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artist spotlight: alex mali | music

Hailing from New York, Alex Mali is an artist whose music is a reflection on her own self-empowerment. “I make Alternative R&B and within that, I make my own lane and it’s up to the listener to interpret how they choose. That’s the beauty.”

The lane she’s managed to carve out for herself is one that’s rife with both Brooklyn and Caribbean influences, and not to mention memorable one-liners over sleek melodies. Her new EP boasts eight tracks, and with an opener titled No Apologies, she introduces herself with nothing but confidence.

Introducing us to her new body of work, this mixtape immerses listeners into the thoughts and feelings of Mali herself; someone who is making it clear that her own independence comes second to none. Whilst thematically the EP is centred on relationships, heartbreak and self-worth, it’s one that lifts you up both sonically and lyrically. Alongside the singles Heart Strings and Mind You, it’s a self-reflection on her own independence and knowing her worth.

I caught up with Alex amidst her most recent tour as she supports Phony Ppl. She opened up about producing, her lyricism and the advice she’s been living by these days. Aptly titled Iconic, the mixtape has her on track for the status she’s headed in.

First off, how has your October been?

October has been great! I have no complaints especially because I started my first tour and it’s been very exciting performing in all of these different cities. I’m very thankful to Phony Ppl for bringing me out with them - it has me really pumped for my own headline tour.

How do you feel now that not only ‘Mind You’ but the Iconic mixtape is now out for everyone to hear? How long has the Iconic mixtape been in the works for?

It feels really good honestly. 2020 was pretty draining as an artist being unable to be on stage and rarely in the studio, so being back in a creative space makes me feel like myself again. The mixtape hasn’t been in the works for very long honestly. It was a mix of sounds and different vibes I created it in 2021, sprinkled with the last bits of records I got to record in 2020. I compiled it and released it.

How did the song ‘Mind You’ come to fruition? From concept to production to final song.

I linked up with the producer, Omega, in LA and he played me some beats.

This was the first time we’ve ever met so he was really just playing some sounds for me to understand his production style, but when I heard the beat for ‘Mind You’ I’m like “what is thaaaat? Sounds sick af.” He pulled it up and the rest was history. Something about those eerie chords reminded me of - like a windy ass late night in the city clutching your bubble jacket booking it to the flex because it’s brick. And these melodies started flooding my head with ferocity and grit so I started writing in that same energy. When I started the harmony section Omega looked at me like you and Chloe (Chloe Bailey) work on your harmonies in the same way. Which is pretty dope looking back at it because have you heard those harmonies on that “Have Mercy” record? Bruh.

How did you find producing on this mixtape? Is it something you want to expand upon after producing with The Breed on ‘Temptation’?

I feel like I produce all the time by orchestrating what I would like to hear on my records - but being a part of the actual background production was dope because anytime I’ve tried producing beats they are trash haha. I’m pretty proud of creating the foundation, but The Breed really took it there.

Do you have a favourite lyric or line from that track?

Yep. “Mind you, he’s the one who’s checking on me. He’s the one who’s popping up and clocking his mans to see if I’m popping up to ruin my plans.”

Same with the mixtape: is there a line that resonates most with you as an artist or person?

There are a few - but honestly this line from Fuck Your Feelings hits for me every time:

“Anything you try to take from me, comes back to me honey in 50s and 100s.”

How did you know that the mixtape was complete? At what point did you feel as though you were ready to put it out into the world?

It just felt right. I didn’t want to do too little or too much. But I felt like I had my slow jams, my Caribbean energy, and my Brooklyn energy and once I locked in that last record ‘Heart Strings’, the puzzle felt complete.

You’re based in Brooklyn, how has growing up there influenced the music you make and are influenced by?

The culture. The culture and energy in Brooklyn is unmatched and my household has also played a huge role influencing my music because of each generation’s musical taste bleeding into my own. And beyond that, it’s like… You get inspiration just walking down the block.

Do you feel as though genres are become more arbitrary, especially in the experimentation process and at such an early point in your career? For example, the mixtape is primarily RnB but has a soft drill beat on ‘This and that’.

I may be experimental with my music, but I’m always intentional. This isn’t my first rodeo with incorporating drill into my sound, or fusing sounds together though. I dropped ‘Addicted’ and that’s when I locked into what I call Drill&B, but it’s my job to take risks and to be unique and different and I pride myself in that. I make Alternative R&B and within that, I make my own lane and it’s up to the listener to interpret how they choose. That’s the beauty.

What made you choose ‘Mind You’ alongside ‘Heart Strings’ as singles from the mixtape?

My manager Xtina would have hated me forever if I didn’t put out ‘Mind You’ as one of my push singles ahahaha. I love that record though – and ‘Heart Strings’ was a no brainer once I did a couple of polls online. The people chose that one.

What advice have you been given as an artist that has helped you?

One of the best advice I’ve gotten was through a television screen. Denzel Washington always drops gems and my favourite is: “Without commitment you won’t start, but without consistency, you won’t finish.” I keep that in the back of my mind whenever I feel overwhelmed or I’m procrastinating.

Have you been performing this new mixtape on your current tour? Which has been the most exciting to perform?

I have! I’ve been doing a couple of songs, which is dope because the records are so fresh and I’ve never been able to perform so soon after putting music out. I will say though, ‘Fuck Your Feelings’ goes OFF! I love it, I love it I love it. It’s so fun to perform.

And lastly, have you had time to soak it all in? Are you already thinking about what’s next or basking in this moment?

I’m always thinking about what’s next haha. Shit, I’m already figuring out what I’m doing for my headline tour. But I am also soaking it in, because it’s my first time on the road and that will always be special.

Her new Mixtape is available now, featuring her latest single Mind You.

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