The Force Is Strong With Mali Music's Conscious Soul

The new king of conscious soul, Mali Music came to earth at No. 2 on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart with his latest release, Mali Is.... It was pushed there by a first single, "Beautiful," that encourages us to "put our lighters up" in a nod to Lil Kim's Brooklyn anthem but with a smoother side of edification.

As we rapped, similarities in our musical career came out. My '90s band, Afroplane, got signed to RCA sub-label Kaper and, with family/church support, we saw a little shine before the industry's bureaucratic "dark side" reared its head. Thankfully, for Mali Music, "The Force" is still with him.

Today a ByStorm/RCA recording artist in full bloom, Mali was plucked out of the red clay of Georgia. The Savannah native was surrounded by his family and church, Faith on the Move Intl., and bubbles of euphoria erupted as we relished our shared roots.

"So you know what IT is!", Mali says as he prepares for his solo show at New Orleans' Essence festival this Saturday.

And yes I do! Georgia's churchy, communal vibe has a way of troubling the waters of music to push its talented sons and daughters to the crest of the wave.

"If it wasn't for Faith on the Move there would be no Mali Music," the singer affirms.

Mali founded his empire with the lightsaber of biblical truth and the technology of sites like MySpace music, dropping new songs every Thursday. Soon, his music was played at youth meetings in various churches. That means the thing that scares me: kids mime-dancing.

"Of course there was", he laughs. "Hundreds and hundreds, some good, some bad...because of the way I bent certain phrases, there has always been this weird connection between me and the listener(s) who became the broadcasters."

Similar science was used by Dave Matthews Band, another RCA alum. Although now signed with the major label, Mali's first albums were put out under his mom's direction and packaged by his church's youth department. Later, his album The Second Coming was a partnership with another artist's deal that allowed him to get a taste of "tha bizness." I'm sure the underground knows what he means.

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