Mad About… Maleek Berry
18 Jul 2023
Afro-R&B Pioneer Maleek Berry is back with a bang after taking some time away from the spotlight, featuring on ‘Feel Different’ with Reekado Banks and Adekunle Gold and his new song ‘My Way’ to give us the summer vibes that we’ve been missing. Maleek first rose to success as an in-house producer for Wizkid’s Starboy Entertainment, before developing into an artist with an array of hits infused with romance and melodic sonics such as BRIT-certified silver ‘Kontrol’ and ‘Juice’ with Ycee. Maleek was one of few to pave the way for Afroswing, as he has collaborated with Tiwa Savage, Wizkid, Davido & more. Maleek has promised to bring back ‘real’ music, with his forthcoming album ‘If Only Love Was Enough’ dropping later this year!
What was your first introduction to music?
Like most people, it started with growing up in church. Me & my friends had a rap group in church, we would go to different churches and perform, we was like a gospel/rap version of B2K. I was the one that was producing and song writing for the group and we grew up and left that, but I continued and the rest is history.
You first became known as a producer for Starboy Ent, what was that like for you and how was the transition into becoming your own artist and being more in the spotlight?
It was amazing. When I first got to Lagos, around that sort of time everyone was calling me ‘ajebutter’ which means someone that has just come from London, and they’re not really speaking pidgin English, I wasn’t down with the lingo, I didn’t have the accent so they would tease me and call me London boy, but that was my edge. I had a different sound to everyone, to all the different producers and that’s what Wiz saw in me. From early on, I brought a whole new feel to his sound and we went on to make some amazing records. Legendary Beatz aswell, who produced Essence, we was all part of Starboy Entertainment at the time. The transition at first was hard, because a producer trying to be an artist everyone’s like ‘Oh, here we go again’, but I was around so many of my peers like Wande Coal, David, being around all of these guys from early and seeing how they operated as artists helped me a lot. Now, there’s so many producers becoming artists we’ve got Pheelz, Young Jonn, LP, so it’s just amazing to see.
Where did you grow up and what was that like for you?
It was interesting to say the least! I grew up in Clapham, South London, down the road we had So Solid, around the corner we had Brixton, Sneakbo and them guys, it was intense! But it gave me an edge, growing up in that neighbourhood has shaped my whole perspective on life. Going back to Nigeria, I think it helped me to understand and resonate with people more. Big up South London!
Do you have any other influences or musical inspirations?
I was a R&B kid so Brandy and producers like Rodney Jerkins, Pharrell Williams and Swizz Beats. Because I started off as a producer I used to be the guy reading all the credits, so I was more intrigued with producers/songwriters as opposed to just musicians. All of the gospel guys too, Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond because that’s how I learnt to actually play keys. Jay z and Kanye too, especially as he moved from producer to artist, and for me he set the bar in terms of that transition.
Do you have any dream collabs?
I’m team Beyhive, I know God will do it for me! Also, Rihanna, Chris Brown, and they’re not with us anymore but MJ or Prince.
You recently dropped a video for ‘My Way’ what does it mean to you?
It’s going crazy! I think the streets have definitely missed their R&B, Summer vibes provider. The video features Fiona, who’s an influencer, model and actress, she’s amazing and I feel like this is me going back to my essence of creating artistic videos. Not just sexualising women, and the stereotypical videos you would expect from Afrobeats and hip-hop artists. I’m always trying to push the boundaries in terms of art and creativity, and I feel like this video has achieved that.
During your headline show at KOKO, you brought out Burna Boy. How does it feel to look at his success and know you was there for the beginning of his journey?
Burna’s super talented. A lot of us very early on knew our music was gonna go places but it was just about getting that opportunity. He’s one of those guys that he’s been given the opportunity and ran with it and never stopped and it’s a testament for Afrobeats. It’s only going to get better. I brought out Yxng Bane, Not3s and YCEE so that show was dope.
What advice would you give to fellow aritsts?
Stay true to your art, and to yourself. Don’t make music based on the current climate, because to make timeless music you have to step out of time and create music that feels true to you. That’s the cheat code of making songs that will have a lasting effect. Also, learn how to play an instrument! At-least one.
You’re about to drop your debut album ‘If only love was enough’, what’s the message behind it and what does it mean to you?
It’s kind of in the title, but it’s about relationships being more than just love. As men, we feel like the only way to a woman’s heart is something material, like a new bag, new shoes, we see that as love but they just want affection. They just want emotional intelligence and these are the little things you’re going to hear about on the album. There’s makeup stories, breakup stories, but the best way to describe it is me taking you from Summer to Winter, all the way to Spring then back to summer again. Like the cycle of love and life just repeating again.
Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
I’ve got a few collaborations coming up, I’ve got one out right now ‘Feel Different’ with Reekado Banks and Adekunle Gold. I’ve also got a single in the works, it should be coming out in July so I’m keeping the heat coming! I’ve got more singles and more videos on the way so people should expect real music, because we need it.
Check My Way! here