Kindle eBook pre-orders are now available for 27-year-old writer Mustafa Abubaker‘s 3rd novel We Are Also Home, a magically realistic 444-page story set in Karachi, Pakistan, and Atlanta, Georgia.

The Kindle eBook is out next Tuesday, December 15th, 2020, but you can pre-order it now at this link for only $3.50.

The print paperback is out now, and you can order it now at this link for only $11.99.

Write a review here.

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Design by Luis Pineda

A magnetic novel about two people intertwined by their single parents to each other who find love but not without mystery, poor boy Taimur Mahdi and rich girl Yara Janmohamed ditch modern Karachi for Atlanta to chase Yara’s dream of becoming a successful recording artist. Success arrives quicker for her than she could have ever imagined, and she has to confront her literal, random invisibility in front of Taimur once and for all. But not before a riveting, passionate affair between Taimur’s mother, Farishtay, and Yara’s father, Syed, goes wrong due to a drug overdose. Should Taimur and Yara have ever met? What really happened between his mom and her dad? Was Pakistan better for them as a home in the long run? Is Yara safe with Taimur? Suspenseful and provocative, Mustafa Abubaker’s third novelis keenly attuned to the complexities of family, visibility, and love. We Are Also Home explores the fragility of visibility South Asian women grapple with daily and how our closest bonds are reshaped–and unexpected new ones are forged–in moments of vulnerability.

Born July 25, 1993, in Queens, New York, Mustafa Abubaker is a writer. His writing has appeared in Rolling StoneGolf MediaAtlanta, and more.

www.mustafaabubaker.com is live: there’s a homepagean about sectiona services sectiona work sectiona press section, and a contact section. Let’s work!

Interview: Who Is Ricky Babar

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Ricky Babar is a recording artist from Detroit, Michigan. His song and video Do You Love Me is at 50,000 views at press time since being released two months ago. Romusa caught up with the rapper for an interview while he was visiting Toronto.

What is your earliest memory of music that helped form the genre you make today?

I would say my album OCD. It was where I found my flow.

How much of a musical history does your family have?

I have a great grandfather or an uncle in my family who was a locally famous singer in Pakistan about 100 or 200 years ago.

What do you remember about the very first song that you wrote and released?

The very first song I wrote and released was for a science project. It was a remix of “Forever” by Drake.

Do you think that was the one that made you want to make the genre that you make today?

The biggest thing that made me rap the way that I rap now is the fact that I would listen to Lil Wayne and Drake. They are really heavy on metaphors. They are really heavy on aggressive rap.

Throughout your recording career, you have accumulated these aliases. Babar Ali, Ricky Babar. How did you get these names? Which is at the forefront of your recording work?

I would say Babar is the forefront because everybody knows Babar. That’s my real name. I kept it a part of the brand the whole time. But Babar Ali — Ali is my middle name — so Babar is a part of all of my nicknames. I get called Young Ricky a lot too. I use Ricky Babar now because it stands out more to people. It’s easy for people to catch onto and understand when they first see it. When people just see the Babar, they don’t know how it’s pronounced, and it’s hard for people who aren’t of the same background to know how it’s pronounced. I just want to make it easier for people. That was one of the main reasons, but also, it wasn’t very interesting. When I was recording my songs, one of the lines was “swerving like Ricky Bobby.”

In Detroit, there is such a large population of Arabs, we know that you were in Canada —  in Toronto — I’m wondering what have you seen in Toronto that reminds you of Detroit and what have you seen in Detroit that reminds you of Toronto?

I don’t know too much about the Toronto music scene because I haven’t talked to enough people or met with enough artists here. The studios are much busier. I feel like if you have money in Detroit, you can get a studio at anytime of the day. In Toronto, it doesn’t matter if you have the money. It depends on how much but they are definitely busier in Toronto.

How long were you in Toronto and what brings you out there?

I know some people out there. There are some some major cities that are pretty close drives for me. I like to travel in general but it is an easier trip. It is still a major city. I am trying to network and do videos and meet artists. Also, my in-laws are in Toronto.

How has being in a relationship affected your music?

