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’.
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!