Going Global w/ Malik-16 College Girlz
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“Somebody said I shouldn’t say somebody sign me, an A&R I think, but to put it politely this is my ID. You don’t like how I’m selling myself, buy me.” This is the first line in a boastful song that once served as the introduction to his website. As an independent artist striving for a deal, Malik knows he’s in a sea of competition. If it’s true that a rising tide lifts all boats, Malik isn’t waiting on the tide to change. Like a Pacific tsunami, Malik is hoping all of his movement underground is enough to start a swell that will build into something of torrential proportions.
The 27 year old lyricist can be described as heavy in the unsigned underground circuit. However, Malik envisions something greater. He’s already garnered critical acclaim as the first unsigned artist to appear in the booth on the iconic hip-hop show Rap City on the BET Network. And with mentions and/or reviews in Vibe Magazine, XXL Magazine’s online portal Xxlmag.com, Hiphopdx.com, 2DopeBoyz.com and Gangstarrgirl.com to name a few, Malik-16 has certainly established a solid foundation to build upon.
Born and raised in the birthplace of hip-hop, New York City, it’s natural that Malik has always been a student of hip-hop. Originally from the Westside of Harlem, Malik spent alot of his time with his cousins in Brooklyn. “One of my cousins was a DJ. He’d always just be around playing music really loud in the neighborhood. We’d sit around and make beats on the table and rhyme to them when I was a kid. So for me, I just never questioned hip-hop as being a part of me,” Malik explains. At the heart of it all, Malik’s love for hip-hop comes from a fiercely independent streak. “When I was kid, everyone had something that made them special in New York. People were involved out here and had choices as a kid. PAL was out here, there were Boys & Girls clubs, sports and where I’m from in Harlem; the big thing was basketball.” Never one to follow the crowd, Malik carved his own path, shunning basketball in favor of lyrics and beats. He explains, “Now that rap has touched so many lives, everyone is trying to do it. If I grew up in this era, I would probably have strayed away from hip-hop because I never liked doing what everyone else did.” In life, purpose guides some organically. Fortunately for Malik, he never strayed far from hip-hop.
Malik’s passion for hip-hop followed him to college at Howard University. Best described as a profound thinker, college came easy to a young Malik. But the call of hip-hop kept Malik focused on his passion as well. Soon Malik was competing, performing and becoming quite a local rap phenomenon in the DC area. Much like Steve Jobs, the iconic founder of Apple Computers Malik started dropping out of class and dropping into events that fueled his love of the mic. Near the end of his collegiate career, Malik found himself back in New York City pursuing the one love that’s never been far from his soul.
By 2006 Malik had decided to turn his actively pursue his talent as a professional career. Once decided, he jumped in with both feet. After winning an appearance on BET’s former Hip Hop mainstay “Rap City”, he quit his job, launched his website and MySpace page, and released his first mixtape, Crazy 8’s all in the same day. When mulling over how he’d identify himself as a rapper, Malik wasn’t keen on nicknames or alias’s. “I tried out different monikers. But I always admired the rappers that used their real name,” he explains. So he decided to use his, but with a twist. He says the “16” has several meanings: he spits a hot 16 bars on the track, his lyrics are powerful like an M16, and then there’s a more nostalgic tie-in: “I’m my mother’s first child and my father’s sixth child so that’s why I chose the one and the six,” he reveals. However, Malik is not a fan of simple explanations, and usually encourages those who ask about his name to draw their own conclusions after hearing his music.
In 2007 Malik-16 was already recording with the biggest names in New York’s underground rap scene. He provided a guest verse on A. Pink’s “Colors” which also featured Sha Stimuli. He also followed up his mixtape debut with the thematic Moonlighting: The Songwriter’s Mixtape, an inside self-deprecating joke (but also a nod to the fact that he dabbles in R&B songwriting, as he spent the entire year of 2005 preparing a few demos for hopeful artists to present to Sony and Atlantic execs). Although Malik considers himself strictly a rapper, he jokingly explains, “I really just wanted people to know I rap, but if I wanted to, I could hold a note.” The mixtape prominently features Malik, the rapper, but he does moonlight on a few tracks as a singer, ahead of the trend of rappers singing their own hooks and the autotune boom. Since then, Malik has gone on to release a double mixtape, How To Make A Mixtape Volume 1 & 2. He’s even since become a YouTube sensation.
With a flow that is reminiscent of the best that the New York state of mind can offer, combined with elements Malik has picked up along his well traveled path (He has spent time in Georgia, Illinois, and DC), in an industry that thrives off categorization it’s difficult to assign Malik as a “type”. He’s not a thug, or a hipster, or a back-packer, or the bling artist. Then again, the music industry’s homogeneous atmosphere is precisely the catalyst for Malik. Malik describes it best: “In New York there’s an invisible mold; we turn our back if someone sounds too different and then complain if he sounds like someone else. What I’m trying to do is slip in a little bit of that different without alienating myself from my home.”
A very intelligent young man with an overflow of wit, charm and clever wordplay, Malik-16 has blazed a trail down the heart of the New York underground scene. Armed with a new style with influences from around the country while remaining very New York, Malik-16 or M-16, as he’s known to some, is ready to breathe a new life into the soul of hip-hop culture. In a culture that tends to define new artists by those who already exist, when you ask the atypical Malik who he is, for once he does have a simple answer: He’s your new favorite rapper.