I think it is good thing because it grounds you. You can’t be writing, working, recording all the time. Secondly, you always have a second opinion and from a female. That is valuable. Thirdly, and in general as a Muslim, you want to be married. I just think it’s a necessity. It helps. It’s just a good thing.

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What did you start with when you made “Do You Love Me?” From the skeleton of the beat to the first vocal track, how did that record come about in the studio?

I was flying to LA with my friend Dre. I wanted to write with him for a while. I was on the plane and he pulled up this beat. Honestly, I didn’t think much of it. I thought it would be like a random soft song that not too many people would like. I don’t remember him liking it that much but I was listening to it and I don’t know if I wrote or not. I might’ve come up with some rough ideas.

Then, Dre just let me come to the place where he was working. They had this office in there with papers and pens and it was just a really nice office. I like to be in a nice place when I’m working. I have to have an outlet for my phone charger. I like a big table. I like a comfy seat. I like a lot of paper and pens and a speaker. I put the speaker on high blast. My friend was just around the building vacuuming and cleaning and I just freestyled out loud. I could be as loud as I want it. I like to hear my voice bouncing off the beat at a high volume. I was just rapping whatever was coming to me in my head out loud. I tried different melodies. I freestyled a good four bars, used five or six pieces of paper. This is how I do a lot of my songs.

Then I was looking at the thing and as I was writing the verse, I’m like OK yeah, that’s the chorus right there, that’s the hook. The second verse said do you love me. I said yo, that low-key sounds like a hook. It was already a conversational song  with my wife. I was going to be saying, “Yeah, I don’t know.” I was going to be the one asking me that question as if I was rapping from her perspective. She never got on a song with me and I didn’t even think of her singing it. I was just making it for myself.

Once I got that down, I pieced it altogether. I took those pieces of paper, shoved them in my backpack. That was the super rough skeleton. I got a session at a local studio. I had like a three or four hour studio session that night and I was at at university for one of my classes or something. I was having lunch at OU and my wife was there and I was like hey, do you want to go to the studio and do this part? It clicked in my head because Dre had mentioned that this should be a girl singing this and I was like well, I don’t know. I didn’t know if she would want to do it.

She was actually down, and she came to the studio, and it took a while because that was her first time. It took a while to get it down with the tone, getting comfortable inside the booth for her, but when it came together, it was fire. I didn’t put it out until three or four months later, like around the time when I got married. A year later, we did the video.

So, from that experience, how typical is that when it comes to all of your recording sessions. Do they generally go like how you just described? Or is each session kind of its own thing?

That is kind of how it is in general. There’s a little variation. Sometimes the beat is made in front of me, sometimes it’s an old beat that I haven’t touched in a while. I don’t make my own beats so it depends on where I get it from. I freestyle, write down what I freestyle, and then I hit the studio. It’s a freeing process.

Who are your top five rappers of all time?

Strictly musically… I can’t vouch for these guys totally. I don’t know a lot of the things they stand for. A lot of them have like fell off in my eye but I would say Eminem, Lil Wayne, Drake, J. Cole… I can’t decide between Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Big Sean.

What are your general thoughts on how NAV said he is the first brown boy to get it popping?

I mean, if he means he’s the first brown boy to go mainstream, I guess. In the American rap scene, that is true. He is the first. I don’t like his music for myself. I don’t like his music because the subject matter is overwhelmingly negative. I do like some of his beats and melodies, but not his subject matter. I do not think he is that skilled of a rapper as well. If he had better subject matter then I would definitely be a fan.

If subject matter is important to you, how much do you keep your brown fanbase in mind when you make music?

I don’t generally keep it in mind. There was a time when I was keeping it in mind. I was trying to do a whole niche market thing, but now I don’t. I’m just trying to make an honest sound.

What is your status as a signed artist today?

I’m just independent as of now. I don’t have a label, it’s just me doing my thing.

What are your thoughts on the state of the industry today?

I think I like a lot of the ways… I like the sound of a lot of the newer stuff that is coming out. Just aesthetically, I like the sound of the music. I do like the trap, the poppy trap, I like the cadence on a lot of the newer stuff. I actually really like it.

