GoldenGateXpress: Local student goes viral on YouTube with new hip-hop music video

Story originally posted to the Golden Gate Xpress on Dec. 13, 2013

By Shawn Whelchel

Although he tells listeners to “keep it to a minimum,” SF State senior Michael Payton has taken his musical career to the next level with the release of his new track titled “Minimum.”

Payton is no newcomer to making music, having started the process around the age of 11. “Minimum” marks his first commercial success, bringing him more than 20,000 YouTube views within the first week of the track’s release. The song took the Internet by such storm that its popularity eventually prompted inspection from YouTube itself. 

“I don’t know what happened, but YouTube pulled the song from my page because they didn’t believe that I actually owned the copyright to the song,” Payton said. “But once I actually got the copyright situation straightened up, I put it right back up immediately and I got 8,000 (views). Right now it’s like 8,000, which to me, is incredible for somebody who is a new artist who virtually nobody knows; to have this kind of feedback and this kind of support is still amazing to me.”

YouTube’s intervention is a testament to both the blistering popularity that the track evoked during its release and the high level of professionalism in Payton’s production and musical skill. Payton was able to remedy the situation after establishing ownership of the content and continued to host his music video on the website.

The track, which features provocative lyrics about women, money and the party lifestyle, over a Bay Area-influenced beat, is a departure from Payton’s normal style of music, which he claims to feature more thought-provoking and meaningful lyrics.

“I’m more comfortable doing records like the more introspective stuff that I’m used to doing,” Payton said. “This song was so easy to make that I almost feel like I’m cheating myself.” 

The track’s success has left Payton conflicted in regards to his craft as an artist. While “Minimum,” which was written and produced in a short amount of time, has gone on to be his most popular track, Payton said that other songs he has spent weeks crafting just a single verse, have gone unheard.

“It’s kind (of) bittersweet to me as an artist. But I’ll never shun any success that I get because I appreciate it,” Payton said.

Payton claims that “party music” may not be his style, so he enlisted the help of friend Louis Davis, also known as “Cloud,” to guest on his track, an area in which Davis said he is more suited. 

“Party is definitely sort of my forte,” Davis said. “I like lyrical things, too. I definitely like to write and have substance to my music, but at the same time, I write a lot of party music, too.”

While Davis may be more versed in the style of music used in the track, he said he feels as though Payton’s skill wasn’t faltered by the change in musical direction.

“I think he did well,” Davis said. ”Even though it’s a partying song he still put the flair on it. If you listen to his verse, he has some things on there that are very realistic and true to him.”

Jeff Jacoby, a BECA professor and adviser to KSFS, the campus radio station where Payton works as a general manager, said he agrees that Payton was successful working with a style of music he considers unfamiliar territory.

“The same things will contribute to a popular song,” Jacoby said. “Good writing, performing and production values. Michael is a BECA student, and we all work hard around here to teach and learn those things and more.”

Payton said that he has been blown away by the success of “Minimum,” though the best may still be yet to come for the artist; he is currently getting offers from labels to distribute the single. Although Payton didn’t want to disclose the label before any deal was made, he showed his excitement with the prospective deal. 

“They specialize in independent hip-hop music and marketing it to an online audience, so it seems like a really cool thing right now,” Payton said. “So I’m weighing my options and seeing what else but right now it looks like I may be going with that.” 

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