New York has spawned several creative sing-songwriters over the past few years, but one in particular stands out—insert Alex Mali. She rose to viral triumph through the release of 2016’s “Phenom” and things have only been shifting forward for the rising songstress. Through projects like Sweet & Sour and Phenom, Alex Mali has won over the heart and ears of many R&B lovers alike for her ability to mesh relatable topics such as love and lust with melodic synths.
With her latest EP, Alex Mali puts a distinctive spin on modern R&B while simultaneously showcasing both a deep vulnerability as well as a strong sense of self. Iconic is a powerful eight-track offering that boasts fan-favorites such as “No Apologies” and “Sorry Not Sorry” amongst several others. The project finds Mali coming face-to-face with themes such as temptation, the emotions enveloped in relationships, and deep self-reflection. As her streaming numbers soar past 30M, supporting Phony PPL this month and with an upcoming full album penned for 2022, Alex Mali’s trajectory looks set to continue in abundance.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Alex Mali about her Trinidadian and Jamaicann roots, latest EP Iconic, fashion, and much more! Read below.
Can you share how you got your start in the music industry—what about music initially attracted you to it?
I’ve always been drawn to music, but I didn’t actually truly begin to unlock this gateway of creativity until I hit my first year of college and was smacked with depression. I ended up writing my first complete song there and it unintentionally opened up a beam of hope and light in my life. From then on, I was writing music because it made me feel better – but once I put my first song on streaming platforms and it went crazy, I started realizing the possibilities for myself. And not long after, I finally decided to take myself seriously. I quit my job. And the rest is history.
Could you express how your upbringing in Brooklyn, and how your Trinidadian and Jamaican roots influence your music?
My culture has always played a role in my sound in some shape or form. It may not be extremely blatant in each record, the influence is present 95% of the time. It may be in the groove, the shaping of the harmonies, the attitude/delivery of the record or maybe just the visuals, but, those nuances are always lingering because its not only a part of who I am — It’s my way of paying homage and representing my heritage in the best way I know-how.
Considering you decided to be more open about themes such as past relationships and temptation on Iconic, how long did it take to perfect this EP?
If I’m being honest, not very long. The headspace I was in creating this mixtape was to flex my skills, push some boundaries and have fun. In 2020, with the world being on tilt and time feeling like it stood still, my creativity, experimentation, and confidence unfolded in unusual ways. Channeling that newfound energy and bending with my emotions instead of away from them allowed me to pull this mixtape together, that I personally feel captures the little pieces of myself I never usually lean into, but away from. ICONIC is truly a collection of thoughts, experiences, and what if’s, sprinkled with big boss energy.
Do you have any favorite tracks off this project that show us who you are as an artist?
I find myself struggling with deciding on favorites because I really love all of them. But if I’m going off of my current mood – Sorry Not Sorry, Fuck Your Feelings and This & That have all truly been my mood lately. It speaks volumes for me specifically because I work extremely hard, I know I’m a great artist and I also know I’ll be exactly where I need to be when the universe sees fit.
But sometimes, I do get in my feelings and tend to hold in those honest moments when I wanna talk my shit. I rarely do talk my shit honestly, but during this whole process, I realized it was absolutely necessary because I was sleeping on my own greatness by never taking the time to acknowledge the power of my skill set by distractions of outside noise, bad mind people and self-doubt.
How have you grown as an artist since releasing last year’s Phenom? Do you have a favorite memory of putting together that project?
My favorite memory is the whole experience. It was my first time cooking up from scratch with a series of different producers back to back to back. Prior to that, I’ve always grabbed ready-made beats from YouTube or SoundCloud, so this was a whole new world I stepped into and it was freeing because I felt like I was learning myself while also entrusting others in these collaborative moments. It was special.
Thematically you also tackle emotions like vulnerability and self-empowerment, why was it important for you to tell this story?
It’s important for me to touch on these subjects because I’m very big on mental health and making sure you tackle all emotions no matter how good or ugly. I feel it’s important to find yourself, know yourself, motivate yourself and be the best version of yourself. It is easier said than done, but if nobody has someone in their corner helping them through their darkest hours, I hope I’m a voice of inspiration for them to keep pushing.
Style plays a very prominent role in your image as an artist, what have been some of your go-to clothing brands as of late?
I’m on a clothing interest binge right now so I truly have to name quite a few – I’m really into brands like MISBHV, Telfar, Mugler, Chanel, Versace, D&G, Maison Margiela, Jaded London, Balenciaga, Adidas… maannn the list goes on, but I’ve also been copping from a lot of local online businesses as of late.
As you continue to grow in your music career, what are you hoping to accomplish?
My plan as an artist is to become a household name. My plan as a businesswoman is to build generational wealth and my plans as a human is to exercise my philanthropic arm and give back to the community by bringing awareness to mental health.
If you enjoyed our chat with Alex Mali, check out our interview with Erika Tham!