My only problem is the subject matter and the actual skill of some of the rappers. So what I’m doing is I am going to take that new sound that I actually like and I’m going to take the parts that I like and I’m going to put real skill — like real rap skill — and use it. I’ll use the same tone, cadence, beats to make something with the right subject matter with real skill. I think some of them do have some real skill.

What’s next for you?

I have a lot of hot songs about to come out. A lot of videos and a lot of projects are coming out, but I don’t have any names, and I can’t give away anything about it. Just know that there is a lot of heat coming.

Interview: Who Is Emzae?

Emzae is a recording artist from Derby, England currently coasting off the release of her Lucid Dreaming single. I got a chance to have a conversation with her about music, her own work, and what’s next for her. Keep up with her on Twitter.
What is your earliest memory of music?

I’ve never really thought about that before. I guess it was just always on the radio and on Top of The Pops. I got told off for going round the house singing Right Said Fred when I was about 3. I remember when I first fell in love with music, though. I’ve always been a strange combination of flamboyant and anxious, and i’ve always been afraid of the dark. One winter afternoon me and my mum were walking from the shopping centre in Derby to the bus station, and it was cold and dark and I was scared. Then I saw the pink neon lights of the HMV sign, and my mum asked me if I wanted to see if there were any cassettes I wanted before we went home. I remember the feeling of warmth and safety when we went inside and I saw the rows of cassette singles in the order of the charts. I fell in love with it then, and that feeling has never changed. Music has always been the same to me – the place where I feel I can belong. The one thing that makes me feel safe and normal and that everything might just be ok.

How musical was your family growing up?

Not very at all. My oldest brother is a huge oasis fan and he plays the guitar, but it’s for his own enjoyment and he’s never played live or anything. I think the fact that my parents weren’t into anything like that has made it all a bit more of an uphill battle, because I started out with zero contacts and zero knowledge of how to do anything. Everything is a learning curve!
Did you ever consider going by your real name instead of Emzae?
No, because my name is the most average name ever and there are thousands of me, even if I went by my middle name. Having a stage name also gives me the ability to separate being a musician from being my everyday self, although my on stage wardrobe is starting to merge with my everyday wardrobe and I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.

How did you get the stage name Emzae?

I came up with it when I was around 15. Everyone has always called me things like Em, Ems, Emz, Emsy and other variations of my name, and I’ve always had a strange obsession with the letter Z. At that time, most of my favourite artists ended in ‘e’ or ‘y’ too. I thought Emzy or Emzie sounded a bit too playful next to my more melancholic tracks and wasn’t available anyway, so I put an A in there. The username was always available, so I stuck with it!

What have you learned from other artists you apply to your own career?

I come from an area of the UK (the East Midlands) where there is a really awesome local music scene. Everyone is really friendly, welcoming and supportive and there are so many talented artists that I’m constantly inspired by them in different ways. The biggest thing I’ve learnt is just to keep going and never give up. To push through any challenges, to believe in myself and to always be kind and encouraging. I post a lot on social media about music and live gigs from other local artists that I love, and I genuinely enjoy watching good people achieve success. I’ve learnt that anything is possible if you have the work ethic and the enthusiasm.

How did you craft your Lucid Dreaming single?

I’m big into meditation and I sometimes meditate to binaural beats. I wanted to create my own binaural beat and use it as the bass in a track, and that’s how Lucid Dreaming started. The rest of the song was basically built around that, and it only has two chords throughout. Sometimes I like to play with that repetition and progress the track in other more subtle ways. The album version is over six minutes long, so I had to cut quite a bit out for the radio edit, which is still over four minutes long. It’s one of the longest tracks i’ve ever made.

Inspiration behind it?

During the making of my upcoming album, i’ve been listening to a lot of assorted Trip Hop in my spare time, so some of my music is loosely inspired by the type of beats and the atmosphere of those songs. Lucid Dreaming is also about how I’ve been working towards making music my full time job for so long that I’ve almost forgotten why I work so hard. It’s about reflecting on burning out, and at the same time reminding myself why I love what I do. If that makes sense.

How different is your earlier stuff compared to what you make now?

