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Meet Mali (aka: Malipop) Hicks

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mali (aka: Malipop) Hicks.

Hi Mali (aka: Malipop), we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
My name is Mali or Malipop. I’m a producer, engineer, singer, and musician based out of Long Beach, CA. I’ve worked at a variety of studios in LA, and I’ve been putting out music for a few years. My most recent single was called “S.D.V.” but I’ve worked on a lot of features and produced for a lot of artists this year. I grew up back and forth between LA and San Diego, and I fell in love with music at a young age. It has saved me from a lot of negative things in life and has filled my soul with joy ever since I was a toddler. I grew up in a family that loved music and dance culture, so the rhythm was always alive. I started out playing instruments in elementary school band and was determined to learn them all. The first exposure to music production was through my uncle, who introduced me to ProTools when I was seven years old. I was always so curious about it and loved how he created and layered each element. Fast-forward to middle & high school, I started teaching myself new instruments and music production techniques. I started writing songs and poetry from like 14 years old, and as I got better as a producer that all translated into my music. When I graduated high school, I started traveling the world and learning several languages to find myself, and my mind was blown by some different culture’s musical expressions. Today, I’ve been to about 14+ countries and I try to incorporate a lot of worldly sounds in my tracks. The love and passion for music always drove me to work hard, but I decided to study music production/audio engineering seriously so I could take my experience to the next level. I’m currently studying music entertainment business at the Los Angeles Recording School in Hollywood, and during the pandemic I created a music collective called Saffire Sound© for musicians by musicians. I ultimately one day aspire to own my own studio-record label-store and to hopefully elevate artists and their careers while helping them navigate the industry and retain their rights/masters. Owning a few plaques would be dope, too.

I still have a ways to grow, but I’m blessed that I’ve been able to work with talented, Grammy-award-winning, gold & platinum-certified producers and engineers. I’ve been able to work with various artists, bands, and rappers, and some of the connections I’ve made created beautiful friendships too. As I’m writing this, I’m in France working with Leslie Brathwaite & other engineers from Mix With The Masters in a huge, beautiful studio. I’m only 23 but I’ve been able to learn a lot throughout my life, and I never want to stop learning and improving and playing music for my soul. I am still chasing goals I haven’t reached yet and trying to learn something new every day, but I just want to create music that will touch souls around the world. Music is a gift I’m so happy I was born with, and I hope I can give that gift to the world however I can.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
I wish it was, that would be awesome. There have been a lot of ups and downs, and I’m not even at my “peak” yet. One of the simpler struggles was coming to terms with my identity and how that could be translated into my music. I’m a biracial, queer, androgynous, deeply intellectual & spiritual woman, so it was hard fitting in growing up. Music helped me accept myself and helped me pour my heart into songs that got me through tough places. I’ve lost friends, lost people, lost the best relationship, and even at times lost myself. But music, as cheesy as it sounds, was always that guiding light in me. I struggled to get good at what I do; I’ve spent hours in the studio trying to sound perfect, I’ve spent hours on end practicing piano, guitar, bass, drums, singing, etc. I’ve literally practiced until my hands cramped or bled and could barely move anymore. I’ve traveled a lot and lost a lot of sleep because I’m so passionate and determined to go far in this industry. The music industry isn’t always easy to navigate, I’ve met a lot of fake people and struggled a lot to earn respect. Respect in the music world usually has to be commanded. But it’s the best industry because I get to wake up everyday and fully embrace who I am and work for myself. It’s been hard earning the respect from people who sometimes underestimate me. I’m no master, but people are always surprised that I can engineer, mix, and produce because I’m a woman. I’ve faced a lot of adversity because this is still a male-dominated industry. But women now are popping out left and right with more power than ever before and driving music and cultural trends that will change history forever. It’s not always easy, I’ve had to fight a lot of battles, but it’s so worth it I couldn’t imagine living my life any other way.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am a producer, singer, writer, and engineer and I have the biggest obsession with music. I specialize in production and making mixes sound clean, unique and competitive. My most resourceful talent is that I basically taught myself most of what I know or put myself in situations to learn what I don’t. I’m known for my blended sound, a lot of my tracks can probably be classified as more than one genre because of how much I blend different elements. I’m most proud of my drive and insatiable appetite to improve and make new music. What probably sets me apart is that I have a lot of all-around talents, I’m insanely resourceful in my field, my diversity/versatility, and I’m constantly craving to expand my knowledge. Most people desire the fame, fortune, money, and attention that comes with being successful, but I don’t prioritize that, I prioritize connecting with people on a global-scale. Music has the power to change and uplift lives, and I chase that more than being rich or famous. Another thing is how deep the love goes for me. Everything I create is a labor of love, and I’m fueled by my loved ones and my passion for sound. Every time I play an instrument or create a new song, I get such a beautiful warm feeling inside. I’m most proud of myself when I speak my goals into existence. There’s nothing better than knowing you brought your goals into fruition, and I set the bar high for myself to always reach past my limits. I’m always adapting and growing to improve who I was into who I’ve always dreamed of becoming.

Who else deserves credit in your story?
I’ve definitely had people in my corner. My parents rooted culture into me through music, my friends are always the first to like, repost, and stream my music. Artists who I idolized growing up because many of them planted the seed for me. My teachers in life who believed I could be something more were really influential. My middle school teacher who forced me to join band. I’ve had a few mentors from professors and people I’ve networked with that planted the seeds for me to explode into my full potential. My team when I created Saffire Sound really helped me push the idea. My last relationship taught me a lot about myself and tripled my productivity as a musician/brand, having a supportive partner is really underrated. And honestly any of my clients or people I’ve worked with. My fans for being so loving and proud. The producers/artists I look up to who know more or are more experienced than me have changed how I think immensely. Leslie Brathwaite and Joel Numa are two engineers I really look up to who taught me a lot about being successful but always being true and authentic to yourself. Leslie once said to me “don’t ever let anyone/anything jeopardize your peace, no matter how famous they are or if they have massive clout” and words like that helped me to overcome the anxiety I have about not feeling good enough in the music industry. And honestly, myself. I work long hours, plan breaks and vacations when I need them, push myself to the max, live healthy, and I’m proud of where I’ve gotten at a young age. I’ve never let myself quit even when circumstances were tough, and all of that made me who I am today. I thank God too for the gift of music in the first place and all the blessings and abundance I’ve been able to receive.

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Image Credits:

Meritxell Castelltort, Emily Brummond

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