After Making the Hot 100 & Signing With Epic Records, Mariah the Scientist Is Ready for the Next Level

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It’s the dog days of tour for Mariah the Scientist. The 26-year-old R&B singer-songwriter is relaxing in her Detroit hotel room, alongside her older sister-manager Morgan Buckles, for a well-deserved off-day ahead of Mother’s Day in her jam-packed schedule.

Performing in venues nearly double the size of her 2022 Experimental Tour, Mariah is trekking through the Midwest — with the finish line in sight at the end of the month, as the Atlanta native makes up a handful of dates after getting sick earlier in the tour.

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Her third studio LP, To Be Eaten Alive, arrived in October, packed with love-drunk anthems and serving as her first release since moving from RCA to Epic Records. The project marked her first to make the Billboard 200, peaking at No. 93. She says she’s been thrilled with how the partnership has blossomed over the last seven months.

“A lot of times labels get a bad rap,” she tells Billboard. “There’s a whole thing against labels, and I don’t really feel that way. It’s one thing to have a bad deal… It’s [another] thing to have a partnership. A lot of the narratives are pushing against that, but I feel like Epic brought something to the table.”

This year has brought on a series of wins for Mariah The Scientist, who also earned her first Hot 100 entry in January as part of Tee Grizzley and Chris Brown’s “IDGAF” (No. 100). She went back-to-back on the chart with a second entry in the following week, for her appearance on “Dark Days” (No. 70), from 21 Savage’s American Dream album.

“Those two Billboard [chart] entries were a milestone in my career,” she says proudly. “I feel like it encouraged and motivated me to get one [as a lead artist]. I’m glad they included me on that music, but now I wanna do it myself.”

Check out the rest of our interview with Mariah, as the singer opens up about bringing her cat on tour, keeping Young Thug in the loop about the Kendrick Lamar-Drake feud and much more.

How has tour been? What are some of your favorite stops so far?

It’s been really long this time, I guess. When I got sick, we postponed a few [shows] and that made it seem longer. The top three cities – Atlanta definitely was No. 1, Orlando and probably Detroit.

Morgan Buckles: My favorite show was L.A. We were at The Wiltern, which holds about 3,000 people. Mariah was beginning to get sick around that time. She was upset about her outfit, she wasn’t in the best mood. As soon as she went on the stage, nobody could even tell. To me, if you ask her, she hates it. We have different opinions, and I’m sure it looks much different from her perspective — but from where I was standing, every single person was screaming on their feet. Usher came by the way of his wife, Jennifer, to the show and he was super proud of her. It felt so good to be so well received.

Do you have any hobbies on the road to stay sane on tour?

My cat, I bring him everywhere. He’s with me right now. I’ve taken him so many [places] — I’ve taken him places he wasn’t supposed to go. Everywhere we’ve gone. He’s been to Portugal. When I tell you this cat has been all over the world. He has been more places at the age of three than [anybody]. I wonder does he even know the life he lives? I’m sneaking him in and out it’s crazy.

Other than that, my hotel room workouts. I’m trying to keep my abs together. Running around with [Morgan], and my cousin running around with us and my newly-adopted sister DJ Honey. It’s been a good time.

I respect that you’ve kept your prices low for your tour compared to some other artists. 

I feel like I have a lot of younger fans, so I don’t really want it to be not affordable for them. When I was young, I could not afford that stuff. When I go on the internet and I see the resale prices, it kinda upsets me. We talk about the resale prices a lot — because who the hell can afford that? I couldn’t back then, and I’m not saying nobody can now. It’s a little unfair. I guess it’s just I’m growing and it comes with it or whatever.

Even some of the merchandise is re-sold for ridiculous prices. In some ways, I’m flattered that people are willing to spend that on me. I hope they feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. I feel like we’re putting a lot into it. I just want everyone to feel welcomed here with whatever I’m doing.

You’ve come a long way as a performer. How did you end up getting comfortable and what did you work on? I heard you reference ear-mouth coordination.

I think the show has evolved so much. I’ve been on five tours in the last two years. I’ve performed a lot since the beginning. Going on tour with bigger artists, Rod Wave, A Boogie [Wit Da Hoodie] and Future – and granted those are rap artists — I kinda use the opportunity as a case study on strangers with people who are not familiar with me or my music. I try to take that dynamic and focus more on the performance itself. When it’s your fans, they will accept you in any capacity. When it’s other people, you don’t want to psyche yourself out too much or strategize too much.

