Skinny Malone talks rap streams, flows, and how “Hackney was crazy back in the day,” but how it's all led to this, for Notion 83 with the launch of his latest EP "HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT"!
“Hackney was crazy back in the day,” says Skinny Malone of his home turf. “My mum’s a strict Nigerian woman, she wasn’t really having it. I hated it, but she probably saved my life—I can’t lie. Growing up in Hackney, you’re either very big or you’re very fast and I was very fast [laughs]. That’s the honest truth.”
The east London rapper would eventually be kicked out of his mum’s house, finding himself at 17 living in a hostel. It’s then that Skinny turned to music to vent and express himself. One of the tracks he wrote was an apology to his mum. A visitor at the hostel who had come to talk to residents about God, asked Skinny what he was doing and when he played her the track she cried—”I was like rah, where I’m from people don’t cry! It was mad to see the power that music had.”
He picked up his Skinny Malone “icebreaker” pseudonym from the nickname an ex-girlfriend gave him: Skinny Malinky, from the Scottish children’s song. Citing Nas and Tupac as early influences, Skinny’s own versatile sound is driven by his off the chain energy with tracks like “We Don’t Know Him” arriving via the 4AD-affiliated label b4. Not that Skinny’s in a hurry: “The difference between an obstacle and failure is persistence. My goal wasn’t how long it was going to take, it was I want to be this sick!”
With the launch of his latest EP “HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT” which is now available here, it’s clear Skinny’s trajectory is one set for the stars.
Colin Graves: Does your mum like your music?
Skinny Malone: Yeah you know! She understands. Me and my mum didn’t speak for a while. We kind of made up and she calls me and tells me she loves me. She now says, ‘If you want to get tattoos, get tattoos—I love you for the person you are’. She told me ‘don’t get a job’. I think that day, my life changed. Mum was like, ‘yeah, don’t get a job. Don’t worry about it. You’ve come far enough, just do what you’re doing right now’. I was like ‘rah, my mum thinks I can make music—I’ve got to make music then’.
CG: You have ADHD right?
SM: I feel like I do. I was smoking with my boy Daniel, we’ve been friends from young. He was bunning and he was like, ‘yeah bro, you have ADHD’. I looked at him and was like, ‘what do you mean I have ADHD?’ I don’t know, it triggered me, I was like, ‘Nah, put the weed down and talk to me bro, what do you mean?’ and he explained it. The more I’ve researched it, that’s the only thing I can categorise it as. This is something I know I’ve dealt with from a young age.
GC: That must have made school challenging.
SM: School and institutions like that get you ready for prison. They tell you when you can go to the bathroom, what time to be in, you have a set time to eat. Everything’s by bells. These basic fundamentals of humanity are controlled. So, you’ve gone through the world in this matrix of, ‘okay, cool, I’m going to go to work even though I hate it and get this money that I hate’—only to live in a house that you hate too. Just because that’s what’s socially acceptable.
CG: Do you feel an obligation to use your platform to speak up on certain things?
I’m not trying to be a role-model, I’m just trying to change the world and hopefully have a positive impact. At the same time, when something is abjectly wrong, I have to speak about it. I can’t let people think that’s a way to live, just because I’m trying to live easy. I don’t want to bother anyone, I don’t want anyone to bother me, but I can’t just let the wrongdoings fly by.
CG: How would you describe your flow?
SM: I rap to grime streams and I spit to rap streams. I will do what I want with any song I want. You can’t tell me I can’t rap to a beat a certain way and that’s the way my flow is. I like to pick things that are not easy and then try to have fun with it, but I still sound like ‘Skinny’. My sound is not a genre that’s set in stone. I can go from writing an R&B song, to writing “Bill That”, which is a heavy 808 rock sound.
What’s your process?
SM: I have a set team, so when I need a certain sound, I’m only going to four or five people. That sounds like a lot of people but I write every day. Even after this interview, I’m going to write a bar and that’s because everything I write comes from conversation. Listen to every one of my songs, when you hear what I’m saying combined to what I’m doing, it’s such a mindfuck. I might just be talking to you—I’m telling you what happened in my day and just walking you through the audio/visual representation of that.
CG: You have a tattoo of the Hackney Council logo right?
SM: Yeah it’s a Hackney sign—obviously good things come from bad places. Each of my tattoos has a distinctive meaning and the one I always go to is the one on my left hand—a part of that is a treble clef, it reminds me to keep peace in mind, and that I’m married to music.