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Innovation & Startups

Pittsburgh rapper Kellee Maize says Toyota's Prius suits her style


There’s good corporate thinking and bad corporate thinking says Kellee Maize.  
 
For the Pittsburgh rapper, music is all about raising social and spiritual consciousness and many of her songs have an earthy, new age slant to prove it. ("Have you heard, about a magic place, we call Peaceburgh?" ) So when Toyota USA asked her to endorse their cars in a national advertising campaign, she considered it carefully.  
 
It was the Toyota Prius that sold her, she says.  
 
“It wasn’t an easy choice,” says Maize who grew up in Central Pennsylvania and attended University of Pittsburgh before making Pittsburgh her home. “Toyota takes the idea of being green very seriously. I actually have this dream of touring across the country with a fleet of Priuses.”
 
For an unsigned, independent artist like herself to land a three-year deal as the new face of Prius is a big deal, she says. She credits the accomplishment to the online buzz she has generated the last few years through YouTube. More than one million fans have downloaded her music for free online.
 
“More than 12,000 YouTube videos have used my music,” she adds. “It’s given me a platform that has helped me to grow organically. The strategy has paid off.”
 
Her music has been a passion since she began performing at the tender age of nine; her first group was Thunder and Lightning, but “we mostly just argued about who was thunder and who was lightning,” she says. She classifies her music as conscious rap revolving around spiritual, political, and feminist themes.
 
“I want to always be able to say what I want to say,” she says.
 
Maize is also a co-founder of Nakturnal, a creative marketing and events firm based in Pittsburgh, which she founded with two other women. She also devotes time to singing and raising money for several humanitarian concerns including a nonprofit called Committed, which works to ensure a quality education for the children of migrant workers in Nepal, and homelessness.
 
Maize will release her fifth album “5th Element” close to Valentines Day, perfect timing for a release that is all about love.
 
“I think Toyota took notice of the fact that I talk about environmentalism,” she says. “I’m staying true to my values.”

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Kellee Maize
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