As Brother Ali prepares to hit the stage in Los Angeles, California’s Troubadour venue, fellow Minnesota emcee MaLLy warms the crowd up with a contagious smile, potent raps and a Chris Rock impression. The 28-year-old emcee is on his first tour ever, performing and hosting on a bill that features Ali and L.A.’s Bambu as part of their Home Away From Home tour run, but MaLLy is far from a new emcee.
The South Minneapolis, Minnesota rapper, who names Stevie Wonder, Tupac Shakur, Donny Hathaway, Jadakiss, Joe Budden and Skyzoo as influences, has been rhyming for years, earning recognition from some of his state’s most famous emcees, including Ali and Atmosphere’s Slug, rappers he’s also learned a lot from.
“[At first,] I wanted to be the best rapper,” MaLLy says in a HipHopDX exclusive. “I wasn’t concentrating on getting into the emotions and feelings. I was like, ‘I just want to bar you to death.’ I just wanted to be dope, have flows and be nice…And then, as I started looking back to see what Slug and Ali did, it definitely impacted my style. They’ve got so many different toolkits that they bring to the table.”
As much as he paid attention to Rhymesayers Entertainment emcees, the label, based in Minnesota, also paid attention to him. His link to artists from the RSE camp began in 2009. At the time, MaLLy released his The Passion project, an album that former Brother Ali deejay BK-One posted about on Twitter. From there, Atmosphere’s Slug heard about him at SXSW and also promoted his work on social media.
“They were paying attention,” he says. “I didn’t think they were paying attention, but they pay attention. If anybody doesn’t know that, Rhymesayers pays attention to everybody else that’s doing music. They pay attention to the talent.”
MaLLy would eventually join Rhymesayers acts at events, including Soundset, where he once co-hosted with Brother Ali.
Now, he’s on the road with Ali and Bam, learning about tour life and music from both emcees.
“They both come from a veteran stance in the game,” MaLLy says. “With Bam, his perspective is political, really connecting with people who go to work every day…So, [I’ve learned from] seeing how he’s been able to connect with people and improvise. With Ali, I’ve been able to see how he takes his whole set and pours his heart out and really talks to people and keeps it a hundred with them.”
Perhaps the greatest lesson MaLLy has learned on this tour is based around those connections he’s seen Ali and Bam make.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that people want something to be a part of,” he explains. “People really want somebody that speaks to them…People want to feel like I’m talking to a human being. They don’t want to hear somebody who’s disconnected. With Bambu and Ali, they really connect with the people. When we talk in the van, they really care about the people. It’s given me a brand new understanding and appreciation for what it’s like. They’ve been on many tours. This is my first one. So, it’s given me a different appreciation for different crowds and different people.”
Brother Ali, Bambu, MaLLy and DJ Last Word are continuing their Home Away From Home Tour run in Las Vegas, Nevada today (October 3). Their tour is set to run through November 14, in Chicago, Illinois.