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Hot Pressed EP
Alternative, Electronic, Hip Hop, Pop
Kele, Frank Ocean, James Blake, Yves Tumor, Tame Impala
NEWS & PRESS
Mahawam is the studio recording and performance outlet for Oakland based musician, songwriter, and producer Malik Mays. The 30 year old’s work combs the borders and unexplored terrain of self and other, with themes of discovery, reclamation, and purpose. Mahawam’s output speaks to the spirit of curiosity joyously persevering in the margins, specifically that of queer persons in Black America and other previously or currently colonized communities, as it resists forces that challenge the human need for autonomy to decide boundaries and create peace.
“Mahawam allows me to investigate what it means, has meant, and will mean to be me. In that way, Mahawam is how I experience time. It’s my fourth dimension.”
Sobering punchlines, meticulously worded flows, and propellant, genre-defying productions combine in frequently unusual ways to form a sound all their own. Mahawam translates this atmosphere to the stage with understated confidence. Solo or with their live band, Mahawam presents a raw and immersive experience during their energetic live shows.
As a producer and collaborator, Mahawam employs a left-leaning, pop informed approach, taking recent remixes and features for fellow Bay Area acts Emily Afton, NRVS LVRS and The Seshen into unforeseen territory.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
I make "all wheel drive" music for off-road listeners and do my best to provide them with a very nice truck. If I had to place myself I'd say I'm working in the tradition of the Missy Elliotts, Pharrells, Princes, Dev Hynes, Yves Tumors, Sylvesters, Solanges, Frank Oceans, Andre 3000s, Busdrivers and Kele Okerekes of the world. These artists atomize language, sensation, and image, and reassemble them into rare and, occasionally, new molecules of thought. Furthermore, they possess an uncanny ability to bridge the gap between fear and understanding of these new substances.
The earnestness with which these artists and others like them create and perform is to me like a magician explaining their tricks to the audience. That audience now trusts what they've been otherwise trained to suspect or even persecute, and allows the magician to lead them through uncertain and harrowing waters of unusual theater safely. This ability to captain is something I'm learning to cultivate in my own work.
Hot Pressed EP - About The Record
Hot Pressed is a record about getting out of your own way. It came about at a time when I was learning to do what I want, not just what I must. There's been talk about queers undergoing a second-adolescence later in life because of the limitations placed around their identities as youths. I feel similarly, but its more like a kid who grew up too fast learning to be an adult the right way. This record speaks directly to that process of figuring out who you are again after a long period of being certain. Self-definition is hard fought and the idea that you may have to release something you’ve nearly died to protect is difficult to reconcile. But age reveals how much of you is you, and the surprise as one nears 30 is the answer is “not much.” My partner used to “joke” about me being a robot because I was so far removed from my emotions, and it really did feel like I was living life in one place with my feelings in a box somewhere else. Fortunately, my skull is now fully fused, and I'm unpacking that spirit and embracing the flow of my life and its capacity for growth. I began to decorate myself the way one would a space for which they care deeply and I feel in many senses brand new. This record is a snapshot of the organizational process of that shift in mindset. It’s a distillation of my experiences learning to leave instead of cope, to think nothing instead of thinking poorly, and of using peace to rest instead of planning for future conflict. It honors the ghosts whose battles saw me through to the present day, and absolves them of the choices they made to survive.
It was also fun to write, which my last record, love it to death, was not. I generated a few dozen bits and ideas, which gelled into somewhere around 10 songs.I knew I wanted to create something a little more textural and raw than my last record, which helped place the tunes into several distinct camps. Speckled throughout the process, contributions from guitarist Derek Barber, multi-instrumentalist Natalyn Daniels, and co-producer and mix engineer Aki Ehara did a lot to focus the terrain of the record's soundscape, and opened me up to collaboration, which I'd largely avoided previously. My label, manager, and I then pared that pool to the five tracks that you hear on the release, selecting the songs we thought best illuminated through-lines connecting the various sounds I'd explored while searching for the record's identity.
Hot Pressed EP - About The Tracks
"Hitherto is a breakup song about leaving yourself. I wanted to paint writhing out of old skins as a soft, euphoric experience. At 30 I'm beginning to feel filled in. I can look down the small mountain of my life at plateaus of defeated smallness, vacillating to obliviously inflated confidence and back, as not simply painful but important steps toward the peace I carry with me today. In this way, the song helps to inform my concept of ancestry. We imagine 100’s of kind, loving spirits looking favorably upon us from the ether when we think of ancestors. But if even dead versions of ourselves can be bad and broken, surely some of our great grands were lost and worse too. I feel like it's only recently that my wings have dried enough to be a useful ancestor to a subsequent version of myself, let alone somebody else. In the song I'm speaking to a part of me that maybe just squeaked by, or is taking its final breaths, after an inevitable and volatile wave of self-evaluation. I'm alone in the world but I'm strong, firm. I wanted to start the record with that sentiment and it didn’t feel necessary to dress it up. There's something about it that makes me feel like I was onto something that would spoil if chased. Aki and I both made a few attempts to build out or polish the idea, but nothing felt as good as the rough."
