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Miguel Builds Industry Buzz With Genre-Defying Sound

MiguelFor the past 15 years, the music industry hasn’t been sure what to make of Miguel, and nobody has been more aware of that than the artist himself.

“I would go to meetings and I would be doing this music as this kid who looks like he’s half-Asian and black, his name is Miguel, but he sings. Like, who are you?” he told the Boombox staff during a recent visit to our New York office. “This was before the Latin market was even something people were paying attention to here in the States.”

These days, the 23-year-old singer, songwriter and producer is finally getting the attention he deserves for his genre-spanning fusion of funk, hip-hop and electronica. Apart from his buzzworthy ‘Mischief’ mixtape, Miguel recently lent his skills to Usher‘s ‘Raymond v. Raymond’ album, was featured on Asher Roth‘s debut and co-wrote ‘If U Leave’ for Musiq and Mary J. Blige, which reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Urban charts. Somehow, he’s even found the time to work on his own debut album, ‘All I Want Is You,’ set for a late summer release on Jive.

For the up-and-coming artist, this new found success has been a long time in the making. A performer since kindergarten, it wasn’t until Miguel’s parents divorced — understandably devastating for an 8-year-old — that he had a true artistic awakening. “I remember [my father] sitting me down and telling me I had to be the man of the house. And at that point I kind of shut down,” Miguel confessed. “We had just started doing poetry in school and I started writing poetry and the poetry became song.”

For the next fifteen years, Miguel honed his songwriting chops, opting to take what he calls “the Ne-Yo route” as a means of breaking into the music business. Eventually, a highly personal song called ‘Sure Thing’ (“I wrote this record that no one was ever supposed to hear”) landed in the hands of music mogul Mark Pitts, who was so impressed that he flew Miguel out for a meeting. After a miraculous, near-disaster performance (“I jumped up on this big round table…and the table isn’t fastened to the floor but I was compensating for it and it looked so crazy”) the label heads refused to let him leave without signing a deal.

Listen to ‘All I Want Is You’ Feat. J. Cole

Part of Miguel’s appeal is the way he effortlessly combines his influences. “My father was into the Rolling Stones, Prince, James Brown, classic rock and hip hop,” he told the Boombox. “And my mom was into the Temptations and Smokey Robinson.” Interestingly, Miguel name dropped some of the biggest acts in indie rock when we asked who he’s currently listening to. “I like LCD Soundsystem, Vampire Weekend, Grizzly Bear.” That open-mindedness to different sounds comes through on the eclectic tracks he played for the Boombox staff. Someday, the young musician hopes to explore these more esoteric bands. “My next album, I want to bring in the music that I like to listen to, reintroducing people to stuff that I think is dope so they can appreciate the sound.”

For now, be sure to keep an eye on this talented young performer as he prepares to take the industry by storm.

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Miguel Visits the Boombox
Miguel stops by the Boombox offices in New York City.

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Photography by Gino DePinto

Miguel Visits the Boombox

Miguel visits the Boombox offices in New York on May 14, 2010.

Miguel Visits the Boombox

Miguel visits the Boombox offices in New York on May 14, 2010.

Miguel Visits the Boombox

Miguel visits the Boombox offices in New York on May 14, 2010.

Miguel Visits the Boombox

Miguel visits the Boombox offices in New York on May 14, 2010.

Miguel Visits the Boombox

Miguel visits the Boombox offices in New York on May 14, 2010.

Miguel Visits the Boombox

Miguel visits the Boombox offices in New York on May 14, 2010.

Miguel Visits the Boombox

Miguel visits the Boombox offices in New York on May 14, 2010.

Miguel Visits the Boombox

Miguel visits the Boombox offices in New York on May 14, 2010.

Miguel Visits the Boombox

Miguel visits the Boombox offices in New York on May 14, 2010.

Miguel Visits the Boombox

Miguel visits the Boombox offices in New York on May 14, 2010.

Miguel Visits the Boombox

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