Who Is Maaz Khalifa?

Mi0fogRK_400x400

What is your earliest memory of music?

My earliest memory of music is listening to random Bollywood songs in my dad’s car when I was a kid. Even though I didn’t understand any of the words, the songs were catchy to me.

How much of a musical history do you have in your family?

My family doesn’t have any musical history, but my dad likes to sing random songs fairly often.

Are you the first person to pursue music in your family?

Yes.

What made you fall in love with the genre you make today?

I had a phase in my life where I was trying to figure out my top 10 favorite artists. I would listen to a fairly wide variety of music, and I realized that all my favorite artists were in the genre of Hip-Hop/Rap.

What is your writing and recording process like?

I usually listen to whatever the newest/hottest rap album is out at the moment to gain inspiration from. I type bars into my iPhone notes, and I don’t stop until I have at least 16 lines. I won’t go back and edit what I wrote until I finish at least 16 lines. It takes me around 15 minutes or less. Most of my lyrics are “rated R”, but I feel like if I spent more time on it, I would be able to convey a better message with my lyrics. My recording process involves me screaming into those white apple headphones with the microphone attached. I go into a corner of my bedroom to record. It’s not very soundproof, but it’s the best I can do. Everything is plugged into my computer, and I use GarageBand to mix everything. I’m not very good at it at all, but I try my best.

How has attending the University of Michigan informed your creative process?

I don’t think attending U of M has informed my creative process at all. None of my friends are doing what I’m doing, but I still share whatever I’m working on with them. I appreciate the feedback they give me.

Who was the first person to give you the name Maaz Khalifa?

I got it from my teammates from high school soccer. I was really skinny (still am) and I had a slight mustache. Everyone thought I looked like Wiz Khalifa. His mixtape Cabin Fever was really popping off at the time as well. All the upperclassmen would blast it on the way to soccer games.

Why rap under that and not your government name?

I’ve always used that nickname for everything. Whether it be my Xbox gamertag, my Instagram, or random website usernames. Also, “Khalifa” means successor in Arabic and I feel like it had more meaning than my actual last name.

How did you link up with Affluent and Mula for your song “I Wanna”?

Affluent is a family friend from California. And Mula is a guy I found off Soundcloud.

Who are your top five favorite rappers of all time?

This is a tough one. In no particular order, Biggie, Drake, Lil Wayne, Kanye, Dr. Dre.

Who are the newer artists you like today?

Travis Scott, Quavo, Future, Lil Uzi, Young Thug, Post Malone, NAV, Big Sean

You’ve only put out 2 songs, one being “It’s Maaz Khalifa”, how did you come up with that song?

Me and my friend were freestyling just for fun over random beats on Youtube. I decided to write my lyrics down, record it the next day, and post it on Soundcloud. All just for fun. I had no intention of making money or for the song to gain any popularity. It was only recently that I realized I was making money from Spotify streams. Can’t believe I’ve made almost $100 with a song I made in under an hour. (“I Wanna”).

How many unreleased songs are you sitting on right now?

Like 4 unfinished songs.

Who are your favorite producers?

Metro Boomin and Dr. Dre are my absolute favorites. Some producers that are current;y peaking my interest are Murda Beatz, Beats By Saif, DJ Mustard, Southside, Mike WiLL Made-It, NAV, and London on da track.

What are your thoughts on Nav being the first brown boy to get it popping?

I’m in love with NAV, but I feel like it’s just brown people that like him a lot. I wish he blew up earlier. Can’t wait for Perfect Timing pt. 2. And I can’t believe he helped produce “Back To Back”-Drake.

What are your thoughts on the state of the music industry in 2018?

I think the state of the music industry in 2018 is solid. I feel like a lot of “old heads” aren’t used to hearing mumble rap, so they might think 2018 rap sucks, but in general, I like the direction it’s heading towards. I think it’s kind of tiring to hear a new “Lil [insert name]” rapper come out like every week, so I would say things are getting a little oversaturated, but that just means that rappers have to do whatever it takes to make higher quality music and stand out from the competition. I like how rappers hype up their upcoming projects on social media and put out snippets every once in a while.

What are your goals in music?

My only goal right now is to keep promoting my song without annoying all of my social media followers. I’m currently trying to focus on school and my music isn’t a high priority right now.

What’s next for you?

