Published in Blog, Culture Bully. Tags: Interviews, Music, Twin Cities.
The past decade has seen one of the nation’s strongest hip hop scenes develop in the Twin Cities, with acts such as Atmosphere, Brother Ali, P.O.S. and the Doomtree crew, Eyedea & Abilities, I Self Divine, and Toki Wright gaining national and international acclaim. But for every Slug there are a dozen MCs below the surface struggling to just be heard; one such voice in the densely populated TC scene is Mally (formerly Mally From the 612).
But just as Mally looks up to those who have made names for themselves outside of the local scene, he’s struggling to separate himself from the labels many MCs have been hit with, “I didn’t want to be labeled as only conscious, backpack, boom bap or whatever other labels some cats fall into. I believe that my music and stories I share in my music are universal to all areas of hip-hop music.” In this interview the 23 year old MC discusses his third album, The Passion, his influences, his aspirations and what he thinks about the lack of support for local hip hop from local DJs.
Why did you drop the 612?
Mally: I looked at removing the “612” (my hometown’s area code) as an unseen form of growth. Although, fans and listeners “saw” or knew that I no longer would go by Mally from the 612, it’s highly possible they were unaware as to what I was going on with me as an artist creatively or as a human being. I didn’t want to be tagged or boxed in as a “Minnesota Rapper” or a person who was stigmatized and judged before he even had a chance to share himself with a larger audience. Plus the name was just too damn long.
Because honestly, I didn’t want to be labeled as only conscious, backpack, boom bap or whatever other labels some cats fall into. I believe that my music and stories I share in my music are universal to all areas of hip-hop music.
What does “The Passion” mean to you?
Mally: Well first off, passion is what drives me or naturally causes me to put my heart into whatever it is I love to do. That passion just happens to be verse, rhyme, lyric and the art of song making and storytelling.
Now, The Passion is very important to me because I looked at it as my first album that was mixed, mastered and pressed up. For the longest time I used to think that all music consisted of was writing and rhyming to the beat, well damn was I wrong. I learned over the past year and a half that presentation is a big part of your credibility as a true artist.
The Passion means being able to give 100% no matter what you are going through. No matter how successful you may be, or no matter how depressed you may be, you never get comfortable or lose that hunger. The Passion is my heart and my life when it was at its highest point of happiness, and when it was broken. I learned a lot about myself while writing this project—The Passion was a key that opened up a lot of doors for me. Some of those doors I believe were my eyes, my mind and my heart and how to leverage them all at once.
I considered The Passion to be a gift for all listeners of music especially in the world of hip hop. I wanted it to be the album where everybody could genuinely relate to me on any of the records.
Your previous releases, The Letter and The Moment were both track-rich, the albums having 26 and 17 tracks respectively. What was the thought behind only including 10 tracks on The Passion?
Mally: My reasoning behind keeping the album to only 10 tracks was a personal preference mainly. I wanted to give everybody who will spend their $5 and support me would get a cohesive and strong album. I am glad to see that more artists are starting to make shorter, classic albums. For a moment too many rappers were making albums that had 20 songs and only 10 (maybe less) that were worth hitting the rewind button on.
Also, I didn’t think it would be smart to write my album in two weeks or write 30 tracks and keep 10. In my opinion, that’s corny and almost borderline stupid to admit you (as an artist) made 70 songs when only 14 of them will see the light of day. That lets me know 20% percent of your new catalog is great and the other 80% is trash or not release-worthy. I went into this project with the intent to only write 10 songs, and if you listen to the album I gave my all on each and every track.
One of those new tracks—”Wisdom”—is essentially a spoken interlude; one statement you make on it struck me though… touching on how it’s “Go hard or go home season.” How are you going to go hard this year?
Mally: I am going to go hard by continuously pushing this album like it’s my last, got some crazy designs coming for my business cards, shirts, stickers and the MySpace web page. In addition, I want to perform with the right acts because straight up I AM SICK AND TIRED OF DOING SHOWS AT THESE GRIMY NO SHOW BARS… I want to get a slot on the college radio stations in Minnesota and possible the nation. Also, I just want to keep writing and sharpening my skills on the microphone and perfect my stage performance game.
