MALIK x CTRL: Exclusive Interview + Playlist

Malik, the Grammy-winning producer who’s the hitmaker behind the songs such as “Better Off” and “Make Up” by Ariana Grande, and “Fields” by Earthgang, is ready to make his debut. Preparing to release the new concept project Spectrum (Demo), Malik is looking to wow listeners with everything coming from one source, himself, as he does it all from writing and producing to mixing and mastering.

Guaranteed to impress, Spectrum (Demo), is a sci-fi journey that connects the colors on the spectrum to his emotions. Malik crafts the project with the intentions of his feelings being unique but also still relating to one another.

With each track being inspired by a color, they all relate to a specific feeling that connects back to his emotions. The first official single “Red” channels anger, meanwhile the follow up “Orange” seeks comfort in the aftermath of the rage.

“Orange” just so happens to be the first track he played for No I.D, and now he’s releasing the project through ARTium Recordings, the label run by his mentor, No I.D.

Citing OutKast, Nostalgia Ultra – Frank Ocean, Days Before Rodeo – Travis Scott, Acid Rap – Chance The Rapper, and Graduation-era Kanye West as his main sources of inspiration, with the project, Malik is witnessing his own full circle moment.   

Malik talks to CTRL about Spectrum (Demo) and curates a playlist of songs that inspired the record.


The concept of SPECTRUM is ambitious, how did you come up with it? What started it all?

I was driving home from work one evening and as the sun was setting, the color spectrum was spread across the sky. I thought it was beautiful so I took a picture and wrote “Spectrum” in my notes and I knew that would be something eventually. When I finally got to it, I used the concept of Spectrum as a way to explore emotions in a freeform way that still had a concept that tied it all together.


SPECTRUM is based the concept of the colors on the spectrum and allowing them to represent the journey through your emotions. What was the thought process behind the tracklist? How were each track/color strategically placed? 

It was pretty straightforward really haha. As I wrote songs, I asked myself what color does this sound like, and whatever answer that was became the song title.


Recently released single “Orange” finds hope amidst the anger that was highlighted on “Red”. How do you find the ability to move forward and continue to overcome the odds?

Believing that anything is possible and taking the steps to make those things real, even before there’s any outside “proof” that it’s realistic. Everything that was ever created, at one point, was only a thought or idea.


If you had to pinpoint the sound for the casual listener, how would you describe it?

Sonically, somewhere in the middle between Graduation era Kanye and Days Before Rodeo era Travis Scott, with elements of Acid Rap, Nostalgia Ultra and OutKast.


The project will be released through ARTium Recordings, which is run by No I.D. How did you find your way to ARTium Recordings?

I was working with Sincethe80s and through them I connected with JID to work on one of his projects. JID had a session with No ID, and there was a break in the session where I had the opportunity to play him some music. He loved what he heard and wanted to work. I actually played him Orange first. Some time went by, and we reconnected at the Dreamville Sessions in Atlanta. We started to work on some ideas, just going back and forth and from there No ID told me that was confirmation we really should be working together. So, he flew me back out to LA to work out of his studio for a few months. That’s where we really built a personal relationship and he became someone I could go to with questions, advice or help with anything.


You listed Graduation-era Kanye as one of the influences for this project. Kanye gives a shout out to No I.D on the closing track “Big Brother”, and now he’s your mentor. How does this full circle moment feel?


It really confirms the idea that anything is really possible. Still can’t believe how blessed I am to be able to be here. Grateful.


In 2018, you worked on Ariana Grande’s “Better Off” off of Sweetener, which earned you a Grammy win. A year later, you worked on “Make Up” off of Thank U, Next. What was it like working on these projects?


It was a challenge initially. Tommy Brown showed me how to simplify and leave space for Ariana. Once I stopped trying to impress people by overproducing an idea and focused on just making a good song, everything came together. It’s been something I’ve been able to take back to my own music as well.


From writing and producing to mixing and mastering, you do it all by yourself, and packaged it into this demo mixtape. It’s an impressive feat, but do you find it to be challenging at all? And in the future, are you open to any help, if so, who would you want to work with?


It can be at times, but I enjoy it so its a fun type of challenge. I’m definitely open to collaborating, I just needed this one for myself. And the list is so long it’s hard to narrow it down, but I’ll give 5. Tyler, Frank, Gambino, Travis, 3K


After the release of SPECTRUM, have you figured out what’s next?






Malik curates an exclusive playlist for CTRL. A collection of songs that inspired the project.

Malik says: "This is a collection of songs that really affected me growing up which directly and indirectly influenced Spectrum. These works speaking on dreams, spirituality, love, confidence, and hurt will always be a part of who I am. But even beyond what is being said in the writing, the music is just really good. I can live in it."



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