I am trying to continue to grow my Instagram and give advice to those who want help promoting their music. I’ve learned a bunch of different tactics through my year long music “career”. I may not have the free time to make my own music, but I hopefully will have enough time to help others with their music careers.

Listen to “I Wanna” and follow him on Instagram.

Khalid Steals Music Midtown

6:43 PM

Gucci Mane’s DJ takes the stage and starts with A$AP Ferg’s “Plain Jane”. He went on to spin Future “Same Damn Time” and cult classic “Knuck If U Buck”. Gucci took the stage 7:05 with Both, rapping along to Drake’s chorus, and I Get The Bag. He wore a white red and blue tracksuit with shades. He took his shirt off at 7:07 PM to further bring out what felt like a last-second outfit. Long matching basketball shorts. High red socks and chains. Back on Road was #3 and the second Drake feature to reel the crowd in. After asking where the day one fans were, Gucci segued into “I Think I Love Her”. After performing fan favorites like “Lemonade” and “Freaky Girl”, he brings out out four guests, each escalating in reception — Lil Quill, Yung Mal, and Hoodrich Pablo Juan out, and Lil Yachty for “Minnesota”.

Khalid takes the stage 7:45. At 7:56, he’s steadily fueled his performance with an all black ensemble of an outfit and five back up dancers wearing green. At 8 PM, he launches into a self proclaimed “sad as fuck” song. He ends up stealing Day 3 of Music Midtown with a three song run of “Let’s Go”, “Location”, and “OTW”, a relatively new single featuring Ty Dolla $ign and 6lack that shows the direction he may be headed in, a syrupy rhythm and blues sound that recalls late 90s nostalgia.

While the Pulitzer winning Music Midtown headliner prepared to go on stage, The Damn. Tour hologram hung, anticipation grew. He took it like foreign territory, wore a shirt a darker shade of green with the lettering NOT FOR SALE. He opened with DNA, started King Kunta at 9:10 PM. Largely able to go through the motions, Kendrick did some of that, but managed to break through a slow start to a near-raucous set, thanks to choice cuts like “Goosebumps”, “mAAd city”, and “Backseat Freestyle”. Listing all of his projects up to DAMN., he name-checked The Kendrick Lamar EP, but the none of his songs performed dated back to before his debut album on Interscope. “Money Trees” made an appearance, as did “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe.” Before closing it out, Lamar ordered fireworks shot into the dusky black hue that hovered above Piedmont Park, a fitting gesture for an artist whose own intonations and declarations do something to the air.

Who Is Ammar Annex?

 

unnamed.jpg

What’s your earliest memory of music?

Barney was my guy, as well as Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  I also remember this tape deck in our Rav4 that would play Islamic lullabies.  I was all about that!

Do you have a musical family?

Not in a traditional sense.  Brown parents don’t really pay for piano lessons, but my cousins and I would make acapella songs.  I was in a band called “Da Mob”, and my sister was in “Lazer Gurls”. Jury is still out on which group was better.

How was the first time you heard your voice over music?

When I was 8 years old, a friend of my cousin heard this acapella song I made called “What’s Happening on my Feet”, and he put a beat under me.  I was astonished by how cool that was.  I remember showing on my friends like, yo I can rap!

Who were your musical inspirations?

I was put onto Outkast at an early age, so they are big for me.  When I was 11, my sister gave me a Radiohead CD and that’s when shit started getting wild.  At 17, I deep dived into the discographies of The Beach Boys and Beatles.  Those four comprise my personal Mt. Rushmore of bands.

Who was the first person to give you the name Ammar Annex?

I was at U of I for a choir recital, and I passed a building called Khan Annex.  That’s my last name, so I was telling my homies ‘yo look that’s my name on that building!” One of them was like “Yeah I know.  Ammar Annex.”  It was my 21st birthday, and I thought the symmetry was cool so I went with it.

How do you come up with such unique names and long sentences for your song titles?

I like song titles that either are one word, or the best phrase from the lyrics, even if they’re not from the hook.  Song titles should draw people into the world you’re trying to evoke. 

What inspired your last release I Was On A Tattered Roof?

The boonies and backwoods of Wisconsin, where I grew up, and Pakistan, where my family is from.

How was writing and conceiving the album in Pakistan for you?

