Three Great Things: Malik

The producer and artist talks cartoons, fashion, and the great outdoors.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To celebrate the release of his debut album Spectrum (Demo), the musician shares some of the things that are inspiring him during quarantine. 
— Josh Modell, Talkhouse Executive Editor

1. Cartoons

I’ve found myself watching a lot of cartoons lately, being at the house all day. When cartoons are done right, they can speak to all people about any topic in a way that’s really accessible to people and not be blunt or harsh. I think cartoons have a very important role today, especially when you think about cartoons being what sometimes raises kids. It’s a huge responsibility to make sure that they’re feeding kids with inspiration and positivity. But also being able to be a place of comfort for adults. I’ve found myself watching a whole lot of Hey Arnold because it’s such a peaceful, feel-good show. I can kind of put it on and work on music or draw. It puts me in a peaceful place.

Cartoons can also be so artistic. It’s an underrated art. When you watch the Studio Ghibli movies, how beautifully they animate food, and people’s expressions, and nature. They have a lot of pride in the way that they create their films. For them to still be doing 2-D animation today is amazing — you don’t see that a lot. It’s mostly live action or 3-D animation. But they must really believe in it. It still matters and affects people, and they’ll keep doing it no matter how impractical it is.

I also just rewatched Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is maybe top three shows of all time for me. A lot of the value is in the way I view my life and my journey as a person and artist, I can really relate to that. There’s so many things in life that I want to do, and there’s times when it feels impossible or out of reach. You equate those things with having to learn how to master the four elements. Some he gets down really quick, some are more against his natural way of living. But all of it is a part of his growth as a person. I think shows like that help me get through those tough periods, because they help me grow as a person. It gives me motivation, that I can do anything. And it really sucks you into that world. I don’t know how many times when I was a kid I wished I could airbend so I could fly. That world is so immersive. It gives me a goal of what I want to make my life feel like.

2. Outdoors

I kind of feel guilty because this is such a simple, basic answer. I think I was taking being outside and being in nature for granted before the pandemic. I’ve noticed how much it really is a reset for me. To say it clears my head is a cliche, but it’s true. Just really disconnecting from my phone, or watching too many cartoons, being stuck in my little world I create at the house. It opens things back up for me, going on a hike or going to the lake, or just sitting outside in my hammock and reading just fills me with a whole new life. I forget about that more often than I’d like to admit, and then I’m like, “Yo, I need to make sure this is a consistent part of my routine!” Just being in this place for a while, and not having a specific task in mind, you know?

Being an artist, you’re often stuck in the world that you’re creating. Especially if you’re using any type of digital tool — if I’m producing on my laptop or doing graphic design — you’re kind of staring at a screen for an extended period of time. Time can get away from us, and next thing you know the day is gone and you’re going to bed. I get stuck in: How am I not going to waste my time? I need to send a million emails. You get stuck in that. But making it a point to spend time outside has taught me how to rest in a healthy way.

I find myself really being more present outside, and that’s sometimes when my best creative ideas fall into place. I’m not sitting around at home thinking, “What’s my next idea?” I’m literally just sitting outside being present and open and enjoying what’s going on around me. And then something will just happen because I gave myself the space to put these things together.

3. Fashion

The thing that I really enjoy about fashion is that it really becomes an extension of who you are. If you really don’t care about what you wear, and you just want to be comfortable, the way you dress is going to reflect that very directly. Nowadays it’s such a point to express who you are, just simply with the clothes that you wear. There’s so many options and ways of going about doing that. I really enjoy the functionality and comfort of the clothes I choose to wear. Being able to step outside and know I look good, but still be comfortable in the clothes I’m wearing—not some crazy high-fashion suit that I feel stiff or I’m sweaty because there’s 30 layers… I just want to be comfortable at the end of the day. I find myself whenever I buy a little piece that I really like, if it’s not comfortable, I overlook it every time. No matter how amazing it might look. I even enjoy the process of going to thrift stores and being amongst people just looking at clothes. That can become your day: “I wonder what cool little piece I’m going to find in a little shop downtown.” And that becomes an extension of your values. You want to be sustainable, and you don’t have to spend a million dollars to look how you want to look.

My go-to is black Champion shorts. I freakin’ love them so much. They’re so versatile. I can wear them with an oversized button-down and dress it up a bit, or I can just work out in them and a T-shirt. They’re incredibly comfortable. They’re such a basic, simple piece — you can do anything you want with them, and they’re not a million dollars. I can get a few pairs, several different colors, and I’m straight. And it reminds me that I’m a champion on a daily basis, which is good to know. [Laughs.]

Malik is a 24-year-old GRAMMY-winning producer and artist who’s been taken under the mentorship of No. I.D. and his label, ARTium Recordings. He’s also a darling of his hometown Austin, TX, a restless creative spirit who’s been writing and creating music locally for some time. The pinnacle of his work so far is Spectrum (Demo). Out now, each song on Spectrum (Demo)  which Malik describes as “a sort of musical take on Pixar’s Inside Out, if it were as heavily influenced by Outkast, Graduation-era Kanye West, Days Before Rodeo-era Travis ScottAcid Rap Chance the Rapper, and Nostalgia, Ultra Frank Ocean, as I was”  is named after a specific color and channels its energy and purpose.