Growing up in the neighborhoods of Los Angeles, Jallal is more than just a product of his environment. Observing and taking note of his surroundings, real name Jallaluddin Mohammad Malik uses meaningful lyrics and clever wordplay to speak on not only society’s issues, but his own personal thoughts and feelings. Read more…
Following the success of his 2017 mixtape, Off The Radar, which features appearances from Lil Wayne, Ne-Yo, 2 Chainz, T-Pain and even rare production from Chad Hugo, Jalla plans to outdo himself on his upcoming project, Untold Truth. In fact, the project’s lead single, “Without Drake, Mos Def and Lupe Fiasco” currently hails at over 11 million Soundcloud streams, barely six months upon release.
For those who don’t know, who is Jallal?
A rapper from Los Angeles. That’s it. There’s nothing more to it.
Where do you fit in the realm of hip-hop?
I don’t know, I guess wherever people want me to fit. I don’t really put a box to it.
How does being from LA does that play into your life and career?
It’s where I live. The places I’ve been, the things I see, it’s my real life. When you’re in a city and you’re constituted by the good and the bad of the city, you’re constantly able to incorporate that into your music. It plays a huge role. It’s very essential in building yourself first. We’re all about self building first. There’s people that always want to be better and better themselves, or at least try and not stick with the same habits, good or bad. It plays an essential role in building the character of who I am.
How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
I don’t really think it’s that important. LA is super Hollywood. It’s glitz and glamour. I think you should get here when you “made it” and you’re fine. But starting from your city is very important, because that’s the very people who are going either to love you or hate you. It’s one or the other. It just depends on the person. It’s a case by case scenario. Because some people really need to get out their city like, “I need to get to the big city. I need to make it.” And there’s others who are just like, “Nah, I’ll just stay in my city and build an organic following from there.”
At what point did you realize this rap thing was forreal?
Wow. [claps] When I was 15 years old and I linked up with Loon from Diddy’s Bad Boy group. At the time, it was me, Diddy, Loon and Usher. We had the whole “I Need A Girl” song and it was really moving. I had just figured out it’s time for me to really take it seriously after he really took a liking to my music. He was like, “Yo, you’re really dope. You should do this.” Then we became friends.
How important is a co-sign in the game?
I would say it’s very important. Because after Loon, I was on the road. I was able to see things from Lupe Fiasco. I was able to learn a lot from him, and have long talks with him.
He’s one of the best spitters.
And he’s a super dope guy. That’s like older bro. I’ve learned a lot from him. It’s very important. There needs to be someone who can advise you on some sort of mentorship. For me, it was Mos Def. That’s the guy who took care of me for a long time. It’s needed. It’s like a big bro thing. People have to start from somewhere. You got to start as an intern and work your way up.
What were you doing before the music?
I was just being a kid, playing basketball and having fun.
So you just picked it up?
Well my friend Sean in high school, he’s just an enigma himself. He’s half Irish, half Taiwanese, and he’s really into hardcore gangster rap. He was playing a lot of Tupac, a lot of Eminem in the early days. He was like, “Yo, you got a dope voice. You should rap.” I’m like, “I’m not about to rap. It’s an over-glamorization of women, drugs, and alcohol, and it’s just nothing that I stand for in my music.” Which is fine, people can do that.
In high school?
I was just in high school trying to figure it out. Everything happened so fast, because being in high school was how I got introduced. My boy Kareem was like, “Yo, my cousin’s cousin knows Loon who’s coming into town. You should link with him.” At that point, I was like, “Yeah, I don’t know if this is real, but if it happens it happens.” I linked with Loon, that happened. He gave me both his numbers because at the time, he was living with Diddy in New York and living with his wife in Atlanta at the same time. So he was going back and forth. He was like, “Yo, you should really do this. This is the ins and outs.”
Then he did his thing. At 15, I opened up his show in front of all these kids. In the middle of the show — ‘cause I’m just starting to rap, so I was just into it and what have you — I didn’t even drop a hot line or anything, the whole crowd went crazy. I’m sitting there rapping and a voice in my head is like, “Chill, chill, why are they going crazy?” I look behind me and it’s Lupe Fiasco, and he’s pumping his fist. So I stop and he’s like, “No, keep going, keep going!” He’s yelling at me through the mic like “keep going!” And I kept going. He took the mic and was like, “Yo, you’re super dope. That reminded me of me when I was young.” Those words were huge.
I just got chills. What did he see in you?
