I’m beside Babyface Mal in a small studio in Brunswick East. He’s just wrapped up a photoshoot, looking clean in crisp black pants, an open Dickies shirt matching in colour, and a fresh pair of Air Force 1’s. Confidence is high – he obviously just killed that shit. After all, acing it is a reoccurring theme in 2021 for the Melbourne rapper.
Our sit-down comes a few days after the release of his massive single ‘Daughters & Sons’. It’s an anthem designed for the largest of speakers, with its siren-like synths and bellowing 808s propelling Mal’s fast, fiery flows. It’s a high point in a mountain range year for the 66 Records artist, whose highlights include tracks like ‘Superhero’ with Nerve, ‘Meeko Pt.1’ and ‘NO FUN’. Every release or even snippet we’ve heard from Mal so far has represented an ascension in quality from his hard-hitting 2020 mixtape TIME OUT, solidifying himself as a consistent source of braggadocious bars delivered in his signature style.
Throughout our conversation, Babyface Mal talked through what drives him, his love for older music, and why 66 Records continues to thrive as a collective.
I want to start with a line in ‘Daughters & Sons’, where you rap “Got bros on the corner, bros signed to Warner”. I feel like it symbolises where you are right now, where it’s still the beginning, but the come-up is inevitable. How does it feel to be in this place?
I recognise that the part where we’re at right now is never going to happen again. This is the start of a big thing, so I’ve just been trying to write as much as I can about this mindset. The people that get massive always say that the little period where you’re blowing up is where you’re making your best music. And the people are going to see, with all the music we’re about to release, that this shit is non stop.
How are you dealing with the photoshoots, the interviews, and people wanting to talk with you at every corner? Did you envision these types of moments when you were starting out?
I think if you really want to be successful, you have to possess a little bit of fantasy in the way that you think while understanding reality. You have to have half of your brain in the future, while still understanding where you’re at today. Some people think they’re already in a higher place, and they act certain ways, with an inflated ego. So I feel like to be in this thing, you need to have your mind in two places at a time.
I recently had a conversation with someone who applauded the power of manifestation. Is that something you believe in?
I don’t really believe in manifestation. I pray, I guess that’s a sort of manifestation. I believe everyone has a few potential meanings that they can define in their life, and in what they do. If you can gauge what your thing is, and dedicate yourself to that, what can go wrong? Because even if it doesn’t work out, at least you did something. It’s better than staying at home, doing nothing, and thinking “What if?”
Was there a moment in your life where you realised rap could be one of your potential meanings?
I feel like all my moments in my early life were related to music, acting, and when So You Think You Can Dance was on, I wanted to be a dancer as well [Laughs].
Do you think dancing is still in your future?
For sure. I’m going to be a musician, actor, model, fashioner designer, and more. It’s the natural next step when you’re in this creative industry, and shit begins to pop off.
Do you think too many people in this industry limit themselves to a singular box with their creativity?
Generally, yes. But at the same time, I think everyone is starting to clock onto everything. Like, rappers 20 years ago weren’t boasting about purchasing big blocks of land. So it’s both a no and a yes, because ignorance is always going to be ignorance.
I feel like, in that sense, rap has progressed to a beautiful place where there’s a lot of grown talk and wisdom within the music.
There are good things like that, but this shit now is not the way I envisioned it, with all these streaming platforms and shit. Growing up, I was always going into stores and buying CDs, and I love that shit. You can hold it in your hand, you can save it for 30 years, you can show it to your kids as an example of what you listened to when you were young.
I agree. I think streaming has taken away the special feeling of tangibility music used to have when you’d flock to a store for a release you’ve been anticipating. Now, it’s like we don’t cherish or appreciate an album the same.
Yeah, now you just move on to the next, and the moment is over. This is why I’m trying to make experiences with my music because I want them to remember to feel something when they listen.
Is it difficult to balance thinking about music creatively and from a business standpoint?
I feel like back in the day, people didn’t have to really worry about the sort of the stuff we do, because with so many independent and upcoming artists, you have to be half musician and half business person. That, I think can definitely take away from someone’s artistry.
I feel because of this, an artist can almost start to think in algorithms, where they base the sound of their next song on what is topping the playlists that week.
Exactly, yeah. But like, you can’t imagine Prince thinking in algorithms, you can’t imagine Sade thinking in algorithms, and I feel like that’s a reason why I don’t listen to a lot of modern music. I’m really into stuff like Nina Simone and all of Motown.
What are some of the characteristics from classic Motown music that you try to apply to your own artistry today?
Motown essentially created the modern music industry. Artists like Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone, and The Temptations built the foundation for the legalities and the presence of writers and producers we see today. The way they would release singles and little 2-3 track discs are pretty much what you see today with artists, where they keep dropping singles until something hits, and then the album comes later. So I take a lot of what they’ve influenced today and try to apply it to what I do.
I want to talk about a tweet you wrote not long ago, where you say “Man I just want money, the shit I’m going to do for the community is crazy.” What is it you want to do for the community?
I don’t want to say too much, but I just want to build up my community. I want to start with my family, and then with the more I get, keep expanding. I even want to do stuff overseas, because there’s too much bullshit, and people just doing shit because they can, but not really doing anything at the same time. So as corny as this sounds, I want power so I can stand up to the dickheads.
Do you think that’s the main source of your motivation right now?
It’s definitely a large part of it. Back in the day, I was just doing things for more clout, bitches, and money. But I’ve matured a lot since then, and while I don’t know the motives of other people, I feel like I have more reasons to keep doing this thing than a lot of motherfuckers. I have no urge to stop.
66 Records has become a very exciting force in the Australian music scene. What is it about your unity that makes the collective so special?
The result of working with your friends can result in unprofessionalism, and the result of working with professionals can result in the artists not being comfortable enough to be themselves. But with us, we’re both close and know how to grind at the same time. That professionalism and comfort results in us getting shit done.
Just lastly my man, how do you want to round out 2021?
It’s gonna be the same shit as usual: hustling. Everyone is going to see in a second; stay tuned.
This feature is in partnership with G-Shock Australia. Follow Babyface Mal here for more.