When I was on tour with other people, I just tried to have a good time. I feel energy is contagious. I feel like if I’m having a good time and enjoying my performance, it will rub off on other people. I used it as target practice, and when my tour came around, we spent a lot of time trying to elevate the production in general. I appreciate the fact my sister puts so much time into it. I feel like I can trust her with the task, when I was trying to focus on my part of the craft. I feel like it came out really good. I read a lot of the things people say about and I feel they really enjoy themselves. It’s a total difference from where I first started. I can’t wait to see what happens next when we’re in bigger venues as we keep going.

Morgan Buckles: The internet had so many things to say about her at that time. They talked about her vocals, how nervous she was, her breath control. Between then and now, we’ve done so many tours. In building the right team around her, everything has gotten so much better. It’s a world of difference. She’s much more confident.

I feel like people were trying to bully you on your performance initially. What was your reaction to that? 

I think in the beginning, I didn’t totally know what I was doing. It was different for me. Most artists have always wanted to do music. That was their dream. So it’s like I look at people who have been singing for their whole lives – a Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey – those people always wanted to do that. They had their whole lives to prepare for it. Like Beyoncé, she’s got so much archived footage of her singing [at a young age], anticipating that this is what she’d be doing.

I didn’t necessarily have that. Even if I liked music or liked to sing, I never looked at it as if it was gonna be my career. From the starting point I had no idea what I was doing. Somebody told me the other day they were there for my first-ever Rolling Loud performance, and another called Day N Vegas, and there’s this viral clip from this festival. Rolling Loud was my second performance and Day N Vegas was my third or fourth. They gave me this great slot. Everything aesthetically was there, and I just wasn’t experienced in being a performer. I would get so anxious about it, and I was so nervous, and I would laugh it off or play off the anxiety and it wasn’t received that well in the beginning.

The internet can cut it up and make it into whatever they want to make it into. It’s not that I was asking for grace from anybody, but the truth of the matter is I didn’t know what I was doing. It did take a lot of practice. Whenever I get the opportunity to go on tour again, I go and take it, because I feel like I could be better at what I’m doing. It’s easier to get into character now. It’s not necessarily a character, but what you want to portray at that moment.

Do I feel like I was a little bullied? I just feel like people weren’t that open to knowing the story they just ran off with pieces of information without knowing or lack thereof when it comes to me seeing, growing up and doing that. I just had to work overtime to make it right in real time because I didn’t have that experience. Now I have it and it’s way better. I’m just happy the people who were they to see it in the beginning are also here to see the growth now.

You just needed reps it sounds like. How has the dynamic been of having your sister as your manager and tour manager these last couple of years?

It started off slow. I guess I’m not trusting of people in general. I’ve had a few managers and everything. Not saying they weren’t trustworthy, it’s different when it’s your sister, because I can’t get rid of her in real life. If there’s a task and a goal, it’s easy to share goals — because we want some of the same things in life. Not just for ourselves, but for each other. I feel like working together does more good than bad. You could say that with a lot of people, but specifically with my sister it’s like keeping it in the family. The more success I garner, the more success she garners. It can only contribute to the legacy. Our parents – repaying them for the time and the energy they put into raising us.

Is it tough to juggle the roles of talking to her as a sister and then talk as a manager because those lines can get blurred?

They can – that’s inevitable. Don’t get it twisted, we work well together, but there’s been plenty of times she’s cursing me out, I’m cursing her out. That’s sisterly, I guess. I’m not saying that’s how we should go about it, but it happens. We spend a lot of time together. It’s inevitable that you won’t see eye-to-eye at some point. There’s still common goals and objectives. That’s not to be overlooked for minor disagreements. I just feel like I would rather build something with her than to build with someone else. I’d rather just see the people I grew up with and was raised with thriving off a gift that God gave me. I feel like there’s a way to capitalize in their own ways on what I’m doing.

That’s the gift that keeps on giving. That’s the best part of doing something that goes so far in the world. You can bring people with you and they can bring things to the table that you wanted to do on your own. I’ve gone through management. I’ve gone through production, but it’s like — my sister has put a lot of time into that. I feel like she could do that for other people. She was really good at doing that. She acquired that skill set, and I was the guinea pig. I love that for me and I love that for her too. I feel like she can take that anywhere because she has that experience.