Some of it might initially seem quite different, but i’ve always basically been the same artist. I just sing about myself, my weird thoughts and the world around me, the melodies and lyrics are often melancholic but usually always with a light at the end of the tunnel. Even when two tracks sound different, I think that they both contain the essence of who I am as an artist. I guess the only thing that has changed is the quality of my productions, as I am always learning new skills and techniques.

What helped make that transition smoother?

Definitely the older I get and the more I learn, the better I feel I get at songwriting. And the more I study production, the more creative I can be with the instrumentals.
How long have you spent in the studio at once?
Many, many, many hours late at night after work with tired eyes, a tension headache and a packet of biscuits. Lucid Dreaming took 8 months to mix. There are so many layers on it. The vocals are what takes the longest. I actually write the songs themselves in a really short space of time.

Who are your favorite producers of all time?

I’m a fan of so many people. My favourites have to be Timbaland and Danja, then I obviously love Pharrell, Mark Ronson, Bloodshy and Avant, Mike WiLL Made-It, there are too many to mention.

Top 5 rappers of all time?

I like a lot of different songs from different rappers and don’t necessarily have an overall favourite. I listen to British grime more than I listen to American stuff, and mainly I enjoy the legends of the scene like Chip, Kano, JME, Skepta etc. but I will sometimes watch things like SBTV, GRM Daily and Fire In The Booth to check out newer artists. I find grime so powerful, raw and honest as a genre. Plus, it has a unique sense of humour that isn’t found anywhere else.

What is your opinion on the state of the music industry today?

There are some truly beautiful, moving tracks being made and I think they have more of an impact on me and I appreciate them more because of the hard times we are currently experiencing in the world. The music is better than ever. It’s a little more challenging as an artist to get streams than it was say, four years ago, when places like SoundCloud hadn’t been infiltrated with major labels, but there are always opportunities and you just have to come up with new ideas and keep moving along. From a live perspective, one of the things I dream of is a minimum rate that artists must me paid for gigs that aren’t open mics.

What is your writing process like?

One of two things usually happens. I’ll either be feeling a certain way and need to express it in a song, in which case i’ll get it all out pretty quickly. Usually at least one verse and chorus will be written in a day, and fleshed out later. The other thing is that I will get an idea for a concept or melody whilst i’m out and about and i’ll quietly record it into my phone to re-visit at a later date. Those songs usually take longer to write, but all in all I write pretty quickly.

Who or what are you inspired by the most in the studio when crafting these songs?

I just take myself to another world. I switch off from everything and all that matters is the music. I try not to listen to too much music when writing, in case I accidentally rip something off. Usually i’ll be inspired by whatever the theme of my album is. At the moment my album is set in the city I live and grew up in, Derby. So I imagine that whilst I am working on music.

What’s one thing you’ve learned about making music in 2018?

It takes a while, sometimes you think you might never finish it or get it out there, you question whether anyone actually cares and what you’re doing with your life at times, but overall it’s totally worth it.

Would you change anything about your career?

No. Like everything in my life, it’s all basically me stumbling along through trial and error, but I look back and I can see a clear progression there. I’ve improved so much as an artist and a person since I first started uploading demos in 2014, and i’m looking forward to the future.

Matt Ox, “Zero Degrees”


Matt Ox is only thirteen years old. I don’t know if he’s in school or not, but it’s safe to say he’s definitely been in the studio. After his closely affiliated producer(s) Working On Dying worked on I’m Upset from Drake, and turning down deals from Meek Mill and Generation Now in hopes to gain his own status as a Philadelphia recording artist, things are looking up for this kid right here. Check out his new song below.

Who Is Ammar Annex?



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.

Live: HMTA Presents


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.


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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?


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.

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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

Interview: Frank Ocean

Photo: Getty Images

In 2011, shortly after Frank dropped NOSTALGIA,ultra on the Odd Future blog, I downloaded it just before going to sleep. I got on the bus to Woodward and watched my life slow down as I hit play, listened to his music for the first time. I found myself completely and utterly enthralled with this artist’s ability to engage listeners with vivid storytelling, painting whole worlds with aural brushstrokes.

