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(Credit: Brian Teeling)

Music

Doctor's Orders: Malaki prescribes his nine favourite albums

@josephtaysom

Over the last few years, Dublin has become an unlikely hotbed of hip-hop, and Malaki is as exciting as they come. His debut album, Chrysalis, arrived last year, and the juxtaposition between the hazy, mellow beats with his thick Irish tones makes for an intoxicating cocktail full of refreshing sincerity.

The rapper, whose real name is Hugh Mulligan, has spoken openly about how music has acted as a saviour during his lowest times, a period when his mental health struggles have become all too consuming. Creating new material has offered Mulligan an escape, giving him a healthy vice that the MC has clung onto with every fibre in his body.

In September, Malaki delved deep into his battles on the profoundly personal and heartbreakingly honest EP Don’t Forget To Take Your Medicine. He is breaking down the toxic masculine stereotypes that remain a prominent feature in rap, attempting to give the genre a modern facelift. As an artist who speaks eloquently about his own struggles with mental health, Malaki is a perfect guest for our ‘Doctor’s Orders’ series as we ask musicians to reveal the nine albums they turn to in an hour of need.

Continuing with our Mental Health Awareness campaign, Far Out Magazine has teamed up with the suicide prevention charity CALM to help connect you with your favourite artists. The series attempts to hear how music has helped them during their darker times and day-to-day lives and, in turn, how it can help others.

The organisation, with the full working title of ‘Campaign Against Living Miserably’, offer a free, confidential and anonymous helpline for those most in need of mental health support. Now lockdown measures have eased, that doesn’t mean that impact of the last 18 months has ended, and CALM still needs as much help as possible to carry on with its excellent work.

We at Far Out believe in music’s ability to heal. It could be the moment that the needle drops on your favourite song and provides respite from a chaotic world, or, conversely, it might be the fanatic conversation you have with friends about which guitarist was the greatest. Music, it’s safe to say, has always allowed us to connect with one another and ourselves.

In support of CALM, we’re asking a selection of our favourite people to share nine records that they would prescribe for anyone they met and the stories behind their importance. Doctor’s Orders sees some of our favourite musicians, actors, authors, comedians and more offer up the most important records, which they deem essential for living well.

If you’re able, and if you can afford to, please consider a small donation to help the CALM cause. £8 can answer one potentially life-saving call.

For now, we delve into Malaki’s chosen records. Expect to see an eclectic mix of albums from Nas, Neil Young, Queen and many more.

Malaki’s nine favourite albums:

Nas – Illmatic

If you spoke to 100 hip-hop heads about their five favourite records, the chances are that Nas’ debut effort, Illmatic, would make every single person’s list, and it was the first album that Malaki named.

“The debut album from Nasir Jones will go down as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. I first discovered it from my brother, who would blare old school hip-hop in the kitchen like A Tribe Called Quest and The Pharcyde,” he said. “I was taken by Nas’ style of rhyming right off the bat. Unlike other rappers, at that time, I found him to be more poetic and profound whilst also speaking on topics your average listener can relate to.

“I guess it was the first time I felt truly connected to another rapper. The style in which he writes in is something I take influence from even to this day. Whenever I stick on ‘Memory Lane’ in the Illmatic album, it directly shoots me back to my old kitchen, where I witnessed true hip-hop for the first time. I was never particularly close to my brother when I was younger.

“Moments in albums like these is what is truly special about music—bringing people together. Now, whenever that track comes on myself and my brother shout, ‘I rap for listeners, bluntheads, fly ladies and prisoners'”, the rapper powerfully concluded. 

Neil Young – Harvest

Harvest is not only an album that has capabilities to soothe the soul but, for Malaki, there’s extra baggage tied to the record, which gives it even further emotional significance.

“When my father was my age, he moved to Clapham Common in London. There wasn’t much work at the time in Dublin, so he sought elsewhere. London at the time (’70s) was truly special. The culture was flourishing, the music was loud and addictive, and the parties were wild,” he mused.

“My father spent some time getting familiar with local record shops in the area where he spent a lot of his wages and time. He bought one album in particular that I found one day cleaning the attic. ‘Harvest Moon‘ by Neil young. Now, being a 15 year old from Dublin at the time, I had no idea who he was, so he grabbed the record, dusted it off and played it on my record player.

“One track, in particular, stood out to me, ‘Old Man’. When my father came home from work, I shouted and asked him to come into the room. I had all of his old records from when he was my age stacked up and cleaned beside me, along with Neil Young’s – ‘Old Man’ crackling through the old record player. I’ll never forget the look on his face,” he heartfully recalled.

Queen – Jazz

For Malaki, this album is not only a reminder of the lost innocence of childhood, but it also played a vital part in shaping his early love affair with music, and its influence has stuck with him today.

“I’ve always had an interest in performers, and what better performer than Freddie Mercury from Queen. When I was about 8 or 9, I received a knock off Walkman with the album Jazz,” he recalled. “I’d walk around my estate with ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ blaring through these sketchy headphones attached to a cable in the knock of Walkman.