Morgan Buckles: If you ask Mariah, I don’t know the difference. I’m older [by three years], so I think to Mariah I’ve always tried to boss her around whatever she’s doing. Right before she went on tour with Rod Wave, she fired her old tour manager and asked me to do it. She realized very quickly I was much more assertive than she thought I was. After that tour, she ended up parting ways with her management. I never looked at it as if I’d be her full-time manager, but I knew she needed help with so many things. I knew I could do everything extremely well, and I care more about it because she’s my sister. Anytime there was a need for anything, I would help her figure it out.

It’s definitely not always easy. You know how it is with siblings. If I chose to ever manage other people, it would be a walk in the park. Not that Mariah is difficult as an artist — but just the dynamic of certain relationships. They teach you so much about yourself. With the exception of my parents, Mariah’s been the longest relationship I’ve had in my whole life. We know how to push each other’s buttons and get under each other’s skin. I feel like working with anybody else would be a breeze. Nobody would ever be able to get to me like Mariah. Nothing would feel more rewarding either.

You made your Hot 100 debut with “IDGAF” with Chris Brown and Tee Grizzley, and followed that up the next week on 21 Savage’s “Dark Days“…

It’s lit. I’m so happy that they included me on that song. I know that was so cool. That was very exciting for me. I’m glad you’re asking me this. I feel like a lot of people and media outlets, they put a lot of time and attention into things that are less relevant to my career. They don’t pay attention to the accolades that I’m so excited about. It’s almost rare that somebody’s interested in your accolades. Everyone wants to see the negativity, and see you doing poor,ly and they want to advertise and promote that.

I feel like it’s important for people like that to inspire younger artists who are doing things for the first time — because a lot of people in Atlanta have done that for me. I don’t want to say “duty,” but it’s a goal for me to be able to do that with other people. That’s why I brought Chxrry 22 and Ryan Trey with me on tour, because I see potential with them. If somebody looked out for me when I was at that point in my career, it could’ve made a world of difference.

Touching on Young Thug — what are your conversations like recently, and how often do you get to speak to him?

I talk to him every day, all day. When I have the opportunity to go to court and tune in physically, I am there. I feel like he appreciates, respects and encourages the fact that I have a strong work ethic and am actively working as much as I can. It’s good to do that, because if I didn’t I probably would be a little more down and out about it. He’s done a lot of the things I’m doing now, but he’s, like, living vicariously through me again. We talk about it all the time. I feel like he pushes me to do more things. He’s very encouraging. He’s definitely supportive.

Are his spirits up?

He’s just like that. I feel like sometimes they expect me to say he’s down and out. He’s not really that kind of guy. It’s very rare that he’s like that. Obviously, everybody doesn’t have perfect days every single day. For the most part, I have more down days than he does. I don’t want to say I believe too much in astrology, but he’s a Leo, and Leo is ruled allegedly by the sun. I’m a Scorpio and a Scorpio is allegedly ruled by Pluto — the coldest, darkest planet. And he’s the sun. It can be a lot of contrast. Where there’s room for contrast, there’s room for balance.

Is he up on current events? Does he know about the Drake-Kendrick feud?

For sure. I tell him everything. I might tell him too much. I play him the [diss] songs over the phone and s–t. He’s a lover of music in general. He f–ks with everybody. I don’t think he would ever be able to – let me not speak for him. He love music though.

He thinks it’s interesting, for sure. We were listening to some of the songs. Not all of them, because now I’ve gotten lost. In the beginning, I was like, “Hey, there’s a tizzy going on.” I played him some of it. I feel like those two people are both great rappers. With all of the rappers with the guy and the girl rappers, granted it’s cool for the craft, and to be able to keep up with that — because let me not lie and say there’s no competitive energy in the music industry. Because there is.

How did you feel about the reception to To Be Eaten Alive?

I feel like [people have treated it] it really well. I feel like I got a lot of new listeners from that project. They love [my earlier projects] Ry Ry World and Master, but I feel like I’ve garnered a lot of new attention from To Be Eaten Alive. Even with Epic my label, I actually love and appreciate them. I love my A&Rs as people and professionals. I love Jennife [Raymond], I love Sylvia [Rhone] and [Ezekiel Lewis]. They have definitely believed in my project from the get-go. As we listened to it in the early stages, I just feel like they were there for it. They loved it from the jump. They’ve supported and encouraged me. They put a lot into it — almost as much as I do. And I’m thankful for that.

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