What’s your favorite rhyme on the new album?
Mally: You have no idea how difficult it is to answer that question because I love the whole album equally. But if I were to pick a rhyme off of the album it would have to be: “Literally I alliterate just a little bit, illiterates a little irate ‘cuz I’ma lyricist/Nevermore, never less been had my head in check, waking up’s a gamble I refuse to try and bet in debt…” (An Excerpt from “How I Do”).
You’ve got the track “My Time (Fresh Air);” have you had a chance to check out Brother Ali’s track “Fresh Air” from his new album? If you were to name a handful of local MCs that you respect above others, who might you include on that list?
Mally: Actually, I haven’t heard that track off of Brother Ali’s album, but I will check it out after I purchase the album Us. Brother Ali is definitely a great emcee vocally and lyrically that I respect locally.
In addition, I would have to say Carnage, Eyedea, Concentr8, Atmosphere (for grinding hard and getting to the level they have), Mic 101, Wize Guyz, Andre Lipsey, Mike Dreams (formerly known as Young Son) and Heiruspecs. Each and every one of these artists/groups brings something different to the table that I respect for my own personal reasons and not because someone else influenced me to. Hopefully I reach the level where somebody puts me on their “list of respect”…
Are there any collaborations that you’d like to put together in the future?
Mally: The collabs that I pray to God happen in the future would be to work with Brother Ali, and the other would be to work with Skyzoo who is an artist out of Brooklyn that I totally idolize from a music standpoint.
Other than a few releases this past year including those by Muja Messiah, Prof & Rahzwell, Atmosphere, the Midwest Broadcast mix… I can’t name too many Twin Cities-based mixtapes. Do you think that the scene suffers from its artists sitting on their material for too long rather than putting it out there and letting the process start right away?
Mally: Ha, that’s far from the problem… In all honesty, the issue is too many damn fans wanna step in the ring and compete. A wise man from Brooklyn once said “It’s too many rappers not enough mics, too many is rapping and not enough is nice…” What I’m trying to say is there are a ton of wack emcees, who collab with wack singers, make a MySpace page and put it out to represent themselves and where they are from.
Furthermore, you get those wanna be cyber-gangstas who “shoot YouTube up” as Jay-Z put it, and swear they sell weight, get hoes and got all the swag in the world. I laugh, despise, spit on and send a giant middle finger to those clowns who are damaging the art… they need to be banned from the museum. I stand by that statement because 9 times outta 10 that is not their story and it probably isn’t the story of the guy they stole it from.
In addition, the scene isn’t where it needs to be because local DJs don’t push local artists as much as they should. But the minute you make a name for yourself they will co-sign the hell outta you, knowing they didn’t day one. I can’t remember any hip hop shows where the DJ played a nice hip-hop artist on his turntables. The bubble gum is being provided as our daily bread when the real food for thought gets thrown away or swept under the rug.
Who does the majority of the production on The Passion?
Mally: Mydus produced all of the beats for the album. Carnage of Hecatomb Records was co-executive producer who helped with the levels, and sequencing. Bob Lindberg of Gravebomb Studios mixed and mastered the album, and Paul Teeter played live bass on a majority of the tracks and Tommey Walker of V2D Studios did the album artwork
Having had a release in each of the past three years now, do you have any material that you’re already eying for your next release?
Mally: I have one track that I am working on but it isn’t final yet… but the producer working on the track is Rem’ who is out of Florida.
Where can we see you around the Cities in the next few months?
Mally: You can find me at the local venues in Minnesota doing shows, you can find me by Google-ing me, you can find me at electric fetus buying albums, you can find me at Vs. (Social Standard) copping t-shirts and kicks, you can find me over at MySpace or you can find my album The Passion @ Electric Fetus, Cheapo or Urban Lights.
[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]