“Still to this day, it’s one of the greatest presents I received,” he reflected. “The more I listened, the more I researched and watched Freddie Mercury. To this day, I feel I try to encapsulate his passion on stage. The memories of that album and that man have always brought me such happiness when I hear back. Maybe there was a side to me that thought what he did wasn’t so impossible. Thank you, Freddie, for making me believe.”

King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath The Moon

Over the last decade, King Krule has been a renegade who has created one of the most captivating canons of work, with his 2013 debut offering, 6 Feet Beneath The Moon, making Malaki’s list.

“I find it difficult to try and describe just how this album has helped me and will continue to help me for the rest of my life. I discovered King Krule or Archy Marshall when I was 16 and experiencing emotional turmoil,” the Dubliner frankly revealed.

“I felt like an outsider, and all I did was smoke weed and listen to this album every day. Archy made me feel comfortable being that outsider. Finding solace within the darkness, something I try to harness every day of my life. Without his contribution to music and my life, I feel my mental health would have went a very different route. ‘Out Getting Ribs’ will forever be my favourite song.”

Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death

For Malaki’s next choice, he’s not straying too far from home with the selection of Fontaines D.C.’s sophomore effort, A Hero’s Death, which was named as Far Out’s ‘Album of the Year’ in 2020.

“I met these boys over in London during the summer,” Malaki revealed. “Absolute gentlemen, and their music is outstanding. Upon hearing their second studio album, A Hero’s Death, it made me proud. Proud to be a man, proud to be Irish and to take pride in myself and my mental wellbeing. The opening track, ‘I Don’t Belong’, will solidify any hesitance within myself for years to come. Up the Irish!”

Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone

Malaki is a rapper who isn’t afraid to open about his issues and the suffering that runs wild in his brain, just like Loyle Carner, who unpacked everything from his battles with grief to his eternal love for his mother on his debut, Yesterday’s Gone. Experiencing him live in 2017 was a life-affirming moment for Malaki and put him on the path he’s on today.

“Loyle Carner is one of my favourite rappers to this day! His flow, his style and penmanship is insane,” he commented. “I first saw him in 2017 in Dublin, and that is when I knew I wanted to become an artist. I was only 17 years old and had no idea who I was and what I wanted to be. I owe a lot to Loyle Carner. I hope one day I can let him know in person.”

Erykah Badu – Mama’s Gun 

Next up for Malaki is neu-soul sensation Erykah Badu and her second album Mama’s Gun, which played a beautiful role in cementing his friendship with his producer and right-hand man, Matthew Harris.

“Erykah Badu is an absolute queen and will go down as one of the greatest musicians of our time,” Malaki said. “I chose this album because of the relevance to one track in particular, ‘On and On’. Myself and my friend Matthew Harris would go through old music and sample some of our favourite bits for fun.”

He continued: “‘On and On’ stood out to us off this album due to its raw strength in lyricism and vocals. Each line hits more than the last. We sampled some of our favourite bits from that track and created some beautiful music. Those memories sit very closely within my heart as it was the beginning of my friendship with Matthew Harris. He’s now a best friend and very close musical collaborator.”

Bon Iver – 22, A Million 

Malaki decided to give his next pick in the hands of his close friend, the aforementioned Matthew Harris, who selected Bon Iver. The rapper explained, he has “been such a paramount part of my life and music that it would be rude not to ask him what album brings him his mental wellbeing and why.”

Harris commented, “I connected deeply with this album long after hearing it for the first time. I had been hearing snippets of songs drifting through the house from my brother and 17 year old me thought it just sounded like glitchy nonsense, but it wasn’t till I spent time with it and let it grow with me that I started to feel it truly sink in.

“This album has comforted me on my darkest days and will continue to do so. Its experimental production and college-esque structures of songs feels like an overspilling of the unconscious, a damaged and frenetic unconscious, but a passionate one too, one striving for hope and beauty,” he added.

Malaki then noted, “I think after hearing his words on it forced me to dive into this album head first. I’ve never been more hooked and shocked whilst listening to a body of work. Thank you, Matthew.”

Michael Jackson – Thriller

For his final pick, Malaki has gone for Micheal Jackson’s Thriller, which like Jazz by Queen, sends precious memories of his childhood in Dublin flooding back whenever he presses play on the record.

“When I was a lot younger, all I did was dance. At every communion, wedding or house party my family went to. I would wear the Thriller jacket and white glove that was made so iconic by Michael. I was obsessed with Michael Jackson like many people were at the time as he allowed me to express myself freely and without judgement.”

He added, “As I grew older, I grew out of dancing and into poetry and songwriting. I think the years of dancing to Thriller was a stepping stone to my creativity and allowed me to explore sides of me I didn’t know existed. I can now write and release music about the darkest times in life without fear of judgement. Dancing to this album from a young age definitely had a part to play.”