Mario Carrion

Maluca Sends #BlackLivesMatter Message To Music Peers: "F**k Your Endorsement Deals!"

She be the M-A-L-A.

Natalie Ann Yepez, better known in the streets of New York City by her stage name, Maluca, is a Dominican artist truly paving a new yellow brick road through the music industry. Her stage name is a derivative of Mala, which translates to bad or mean girl in Spanish, and mischievous or crazy girl in Portuguese. Meshing all the beautiful sounds of her life as a Dominican-American—disco, bachata, cumbia, merengue, mambo, reggaeton and hip-hop—Maluca's sound has no boundaries, and is without a doubt something like you've never heard before.

In an extraordinary work of destiny Maluca bumped into American DJ and record producer Diplo, while singing karaoke on a night out. Digging what he was hearing, Diplo signed her to his music label Mad Decent, which is also home to popular musicians Major Lazor, DJ Snake and Zeds Dead.

The Afro-Latino Festival, a celebration and unification of diversity in the Afro-Latino community of New York City, took place this past weekend (July 8-10) in Bed-Stuy's Restoration Plaza. Maluca, Nina Sky, Los Rakas and Tito Puente Jr. were only a few of the all-star performers who joined the festivities, and blessed the stage with their vibrant sounds and personal sazón.

Maluca's spirited performance hurdled over a mix of both old and new music, including her introductory single "El Tigeraso" and her latest hit "Mala", a pop rave-like, reggaeton-infused song which she describes as "a self love anthem." Recently debuting her music video for the popular song, you can truly get a taste of her sharp edges and bodacious nature (above).

Fresh from bringing down the house at Day 2 of the Afro-Latino fest, the spunky singer sat down with VIBE VIVA to discuss this year's festivities and her music, and to share her thoughts on the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

VIBE VIVA: How does it feel to be included in this year's Afro-Latino Festival?
Maluca: It feels great, I’m super honored that they even invited me.

You're from the Heights, so you're close to home…
Technically I was raised in the East Village, but I lived in the Heights when I was a kid. I moved around a lot, but I mostly grew up Downtown. You know on St. Marks? Right there.

You recently dropped your latest single "Mala," which has a very authentic pop and rave-like, with a tinge of reggaeton. What would you name your sound?
[Smiles] I would describe it as that. My genre is really a mashing of a lot of sounds together, the sounds that I grew up with. I just leave it up to the interpretation of the listener to define.

Tell me about the creative process that went behind the song and its visual.
I wrote the record in London. I was out there and I met this kid on Instagram. He was like, 'I want to work with you, I live in London'. I was like, 'I’m in London! Whats up?' So then I was like, 'Where’s your studio?' and he was like, 'At my mom's house, I live with my mom'. [Laughs] And he lived in like the suburb, so I would take their metro north everyday and I would go to his room at his mom's house. We recorded it in his bedroom and yeah, I really wanted it to, because I’ve just been really in my head writing a lot of pop hooks and stuff. So I was like okay, let's see if we can do like a pop hook and then do my rappy-style, and then it just started to evolve into this self love anthem of like, 'Okay, yeah you think my hair is nappy but I’m poppin’ b***h'.

A photo posted by Maluca Mala (@malucamala) on

Can we expect a music video, or new music anytime soon?
Actually yes, both! Woah, I was like, 'Omg does she know!? They've been in my emails?!' [Laughs] I’m not quite sure when it will be dropped, but it’ll probably be like one of those things where it’s like, 'Woah, Maluca just dropped like all this stuff.'

So basically it's a music video to new music?
It’s a music video… I cant say, I don’t want to spill the beans too much, but it’s gonna be a package, like a package deal, like on groupon! [Laughs]

You're Dominican, like you said you spent a lot of time in Washington Heights, so you've clearly had a lot of Latino influence in your life. What does being Latina or in this case, Afro-Latina, mean to you and your music?
Being Afro-Latina means not being ashamed of who I am, not being ashamed of the color of my skin. To be proud and to like integrate all the things that people use to make me feel like s**t about.

Definitely feel that. I also saw on Twitter how passionate you were about police brutality and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. You even touched on it during your performance. What message would you like to give to your fans, or just the American people in general during these tough times?
More so I would like to put out a message to my peers in the music industry. Like, f**k your endorsement deals! How much money do you need? You know what I mean? I love you Diplo, but like c’mon, say something!