I was there for 10 days, for the first time in 18 years.  I got to meet my blood that I’ve only seen through IG, and it felt like a mirrored reality.  They were just like me, but our lives were so different.  I took about four thousand photos and did a video series on my time there, and the album’s thematic scope came about while I was there.

Where in Pakistan?

Karachi.  A city with straight up 20 million people running around on motor bikes.  At night it looks like third world Blade Runner.

What is the local scene like there?

I got to spend New Years there, and we went to a compound with a disco floor.  People were popping off AKs til the wee hours.  Even though it’s an Islamic country, you can find your choice of vice if you know the right people.   And that’s on the wealthier side of things! I found the middle class areas to be much more tranquil.  The album art for Tattered Roof is of my grandfather’s abode, which my father and his brothers built in the 1980s.  Life on that side of Karachi felt like my hometown in Wisconsin, believe it or not.

Where were you musically when recording Bless The Lot and Wons?

I was still in university, figuring out how to make music. I turned my studio apartment into a studio, albeit an amateur one.  I would fill my class load with choir electives, from gospel to liturgical Catholic mass.  I failed music theory, but it taught me how to fool someone into thinking I play the piano.

What did you take away from recording those projects that you applied to your last project I Was On A Tattered Roof?

Those records reflect my time spent tinkering with the art. I had my midi keyboard and my drum pad, and I’d try to say something from the heart. But I feel like ‘Tattered’ is my first real record.  In that I built my own studio when I finished school, and I took the responsibility of making an album much more seriously. I made the whole record by myself, from the production, lyrics, mixing and mastering. 

What do you use to record music?

I’m an Ableton stan, and I have a tube mic set up in a recording room, in which all the walls are lined with home installation padding to dampen the reflections.

What are your thoughts on Nav being the first brown boy to get it popping?

When I first heard him we were out in Toronto.  I remember being super proud.  Made it feel like hey, we can do this!  My crew bumped his first mixtape hard, TTD is one of my fav joints.  He has a great sense of melody.  But god, I hope his music gets better!  Cuz lately it’s been real sus. 

Who are your musical inspirations these days?

I love indie female artists.  AdriAnne Lenker of Big Thief is my girl.  Also love Mitski, her new album has the hardest lines.  St. Vincent is my favourite artist though.

If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?

When I’m not making music, I’m a cinematographer.  If I were doing neither of those things, I would be a political revolutionary.

How was writing the novella to accompany the project like?

Every song had a little chapter to it.  It tells a story about a house, and the man who lives there.  He is throwing a party, and feels isolated so he hangs out with ghosts on his roof.  It really helped me feel the album more, and understand where I wanted to place the songs.  Before I worked on the novella, I had a completely different tracklisting!

What is your songwriting process?

Some of my favorite songs have come about by me having a conversation inside my head, and I’ll write a whole song around that one thing I said.  I love moleskine notebooks, and I write every song I’ve made in them.  Chord progressions on the left page, lyrics on the right.

How many unreleased records are you sitting on?

Oh jesus, so many!  I made a whole album during Ramadan this summer.  I ended up writing and recording 15 songs, 7 of which I think are good enough to release a mini album one day.  Its called Heartbeats on the Forest Floor, which is the same amount of syllables of my last album.  Every day I work on music, so the records just pile up.  I make alot of music for my friends as well, so it’s about helping them achieve their goals as well as my own.

What is your status as an artist i.e. independent, major?

I’ve never stepped inside a professional studio, so I very much consider myself under that DIY, bedroom indie branch of things.  But the goal is to turn my work ethic into a record deal.  I’d love getting paid to be an artist, including making music and movies. 

What’s next for you?

Working on the fourth album with my band, Bad Gesture.  Also, I want to work for National Geographic and capture the world the way I see it, so I’m getting my video reel right.

Stream: I Was on a Tattered Roof and follow Ammar on Instagram.

#BNT: RobOlu – “Sucka Free”

Sucka Free Cover new2 copy
instagram.com/fathereg

BEST NEW TRACK

Nigerian-American artist RobOlu is one of the best new rappers to emerge within Atlanta’s bustling underground hip-hop scene. Following a packed to capacity release party for his full-length Bigger Than Reality and the brief but sublime Excellence extended play, RobOlu returns over Sensei ATL produced sound. The song is now streaming wherever you stream music.

