Interview: Maleek Berry
On a mission to "Ccreate timeless music that will hopefully last longer than my generation" Maleek Berry's quest continues with two new releases 'On Fire' and 'Kontrol'. We get the latest from him...
Stemming from a summer holiday to Nigeria in 2011, South Londoner Maleek Berry became one of the most sought after hit makers notably after his popular collaboration with Wizkid on 'The Matter.' The well seasoned producer has made beats for the likes of Fuse ODG, Wande Coal and Davido but is now emerging from the shadows of production by embarking on a solo career as an artist. With an international sound surpassing prototypical Afrobeat melodies, Berry dropped his first solo release 'For My People' last year which featured Sneakbo. On a mission to "Create timeless music that will hopefully last longer than my generation" his quest continues with two new releases 'On Fire' and 'Kontrol'.
The Wrap Up: You're a well established producer, why did you decide to grab the mic?
Maleek Berry: I think it was just timing. I felt like I needed to do something different. Coming out of the African music industry, I just felt like every one was doing the same thing and I needed a new challenge.
TWU: What differences between the two (producer /artist) are you noticing / find challenging?
MB: When you're an artist, the industry forces you to be an extrovert and put up an image for the sake of entertainment when I'm totally the opposite. I just care about the music and try my best to stay low key.
TWU: What's it like performing songs in front of thousands of people amongst well known artists? Is it intimidating?
MB: The only thing that may be intimidating is if they don't know the songs yet! haha. But I'm not scared of many things in this life so it's hard to for me to be intimidated.
TWU: Your first solo release 'For My People' featured Sneakbo. Giving your Afrobeats background, why did you go in that direction?
MB: I didn't want to come out doing the kind of music I was producing for other artists in the Afrobeats genre. I felt I had to stand out. 'For My People' is a hybrid of all different sounds.
TWU: It's evident that you are inspired by a variety of genres and not just Afrobeats. Where does your diverse sense of producing come from?
MB: I grew up listening to real R&B music. Growing up, my mum listened to differnet styles of music from Michael Jackson to Anita Baker, so from a young age I had a wide taste for music. Growing up in South London I was exposed to garage, grime and of course everyone looked up to the hip-hop stars in America.
TWU: Afrobeats is making worldwide waves right now. Why do you think it's bigger now than it ever has been?
MB: Because pop culture needs something new. There was a blues era, there was a punk rock era, hippie era, hip-hop era etc. Now I feel like the world is just beginning to see how cool it is to be African or have an attachment with the continent. I'm just glad to be a part of the movement.
TWU: You've worked with so many artists already, from Wale, Sneakbo to Wizkid, who's been your fave collaboration thus far?
MB: I'd say either my work with Wande Coal or my early stuff with Wiz. I can't really chose haha.
TWU: You've recently released two new singles On Fire and Kontrol. Tell us about them.
MB: I just wanted to throw some music out for the fans. I kept people waiting too long after releasing "For My People" so I just had to feed my supporters. I didn't release the songs with the intention of them being "singles" but the response has been so insane I have to make some moves now. "On Fire" is just me having fun on the beat. I originally wanted to put a rapper on it but I had to find a way to make everything more melodic so it's more catchy, that way I didn't have to feature anybody. Kontrol is just my own take on Afrobeats. I created the hook in like 30 minutes but spent a bit more time on the verses. Summer is coming and I wanted to give my female listeners something to vibe to.
TWU: What inspired the songs?
MB: Just the need to give people a taste of what's to come. Expect more music, and visuals. The fans want a body of work so expect that too. No album yet though. It's early stages.
Online Edit: Ra'ed Khan