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INTERVIEW: Mali Jo$e chats Perth music culture, the influence of REMI and curating a unique sound

We spoke with Mali Jo$e about growing up submerged in music and how living in Fremantle – Perth’s central hub for creativity – shaped him into the artist he is today. We also discussed Mali’s musical inspirations and the type of sound curated in his own work.

Mali Jo$e is a friendly, nonchalant artist making hip-hop and rap music out of Western Australia. “I’m just a rapper out of Fremantle, I try to make as much music as I possibly can. I’m just a rapper from Perth who is very grateful to be doing this.”

Mali says he grew up in a very musical household with family who are very connected to music. “Music was always a heavy thing growing up. I played a lot of soccer, that was my main focus up until the middle of high school where I kind of started rapping a little bit more. I started with Shakespeare and poetry and stuff like that, which kind of extended. It was like an overwhelming turn in my life.”

In addition to having a musical family, Mali attended John Curtin College of the Arts for high school where he was surrounded by an array of creative individuals his age. “The people I started associating myself with were musicians. I went to a pretty creative school, full of creative people and I was surrounded by [music] a lot. A lot of my friends are Fremantle musicians as well,” he says.

“In Fremantle, it’s like this weird pocket of [music that is] super genre bending and a clash of flavours. I feel like that’s helped my creativity and artistry and I can pick from different places. It’s pretty much the centre hub of creativity in terms of Western Australia and put me in the right environment to take off and just how I view and listen to things.”

Mali explains that growing up in Fremantle played an important role in shaping him into the artist he has become. “I’d probably have a different perspective, a different way I would’ve navigated being an artist. Being from Fremantle, it’s allowed me to look elsewhere for inspiration, like, yes, I’m a hip hop artist at foundation, but seeing all these other things and incredible acts come from a place that you’re from, it’s encouraged me to go to shows and listen to things that aren’t within the world of hip hop. I guess that’s just the culture and the nature of hip-hop, right? Ever since it became a thing, it’s just evolved and eaten other things, like soul and reggae and stuff like that.”

Not only did Mali Jo$e grow up surrounded by music and Fremantle creatives, he says he even attended parties with local acts who have since grown into big Australian names. “Tame Impala, Pond, Grievous Bodily Calm, SUPEREGO, there’s so many to name, even Jack Davies and The Bush Chooks, Spacey Jane. These are all people I was going to parties with as a kid, you know what I mean? They’re people that I’ve had interactions with before they’ve [come up] so to watch that is dope.”

Despite the wonderful opportunities presented to Mali as a young rapper and songwriter, he acknowledges the obstacles he’s faced as well. “It’s hard being from WA in Perth, but I mean, it’s cool. I’ve had my wins and I’ve had my losses. I’m still here and I’m still surviving.”

Mali says it’s important to keep creating and moving forward and to maintain that stamina. “I feel like you create unhealthy habits if you stay with a release too long because if it does well, you get too amped, and it can get to your head. Expectations start to get set for the future and you get that taste of success. I’ve already made that mistake so I just try to stay as level as I possibly can and content, and just prepare for everything and look forward to the next thing essentially.”

‘Alternative’ and ‘genre bending’ are the first words that come to Mali when we ask how he would describe the style of music he makes – descriptions that are perfectly suited to his magnificent debut EP ‘Hours b4 Sunrise’. “I feel like it’s cinematic, I feel like it’s a lot of things. I try not to stay in one place too much. I’m still finding out what my sound is. I read this quote by Rick Rubin, it’s not to the T but it’s: “If you don’t train your audience to expect different things then when you do attempt to do something different, it’s never going to be received the way you would like”. And I can always go back to my foundation which is rapping and hip hop, I can always come back to that. Having all these inspirations serves a place and it serves a time and keeps the ball rolling.”

Mali Jo$e shares one of his biggest inspirations and expresses the difference between enjoying an artist and enjoying an artist from the same place as you who you can more directly relate to and connect with. “REMI is probably my favourite rapper of all time, I’d pick him over anybody just because of the things that he did for me, the representation he held. He made me feel comfortable being an Australian artist, an Australian rapper. He just made it cool, I saw him, and I was like, I can relate to that. I see myself in him and makes me feel like I can do it too, it’s cool to be an Australian rapper. It never used to be cool, you always wanted to be like Joey Bada$$ or Kendrick, which is dope, but as soon as you see that hometown hero or from the place that you’re from…” Mali smiles and nods, forgetting words and conveying the satisfaction and passion he is describing in the perfect facial expression.

We ask Mali if he has any projects planned to which he responds, “I always do, but whether it happens or not, I’m prepared for anything. I have a lot of songs, we work hard, and we work a lot.”

The young artist also hopes to perform more live gigs in the near future. “Hopefully this year is good. Hopefully everybody enjoys what we do this year.”

Photo 1 by @lostcasanova

Photo 2, 3, 5 by @peterdhayes

Photo 4 by @alexandria_lee

Music video by @dylan.guy

Words by @livdaangel

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