A whimsical diversion has turned into a legitimate career for Andrew Cohen, the unlikely high-tenor soul man known as Mayer Hawthorne. Previously a DJ and beatmaker, Cohen unwittingly launched a long-term creative pursuit under his primary stage name with "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out" (2008), a bittersweet pop-soul single with a purposefully dusty and amateurish charm inspired by falsetto R&B masters such as Smokey Robinson and Curtis Mayfield. The multi-instrumentalist, producer, songwriter, and singer soon landed a major-label contract that led to three entries in the Top Ten of Billboard's R&B/hip-hop album chart, namely How Do You Do (2011), Where Does This Door Go (2013), and Man About Town (2016), his second, third, and fourth full-lengths. Cohen could have remained strictly a retro-soul stylist, but he has also integrated smooth funk and breezy West Coast AOR rock flavors with a modern production aesthetic. At the same time, he has explored other sounds as one-half of the duos Jaded Incorporated (with 14KT) and Tuxedo (with Jake One). Since making the third Tuxedo album, Cohen has rounded up a batch of solo singles under the title Rare Changes (2020), his fifth LP as Mayer Hawthorne.
Born in Ann Arbor and raised in the city on Hawthorne Road, Andrew Mayer Cohen got his start in the late 1990s with Athletic Mic League, and later Now On and the affiliated production crew Lab Techs, during which he went by the names Haircut and D.Techtive. He and his Now On partners moved to Los Angeles in the mid-2000s. On a lark, he cut a two-track demo as a one-man throwback soul band and handed copies to friends and family. Introduced by a mutual friend to Peanut Butter Wolf, who was knocked out by the songs -- and assumed they were re-edits of rare late-'60s/early-'70s soul sides -- Cohen subsequently signed with the producer/DJ's revered Stones Throw label. Cohen debuted Hawthorne in 2008 with "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out" b/w "When I Said Goodbye," scratchy and bittersweet tales of heartache pressed on red heart-shaped 7" vinyl. A 12" featuring a cover of New Holidays' obscure 1969 single "Maybe So Maybe No" followed shortly thereafter and preceded A Strange Arrangement, issued in September 2009. The album entered the Billboard 200 chart at number 147 and dented the R&B/hip-hop chart at number 55.
After the live set Stones Throw Direct to Disc #1 and a couple intermediary singles, Cohen recorded his second album, How Do You Do, for major-label Universal Republic. The feel-good, uptempo single "A Long Time" helped guide the album to number eight on the R&B/hip-hop chart (number 52 pop) upon its October 2011 release. Although the material was more polished than that of the debut, Cohen retained control as producer and got some valuable assistance from Snoop Dogg and legendary guitarist Dennis Coffey. For his second Universal Republic album, Where Does This Door Go, Cohen involved a large supporting cast and teased out his affinity for yacht rock. Pharrell Williams, Warren "Oak" Felder, and Jack Splash were among the co-producers, while Kendrick Lamar, Marsha Ambrosius, and Jessie Ware all laid down vocals. Where Does This Door Go landed at number ten R&B/hip-hop (number 30 pop) in July 2013. Months later, an all-7" edition of How Do You Do was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Boxed or Special Limited-Edition Package.
Cohen launched two side projects between the third and fourth Mayer Hawthorne albums. First was Jaded Incorporated, for which he teamed with fellow Athletic Mic League alum 14KT. The Big Knock, the duo's lone LP under that name, reanimated synth pop and proto-techno with a distinctly Detroit style. Cohen and occasional Mayer Hawthorne collaborator Jake One later offered the first in their series of Tuxedo LPs, inspired by post-disco R&B. Cohen then moved Mayer Hawthorne from Universal Republic to Vagrant for Man About Town. A silkier and simplified set, it was offered in April 2016 and peaked at number six on the R&B/hip-hop chart (number 90 pop). As Tuxedo resumed with Tuxedo II and Tuxedo III, Cohen continued to devote some time to Mayer Hawthorne with supplemental EPs and singles such as Party of One, "The Game," and "Over." The latter two songs, plus other tracks released during 2019 and 2020, were bundled together in December 2020 as Rare Changes, bearing the imprint of Cohen's Big Bucks label.
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