Malik Sanders, better known as Malik Ninety Five, is the triple threat we’ve been waiting for. The New Orleans bred rapper, producer, and songwriter deviates from typical bounce music popularized in NOLA to achieve his unique “high energy and melody driven” sound. Nevertheless, the music lends an ear to traditional hip-hop fans, and nods towards 90s/early 2000s hip-hop with its syncopated beats and substantive lyrics. Malik stays true to the genre while playing around with elements of deep house. His latest release, the four track EP Playlist: 002 is comprised of clean raps and catchy melodic hooks that paint a vivid image of what it’s like to be a young, hustling artist.
Among the new faces we’ve observed in Los Angeles, Malik is definitely one that piques our interest. His impressive repertoire includes opening for Yung Lean, Blackbear, and Sango and Montebooker, as well as performing at SXSW and Voodoo Festival – sharing the bill with several high-profile artists like Kendrick Lamar and Miguel. More recently, Malik’s single “Right Now” has been featured as #9 on Tidal’s “The Newest of New Orleans Hip-Hop,” placing the multi-faceted artist in the high ranks.
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Read the interview below to learn more about Malik Ninety Five!
All photos taken by Julian Essink.
What’s the meaning behind Ninety Five?
Before I left New Orleans, I remember I had these songs and I didn’t know what to call myself. I went to my mom’s room, looked on the TV and there was a quote. It was the wildest shit. It was literally a black screen, and it said “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” It felt like I was meant to do music, so I chose the year I was born – ’95.
How would you characterize your sound? Are there any artists right now that you’re aiming to sound like?
I try to shy away from sounding like particular people. Of course, I have my influences; the Pharrells and the Kanyes that you look up to in the industry. You know – the predecessors that you always think are cool. You wanna be in that, but at the same time those people are very original. You won’t make it anywhere trying to copy someone else’s shit.
I’d describe my music as high energy, melody driven with a lot of lyrical influence. I listen to different genres too. It could be anything from any time period. If it inspires me, then it eventually spills over into my music.
“You won’t make it anywhere trying to copy someone else’s shit.“
Is the slow music progression in NOLA the reason why you moved out?
Yeah, it was love out there. It was for sure love, but there’s only so far you can go.
So you just dipped.
Yeah, it was crazy. I was out in London for all of August, and then I got back. I was planning on moving out to LA. I walked out of my house and I looked out on the street, and I saw nothing. There was nothing. Keep in mind, I’m coming back from all these life experiences. I get back home and I don’t see anything – empty. That was the coolest part, because I had the possibility of changing it. So I changed it.
“I get back home and I don’t see anything – empty. That was the coolest part, because I had the possibility of changing it. So I changed it.”
Since you’ve moved to LA have things been moving at the pace you expected them to?
Way faster. We came out here and I already had a few shows set up. It’s something we had to prep for, because we didn’t expect to move so fast. I want to stop a little bit, and focus more on making the music.
Are you working on a new project? Is it similar to Playlist: 002?
I wanna say yeah. Listeners should definitely expect a story told within the my next project. I did [Playlist: 002] all by myself, and I really tested my and my abilities. So this will be an even bigger test, because I know exactly what I want to create. I don’t want to be stagnant.
Are there any producers or DJs that you want to collaborate with?
I look for people like sessions players. If I had someone on call that plays piano or guitar, I’d punch out like ten songs a day. Half the battle is creating something inspiring. All you really need is something people can sing along to.
“Half the battle is creating something inspiring. All you really need is something people can sing along to.”
Considering what you just said, do you think that a song needs to be catchy for it to be considered good?
It depends what you want to create, and where you want to go career-wise. I just know that we want to have the biggest in whatever we do. We ain’t brushing that shit off. If anybody says they don’t want to make it big, then they’re lying. Legit.
I heard that you have a schedule set up on your phone that includes piano lessons. Can you tell me more about that?
Laughs. I haven’t actually done any of the lessons yet. I’m trying. It’s just hard waking up everyday and forcing myself to do it, especially when I know people that can do it. I know so many talented people that can play.
I know you started making music when you were 14. During that time, what were you using to teach yourself production?
Well, we used to record shit in my room until my mom kicked us out. I used to record on this program called Mixcraft, and I took my little brother’s computer. He was five or six at the time; he didn’t need no fucking computer. Anyway, I took it and downloaded the software. I taught myself on that. I didn’t know any techniques, but I knew how to make it sound good specific to me and my homies’ voices.
“I didn’t know any techniques, but I knew how to make it sound good specific to me and my homies’ voices.”
Has it always been music?
Always. It’s just been instilled in me. It’s what was always cool to me. There aren’t too many ways to impact people’s lives, and this is how I want to do it. This one track could change your entire day. Especially in America, people always wonder why entertainers and athletes get paid so well. They’re some impactful mother fuckers.
Do you think as you climb up and receive more attention you’ll still maintain this level of humility?
Where we at you can tell the real from the fake shit. I’m definitely gonna be the same, and look out for the people that have been there from the go. There’s always gonna be new people coming along, but you can tell which ones are genuine.
Keep up with Malik and his up-coming shows by following him on: