The Haleek Maul Interview

Everyone and their mommas love to predict who the next big MC is going to be. In New York, that usually goes along the lines of predicting the next Nas, Biggie or Jay. I’m not going to fall into the prediction trap, but I will say that Bardados by way of Brooklyn MC Haleek Maul is making waves. I spoke with the 15 years old via Gchat last week and I can honestly say that he is one of the most intelligent, self-aware teenagers I have ever met. More than anything Haleek wants to be influential as an interview and not in the sense of being the most outspoken or most wealthy. We dished on uncomfortable topics like break ups and homosexuality in hip hop, as well as the role of performance and music video imagery. Haleek is set for a massive summer with the Oxyconteen EP due on June 14, a mixtape with Chicago duo Supreme Cuts on the way as well as several undisclosed projects in the wings. Read on to get inside the head of on an artist who I hope to see influencing the masses (although he only needs an audience of five) in the coming months.

First off, introduce yourself to our readers

I’m an abstract character that has been brought about due to your severe drug usage. Nice to meet you.

Nice to meet you as well. You’re originally from Brooklyn, but now live in Barbados. What’s it like there?

Well, where I live is pretty cool. There’s a highway and a beach. It’s weird, ’cause you just cross over the road and it’s a whole new world. All sandy and quiet. The beach isn’t quiet now though, there’s a volleyball match or something next door.

Listening to your music, the beach is the last place I would expect you to live.

I know, crazy right? Well, actually haha. I don’t know, have you ever been to the beach at night when it’s almost pitch dark out?

It’s eerie.

Yeah, and to me it feels like the ocean is so much angrier at night. Waves seem to be more aggressive and they seem to have more force when they hit the rocks. But I think it’s because of the silence. And maybe the ocean is always angry and crying out but we can’t hear it over all the little kids playing on the sand. So, I think my music is a reflection of when you’re alone with your thoughts when you have to think about yourself and everything you’ve ever done good or bad.

It’s very introspective.

Pretty much

You project yourself in your music as an incredibly honest person.

I don’t know if I’m exactly the most honest person in real life. But like I said, my music is the reflection of that silence and by in real life, I mean real life situations. I have lied, it’s human, but I believe my music allows me to overlook all my insecurities and worries and just let it out. When I get in the booth it just flows out.

It’s sort of a cathartic experience for you?

I don’t know you know. To be honest, some of the stuff I rap about still bothers me. Well, the raps that do have relevance to my life that is. So, I don’t exactly know if to categorize it as therapy or more of a documentation. It does help sometimes though.

What topics bother you?

Usually the ones that have to do with a female, or the feelings that I’ve projected in terms of where I think my future could go. But that’s more the pessimistic side of myself.

The first track of yours I heard was “Teufel” off of the Dope Mountain Fuck compilation. You really delve into your future on that one.

Yep, I was really having issues with where I wanted to go in my life at that time. Whether or not I should be the good guy or the bad guy, the addict or the straightedge, etc. goes on forever. I kind of realized it was stupid to subscribe to a title. You usually let yourself down anyway by setting those types of goals that restrict your personality. All of that is in me and it makes me the unique person I am.

Those are issues most 15 year olds don’t even dream about dealing with.

Well, personally I think the more things you deal with in your youth the less lost you will be in your future. I don’t see why I should be 21 trying to figure out the purpose I serve in this world when I had a good 6 years prior to that which I wasted just breathing air. And I mean, this isn’t just something that aids you personally but it can really help society. That’s just me though, if we had more people that were aware of themselves and their surroundings there wouldn’t be alot of bullying and stupidity going around.

Absolutely. There’s a definite lack of self-awareness in our society.

And it’s that inner confusion combined with people’s fear of tackling it that leads to these situations that have no right to be happening. It’s actually sickening to watch the news sometimes.

It’s a giant horse and pony show.

I hope that somehow I can reach out to people and realize there are real things out there that are more important. There are very strong themes which I take on in my EP.

Tell me about the “Fraulein” video. Some pretty striking imagery.

Yeah, me and Jamie Harley got together on that. Fraulein is a song I wrote in the midst of a breakup I was in at the time. We really needed some strong images to represent the level of pain and anger and sadness all wrapped up in that song.

The washed out aesthetic really lends to the dark vibe of the track. What do some of the images represent? The snake for example.

Well, there wasn’t much of a meaning behind some specific scenes. The scene with the boy jumping into the abyss though. Over and over. I think it sums up the theme of the song. Those deep emotions. Being tossed into the darkness. That feeling of wanting it to end. Over, and over.

The repetition is key.

Yes, it’s true

How do you go about choosing your producers? LyteSho! and Supreme Cuts are two of our favorites.

It’s a natural process to be honest. When someone’s music affects me and I feel as if the collaboration would work I usually approach the producer

Who are you looking to work with in the future?

Well, to be honest I’ve probably gotten a chance to work with a majority of the people I’ve wanted to so far. I’d love to do a track with MC Ride though haha.

Can you tell us who produced tracks off of the new EP?

King Britt, Strat Carter, Supreme Cuts (of course), The-Drum and EPLP

Who do you listen to on a daily basis?

Aside from my co-collaborators. I listen to a lot of Bjork and Tricky. Crystal Castles is one of my favorite bands. Like, hands down.