 

Live: HMTA Presents

hmtaux

9:30 PM

A crowd of 23 is having their own moment of a Jordan year when the clock strikes midnight. Stuck In My Ways by BYV plays during soundcheck, followed by a remix of the Tame Impala instrumental to The Less I Know The Better. Keenon Rush, Wiley from Atlanta, and Trvy are here.

10:40 PM

Keenon Rush is about to take the stage. Wanted You just mixed into Walk It Talk It.

11:00 PM

Keenonman’s in the building performing unreleased music. Shortly after a vehement performance of Headlock, he thanks the audience for their energy. The next song finds him sending PSAs to his haters, a thumping anthem accented with what sound like Patois ad-libs. “She say I’m the best / Who am I?” is perhaps Keenonman’s most introspective lyric, something sincerely endearing given the circumstance. New Freezer drops for the chorus and he daps his DJ up. The next song paints the artist in a determined light, ending in Keenon rapping acapella.

12:20 AM

Afropluto drops bars lamenting the dismissal of lyricism in hip-hop today. He seems to have quarrels with the listeners who “don’t care what they saying but the beat hard”. That alone accents his performance through a raspy voice and multiple syllables packed into bars. “Go ahead and pop that pussy like it’s 1999” might be the most telling lyric of Afropluto from tonight’s show, a reference to the year the artist lost his virginity? Pure speculation here. The crowd roars into the midnight hour. He thanks the fans. He says shout out to this young king in front of him, King Blanco, and shows him love. “I come up here and I vent, this is how I make money,” are his remarks prior to performing Do Battle.

1:00 AM

Wiley from Atlanta is all about gratitude. He’s probably thanked the crowd about ten times tonight. His soulful voice carries the weight of his poignant lyrics no where else than the heart, a candid tone that evokes some emotion. A beautiful song was performed just prior to Pressure, an indicator into Wiley’s stage presence: a calculated but consistent product in terms of output and quality control. He thanks the crowd three times after Pressure. “I don’t know if ya’ll fuck with Kehlani,” he says before launching into a remix of “Boys Don’t Cry. To follow is the indelible Nights off Frank Ocean’s Blonde, to which the crowd sways. Wiley lets the first half run. This last song is called Don’t Talk To Me About Love. He launches straight into the verse, saving the phrase I’m not the same I was before for a falsetto’d out bar within the chorus. When he launches into the refrain, the song makes sense. Berlin by the deceased artist and Wiley’s friend Jarrod Milton plays to close out the set.

BNT: Turls ~ Pusher (prod. Popstar Benny)

DQZJpzLUQAA1hI_
Photo: Courtesy of Turls’ Twitter

BEST NEW TRACK

Popstar FM is quietly becoming one of Atlanta’s leading indie labels. Powered by mastermind Popstar Benny, a producer / graphic designer / DJ in his own right, Benny has proven to be relentless when it comes to keeping his foot on the gas.

His latest production, a 2:09 blend of his pop sensibilities and glittering melodies that separate him from the rest of Atlanta’s producers, provides the perfect background for Gwinnett County’s Turls to find the pocket. Turls particularly shines on the hook.

The two are working on an album together.

The single cover art was taken by Casey Doran. The track was mixed by Jackson Laurie / @Wavvv.

More Info:

Turls on Twitter

Popstar Benny on Twitter

Popstar FM on Twitter

INTERVIEW: MALLY STAKZ

image1 (4)
Photo: Courtesy of The Coal Mine Group

Mally Stakz represents the mercurial nature of genre blending music that has been taking over the industry for sometime now. Not pinned down by any one genre in particular, Mally Stakz, born Jamal to an American mother from the south and a father from the islands of Jamaica, maintains that unique perspective in his music. Check out the exclusive interview with the Bronx based artist.

Where you at right now?

I’m in my crib. I’m in the Bronx right now.

You came up in the Bronx right?

Yes.

What’s your earliest memory of music?

It would probably be my mom playing Whitney Houston. She loved Whitney Houston.

What about Whitney touched you?

I saw how her music touched people. Even when I was young, even if I didn’t understand what she was saying… the sound and the frequencies, they felt good to play, to hear.

When was the moment in time you started to take your career seriously?

When I first got booked. They hit my manager Chantz. I got booked to go perform on ESPN down in Miami in 2011, 2010.

That was with YND Zoo… tell me a little bit more about that.