He saw himself. He saw the same drive and ambition. That’s something that can only be pure to you. It’s a human by human case scenario. It was really dope for me because I started to get into the positive, conscious rap. I started to listened to Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Lupe Fiasco. I was really into hip-hop. That carried me on, but then I was like, “Okay, now I got to do this.” Because it was unwilling. It was like, “Okay, you got this forte,” but then everything is happening so fast at a young age. People were like “Oh, you’re the star child. You’re the most likely to be famous.” I’m like, “I’m just a little dude in high school who was just away from all the freaking jocks and all that.”
How long ago was this?
7 years ago.
How has your journey been thus far?
It’s been amazing. I wouldn’t want to take anything back. It’s been life changing, eye-opening. You get to learn about a lot of things in the music industry, but most importantly, you get to touch a lot of people. You get to really learn about other people’s lives. Because it’s deeper than music. I never think it’s about, “Oh, I’m so cool. I’m a rapper. Check me out, I’m in this all-white fit.” I’m like nah. It’s about the fans and reciprocating their energy, and bringing it back to yourself. Because they really feel deeply about music. That’s the thing we forget, they’re immensed by it. They get out, they go in their car, during the parties. They’re playing music, but it’s something that’s sentimental to them. That’s the major thing that I was able to experience.
How has music been a form of therapy for you?
First and foremost, it helps me because that’s how the writing process has been since I was a young kid. I was always like “this is a form of me letting go and letting out.” But I think more so, the connection is deeper. Because I feel at times, I’m speaking to myself, But I also want to speak to the people out there who don’t have a voice, that’s my main thing.
And it’s not even to sound cliché. There are people who don’t have voices. They really get up every morning, they go on the computer and they’re looking for someone they can relate to and look up to. This is something that I keep in mind when I’m recording my records. Hearing the other person talking to me when they’re not even talking to me from behind a screen, like “I wish he did this, I wish he did this.” The commentary is crazy.
What is it you want fans to get from your story?
The reality, and honesty that we all go through stuff. That’s what I want to add. I don’t think vulnerability is ever a bad thing, especially if it helps you. Because at times, you’re in a state where you’re really down and depressed, and you let out. Let’s say you talk to somebody like a family member. 99% of the time, we feel a little bit better that we at least talked about it, or somebody was hearing you out. That’s the same thing with the music. I want people to get that it’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to be honest. Honesty is always going to break through.
That’s what I decided to do, I’m just going to tell my life story. Ain’t no stunting, I’m not over here with 20 million chains. Because that’s not real to me. But to somebody else, that might be a form of motivation. Somebody has to have 20 million chains so that kid can be like, “Yo, I need to get out of my situation and become that.” Which is dope, which is fine.
You have a line that says “labels wanna sign you for a mil but I pay no mind to it.” Were labels in the question? Were deals offered?
All the time. There’s always deals at certain points in my life. I was just like, “You know what, I’ma keep it moving on the independent route.” The reason being is because I don’t need that at this point. But now, I would want to partner myself with a label specifically because I want to reach a lot more people, with whatever the situation that’s right for me. Whoever sees it fit to be like, “Let’s move forward.” Especially with this album, because this album is definitely my best work to this date. It’s really dope.
Your debut project Off The Radar, has a rare feature from Chad Hugo. What was the dynamic in the studio?
The dynamic was fun, because N.E.R.D have such a history, especially being on tour with people I know. Lupe was on tour with them, around the time when they were doing the Glow In The Dark Tour. It was Kanye, Pharrell, Hugo, and Chad, all of them. They were doing the whole CRS project, so the dynamic was very comfortable. Stepping into that situation is like when you know somebody and it’s like, “Oh, I know Shirley, and Shirley knows such and such.” It just becomes this whole nice environment.
It was so seamless being in the studio with him. He’s a mastermind when it comes to production. He’s mad funny too, so every time, he’d be like, “Let’s go get burritos, let’s do this.” Being in the mode with somebody who’s created countless records, you don’t even think about that. They have such an aura and love of creating music that it’s like you’re 15 again. You’re sitting down like you’re in high school, kicking it with the homie outside of band practice, and now he’s laying down keys and doing this. It was fun.
Not many people in their lifetime are able to do that. How does it feel to be one of the few that’s been able to work with him?
It definitely feels great. It’s a blessing, undoubtedly. As a kid, you have these goals or what have you, so I’ve already rehearsed all this. To me, it feels natural.
But it kind of fell in your lap almost, right?
Yeah, and that’s with a lot of things. It’s unwilling. It’s just been pushed at me. Because you know you ask for signs. You ask for things in life, and then you’re like “What should I do?” God or whoever you believe in, it’s like “give me a sign.” At that moment in life, it’s like boom. It’s given to you. It’s here.