A photo posted by Maluca Mala (@malucamala) on

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Nick Rice

25 Hip-Hop Albums By Bomb Womxn Of 2018

The female voice in hip-hop has always been present whether we've noticed it or not. The late Sylvia Robinson birthed the hip-hop music industry with the formation of Sugar Hill Records (and fostering "Rapper's Delight"), Roxanne Shante's 55 lyrical responses to fellow rappers were the first diss tracks and Missy Elliott's bold and striking music and visuals inspired men and women in the game to step outside of their comfort zones.

These pillars and many more have allowed the next generation of emcees to be unapologetically brash, truthful and confident in their music. Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy and Nicki Minaj's Queen might've been the most mainstream albums by womxn in rap this year, but there was a long list of creatives who brought the noise like Rico Nasty, Tierra Whack, Noname and Bbymutha. Blame laziness or the heavy onslaught of music hitting streaming sites this year, but many of the artists on this list have hibernated under the radar for far too long.

VIBE decided to switch things up but also highlighting rap albums by womxn who came strong in their respectively debut albums, mixtapes, EPs. We also had to give props to those who dropped standout singles, leaving us wanting more.

READ MORE: 15 R&B Songs We Obsessed Over Most In 2018

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VIBE / Nick Rice

10 Most Important Hip-Hop Artists Of 2018

We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

While fans received a large dose of music from our favorite artists and celebrated some of the most iconic album anniversaries, there are a few names that stood out as the culture pushers, sh*t starters, and all-around most significant artists of the year.

For your enjoyment, VIBE compiled a list of the top 10 most important hip-hop artists of 2018 based on a series of qualifications: 1) public actions - good, bad, and ugly; 2) music releases; 3) philanthropic/humanitarian work; and 4) trending moments.

Be clear: This list isn’t about the most influential, the most talented, who had the best music or tours. While we are commemorating artists for the work they’ve contributed to this year’s music cycle, we’re looking beyond that and evaluating how these particular artists have shaped conversations and pushed hip-hop culture forward.

READ MORE: 15 R&B Songs We Obsessed Over Most In 2018

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Stacy-Ann Ellis

NEXT: Intent On Impact, Kiana Lede Is Ready To Leave Her Mark

After learning The Alphabet Song as a little girl, Kiana Lede would always “get in trouble” for singing during class. “My mom was like, ‘why can't you focus?’” she laughs while reminiscing on her career’s formative years. “I was like, ‘I don’t know! Songs are just playing in my head all the time!’”

Whilst sitting in a shoebox-sized room at Midtown Manhattan’s Moxy Hotel on a humid September day, the now- 21-year-old Arizona-bred R&B songbird, actress and pianist speculates that she “may have had ADD.” However, she settles down after taking off her white cowboy boots and flops down on the ivory-clothed bed, demonstrating that her fiery Aries energy can be contained. Cool as a cucumber, Lede shuffles between chewing on banana candies and blowing smoke rings after taking drags from a pen, all while musing about her journey to becoming a Republic Records signee.

“I just grew up singing and doing musical theater, and reading a lot of books, and playing piano way too much in my room by myself,” she says, pushing her big, curly brown hair out of her face. Her expressive green eyes widen as she grins. “It was my thing. Nobody in my family does music, just me.”

After winning Kidz Bop’s 2011 KIDZ Star USA talent contest at 14 (which her mother secretly entered her into), Lede was signed to RCA Records. She was released from her contract and dropped from the label three years later. However, thanks to guidance and friendship from the Grammy-winning production duo Rice N’ Peas, (who’ve worked with G-Eazy, Trevor Jackson, and Bazzi), she released covers of songs such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” while working to get her groove back. The latter rendition resulted in Republic Record’s Chairman and CEO Monte Lipman flying her out and signing her to his label.

“I got a second chance, which a lot of people don't get,” she reveals. “So I'm really happy that that all happened. I wouldn't be here right now in this room if that didn't happen.”

Thanks to the new opportunity she was given, Lede’s sound has evolved into something she’s proud of—equal parts soul, R&B and bohemian. As evidenced by the aforementioned ensemble, glimmers of each aesthetic can be found when observing her personal style as well. She released her seven-song EP Selfless in July, which features the bedroom-ready “Show Love” and “Fairplay,” which manages to fit in the mainstream R&B vein while also showcasing her goosebump-inducing vocals. The remix of the latter features MC A$AP Ferg. What pleases her most is that it not only garnered a favorable response from fans, but that those listeners found it so relatable.

