In the past North Carolina has spawned several hitmakers globally recognized for their unique musical abilities—it’s only right to add Big Mali to that list. The 19-year-old femme fatale began her career at the early age of 15 and two years later signed to SCMG, home to DaBaby and Toosii. Now, the Henderson-native serves as a radiant voice in the Carolinas, standing firm and unapologetically.
Big Mali began rapping in 2016 when she realized she had a gift with words, one which would eventually allow her to carve her own lane. A slick-talking star of her own show, her rhythm and distinct pitch paired with hard-hitting bars exude a level of confidence that overflows on every track. 2018 saw the release of Big Mali’s first project, If I Fall Asleep, which later caught the attention of South Coast Music Group EVP Daud Carter.
In 2020, Big Mali released a whopping three projects including her debut First Lady and later Gangsta Talk. Both full-length releases stamped her name as a multifaceted artist to watch with the ability to channel distinctive flows and sounds throughout her songs. It’s apparent that Big Mali has no plans of slowing down, leaving her detractors and former self in the rearview.
In our recent interview with Big Mali, we spoke with her in regards to being a musical pioneer in the Carolinas, her rapid success, and the future amongst other topics. Read the lightly edited conversation below.
Who were some of the artists that you listened to growing up?
I was born in 2001 so like Boosie, Webbie, Gucci [Man], OJ Juiceman.
Walk me through your childhood, what’s it like growing up in North Carolina?
It’s cool, a lot of people think people think we’re boring because we’re not like Miami or New York. Which it’s true we don’t have that much out here, but I’m from Henderson and we don’t have much over here. My city is so small; we only have one high school, one middle school, six police officers, one church. Where I’m from, people get active over little shit. It was kind of rough growing up but when I got older I learned how to protect myself and stay out of the way.
Do you feel like you’re a pioneer in a sense of you being the first female artist to take off where you’re from?
I think so. I think I am, I get a lot of respect from people in my city and North Carolina period. I’m also signed to Arnold [Taylor] so that there definitely helps. I been getting respect from people that’ve been blowing up in North Carolina like J. Cole, DaBaby, and stuff like that. I feel like I’m the hottest thing coming out and then it’s like I’m the first lady ever from the label. So yeah, I definitely feel like the hardest female rapper coming out of North Carolina.
What are the conversations like when you talk to artists such as J. Cole and DaBaby?
DaBaby is real chill so he’s not going to do too much. He told me to “play the game, keep doing what you’re doing, don’t worry about nobody else.” You know we’re labelmates so at the same time I already know they have some sort of belief in me so it feels genuine. As far as J. Cole, I never heard from him in person before but he’s mentioned my name before in interviews and to people I know. I don’t know what advice he has for me, I just know he thinks I’m dope and a good female to put on for Carolinas.
When did you realize that you wanted to make a career out of music?
I started taking it seriously when I was like 14 or 15, that was probably like 2016 or 2017. I really grew up around it. My uncle was a DJ so he had always been around the music scene. He was just booking artists and I would just see it and see how the city would go crazy. It was really just on some I want to do better for my family and for my city type stuff. Two years later, that’s when I got my deal.
You dropped three projects in 2020—what was the motive behind that?
People think that just because I drop as many videos, they think I can’t work. It’s really just to show people like here’s something new. I’m tryna show people I’m diverse, I’ve grown a lot from my very first sound. Everybody knows that on my first sound I was always on that gang shit and that’s just what it was at the time. That’s just what it was at the time, but I’m mature and I’m doing different things now. I got different things on my plate so I talk about different shit and that’s really what I wanted to show people with those projects.
Your track “Das Me” took off last year. Talk to me about the backstory and your decision to work with Asian Doll.
I was in Charlotte and then Asian had commented on my video and DM’ed me. She had a show two weeks later in Chapel Hill and she wanted me to open for her. After the show, she was fucking with me so I sent her a studio in Raleigh. So that’s how we made “Blocc Freestyle” and that video is almost at 300K. We just became friends after that, we’re like sisters.
I’m not really into the whole rap scenery. I don’t really care to make a song with everybody, but if I see someone fucking with me then I’ma fuck with them. When we met, we just connected on so many different levels. So one day, I was in Atlanta and she was in LA. A couple days later I flew out and we had a session then Arnold had pulled up and brought this producer named Fool. When we heard that, we was “oh, we gotta get on that.” I hopped on there first no pen, no pad, and Asian just came right behind me.
Do you consider signing your deal one of your biggest accomplishments?
No not really, anybody can sign. It’s hella fucked up deals, hella good deals. Anybody can sign, but I feel my biggest accomplishment is when I start putting plaques on the wall. When I start touching M’s but right now I’m still grinding, I’m still in the process.
What is Big Mali’s legacy 10 years from now?
I want people to remember me as the one that people slept on but people knew she was going to be a star. The streets feel me, I really don’t give a fuck about the mainstream if I’m keeping it real. I speak to the streets, people like me feel me so that’s all I care about. As long as I’m known for letting people know you can do whatever you want to do, say what you want to, you can be angry, be upset. It’s not a problem to be that, especially for the girls.
I want to be known as the artist that was people’s friend too. I don’t want to be remembered as this bougie artist that looked at her people as fans. I don’t look at my people as fans, I feel like their family. So I want people to remember me as someone who cared for my people and let them know it’s not a crime to speak how you feel.
Elsewhere in music, check out our interview with Tay Money.