Production wise, Chad gets what you’re trying to do?
Of course. 100%. He gets the sound too. He invited me to a couple sessions for the N.E.R.D stuff when he was working with Pharrell. And seeing that dynamic was cool.
You saw them make their latest album?
Oh yeah. And when I released my song “Toss & Turn,” I was in the studio one day, and Pharrell came and gave me props for the song. He was like, “Yo, you gotta get it in. You gotta dig in.” Seeing people who’ve done it for a while, it’s always reassuring to see that. Especially just expressing the love and the honesty of “Yo, I love the record.” That meant a lot, hands down.
Can you talk about releasing your first official music video for “The Truth”?
I held back from the music sphere of the video sphere, of “hey, let’s put these two together.” But I think it was just time. It was something that was so easy for me to let out because it was a time and place in my life where I was feeling really down. I wanted to make this huge decision to debut my album, and I was feeling really, really down. I was like, “I’m going to make this song called “The Truth.” It was just me, because I want people to just get familiar with me. Because they hear me all the time like “Oh, I heard you had this song with Chad Hugo. I heard you had this song, and this song.” People just hear songs, but now I want you to hear me as if I’m speaking to you.
Talk about your upcoming project, Untold Truth.
That album is the life story. It’s the untold story of me. Everybody that would hear me on features with people, hear me on songs, they wanted to figure out who I am as a person. So that was the main thing.
What’s the best piece of advice Mos Def (Yasiin Bey) has given you?
It’s going to sound redundant, but to always stay true to yourself. Stay true to your message, and stay true to who you are. Because that’s what’s going to keep you moving in this industry. That’s what going to keep you consistently new, because you’re always going through new things all the time.
You’ve worked with Lil Wayne, Yo Gotti, 2 Chainz, BJ The Chicago Kid, Ne-Yo, T-Pain and Lil Wayne. What’s been your favorite collab?
That’s kind of hard to be honest. I can’t really pinpoint it. I would say all of them are my favorite, because at each specific time, I was so hyped.
They all were your favorite. [laughs]
Like, this is amazing. I can’t put a finger on it. Because it was also fun, working on the project.
I noticed the features don’t show up on the Apple Music tracklist. Is there a reason behind that?
I have no idea, to be honest.
I didn’t know if there was a meaning behind that, because you know how Kanye didn’t have his shit show up?
Oh right, Chance didn’t either. I think it’s an Illuminati vibe. [laughs] It definitely is and being around those guys, it’s a little secret. But yeah, I can’t really say too much on that.
Any upcoming features on Untold Truth?
I would say stay tuned. I want people to really be surprised on this.
How important is social media for your career?
Very important. I think that it’s the exact place to pinpoint your emotions, and be able to talk to the people that you want to talk to instantaneously. When I see that, I’m like “that’s super important.” Because you can’t do that. If somebody calls you, you could be in the shower or whatever, but you’re always seeing it. You’re able to see a DM, a comment, a like, all these things are important. I love social media because I like people to direct message me. Because I want them to express what they’re going through directly to me, so I can see it. I don’t want to miss anything. If it’s important, hit me up on the DM.
What did you do with your first advance?
I made music. I made more music. I’ve already been swagged the eff up for a long time. With Japanese swag, Asians do it right. They’re Supreme, so that’s been there since I was a young kid.
3 things you need in the studio?
I don’t need a lot of people in the studio, that’s for sure. Sometimes you need some peace and quiet, so you can just write. And you got to have some organic chips, some protein bars. You need fuel.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
I always say that changes over time.
Right now, at this point in your life.
I’d be a detective. [laughs] It’d be sick.
Favorite song to perform in a set?
There’s this last song I perform that’s produced by Madlib. It’s my favorite song to perform. We don’t have a title for it yet, but everyone knows it. You can only see it in the set, so you have to come to a live show.
I was going to say, so they know it because they’re a fan?
Yeah, they’re fans. People who came to the LA show here at the Saban Theatre got to see it.
The Yasiin Bey show? I was there!
Yeah, it was an amazing show. It was a fun night.
Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
Drake. Drake is the most played artist in my phone. He’s dope. Shout out to Majid Jordan, you know what time it is. We were just texting on the phone. That’s my dude.
I know you’ve worked with everyone, but dream collab?
That’s hard to say. [pauses] I think PARTYNEXTDOOR is dope. I like his style. I think he’s cool from the new cats. Right now, I’m working with people that were my dream collabs on this album. If I was me as a young kid, I’d be tripping. I’m still tripping, that it’s happening now.