Despite gaining a great following independently as a Gospel artist over the years, Mali Music is ready to break out and tackle a more traditional style of music that will help take his career to greater heights. It’s no secret that Gospel isn’t widely embraced in the mainstream, so Mali will continue making uplifting music but in a more secular form. He’s already a standout performer (we were extremely impressed at a recent show in NYC) and his artistry certainly deserves mainstream recognition. Now that he’s linked up with Mark Pitts and Bystorm/RCA (notable for the blossoming career of Miguel), Mali Music has got limitless potential. We sat down with Mali Music recently while he was in NYC and discussed his origins as an artist, linking up with Akon, doing more traditional music to get through the glass ceiling, his upcoming debut on RCA and more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about your origins as an artist. I know back in 2006, you formed your own production company and then eventually went on to become a part of forming a label. Take us through that journey.
Mali Music: It was awesome and I believe one of the reasons that it was that successful is because it happened organically. It wasn’t like “Let’s start a company before we have a product.” God blessed me to have a lot of great songs and a huge following on MySpace. I had over 18,000 followers and listeners and it was affecting everybody in little regions. I showed it to my mom and she was initially became my booking manager and then she became my full-time manager. Mali Music Note productions was my production company and still is. SoundWalk Music Group was birthed which is my production company merged with my mom and dad’s business and then Capitol. Great things happened. It was me, E. Hall and Keisha Pollard. We’re doing some major things and “he 2econd Coming” was the initial release and it just took off. That’s how we’re here today and “Mali Is” is going to be dropping in March. This is my second step, so imagine the fifth and sixth. I hope it goes far.
YouKnowIGotSoul: How have you been able to make this such a successful building from the ground up organically?
Mali Music: I think it was because the heart of it was always touching the listener, so I don’t think you can really fail with a product that really has the heart of the consumer in mind. I’m just as much as a listener as I am a sharer and a consumer as I am a giver. I know what we like, I know how it feels like to enjoy music and I know the thoughtfulness that it feels lyrically, melodically and I think that everybody can relate to the level that I’m communicating with them on. It causes them to feel respected and not overshadowed by some type of famous act that makes them feel small.
YouKnowIGotSoul: A few years later, you were able to catch Akon’s attention. I know things didn’t work out there, but how did that whole thing come together?
Mali Music: The whole thing was really good. I feel that it did work out. My dad got a job offer in California and we went there. I went to a showcase called “The Merge Conference” and won it. The next year, I think Kelly G and Omar were doing the BET: Music Matters stage. I won that and then that’s how I got connected with Music Matters. After doing it in New York, I did the BET Awards and I did a song that wasn’t on any album, it was just for that moment. It was then that I got Akon’s connection and attention. He was just taken back and wanted to get to know me. We started to build a relationship, so whatever was going on with the label initially, that may not have worked out but he is on my team as a co-manager and he’s always making things very easy for me using his pull. I respect him and love him for that.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You’re now signed to RCA Records. How did that situation come about?
Mali Music: I love my situation, it’s doing really good. I love the progress that I’m making. It may not be at the speed that I was used to being an independent artist and I might not have the control that I had as an independent artist, but Mark Pitts and the whole team really just took it to another level and caused me to be one of the elite artists that is up and coming. That came about from working with Akon and we were grinding. I think it just hit me that in the place that I was as far as a Gospel act or a mainstream Christian head as far as my music goes, there was a glass ceiling that I couldn’t go beyond. Not only did I want to impute peace and cause people to seek positivity and be enlightened, I also wanted to also be the best to do it. I wanted to have an opportunity to join the legends in the hall of fame of music like Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and James Brown. I wanted Mali Music to be somewhere included in that list. The fact that it may not have been possible or probable if I wore a cross around my neck and my message didn’t change and I wanted to get a mass appeal and go beyond to see where I measured up against the greats because I didn’t want to go to grave without my music getting a real shot. The thing that Mark is over doing here with Miguel, J. Cole and the developmental touch that he had on Usher and Chris Brown, it was just a good match. We linked at a table and we had a meeting. I really liked him and he felt like a father or a big uncle that will always hold me down and he also respected my music. It was a stretch for him initially just like the things he was bringing was a stretch for me, but now what we have now is a beautiful common ground. I think that’s what makes it go far.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I was reading that you will be bringing love and spiritually to this R&B genre. So far how has your music been received by fans?