“As an artist, it's really nerve-wracking for someone who writes about such personal things all the time,” she says. “Just the fact that it is my story… It's good to know that other people know that there's somebody on their side, and they're not the only ones going through it. A lot of people obviously feel this way, and have been through this same thing that I've been through. So I think that's cool.”

Although she moved to various places as a Navy serviceman’s daughter, Lede claims Phoenix as home. This means she hails from the same stomping grounds as rockers Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks and the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. However, growing up in a mixed race household gave way to tons of sonic exploration outside of the rock-heavy scene.

“My dad's black, and both of my parents are from the East Coast,” she says of her musical and ethnic upbringing (she’s black, Latina and Native American). “[My parents] listened to a lot of R&B. My mom listened to a lot of SWV, TLC, Boyz II Men. I didn't realize I knew the songs until I got older. I played a charity show with T-Boz, and I was like 'why do I know these songs?'” Lede also says her father was a fan of neo-soul and gangsta rap, but she personally believes the early-2000s was the best time for music.

“[That era] influences a lot of my music subconsciously, and also, singer-songwriter stuff,” she continues. “I listen to a lot of early-2000s music because I played piano most of my life. I listened to Sara Bareilles, John Mayer.”

An open book, Lede details some of her struggles with anxiety and depression with the utmost candor. After being dropped from RCA, her trust in people diminished, and she experienced long bouts of depression after being sexually assaulted by someone in the industry. The track that she feels most deeply about is “One Of Them Days,” which tackles these issues head-on.

“When I'm anxious and depressed, it's really hard to be happy,” Lede says. “Most of the time, I can do it, but there are just some days where I literally can't separate the anxiety, and I can't tell anybody why, because I don't really know why myself… I was feeling very odd that day, didn't even know if I could write a song. Hue [Strother], the guy who I wrote the song with, he was like 'I totally get you. Lots of people go through this.’’’

As we’ve observed in headlines recently, mental health and being honest about life’s trickier situations can help someone going through the same thing, and Lede hopes her music provides encouragement to those who are struggling. As for how she’s learning to push through her mental health roadblocks, she meditates, runs, and is an advocate for therapy, especially in Trump’s America, where harrowing news reports dominate the cycle.

Another hallmark of Kiana Lede’s personality is her bleeding heart for others. She cites women of color, sexual assault victims and the homeless youth specifically as individuals she feels most responsible to help, since she is personally connected to all three. While she’s aiming to create a project that helps homeless youth specifically, she’s working hard this holiday season to ensure that they have a place to stay “at least for the night” after horrific wildfires displaced many individuals in California.

“My passion is really people. Music is just a way that I can get to helping people,” she says with a grin. “Helping people emotionally and physically are both very important. I never want to stop helping people. I feel if other people can respect me, and I can respect myself, then I'll be happy. Happiness is all that we strive for.”

Recently, Lede played her first headlining solo show, a one-night event at The Mint in Los Angeles. While she was thrilled to see that the show sold-out, she was even happier to see the faces of her audience members, who she said ‘looked like [her].’ “Mixed girls, brown girls, black girls, gay boys,” she explains over-the-phone. Even though she wasn’t in person to discuss her latest huge accomplishment, you could hear the pride and joy through her voice.

As for the future of her career, she’s looking forward to more acting roles. You may recognize her from the first season of MTV’s Scream, and after her recent Netflix series All About The Washingtons with legendary MC Rev Run was cancelled, she has been “reading for auditions” and is “negotiating” for a role in a film set to shoot in NYC. While her time with the Run-DMC frontman was brief, she says he taught her about the importance of “not compromising your art for money.”

What Kiana Lede is most excited about, of course, is making music. She hopes to work on a new EP and then release an album after that. The ultimate goal is to fully realize the dreams in her personal and professional life, and she assures she’s just getting started.

“I want to be able to look back on my career and think 'man, I really poured my heart into this music, and made music that mattered, and made music that made people feel a certain way, whether it's bad, good, sad, anxious, whatever it may be.’”

READ MORE: NEXT: H.E.R. Is The Future Of R&B (And Then Some) In Plain Sight

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