Merging genres is a lot like cooking, and Malik English is a chef. Sprinkling in a variety of sub sounds to garnish his fluid style, English has been impressing listeners since his emergence back in 2020 with his debut single “ONE AM Freestyle <3”. The 22 year old has a diverse cultural background, with roots in Trinidad, Nigeria and Canada, whilst hailing from Brooklyn, NY. Our most recent glimpse into the artistic growth of English cam in the form of his February single “High Road”. The track finds its feet immediately with a hypnotic guitar line, with brisk drums and encompassing vocal chops concocting an enticing instrumental palette, laying a foundation for the artist to showcase his diverse vocality, switching between melodic musings and lively flows. Combining R&B sensibilities with rap leaning undertones, its a vibrant and modern number that flaunts the technical ability and musical vision of the rising star. We caught up with Malik to discuss his musical origins, his cultural background, his style and what’s next. Watch the visuals for “High Road”…
Read the interview below…
Who and what influences you?
My influences vary a lot musically and I pull a lot from life itself. I was a super introverted kid and would find music by surfing through Youtube & Limewire. I’d listen to everything from rap artists like Lil Wayne & Pharell to Rock bands like Sex Pistols, Paramore, & Nirvana and older R&B acts such as Bobby Womack & Curtis Mayfield. By the time I started making music I was incorporating all of my influences to make something that was uniquely mine the same way all my favourite artists did. Music was the only way I felt comfortable actually expressing myself and today still is my version of therapy so my own life experiences plus those of my friends around me inspire my lyrics & song content. I try to make my music as “human” as possible and connect to people who feel like they need an outlet. If my music makes you feel something or there’s a lyric that resonates with you, my job is done.
How did you first find your talent for music?
Honestly, accidentally. In primary school ( and beyond really) I’d skip school a lot and my excuses to teachers and my mother would be that I had band practice. After a very short time I actually had to start going to practice to keep my story straight. I learned really fast and was picking up instruments like alto saxophone, guitar, keys etc. I ended up playing in the advanced band which I was indifferent about at first until I realized I spent a lot of my time playing instruments even when I didn’t need to. It became something that was relaxing for me and eased my mind. I also discovered I was synesthetic which made composing a lot more fun to blend colors and find different palettes and textures. From there I started writing my own songs which led to me producing and then becoming the artist I am today. So it was probably the best accident I’ve ever had.
At what point did you know you wanted to do it as a career?
I’d say since I was a child and discovered music. The only other career I can even remember wanting was being a veterinarian but I’m super allergic to cats so that died pretty quick haha. Playing and making music was one of the few things that made me happy & feel normal. From around that age I knew I wanted to help people with music the same way music helped me.
How did you find your sound?
It’s been a process, I think I finally found it a couple years ago. My process definitely started with emulating my favorite artists. I modeled my verses after Wayne verses and I was making a bunch of Travis Scott/Metro Boomin type beats. The songs were cool but still weren’t genuinely me and didn’t fully encapsulate all the things that i can do. It was a combination of revisiting the artists I grew up listening to and taking whatever pieces I liked from their sound but flipping it into my own thing. Another big part was learning to understand my voice as an instrument and highlighting unique things I could do and being aware of things that I couldn’t or wouldn’t sound natural. From there the final piece was thinking about where I wanted my music to live, who it was for, and what I myself wanted to listen to. While there is some merit to making music that’s popular in the niche you’re trying to occupy, I think some artists should be a little bit more self-focused with their work. A lot of the music I’ve made recently has been for me and I think the art has been sounding a lot better due to being more genuine and vulnerable with myself.
How would you define the essence of your style?
I love this question haha. I think the core of my style both fashion and music wise is a reflection of my personality. I definitely have obvious fashion influences like ASAP Rocky and Tyler the Creator, but my style boils down to me being eccentric while still relaxed. For instance, I might have on a random thrifted jacket with Valabasas jeans & Valentino’s and it’ll all just flow together. The jewelry I have, or if my nails are painted, or whatever I’m doing with my hair, are all things that might be considered weird individually but work when they’re all combined. I approach production the same where I might take just a random guitar riff from a sample then reverse the audio and tweak it to something unrecognizable but fits perfectly in the context of the full production. The essence and driving factor of my style is to create things & looks that are uniquely me and always try to innovate.
How did the disparate cultures you grew up around shape the way you create?
