influence. I don’t know, however, if I would have pursued music professionally if I weren’t raised in Strange Music. I’m a realist, and while I would have loved music regardless, I probably wouldn’t have grown up with this implicit understanding that I would always attempt a career in music. This implicit understanding is what led me to readily agree to my first recorded feature with Tech N9ne when I was nine years old.

What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far and why?
This question is difficult as I’m the new kid; everything I do is new, shiny and exciting. In regards to the most artistically developmental experiences I’ve had, it’s a toss-up between filming the “Actin Like You Know” (henceforth, ALYK) music video and performing live. Filming the ALYK music video was amazing in every respect, and this is especially true when discussing the team we had. From video crew to styling to extras, I cannot exaggerate the brilliance and talent we were working with. That alone made the experience absolutely amazing. On a more personal level, ALYK was a huge milestone that I think will prove to be an era-marking synergistic in my artistic and personal development and confidence. Similarly, performing live was and continues to be amazing because music is so highly experiential for me, and to take that to another level as the performer rather than the audience was ethereal. I think the commonality both of these share is the aspect of performance furthering that musical experience.
How has your life changed since you began your journey and what are you expecting next?
Wow, this warrants such a paradoxical answer. On one hand, my journey has barely begun! I have only really have one solo track released, which compared to most “established artists” feels like nothing. Yet, even what little I’ve done has been highly trans-formative. Of course, there’s the obvious changes that anyone would guess: I have a lot more public attention, for example. Being treated as an actual professional is another big change, especially as a 16 year old. But, the broadest change is in my character and self-understanding. Cliché as it sounds, the more I do music, the more I find myself. My confidence and my purpose have really manifested in my music.
What characteristics do you believe are important to be successful and why?
Work ethic! If you can’t get on your grind, then you’re agreeing to mediocrity. It’s hard: I don’t even have it a fraction as difficult as my coworkers, and it’s still hard. There are many meals and nights of sleep to be missed, a lot of time, energy, and money to be spent. The key is to work without getting burnt out, which is a precarious tightrope walk.
Adaptability is also so important. Fake it ’till you make it. If you have to fake it (which you will), fake it like your career depends on it (because it might). If you’re a come up trying to make it big, you have no idea what you’re doing, but you’ve got to keep that poker face. Also, adaptability is largely the capacity to evolve. Always be learning. Utilize everything around you to better yourself. When I was in middle school, I had a little post-it note on my computer that said, “Inspiration is everywhere–find it!” Now, back then, I just thought it was something cute to write in curly cursive pink ink, but I might’ve been onto something there. Everything you read, see, and hear has something to offer. If you want to become a multi-dimensional professional–or just a well-rounded human being–you have to be able to synthesize all the media you consume into something entirely original, because that’s where art comes from. Everyone you interact with has something to offer. There will always be people (especially if you’re just starting out) throwing advice at you from every single angle. Some is good, some is bad, all is useful. But, pay attention to whose words resonate with you the most. If you can find someone who you find personally inspiring, get inside their head.
What advice can you offer to those pursuing a career in the industry?
Get uncomfortable. The things that you’re inspired by probably scared their creator to death. A lot of times, if my producer Seven says, “What if you tried saying that like this?” or if a photographer says, “What if you tried posing like this?” and my immediate reaction is, “Ehh, I don’t know…” I know that’s exactly what I should do. Jack Nicholson once said, “If you get an impulse in a scene, no matter how wrong it seems, follow the impulse. It might be something, and if it ain’t– take two!” and I think that’s kind of genius. Take those risks, and if you’re like me, those things will become your favorite parts of your work.
What message are you trying to send the world through your art?
I’ve never made art for the world to consume, I’ve made art to consume the world. In other words, I don’t have a specific message I’m trying to give the world. Rather, I’m always trying to absorb everything the world is giving me so I can develop myself and my art into something experiential innovative. If I had to choose something for people to take away from my music, I just hope that it causes them to consider something, to think, if even for a moment. I want the music to be equally as experiential for me as it is for them.