Naturally, I was keen on interviewing the artist. I could only listen to Swim Good for so long. I could only romanticize a living human for so long. At the time, my blog The Right Kind Of Brownies was doing very well. The story goes like this: I hit up Kelly Clancy on Twitter for an interview and then Frank himself. Frank had me circle back around to Kelly and 4 Strikes. When that didn’t work, I found myself pressed for time, suffering that syndrome of becoming successful when I’m young that’s so common amongst my now fellow 24 year old peers. So, I slid in Frank’s DMs and asked him for an interview. I can quote his response to the tee.

Good timing. I’m on a plane from ny to la. Send the questions to *EMAIL ADDRESS OMITTED*

Below, I’ve shared the interview from that time in both of our lives. Please enjoy and leave a comment telling us your favorite Frank song.

TRKOB: So many questions, I don’t know where to start. What’s going on with you currently?

Frank Ocean: i’m on a plane back from new york. met with the folks from my label for the first time and the new chairman of umg mr. barry weiss. omw back to los angeles, preparing for the next art show.

TRKOB: How did you come up with the name Frank Ocean?

Frank Ocean: in a dream.

TRKOB: What caused the drift from Island Def Jam to Odd Future? Was your first work with them on BLACKENDWHITE?

Frank Ocean: i dunno if there was a drift. i just met some new friends, that eventually became much like family. first appearance of mine on an OF release was this song steamroller on rolling papers.

TRKOB: What was it like working on a darker record than your solo project?

Frank Ocean: i hope by darker you don’t mean evil or anything. hahaha. but uhh. it was easy. and fun.

TRKOB: For Nostalgia, ULTRA there was seemingly no hype, no promotion leading up to the release. Why is that, was it a conscious decision?

Frank Ocean: nobody likes hype. well, i don’t like hype. yes, it was a conscious decision. couple of my close friends actually thought i was out of my mind. thought i was “throwing it away.”

TRKOB: You worked with Happy Perez for the album. How did you guys link up and work? Will you work with any OF production in the future?

Frank Ocean: i met happy at some studio in LA some time ago. he was working with my friend stacy barthe. i asked him for beats one day. he sent a folder to my email. we never worked in person. as for your second question. i have and i will continue to.

TRKOB: With all the co signs coming in (Diddy, Lupe Fiasco, John Legend, etc) how do you stay grounded? Especially after just being in the studio with Beyonce?

Frank Ocean: i’m not grounded bro. i’m bouncing all around this ****. hahaha.

TRKOB: What can you tell us about that session in the studio?

Frank Ocean: nothing.

TRKOB: What is your creative writing process like?

Frank Ocean: part rubix-cube/ part roller-coaster/ part watching paint dry.

TRKOB: Many are saying you could very well end up being the most commercially successful member of the group. What do you think your purpose in Odd Future is?

Frank Ocean: OF is comprised of gifted and talented american kids. we challenge each other. they challenge me for sure. whenever you’re in a circle that’s talented throughout, it makes less room for complacency. my purpose is to contribute to that productive environment as much as i can.

TRKOB: Who would you like to work with in the industry outside of Odd Future?

Frank Ocean: warren buffet. on my portfolio or some ****.

TRKOB: What can you tell us about SHE on GOBLIN?

Frank Ocean: that the sound is incred & the video will be nuts.

TRKOB: Main inspiration?

Frank Ocean: my unborn children.

TRKOB: If you couldn’t sing, what would you be doing?

Frank Ocean: probably building buildings and ****.

TRKOB: Favorite albums, movies, books?

Frank Ocean: ahh. i don’t play favorites. but i’ve seen that chris robinson movie atl over 50x’s though. and i’m a big harry potter fan. o & my favorite song in the world is prince “when you were mine”. i guess i do play favorites.

TRKOB: Megan Fox or Minka Kelly?

Frank Ocean: megan is that female from transformers right? yea, she got nice eyes.

TRKOB: If someone who had never heard anything by you asked what your music is like, what would your answer be?

Frank Ocean: i’d tell them goto my tumblr. ayo. **** genres.

TRKOB: Why did Pyrite & Acura Integurl not make the album?

Frank Ocean: they were never intended for it.

TRKOB: Where do you see yourself in a year?

Frank Ocean: better at piano. and more peaceful in general. i liked the questions.

Interview by Mustafa Abubaker

Many thanks to Escaped Goat for archiving the interview