That’s my team, that’s my squad. Couple independent artists. I do music. He does fashion. We’re all from the Bronx. We all came up together.

Tell me about the song “Stuck On You”?

That song is dope. Produced by Hasemi. It’s a good vibe song. Everybody’s doing different type of music. I feel like that vibe.

How do you think your music became so versatile?

Basically growing up and experiencing different things, being around different things. My mother’s from the South, my father’s from the Island. Growing up in a very diverse family.

How did you meet French Montana?

The first time I met French was at the beginning of my career. My manager, we went to a show. They were just cooling. He introduced me. It was just cool from there. We just chopped it up, regular. Everybody is doing their thing. It was quick.

How did you link up with Shot by Cisco?

Through Instagram. That’s my boy, he’s from Brooklyn.

Do you look up to Fat Joe as a mentor?

All the older rappers, not all of them but most of them, are almost like mentors. I’m trying to learn from them.

What’s the first thing you do when you get in the studio?

I like to just turn up the music. Turn up whatever I’m vibing to. I like the music loud. It’s almost like you can see the sound, it’s crazy.

Is there a specific studio you record in NY?

Not anywhere specific. I record all over NY.

What is that a NY artist has to do stand out?

Well… I don’t feel specifically as a NY artit but as an artist, just be yourself. We’re all on the road. if you see somebody on their road, it might look better but we all have separate roads and separate lanes. You can’t go and follow somebody you see because you’re getting off your route. Now it’s going to take longer for you to go where you want to go, where God wanted you to go, since you wanted to take a detour.

image1 (3)
Photo: Courtesy of The Coal Mine Group

How big are you on collaborating?

I’m not new to collaborating. I really like writing. I wrote a lot coming up before I was in the spotlight. It’s all about the vibe. If the artist is dope it can’t be nothing but greatness created.

What’s inspiring you lately?

I think just the process. Not getting what I want. Just things going wrong.

Your song “Save Me” — how important is mental health awareness to you?

You have to have music like that. Sometimes I feel like that and I want to make music like that. I just end up listening to my music. I found a lane. It’s organic. It wasn’t planned to do this. I’m just doing me, speaking on my situations.

Who was the first person to give you the name Mally Stakz?

My name is Jamal. Mally comes from that. Stakz just came later on. Mallachi is a funny nickname. They started calling me that in the studio.

How did you link up with FKI 1st?

That’s my boy. He came to NY and we were in the same studio. He heard my stuff, I heard his stuff. I heard his music, everything with Post Malone, he’s a young dude from another side of the US, we just cooked. It made sense. He came back again, we did the video, it was dope.

How do you balance your remixes and your originals?

If I do a remix, I have to really be feeling it. As far as my original songs, I try and keep those relevant too. People gravitate more towards covers sometimes and they forget that you’re a good artist overall, that it’s not just that one song they like.

Who are your favorite artists outside of rap?

I’m into everything, man. I like Bieber, Bruno Mars. That’s what I’m trying to be like. His music, his shows, his vision is fire. Drake, Meek Mill, Jay-Z, Kendrick. Yeah, man. I’m inspired by a lot. Almost everything around me. Good or bad.

You have been making music in NY for a while — what’s the best thing about being an artist from NY in 2018?

The best thing… is that you’re from New York, period. The light is shining on New York a little bit more.

What’s your favorite thing about the music industry today?

I’ve been around for a little minute. I feel like I have a different view rather than other artists. It has to be the simplicity. Once you really understand it, it’s not as difficult as you think. In a sense, it still is very difficult.

How many songs are in the vault?

Thousands. I have songs with a lot of producers. I hold onto everything until it’s the right timing. Nowadays this world is so digital, everything has to be timed right.

What’s a recently written lyric you’re proud of?

I don’t really write too much. I just express myself. I know what I think. But a line that I recently recorded… “Just be careful what you ask for”. That’s a video that dropped before. It’s called “Ask For”, it’s out now.

What could you tell your 18 year old self today?

I would tell him that you know. You know. Don’t worry. Don’t second guess your feelings, you know.

What’s next for you?

I’m keeping it going. I’m going to LA soon. More videos, more singles. I got the new song “Box To Boom” with Fat Joe. Just heating up and getting people to anticipate my bodies of work like my mixtapes, my albums. I have a whole bunch of music that’s coming this year.

More Info:

Mally Stakz on Twitter