This one started with a drum loop I made beat-boxing into Koala on my phone. Once in Ableton I had a happy accident moving MIDI and created a ragtime riff you can hear a remnant of before the final chorus. I thought “Okay, something interesting and whimsical is happening here, let’s lean into this.” I pushed stems to Aki and he added a few layers of percussion, synth and ear candy that turned out to be exactly what the track needed. I only had the chorus lyrics worked out for at the time. The verses were a slog because I didn’t know what I was talking about yet. I ended up developing this loose “I’m my own boyfriend and he’s not prepared for life, let alone me.” narrative as a bumper. This turned into the story of someone with important work chasing their muse, wishing their suitors well while spurning all advances in the same breath. It's a reminder to myself to keep my eye on the prize, and a warning to others that I won’t stay my blade if you impede my progress toward it. Working in a DAW is a deeply attention consuming experience and balancing that work with a life outside of my computer has been a challenge my entire adult-life. The creeping feeling that I was missing out on the world by choosing work over nights out stilted my confidence doing either for a long time. But now Im old enough to know that some people are good at having and BEING fun and others are best at mastering and designing its tools. And that’s okay. The ease of this fit is a nice reminder to stay in my lane. I hope this song encourages others to trust themselves to do the same, whatever their work may be.
Did U Kno?
It's the kind of scene that can only happen when nothing is happening. You ask if your partner knows you love them and they roll their eyes and push you off the couch. You walk out of the room wearing pants and re-enter without them. That kinda thing. It’s not a love song, it’s a song about love. I spend a lot of time making serious work, so I wanted to do something lighthearted. I pulled a guitar loop off Splice and sat down for an hour or so and built a track around it. I knew I didn't want to do "too much," as I often do, having given myself orders to have "fun." When I felt myself getting lost in the weeds I muted a few unnecessary layers and the space that created was immediately refreshing. I tried to keep that in mind when I turned my attention to writing lyrics and melody. I let the track speak, instead of infusing it with whatever nuance of interiority I was fixated on that week. It feels light and youthful, like sharpening a tool I don’t often use to write, and is something I've taken with me into several songs since.
I Killed A Hesher Once
Okay, so you know how when you're talking to someone and they're interesting and hella cute and the vibe is good. They’re smiling, you’re smiling. They're giving you that look that makes you think "See, this is why the girls move to the coast" and your heart starts to flutter but it's okay because they're blushing too so you don't have to play cool about it? But then they disappear on you for no discernible reason and you spiral into an insecure frenzy that turns you into a psychologist, psychic, theoretical physicist, and Olympic squinter. And as you’re mentally playing back conversations to forensically examine the frames for closure you realize you're being paranoid, self-immolation isn't a good look for you, and they haven't really done anything wrong so you decide to charge it to the game because the queer world is too small a planet for externalized mania and petty animosity?
I wrote this about being ghosted by a metalhead. The song is just a bruised ego letting off steam, and is quite serious sounding for such a trifle. I took a brief look into the etymology of the word “hesher” and that led me to the Revolutionary War, German mercenaries, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and, obviously, lovers of metal. I used all that as connective tissues for my writing. My buddy Derek Barber played down a few layers of guitars on a track I’d been working on, replacing a placeholder loop, and that gave me the lift I needed to bring the track together and finish the song. Aki took the reins from here, comping important rhythmic moments with low impacts and adding ear candy before mixing it down.
I like to think of this one as the bag lady telling Erykah Badu to mind her business. It pushes back against the judgment those who have lived largely trauma-free lives levy upon people who have been through it. The song is like "I'd rather not be this way but I don't have the luxury, and a person like you wouldn't understand. Go pat yourself on the back somewhere else." Anger is ugly and exhausting but it's a tangible and effective motivator in ways "good vibes" and positive thinking could never be. It's dangerous but it's honest and it's simple. "Hot Pressed" wants pacifists who aren't in tune with their rage to ask themselves if distance from it is peace or a blind spot.
It took me a long time to finish writing this song because I wanted to handle the subject matter with care. After months swapping out single words while waiting for a download from the stars, I skipped work, drove to the Pilsner Inn in the Castro, and told myself I couldn’t leave the patio until it was done. I don’t know why that worked, but it did. Derek returned to lay down additional guitar and texture tracks. Aki carved the mix over a few passes and a few last minute arrangement tweaks later we were done.