After two albums launches in two years, and another project coming soon, Malik looks to be an unstoppable creative force in the Austin scene.
With his new project, titled Spectrum, Malik is aspiring to forge a new, more vulnerable, more honest version of himself. “This project is about me celebrating being secure in myself,” he says, “talking about things I’ve been afraid to talk about.”
Spectrum is series of singles, a “demo” project, in which each song correlates to a specific color of the spectrum. He got the idea for Spectrum after driving home one evening and seeing the colors of the sunset. It moved him in that moment – so he quickly wrote down his idea to plan music around it. He saw in the different colors of the sunset the ability to create different moods of music – and dabble in many different genres along the way. Without the pressure of an album to keep things cohesive, he saw in Spectrum an opportunity to experiment with styles and formulas that were foreign to him and to improve on others he had already tried out. There’s no theme to Spectrum, but that’s precisely the point. Malik emphasizes, “It’s kinda schizophrenic in a way. There’s beauty in being ambiguous.”
Beyond genre-bending, Malik was also able to speak on topics that might be considered taboo. Growing up in a Christian household, certain topics weren’t discussed, like sex and drug usage. But for Malik, breaking taboos is critical. “Honesty needs to be valued more than being picture-perfect… no one is that,” he says. “I can’t care so much about what other people think about my art to let it compromise my art.”
In the theme of letting go of external pressures and judgments and embracing his own honest identity, Malik grapples with subjects like love and the aforementioned taboos so he can grow both personally and in his music. And ultimately, that is what Spectrum is all about – growth. Growth in being, in personal abilities, in aspirations. During our meeting at a quaint Starbucks in Cedar Park, I got the vibe from Malik that he was craving full self-expression in his music; it wasn’t just in the words he said to me – but in his attitude and demeanor. He stressed many times that he wanted his music to be accessible, vulnerable, and honest. He wants to let go of insecurities, he says, because he doesn’t “have anything to prove to anybody.” There was undeniable authenticity in what he was saying; it wasn’t just some fluff to sell me on his new project. When he says he no longer has nothing to prove – he really means it.
Malik is an artist who is so unbelievably raw and expressive, and to see him finally embrace this in Spectrum is a sign that he is more than willing to continue to grow – but he is eager to grow. “I’m scared of being boxed in as one type of artist,” he says defiantly.
Beyond genre-bending, Malik also began to sing more in Spectrum, something he has shied away from in the making of his past projects. “I’ve run from singing. I love to… but I had to prove to people I could rap.” But to him, singing is a core aspect of who he is as an artist – a way to get his message across in a way that is more poetic and abstract than rapping, which he feels is more blunt and direct. “When I’m rapping it’s like I’m having a conversation with you,” he says. “Singing is about painting a more surreal picture of what I’m going through.”
Music is only Malik’s beginning
While music is Malik’s main focus right now, it is definitely not his only one. “I’ve always seen music as… where I get my foot in the door to be able to do everything else I want to do.” Inspired by creatives and moguls like Kanye West, Childish Gambino, and Tyler, the Creator, all of whom have successfully branched out into multiple fields of creation, Malik sees music as only one part of his multifaceted identity, and just one of his many talents.
“I really wanna branch out. I have all these other ideas – movie ideas, game ideas.” He even has an app that he developed based on his first project, The Principium (I), that is going to be re-released soon.
Both The Principium (I) and The Awakening (II) are beautifully crafted masterpieces in their own right. Although only 21 years old, Malik has already established himself as one of the foremost creative musicians in Austin. The trajectory he has set himself on with these two albums has led him to make what he believes are his most expressive and creative works yet with Spectrum. Eliminating all pretense and preconceived notions about what he should create with Spectrum, Malik let his mind wander wherever it wanted to go. “I feel like I’ve been tense for a long time, but with this [project] it’s like… I’m tired. I’m done. I’m just gonna let loose.”
After hearing his upcoming first single from Spectrum, titled “Pink,” I was actually able to experience how much he has grown since The Awakening (II). On “Pink,” Malik beautifully intertwines singing and rapping, effectively meshing these two parts of himself that he had largely kept separate in the past. The lyrics are about love, and he refrains from being guarded. “Pink” keeps in line with exactly the vision he had for Spectrum – and it is a positive indicator of what is to come with the project.
A promising future
In February, Malik flew out to Los Angeles to meet with executives at Interscope and RCA. He says they’re watching him right now, seeing what he releases and how people react to his new music. It’s hard to imagine this won’t go well for him, especially given how great “Pink” is – and that’s only the first single.
Regardless of the outcome, Malik is definitely an artist who has tremendous talent and ambition, and he has so much going for him. Whether it’s in music, producing, or something else, he is persistent on achieving anything he wants. His persistence, along with his insane talent, is perhaps the most valuable asset he could have in achieving what he wishes to achieve in his career – and it looks as though his dreams are right within his reach.
Malik is performing a free show on Friday, April 14th, at Hotel Vegas, where he will be performing new music from Spectrum. “Pink,” the first single from Malik’s project Spectrum, is dropping in the next two weeks.