Interview: Natalie

Here at Romusa we value rising artists. Natalie’s new song Devotion is an absolute earworm that has quickly climbed the ranks of my favorite songs to come out this year. Check it out below and learn more about Natalie.

 

1) What is your earliest memory of music?
My earliest memory of music was probably my uncle singing a Boys II Men song in a Karaoke machine.

2) How musical is your family?
I have two uncles that enjoyed singing but other than that not much. I don’t have any family members that produced or really recorded original music and distributed it.

3) Are you the first in your family to pursue music?
I’m the first to seriously pursue music.

4) What do you remember about the first song you wrote and recorded?
The first song I wrote and recorded was called Ashamed and is actually still up on my Soundcloud to this day. I started making the beat and it was originally acoustic. I hated the way my voice sounded, so I pitched down my vocals to sound completely different, almost male. And built out the beat around it and sent it to my friend to collaborate on.

5) What compelled you to create the genre(s) you do today?
That’s tough. I move through a lot of different genres, I have songs out right now that are pop, dancehall, trap, hip-hop, but all sound consistent. I just make what I’m feeling, because I produce I’m not limited to beats that people send me.

6) What is your label situation?
I’m not signed to anything. No label, no talent agency, no marketing company, etc. I’m 100% independent.

7) What are your thoughts on the state of the industry today?
It’s interesting, I think that the state of the industry in a monetary sense is bright and booming because of streaming, television programming, etc. I’m personally not a huge fan of certain trends in music, like “meme-rap”, singing about things that aren’t honest in one’s life, and saying you’re independent when you’re are being funded by agencies/companies. I also think it’s pretty reckless and dangerous to promote young kids 13-17 singing about drug culture, because it’s normalizing it at a peer level to a really young audience.

8) How did you make Devotion?
I knew I wanted to make a summer track and I was listening to a ton of dancehall songs so it just felt right. I started making the beat and sang about things that were happening last year. Everything just kind of fell together naturally.

9) Technically — What do you need to make music?
Honestly, just an interface, mic, laptop with Ableton, and midi keyboard. I use a Scarlett 2i4, a Rode Nt1, and an Alesis 49 key.

10) What is a favorite lyric you’ve written recently?
In Devotion I said, “ I been hurt I been misused, I played now I play too.” I felt that.

11) Do you go by Natalie or Shameful Natalie?
I just go by Natalie. I changed my Instagram/Twitter name to my first EP name and my first name because Natalie was taken by some influencer. I think ShamefulNatalie is sticking though so who knows I might change it, Natalie isn’t exactly SEO friendly.

12) Why that name to record and release under?
I like going by just my first name because the music I make is true to who I am. The things I sing about are experiences I have gone through so it makes sense to release it without a filter or character mask.

13) Dream collaboration?
That’s so hard, I think my dream collaboration would be Travis Scott or Boys II Men.

14) If you could record music anywhere, where would it be?
I would love to go back to Houston or even Chicago and just create. I would love to try Toronto too but I don’t the vibe there.

15) What’s next for you?
I’m dropping a lot more before the year ends. Got a music video coming out 2 singles and hopefully 1-2 more EP’s before 2020 so keep an eye out for the girl.

Who Is Maaz Khalifa?

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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.

INTERVIEW: MALLY STAKZ

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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?

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.

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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: Menace

 

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Photo: Courtesy of Menace

What do you use to produce?

FL Studio.

How long will you work on a production?

It depends. It might take an hour. Sometimes five to six hours.

When’s the last time you visited the US to work?

Last year — LA.

How did you link up with Blac Youngsta and produce track #14 “Forever” on his new album 223?

Through Epic. Zoey is his A&R.

Why did you want to work with Blac Youngsta?

Blac Youngsta is more… he brings a new flow. He’s the Martin Lawrence of this industry. He combines comedy and music.

What do you listen to outside of rap?

Latin artists.

What are you working on lately?

Drake’s new project, it’s coming out very soon. Travis Scott’s new album. Some Kevin Gates music.

How did the game change for you after the success of Panda?

It’s kind of like… I’m in the big house. But all the doors are locked for the rooms in the big house.

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

I like that every ethnic group can get together and talk about the same thing — the music.

More Info:

Menace on Twitter

Interview: Frank Ocean

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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