Alice Glass is amazing. So you don’t listen to too much hip hop?

She izz. I like Outkast alot and Lost Boys. I really like Kanye a lot.

Favorite Kanye album?

I really don’t know. They’re all the same for me. Because they all reflect a different stage of musical development.

Do you view each of your releases in that manner? As a reflection of a certain stage in your life?

Definitely. None of my albums will be the same I think. I hope not. If so, I’ve failed, because I plan on constantly growing

Tell me about your crew, RLG.

RLG is just a group that I formed a couple years ago with some friends at school. Then I eventually started my solo career, which really began last year. I used to go under the name kidgenius (lol). I mean, I’m not as involved as I used to be due to me working on my own stuff.

Your solo work has a completely different vibe than the RLG stuff I’ve heard.

Yeah, they have a commercial appeal and that’s pretty sick. We just had different views in terms of musical preference. So I think this was something I had to do.

How did you hook up with Merok Records? As far as I know, you’re the only hip hop artist on the label.

Well, Milo Cordell (member of The Big Pink/CEO of Merok) reached out to me shortly after Fraulein came out. And he just told me he was interested. I’m a HUGEEE Crystal Castles fanboy so this was like woah to me. Total dream come true. They’re good people over there.

Were you ever concerned about their previous lack of interest in hip hop?

Nope, it does make me feel special though haha.

Any collaborations with other Merok artists coming up?

Mayybee, maybe not :p.

Active Child is a favorite of ours.

Yep, he’s pretty good stuff.

Have you performed live much at this point in your career?

Uhh, I’ve done about 10 performances. My most recent one was a crowd of about 3k.

What mindset do you take on going into a performance?

I usually get pretty wild to be honest. I want the crowd to leave feeling satisfied. I want them to leave with a little bit of me you know? I like them to feel the exact energy I put into a song. ‘Cause sometimes it doesn’t always transmit through that .mp3 file. Or that music video. Sometimes you have to see it

How do you get yourself hyped for a show?

I usually just freestyle on a bunch of beats backstage. That’s been my ritual. Haha.

Over the past couple years, Kanye and Jay-Z, and most recently Snoop and Dre, have infused a theatrical element into their shows. What are your general thoughts on the role of performance in hip hop?

Hip hop has always been a very simple artform. Well, traditionally. Even down to the creation of the music. The samples, drum patterns, but you could go to a hip hop show and leave feeling better than any other concert you went to and it was just a guy by a turntable and a bunch of dudes on stage rapping at you haha. I say all that to say this. I find that theatrics are alright, me personally I’m a very visual person. I like to see projections and all that stuff, but I think they should only be used to enhance an already good performance and not to cover up a lack of presence. You shouldn’t have to underhand your audience with cheap tricks. And this is with no reference to the people you have listed because I respect my elders in the hip hop community. That is just my personal belief.

What did you think of Jay and Kanye playing “Niggas In Paris” 6, 7, 8 times?

I thought it was funny. It’s a cool song. Man, I don’t know haha no comment.

The crowd’s reaction was pretty priceless.

Yeah, it’s true. I don’t think any normal artist(s) could get away with that.. They did have a musical break in there though.

In a Superchief Interview, you said you were experimenting with androgyny and talked a little about LGBT stuff. Jay-Z just publicly stated he was for gay marriage. What do you think of the future of homosexuality in hip hop?

It’s happening man and it’s going to continue happening. I blame the internet (in a good way of course). I think the world is becoming more socially accepting of a lot. These are good signs indeed. It’s just the start though. People are starting to catch on though and realizing the power this network has. But we’ll have to see where the fork in the road takes us. We narrowly dodged a bullet on SOPA.

It was great to see the hip hop community rally together against SOPA.

Yeah definitely. People are finally understanding the importance.

But there still is a pretty pervasive ignorance regarding LGBT issues in hip hop. Is that really changing?

I believe so. There will be conservatives, but I see a future where those things will be less of an issue. Obviously it’s still going to be there, because some people never change. But I see a definite increase in the liberal rap community.

What role do you see yourself playing in the debate?

I have firm beliefs in equality/tolerance. We’re all humans, born the same exact way. None of us were clothed coming out of the womb. No one is better than the other. And as an advocate for that way of thinking, I will continue to reflect it in my music.

What do you think of other young, up and coming hip hop artists getting attention on the national stage? Odd Future was the talk of the town last year, but guys like Spaceghostpurrp and A$AP Rocky have wrangled major label deals and festival sets as well.

Yes they have, and more power to them. I’m not going to debate who’s good or not. Everyone has their place.

Do you have any interest in following that path?

Well, I want to be influential as an individual. So in that sense, yes.

In the sense of mainstream success?

Not so much a guy for 5 zillion cameras. Just 5 will do. I would like the influential power minus the ‘razzi’s. So maybe on a smaller scale. That might suit me more.

Is there an artist out there that walks that line between mainstream success and artistic credibility/influence especially well?

Andre 3000 I think does it pretty well. And from our generation, I think Kendrick Lamar is doing a pretty good job as well.

Please don’t fade away like Andre has.

Haha. That would entail me being even close to his greatness. I’ll let you know if I think about it in the next 10 years haha.

Do you have any last words for our readers? Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us.

Haha. It’s all good man. Remember kids. The world is like a bowl of soup. Lol, that’s all I got.

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