Having a multicultural background definitely helped a lot with my understanding of music. I spent around a large amount of my childhood in Trinidad. Soca music is some of the most colorful music I’ve ever been exposed to and hearing all of the different rhythms and instrumentation made me want to include more instruments in my work. It’s also a full culture beyond music which I love. There’s dance, artwork, symbolism and history all tied into Soca in a way really similar to Hip-Hop. This influenced me to want to make Malik English more than just an artist; it’s a culture or way of life championing creativity and individuality. Being part Nigerian as well influences a lot of my melodic ideas. I think Naija artists like Burna Boy, & Fela Kuti have some of the most interesting melodic and rhythmic flows. I’m super blessed to have these backgrounds while also being able to grow up between NYC & Toronto. Both cities are huge melting pots where you get to be exposed to different cultures and have your own culture represented as well. Being surrounded by such a variety of different cultures makes me want to experiment more and which pushes my music forward.
How do you think you stand out from the congested music scene?
There aren’t any artists that look & sound like me. My music is super transparent & emotionally undefended in a way I don’t think a lot of artists tap into today. Musically I’m at a point where I’m post-genre and I’ve grown really comfortable with that. I’m skirting the lines of something between Rap, RNB, & Rock and creating something idiosyncratic. Adding in my production and technical skills I have a musical arsenal that puts me in my own lane. Also I don’t look like most rappers especially out of NYC, and it wouldn’t look natural if I tried to haha. I think being someone who realises and is comfortable with who he is positions me to make my best music and be one of the best acts of my generation.
How has your sound developed since your 2020 emergence?
I think it’s gotten a lot more natural. Aside from the fact that on a basic technical level I’ve improved my writing, performance etc. I’ve realised more of what I want my music to be. I’m a lot more comfortable taking risks and I’m not making the music I think is expected from me, I’m making whatever I’m in the mood to make. I’ve also gotten better at realising the ideas in my head, being able to hear a melody in my head and immediately recreate it has helped with my efficiency and helped me to get back to focusing on the fun aspect of making music and feeling free. My live performance is also a lot more fun now with me playing with a live band so I’ve been making an effort to also consider how my songs sound on stage.
Would you say you’ve had a standout release to date? If so, which track?
I’d say I have a couple. Ms. 305 is probably my most recognisable song both streaming wise & what people In real life would associate me with. My song “Feel It” got a couple sync placements which was awesome and “ High Road” of course has been getting a really good reception and I’m excited to see where else the song takes me.
What was the creative process of the new track “High Road”?
“High Road” was one the faster records I’ve written, probably taking around fifteen minutes. I have a home studio setup in my bedroom where I make most of my songs.
I was having a miscommunication with someone I was seeing at the time and also had troubles with some friends and family and just felt like I was getting the short end of the stick a lot. I was trying to stick to the notion of being the bigger person but it got exhausting. My communication skills in real life are bottom-tier haha so I didn’t know how to express that taking the high road over and over was weighing on me and felt like I kept sacrificing myself and my needs. My writing process is just me mumbling to myself while pacing around to the room until I get a solid idea. Taking the highroad made me think of a stairway to heaven while the literal act of doing so felt like it was killing me. This is where the religious symbolism comes from. From there I started thinking about what I would do at the top of that stairway and being able to talk to God about my problems, see my deceased grandmother who was always someone that pushed for peace and understanding. Once i had all that figured out I just reflected on all the things troubling me and the verse flowed out easily.
What are you trying to convey with the track?
That self-preservation is not selfish. I think I’m pretty good at seeing the good in people and looking at things objectively. I also really do not like arguing with people so I’ll just take the high road if for no other reason than to end unwanted conversation. This is just not the healthiest way to function so with the track I was showing the full thought process around this issue I was dealing with.
Is this new one a sign of things to come for you stylistically?
Definitely! My music is getting a lot more flexible and I’m having a lot of fun shifting out of melodic sections into rapping and vice versa. The new music that’s coming has a lot of R&B focus as well but still very non-traditional. It’ll make sense when you hear it but I’m really excited.
Where do you want to take your artistry?
I’m in music for the long haul, it’s embedded in my identity. I definitely want to get all the accolades Platinum records, Grammys, etc. but more importantly I want to inspire a generation. I want Malik English to be a household name internationally and to be able to touch and help people I may never even get to meet. I want my production success to equal my artist success as well and be able to produce some other great artists and help them execute their vision. If i had to compare it I’d say I want my career to emulate the likes of Pharell.
What’s to come from you this year?
Loads of new music. Planning to release my next single “Only Me” late next month, it’s fire and a really unique blend of Rap, drum & bass, & R&B. The song also has a feature from a really good artist friend of mine. I’m sure you guys are gonna love it. I have a couple more singles lined up after that and I’m pretty confident my debut EP will be ready this Winter. I have a bunch of shows lined up including an east coast tour with my friend Atmoney. I’ve been producing for a lot of artists too so I’m so excited to see some of those records come out. I have some film & tv compositions in the pipeline as well and I’m getting more into scoring as well so my fans should definitely be eating well.