Mali Music reminds you that the best things in life are free. With his 2009 project The Coming, the Savannah native got his feet wet as a gospel singer and since releasing his 2010 effort, The 2econd Coming, his image and catalog have hit refresh.
Born Kortney Jamaal Pollard, Mali made a shift from traditional gospel to a soulful, contemporary-inspired sound. As a promising singer on the rise, his talents have been recognized by numerous heavyweights in the biz. In March, the one man band (the singer-songwriter’s been playing instruments since the age of 5) was invited to American Idol by Jennifer Lopez herself to perform his single “Beautiful”.
With his major label debut Mali Is… being released June 17 (via ByStorm Ent/RCA), the 26-year-old promises fans will see his growth as a man and musician. “This isn’t little David that used to shepherd sheep,” he says of his music, referring to the biblical character who went on to be a king after he slayed a giant with only a sling. “ This is post Goliath.” Here’s a list of reasons why you should turn up Mali Music now.—Tanay Hudson
1. Mali Music's righteous path stands out in Ratchetlandia.
Tired of hearing songs about popping mollies and turning up? Mali has the music for that. With influences like D'Angelo, Bilal, Outkast, Kirk Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, James Brown and Fred Hammond, Mali flourishes from gospel roots and old school R&B influences to create a gripping sound.
“I feel that we are oversaturated with great music that causes us not to think and it causes us not to wonder," he tells VIBE. "Everything is really dumbed down and industrial, and whatever can make somebody a hit overnight. I didn’t want to sacrifice the integrity of who I am and who I can be, not just as an artist but as a fixture in the new revolution of what music is becoming.”
2. Mali’s catalog is wisdom on steroids.
Where August Alsinas and Trey Songz of the world sometimes pump out misogynistic and brash lyrics, Mali Music offers revelation for all. He can make like Rev Run on Twitter over edgy production like on “Fight for You” or offer the solution to world peace on "Heavy Love." At 11, he became the musical director at his church. He says serving as a musical pundit until he turned 21 served as “a creative boot camp to prepare him for all the things that were coming.”
“[My pastor] would feel something in his heart and he would want me to meditate on it within that hour or thirty minutes before the service would start," Mali says. "By the time he would preach he would look at me to kind of set it up and I would have to share what I had.”
3. Mali Music’s songs are anti-self promo.
Mr. Music has been penning songs to uplift people since he was 8. These days, his positive notes continue to empower and inspire listeners. On the first single from Mali Is, “Beautiful”, he sings “It’s a blessing to see people/With their heads up to the sky still/ ‘Cause honestly for the same people/Life can be so real/I’m amazed by all your strength, I am/And I’m grateful you come through.”
He says his songwriting gives him purpose and strength.
“I don't write songs for the reasons that some others may," he says. "I don’t write songs for success. I write to live. I don’t live to write. If I can’t create, I believe at a certain time something would fall off, something would die inside of me. Its like the gateway to my purity.”
4. Mali Music's feature wishlist is eclectic.
“I really really want to work with Cee-Lo. I would really love to link with him," Mali says. "He’s made some transformative moves himself as far as his work but there is a soul inside of him."
He also cites a popular Toronto rapper. "I would love to just vibe and see what Drake does in the studio. I love his work.”
5. Mali Music assures he's only getting better.
The "Ready Aim" singer has been chipping away at his forthcoming LP since he was a teen. As he makes the subtle switch from gospel to other genres, his sonic and spiritual maturity will make for the perfect sound trip.
“I wrote those songs on the initial album when I was 16 or 17 years old. I’m 26 now, so no matter if I was still doing gospel something would have had to change. If nothing changed then something's wrong with me," he says. "But now I'm facing “man” situations and things that come with living life on your own and finding your way and I just to continue to feed and cultivate the audience that have entrusted in me from the beginning.”