MaLLy: I'm painting this visual of this art that's on life support

MaLLy: I'm painting this visual of this art that's on life support
Photo courtesy of the artist

When MaLLy's The Last Great... dropped last year, it was evident from the attention it drew from national music blogs and local critics that he was an MC on his way to doing big things. His latest EP Strange Rhythm switches up the formula with production from his regular show DJ Last Word, and the result is a tight work that shows artistic growth. Gimme Noise caught up with MaLLy to see what his music-making process has been lately.

Gimme Noise: Tell me about working with Last Word. What made you want to go in a different direction as far as production with Strange Rhythm?

MaLLy: I think the biggest thing we wanted to do was elevate our performance together, as a DJ and an MC. He said, one thing to keep in mind is keeping the crowd engaged. He understood that shit. He knew how to scratch, mix, it wasn't like he was just pushing buttons and shit, he was actually DJing. This was two and a half years ago. Being affiliated with Cryphy, going to their events and doing stuff with them, hosting their first Fridays in the Record Room, it just continued to progress. We have a good working relationship, and we're good friends now too, which makes it easier for the creative process. Our main job is make the music strong and keep it moving. If you're your only critic, sometimes you don't see areas where you can improve. We've come a long way since 2011. 

Gimme Noise: I've known of Last Word as a DJ for Get Cryphy; I didn't even know he made beats.

MaLLy: A lot of people didn't know that either. He worked with Ernie Rhodes, he did the Transistor album. There's other people within that group that make beats but they don't ever release that shit. Some of the stuff he was sending me was dark; his drums, his kicks, some of them just hit me. The beats were just raw, this dude had some pretty dope shit. [We were] really focused on making good songs. The songwriting aspect, in addition to rapping. It's one thing to be the most technical and have all the dexterity in the world, and have all these patterns. But I want to make songs. [Early on] I was focused on just really being a good rapper; really witty, getting down patterns, having the foundation. I can always go back to that. [But] am I trying to battle, or am I trying to write songs? What's the goal? Who are you trying to speak to, who are you trying to touch? 

I want to have longevity as an artist. I could make songs all day, but I want to see the world with music. To get there, it takes expanding the horizons, challenging Last Word and vice versa. That's the thing I like about our relationship too is that [it] has evolved too, we're figuring out how to work with each other, we're more honest with each other, which has made the music stronger and the performance stronger too. I've seen a lot of people who have been in the game for a long time but still don't have a main DJ. To me, that boggles my mind. A person who plays the set and comes up with ideas. I want my stage game to just be crazy.

Gimme Noise: I've always respected they way you don't waste space. Every line has a purpose.

MaLLy: I'm glad you feel that. That's dope. Thanks. It's crazy, hit me up, gave me a verified account, and looks like somebody wrote out the lyrics. You can make corrections and annotate it. I've gotten through the first song, which took me four hours to really sit down, upload pictures, but I really want people to understand, all of these songs have a meaning to them. Every line has a meaning to it. It makes you have a different and better understanding of the music, what they're doing in this particular song and this project as a whole. I went on [RapGenius] looking at Frank Ocean's "Channel Orange," it's dense.

Gimme Noise: It takes listening, it takes some thought to decipher what he's trying to say. 

MaLLy: "Sierra Leone", I went on RapGenius and just happened to look up that song. It had all these breakdowns. If all these annotations and breakdowns are true, that's some dope songwriting. That shit is tight. A lot of people get by not even necessarily knowing what they're talking about. It has words and it sounds cool, but what are you going for? Are you going for people that really respect craft? Even for people who don't make music, I want these songs to touch people. Even if they don't make it, they still understand it and they respect it. That's what I noticed with [my] project. A lot of people showing respect weren't just friends, it was people that I've never met before, from different cities. I wanted to make something where it's hard to pick a favorite. Make it hard for people. I'm happy with it. The art, I was happy with that too. Shout out to Keith Williams.

Gimme Noise: What's the significance of the title Strange Rhythm?

MaLLy: Initially one of the songs, "Every Promise", the beat was originally titled "Strange Rhythm". Everybody might be walking at the same pace, the exact same way, doing the same dance. I wanted it to be something that was mine, not like, is he gonna rap over all dubstep beats? Is he gonna try to bring 1995 back? No, we have to move forward, there has to be progression. [The first song] "Dead Art Painting" specifically is this panoramic view of, and getting a chance to assess, everything that's going on around me. A lot of people are putting out work on a local, national, or international level, and just the overall vibe seems to a degree almost lifeless or soulless. Everything feels like it's the same, everybody's biting off each other, everybody wants to sound like Kendrick on a song, everybody wants to double-time and add multi-layers on their vocals. Where's the originality?

That's the whole idea of "Dead Art Painting" is I'm painting this visual of this art that's on life support. Now I'm re-emerging, new LP, new everything. Different mindset, different outlook on life. The rebirth process of myself period. This is where I'm at. It's good to have high expectations but not fool yourself. Whatever I say I have to stand on that. I have to sleep with my decisions and nobody else can make those decisions for me. It's like a design piece and a rebirth in that song. In the line "love having fans but what's a fan if they rap too", if you're a fan of music but you also rap, it's kind of like you're competition at the same time. That's still the essence of hip-hop.

MaLLy. With Mayda and Shiro Dame. 21+, 8 p.m., Friday, November 15 at Amsterdam Bar & Hall. Info here.

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