Born in Brooklyn, NY to Trini/Jamaican parents, Alex Mali is without a doubt someone to watch for. I’m not being shady at all when I say that it’s rare in an era of over-compensating, fragmented neoliberal performance identities to witness someone with an electric look who has the skills and soul to back it. Her EP—Sweet & Sour—is a mesmerizing body of work from the first song to the last. Even the cover art features a close-up of Alex with a dreamy eye-twinkle akin to an 80s anime character. That emotive quality definitely follows into the music. It’s subtle but it says a lot, with each track inviting you to experience a different mood as the tones switch through being somber (“Obviously”, “Crazy Eyes”) to sultry (“Benjamin”, “Faded”) and even to carelessly rejected (“Start It Up”—the track currently going viral on Twitter).
There is no embarrasing her with her own history, either. Three years ago she was already making and uploading prodigous tracks onto Soundcloud. Every collaboration she’s done with fellow Brooklyn, NY rapper Thutmose is definitely worth a listen. There seems to be no emotion that Alex has not experienced and mastered through the act of creative expression. She perfectly fuses vulnerability and resilience, offering her listeners the confidence to question that secret, airtight compartment within themselves that is begging to be unlocked, heard, and shared.
I was lucky enough to ask Alex a few questions about her song-writing process, her 2020 resolutions, her aura, and why she chose the colour green.
Using the three best words you can think of, tell us: Who is Alex Mali?
Moody. Observant. Optimistic.
I love observant people. Okay, before we start, I wanted to point out that your style is impeccable. What are you wearing right now?
Wow, thank you, haha. Right now, from head to toe I’m rocking a PVC highlighter cap, oversized studded hoops, a mesh mock-neck highlighter color top, baggy black quilted pattern Pleasures pants, and white/highlighter Fila’s. Accessories: a studded ring, silver and gold layered chains.
Sounds like a picture. I wanted to ask you…“Start It Up” is going viral on Twitter right now. I read the thread—it’s all positive. How does that sort of enthusiastic public response feel for you, especially on a platform as candid as that one?
It’s amazing! I’m hella ﬂattered by all of the positive feedback and love. I’m accustomed to seeing memes and other types of content going viral, so it’s still mind blowing to realize that it’s me who is experiencing it from the other side.
Tell us about some of the most memorable events of this past year for you, career-wise. How do you think you’ll look back on this time of your life ten, twenty years from now?
I would deﬁnitely say that one of the highlights of the year was Kylie + Kendall Jenner and Slim Thug bumping my music. To have my music reach those heights not only as an independent artist, but as a result of my debut EP? Wild AF!! Another big moment would be meeting my ﬁrst manager Xtina. She’s amazing and its great to have someone as passionate as you in your corner. In 10+ yrs I’ll be cuddling Grammy’s like YERR you were killing it young Alex!
What about a personal milestone? Do you feel different compared to this time last year?
I do. I feel like I am coming into myself and that has deﬁnitely taken time. There is always room to grow, but I believe that self-love is extremely important and I’m glad I’ve been able to acknowledge that in order to become a better version of myself each day.
Can you describe for us the moment you fell for music?
I can’t remember a moment, because I feel that it has always been a huge part of my life. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella though…..DEF had me ﬂexing these vocal chords and unknowingly setting me up for this path.
That’s so funny. Next question. If I didn’t know what genres were, how would you describe your sound to me?
My genre would be “Mood”. But, in reality—I would consider my sound Alternative R&B.
You have music playing on shuffle. A song comes on that you’ve never heard before. What is it about the song that makes you think I love this?
Melodies, word play, and production.
What about the song makes you skip it?
Man, IDK. Tbh. I just know that if it’s not hitting, I’m off it.
What does your writing process look like? What comes first?
Depends. I’ll have little ideas and voice notes on my phone that I always think I’m going to bring to the studio and I never do. Haha. But whether I’m listening to beat packs or cooking from scratch with producers, the production speaks to me and tells me the story that it wants to be told. From there, it’s all about the melodies and the lyrics that usually come to me at the same time.
How do you feel when you finish a song? What signals to you that the process is over?
When you know you have a banger, you’re hype AF. I listen to that shit constantly. Every once in a while you get a track that you record and you’re like…eh. Which I can then let go or return to later on.
I like that you leave yourself the option to return to it. So. Your video for “Obviously”—the final track on your EP Sweet & Sour—is gorgeous. It’s subtle without sacrificing any richness. Wine, a somber bubble bath, the dark and empty house. Imagery that is symbolic of heartbreak in such a quiet way. How important is that visual element of creation for you? Do you think a lot about the imagery that will accompany your music?
Thank you! Well, imagery is extremely important to me and I’m very hands-on with the process. I’m able to envision what I would like an audience to see while I’m writing or listening to my tracks. For example, “Obviously” puts me in my feelings and honestly if I’m in my feelings/when most people are in their feelings.. you want solitude.. and shortly after that, some sort of relaxation. So that’s what I tried to portray.
I love that, I think the vision came across so clear. What emotions play into your work the most?
I’m such a moody person— those mixed emotions are the main reason there is no “most”. I like switching it up. I’m not always sad girl. Sometimes I’m bad b*tch, sometimes I’m savage, sometimes I’m happy. But a reoccurring theme for me is love. That’s my strong suit.
If colours didn’t exist, how would you describe your aura to me?
That’s a good question. I’d say…it was a cloud.
Your lover or best friend or favourite person in the world comes over for dinner. It’s snowing. What are you cooking?
Jerked Chicken, Jollof Rice, Macaroni Pie and a side salad. Sippin’ on some Rum Punch…
You have a great mind for appealing dinner plates. Do you have a resolution for 2020?
Meet goals. Make more. Repeat.
And finally, I have to ask, because it’s my favourite colour—the same colour as the heart chakra—why green?
Four years ago, I woke up with the idea to color my hair neon green. My mom obviously said I was insane, but I didn’t care. I walked to the beauty supply store and as soon as I walked in, it was on the register counter. It was just meant to be. I colored it at my best friend’s house and looked in the mirror like—This is me.
That’s a perfect answer, it’s such a genuine situation. Thank you Alex!
Words you live by?
Everything happens for a reason.
Favourite candle scent?
Last book you read?
I can’t remember, but I’m sure it was some anime or Sci Fi.
Best advice you’ve given?
Be yourself, because you’ll be judged either way.
Impulse or ritual?
Morning or nights?
Any parting words?
Not really, I was a chatty patty up there. Lol.