We got to sit down with up and coming music master Maal leading up to the drop of his mixtape “Butane” and ask some questions. With an exciting experimental prowess in song and filmmaking, along with the hilarious Instagram handle @maalofamerica, he surely did not disappoint.
LA CANVAS: Hey Maal, thanks again for taking the time to chat with us! How are you feeling leading up to the release of “Butane” – your first mixtape yeah?
MAAL: This is actually my fifth mixtape, but it’s the first one I’ve released as the artist Maal. I’ve had several monikers throughout the years. Back in high school I was in a rap duo called Wemature. We made one mixtape full of outlandish freestyles but only burned two CD-Rs. Afterwards, I released a solo project called Womyn under the alias Rufio the Jedi. I rapped over beats from Justice, Rustie, Hot Chip and even instrumentals from Yann Tiersen.
Then I changed my name to Maal, A Goomba and released “Diana Frances Goomba Wave” with original production from Kansas natives Morris and Tom Richman. I followed this by releasing a few singles and an EP called Maal Mondays. I dropped my first LP “Good Morning, I Love You” with my band Maal & Morris in 2016.
Inspired by an A$AP Yams I followed up with the mixtape “read my horoscope n it said letskedditt.” The mixtape is comprised of a series of samples, loops, and chops from some of my favorite artists. Butane is different because the production is all channeled from one source, Tom Richman.
LAC: What else have you been doing in the lead up to this release? When did you first really get into the realm of creating your own music?
MAAL: I’m honestly just now starting to feel like I’m entering the realm of creating my own music. I’ve been spending the past several months making new music and trying different processes out. I’m very confident as a songwriter but I was very insecure as a producer. Next year though, I’m going to put out a project totally produced by me, and the next Maal & Richman project is co-produced by me.
LAC: I noticed you directed and edited both of your music videos, what are some of the goals in your creative control through all these processes?
M: I think my goal is to be able to complete an idea from top to bottom. As an artist, my best mediums are music, writing, and film. Eventually, I’d like to direct an original screenplay.
LAC: “M6 Bimmer” is a great concept in having multiple “yous” in the shots. Was there a message behind this choice that you’re going for?
M: Yeah, I think the way these clones interact on camera mimics the way I interact with past recordings in a session. I stack myself on top of previously recorded vocals, using adlibs to create multiples. I first used multiple Maal clones in the video for “Trunk in the Hood” and since discovered my British doppelganger and journalist Jerry Fiona.
LAC: What was your vision in the music video for “Enemy of God” – anything you want us to note specifically on your vision with it? What’s the story with how you captured the cops and footage? Was that just coincidence or did y’all make that happen?
M: I was at the right place at the right time. The day before I had an external hard drive damaged in the mail and I needed to feel right about it so I wanted to go out shooting. I was downtown walking around and saw a gathering of people and helicopters and found out through the grapevine that some guy ran from the cops with a gun into this building. I stayed out there as long as I could but eventually left, realizing that the climax was going to happen behind closed doors. The song expounds on the idea of being born under punches. Born with a bad hand. Born with enemies. In the song, the perceived antagonist is God but in the video I decided that the most relevant antagonist in my life is the police force.
LAC: We learn a little bit more about you through songs like “Young Refugee” and now “Enemy of God” with its accompanying music video, how much of your music is inspired by your own life and how the lives of people close to you are affected (such as your father and uncle in these respective songs)?
M: I think most of my music is inspired by my life but I haven’t been quick to dive into experiences in my life that were traumatic or depressing. Both of those songs are upbeat so I felt more comfortable taking it there. I’m still waiting on the right time to fry the big fish. But I’m making an effort to tap in to personal and social issues more often.
LAC: What are some of the current events that drive you and that come to you on a normal day? Political, environmental, community, romantic – and whatever else that comes to mind for you?
M: Prison reform, health care, reproductive rights, affordable housing, and climate change are my biggest issues and concerns right now- gun control too.
LAC: And speaking of, what is a normal day like for you? Anything in your routine that stands out? Do you have a routine of any kind?
M: Yeah, this may be TMI [“too much information”] but I wake up and poop first thing every morning. Then I hit the bong while I watch Everyday Struggle and Ableton Live boots up. From there I’ll usually start working from where I left off late last night. I’ll tighten that up and then start something new. At this point either A) I’ll go to the gym or I’ll keep working and B) Tom Richman will come over and we’ll collaborate and end up going out for a drink or food later. On the weekends I work at a restaurant in Northeast Los Angeles.
LAC: Tell me a bit more about growing up. Where are you originally from and how did you end up here? Where’s your family? And how close are you with them?
M: I was born in Kansas City, Kansas. When I was 6, my mother got a divorce and my two sisters and I moved in with my grandma in Lawrence, Kansas. We moved into a trailer a few years later. At 12, I was sent to live with my father in Orlando. I bounced back and forth from Florida to Kansas for a decade. It was dysfunctional. I moved to LA in 2016 and have been living in Highland Park ever since. I fronted my expenses by taking out student loans before dropping out.
LAC: So many of your songs have subtle as well as blatant call backs to music from the early aughts, would you say you’re inspired by some of your predecessors in your music? A couple of specific ones that come to mind are more recent inspirations like Migos (“Young Refugee”) along with throwbacks like Soulja Boy and Three Six Mafia in some songs, and then in others early Lil Wayne and the sounds of Cash Money Records – but that could be my own New Orleans bias coming out!
M: Yes, you’re spot on! I was raised on Cash Money, Rocafella, So So Def, Dirty Ent, Aftermath, and the Ruff Riders as well as southern staples like Three Six, Frasier Boy, Swisha House, Slip N Slide and more.
LAC: So many tracks are wildly nostalgic, which I feel like our generation is reaching for in the turmoil that’s happening societally. Is this intentional? Or is this just the byproduct of your own upbringing and inspirations growing up?
M: Sometimes it’s intentional like on tracks like Type Beat Anthem, where I make direct references throughout the song. But more often, I’m just trying to channel a feeling that I can’t often place until everything untangles afterwards. Don’t sue me!
LAC: What else do you like to do in and out of your music? Do you have other projects? Anything you do outside of music in general recently?
M: I’m the vocalist in a band called Maal & Morris. Our second LP is coming out in 2020. I recently started a 420 ASMR channel and I have a handful of unfinished screenplays that are brilliant. I love watching interviews, playing games on the Switch, listening to podcasts while doing laundry, and a good book (open to all recommendations!). I’ll go to the gym and start an album and let it play from front to back. That’s Zen for me.
Maal’s mixtape “Butane” is out now with the video for “Enemy of God” having just dropped last week.