Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the sky. On a drive home from work, a sunset as big and wide as Austin musician Malik’s imagination unfolded in front of him. Inspired and awed by the colors painted in the Texas sky, he creates songs dedicated to the different hues that come out at golden hour. Colors are as abstract as are our emotions, and the two often correlate. There’s a reason we associate red with passion, and that we say things like “having the Blues” or “Mellow Yellow.” Colors emote just as we do, and that is a concept Malik has beautifully demonstrated in his new project, Spectrum. So far Malik has released the tracks, “Red,” “Orange,” and “Pink.”

There’s a desire in musicians from Austin to move to LA or to New York despite the city being known as the “Music Capital of the World.” How do we tighten the Austin rap network? How do we make it more accessible, more inclusive? We sat down with Malik to talk the future of Austin hip-hop and colors.

Malik has an automatic air of friendliness and light. Inspire by artists like Tyler, The Creator, Kanye, Toro y Moi and Tame Impala, Malik has begun to make waves in his hometown. At 12 years old, he picked up a guitar at Wal-Mart and quickly discovered his love for creating music. “I had this videogame on PlayStation that you could make beats on,” he says. Afterwards, he would hook up his family’s stereo to the TV and create mixtapes. Fast forward to 21, and, Malik has already created eleven different music projects.

 

 

Is this where you saw yourself? Making music?
Honestly, yes. Since I was 12 or 13. It was either this or basketball. I can see myself not playing ball, but I couldn’t live not making music. That’s my outlet that helps me cope with and process things.

You said you grew up in Leander. What was that like?
It was interesting. It’s always very interesting, you know, being one of the few black people anyone knows. You’re sort of put [to a certain standard].

The token black kid.

Yeah. There are stereotypes you’re expected to fulfill.  I’ve had people tell me things like “Wow, you talk white” or  “I’m surprised you have a dad!” There was this one dude in Spanish class who would always make clicking noises at me when I walked in. It’s like, what do you say to that, you know what I mean?

 

 

What’s your take on the rap scene in Austin?
It’s… Interesting. I feel like it’s not fully developed. I don’t know if I would really call it a scene yet. It’s kind of a bunch of people scattered around [Austin]. Not that everyone needs to hold hands and be best buddies, but it’s not as close knit as I’d like for it to be. There’s not a community like you’d find in Chicago, LA, or New York. There isn’t a central hub for rap artists here in Austin where they can find each other and collaborate. It’s the same thing with radio stations. [We don’t have] stations like Hot 97 or The Power that you can aspire to be on. It feels like there’s a nucleus in other cities that artists gravitate towards; whereas here, people feel as though they have to leave [to other cities] to make it. People often don’t “build” here. We’re still figuring it out, you know?

What’s the solution?
I really want to find a way to create a more unified scene. It’s such a small city yet everyday someone will be like, “Have you heard of  such-and-such?” and I’m like, “No.” If I said, “Hey, I want to discover other cool Austin rappers” where would I go? If there was a bigger station that people could get on, I think that [would help]. There’s like 102.3, but you (laughs) can’t just get on there easily.  The ones that you can get on easily, in my opinion, don’t have a wide enough audience. There’s no in-between. How do we get there? I’m not sure but I want to figure it out.

 

 

What’s your favorite color?
I don’t know yet. Depends on my mood. Purple was my favorite for a while because it reminded me of royalty as well as my name. My name means “Prince” in Arabic. Plus, Prince the artist is just an obvious given. I don’t wanna make any colors mad though, so I’m just chillin’. They’re all my favorite right now.

What does the South mean to you, and which colors remind you of the South?
Purple again definitely reminds me of the south because it’s very cool. It gives you that (sighs) feel.  The south embodies boldness, black struggle, and the beauty that comes out of that struggle. It’s full of life and culture and pride in who we are. Our style. How we talk. Hospitality. Like, when I went to LA, I noticed people aren’t nice to you for no reason like they tend to be in Texas.  When I travel outside of the south, I learn how to be selfish.

 

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WORDS / CHRISTELLE MILLER
PHOTOS / MATT WINKLER