Mali Music: It’s out of this world. The thing I love about it is that everybody can already tell that it’s different. It’s like any dish with a hint of lime and you’re like “Whoa!” especially if you know how it originally tastes. I’ve had a chance to do a couple of shows with Raheem DeVaughn on his “Love Land” tour and it’s been real good. The reception from the audience where 90% don’t know who I am and nobody who leaves out of the door after the set doesn’t know what it’s about. The fact that it is a strange from the first strike or listen, they get it like “Oh man this is special!” It really keeps me inspired because it’s not only what I wanted, but I wanted what was for me as well.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I’ve heard your music described as food for the soul. Talk about your sound.
Mali Music: The sound is extremely eclectic. You never know how I’m going to come. There’s thing ranging from Boomkat and then you have your 808, I’m spitting 16’s right after singing melodic hooks. I have full-fledged Reggae stuff on there from Jerry Wonda, straight Gospel stuff and straight piano ballads. I don’t know how to explain the sound sonically, but I know that when you hear every song, you get it and you feel the same feeling. It also allows me to be able to remain myself and be as eclectic and genuine and expressive as I am. I love that people pardon the lack of consistency in genre for the consistency in content, soul and passion.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Introduce us to the “Mali Is…” sampler that you released.
Mali Music: Yes! The sampler is awesome. I feel it was extremely necessary especially for the transition that was going to take place from my last album and my upcoming album. It’s not the dropping off of anybody, but the sampler is like a bridge to help everyone transition to this land that we’re going to party on in March. The album is going to be dropping then and the sampler consists of 5 songs of the album like “No Fun Alone”, “Fight For You”, “Heavy One”, “Ready Aim” and “Beautiful”. The last one is actually doing really good and everybody loves that feel. It’s awesome to see that because I wrote that song with people in mind. For them to know and feel it and knowing that it was for them and for it to have over 37,000 hits on SoundCloud is awesome. I feel like it sets the tone and if we can release those five early, imagine what is on the album. That’s all I’m trying to say. I have a great feeling about this album and I think it has the potential to be an instant classic.
YouKnowIGotSoul: In addition to be a singer, you’re also a songwriter and a producer. Have you been able to work with anyone?
Mali Music: I’m actually texting back and forth with Jennifer Hudson. I was able to do multiple songs with her. We were able to develop a very strong friendship. She’s very awesome and I love her gift and ability and she also appreciates mine. She’s been a blessing. Akon has been a blessing too. I was able to write and do some songs with him. One of the songs I did is called “New Life” which will be on his new album “Stadium”. We just got finished shooting the video for it. I’m getting a lot of love from Miguel and a lot of respect across the board. I think the writing is going to come on a totally different level once everybody what I’m dishing out and understand where I’m coming from and I’m going to be prepared for it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Who have you had a chance to talk to on your own project?
Mali Music: Jerry Wonda was a breathe of fresh air. Jerry and D-Mile were the only producers that actually got songs on the album. I produced 100% of my last album, so in Savannah, Georgia, studios nearby or musically mentors, there were none. If I wanted the piano, I had to learn how to play it. If I had to record myself, I had to know how to do it. I kind of became a one man band. I’m grateful for them to be able to massage it as I was able to put some things together. We were able to make some music that I wouldn’t been able to make alone. I was also able to link with Salaam Remi who I absolutely love. We’re going to be doing a lot. We’re probably going to keep hatching some stuff out. I was able to link with a lot of people, but it really wasn’t in the vision and I didn’t want a major feature at all because I didn’t want to introduce myself with anyone. I didn’t want to ride or come in on someone else’s coat tails because I feel like it could have tainted the possibility and probability of how timeless this album can be. I wanted it to be introduced by myself because if it was a success, then they would understand it and where I’m coming from. Then I can link with my all my colleagues because the audience will know what I’m bringing. Also everyone else can know what I like to do and how I like for it to sound. Any ideas that they have, they can invite me and be like “Let’s call Mali for this”. I think the features are fun and a great opportunity to continue to spread a brand, but I don’t feel it’s necessary when you’re establishing a brand. I really want to build this thing slow and methodically. I don’t want the grand opening and grand closing to be on the same day. I’m taking my time and I believe this thing can go for.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Anything you’d like to add?
Mali Music: I’m just really grateful for the opportunity and the chance to be able to sing and write music that everybody loves.