In the growing hip-hop scene in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle producer and rapper Mal London is a talent on the rise. Raised on gospel, funk, jazz, R&B and blues, London’s influences heavily impacted his musical style. He was first introduced to hip-hop in his teen years, and his appreciation for the genre grew during his time at Portland State University. Since then, he has worked to perfect his craft, first and foremost as a producer.
“I started producing after my freshman year in high school, making a whole bunch of trap beats and other type beats, you know? But then once I started to become more familiar with the software, I started to really create stuff that I wanted to hear in hip-hop.”
Behind the board is really where London sets himself apart. With his exposure and experience in a plethora of genres, his beats take on unique form, puzzling together a funky bounce with a melodic jazzy groove.
“People used to tell me my sound was very spacey, which was because of the melodic nature of the beat and the how the drums would slap. But this was before I ever used to sample. Once I learned more about sampling, it really gave me another tool to create sounds using real live instrumentation.”
Using live instrumentation and vocal samples, London is able to lace together unique beats that bring all of his influences into play, adding his own voice and personality to the blend of sounds. This, however, proved an obstacle for London as a sole producer, making beats for other artists.
“I feel like when I was producing solely, my sound was very unorthodox. There would be times when some artist literally couldn’t catch the flow on some of my beats. And for a while, I didn’t understand it and I was frustrated. But that’s what pushed me to become an artist because I can’t downplay my perspective.”
London put his own voice and perspective to use with beats of his own creation. All of the elements coming together, London’s true talent as a producer and rapper shows. This is best evidenced in his latest single, “bounce.” off his upcoming debut album, stuck here in isolation.
“I made the beat [for ‘bounce.’] maybe two years ago,” London says. “I didn’t do much with it at first. It was pretty much just sitting in my iTunes library. As I was kind of going through a little bit of writer's block, I was just cleaning out my library and I stumbled on the beat. I heard the potential it had. I then restructured the beat and gave it a different bounce. From there, everything seemed to just fall in place. It was like a domino effect and I made the beat one day and recorded it the next.”
“bounce.” opens with a chopped vocal sample, giving a melodic warmth to the rhythm of London’s beat. Just as London’s reverb-laden voice enters into play, his unique flow drops right into the mix. It’s a standout track, lacing together London's influences for a look at what hip-hop truly is.
“You can tell when an artist listens to strictly hip-hop. Which is not a bad thing, but the artists you hear really pushing the curve with sounds we’ve never heard are really listening to everything else,” says London. “For me, I listen to a lot of R&B, soul, blues, hip-hop, jazz, funk, gospel and pop music. I feel hip-hop is truly all encompassing in what influences each artist. There’s simply no cap to it."
“bounce.” is just one example. In a genre packed with standard trap beats that all seem to blend together, London’s boundary pushing is a breath of fresh air.