A singer, guitarist, and songwriter who draws from vintage soul and blues influences but invests her work with a contemporary style and energy, Mayaeni was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. Born Mayaeni Strauss, her mother was West African and her father Gary was a guitarist of note who had worked with Jimmy Ruffin, Sylvester, and Carl Carlton. Young Mayaeni spent lots of time in the studio with her father and soaked up sounds from his record collection. Dad's tastes ran to Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, and Bob Dylan, and as Mayaeni investigated Detroit's R&B and hip-hop scene, her musical outlook became increasingly eclectic. Mayaeni began writing and recording songs using her father's home studio, and when she was 17, she left Detroit to try her luck in London, England. She sold clothes and danced at hip-hop clubs in London, and began singing on demos for other songwriters.
When her money ran short, Mayaeni relocated to New York City, and was soon making the rounds of open-mike nights on the city's club circuit. In 2005, she recorded a self-titled EP, and a full-length album followed in 2007. She toured Japan that year, and she was offered an endorsement deal with Glad News Clothing, a rare occurrence for an independent artist. In 2008, she signed a development deal with Linda Perry's Custard Records. In 2010, a song she co-wrote with Boots Ottestad and Rosi Golan, "Bee," became a major hit for Lena Meyer-Landrut in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. 2011 saw the release of Mayaeni's digital EP Cold Love. The EP included the song "Broken Glass," which was used on an episode of the hit TV show Hawaii Five-O. In 2012, Mayaeni collaborated with DJ Sander Van Doorn on the track "Nothing Inside," which became a major international hit in clubs and on radio. (She also collaborated with hip-hop group Progress Report on the single "I'm Yours.") After the success of "Nothing Inside," she signed with Jay-Z's Roc Nation label and management company. Her first single for Roc Nation, Black Jeans, appeared in late 2014. ~ Mark Deming