Maleek Berry has drawn from Afrobeat, dancehall, hip-hop, grime, western pop, garage, gospel and R&B, producing a sound that harmonises eclectic influences from the global diaspora. For his latest single, “Bend It” he fuses those sounds into a shimmering, upbeat chorus, a beach-side sunset bassline and lyrics all about yoga. Bringing seemingly disparate themes or sounds into one place is second nature to an artist who was raised on a varied musical diet. The result is a new kind of pop that has accrued millions of streams and has established Maleek as a one of a wave of musicians taking afro-infused pop global.
I lived in Nigeria as a kid and when I was there I would listen to a lot of Fuji music and my Dad would play a lot of Fela Kuti. He used to listen to a lot of Bob Marley as well and I was into Michael Jackson, so I had a pop layer too. When I was six years old I came back to the UK and I was surrounded by Caribbean culture and Dancehall but also had the grime layer, the garage layer, even the gospel layer. I had no idea that growing up that I was adding to my musical vocabulary and that’s what helped me become the kind of producer, artist or writer that I am today.
You know what, I don’t think it’s particularly one person, it’s a bunch of artists. The guys that came before us – the likes of D’Banj and Mo Hits, they eventually got the recognition of Jay-Z and Kanye West so they definitely opened doors and shone a bit of light on the genre and now us younger ones have taken the baton and now we’re running with it.
For me, I’ve always known that most good music is centred around love, sex, hate, break ups. Most hit songs always stem back to love and I always try and write about that subject and break it up into as many different sub-topics as I can. I’m always on that search to find a new way of saying something, or of saying a phrase that could potentially become a new slang or phrase.
“Bend It” is me continuing the tradition of my summer, fun songs, similar to the way I released “Kontrol” last year. I saw on Twitter that my fans were demanding that sound but I wanted to give it a new spin and a breath of fresh air. I asked myself what are people into right now and I was like – “Yoga!”. I already had the melody down and the rest of the song just built up from there.