Music

Haleek Maul

Haleek’s rap persona acts as a dark extension of himself. On paper, his words would have you believe the real life person (real name Malik) is a bona fide psycho—a sentiment that couldn’t be further from the truth.

By Matt Heidkamp - matt@citizenbrooklyn.com Photos by Icarus Blake Videos by Citizen Brooklyn, Raoul Beltrame and Collabo!

HALEEK MAUL Freestyling from Citizen Brooklyn on Vimeo.

Haleek Maul wants you to hear his words. He chooses them deliberately.

The seventeen-year-old MC, who splits time between his Brooklyn birthplace and Barbados, moves through our Union Square studio slowly, taking everything in. Soft-spoken, he politely introduces himself to us all and positions himself in front of the camera.

Hip-hop’s fundamental ground rests on the artist’s vocal prowess. It’s a source of much frustration for rappers like Haleek, who gravitate towards experimental, challenging beats that he feels sometimes out weigh the sheer force of his poetry. It’s an insidious claim to make given the brute strength of his lyrical content—death, pain, demons—really dark shit. But, I see his point.

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

In fact, Haleek popped onto my radar only after being highly touted by Chicago production duo Supreme Cuts (who put out a mixtape with Maul last year entitled Chrome Lips). It’s true. It was initially the future-y, smoked out beats of SupCuts that drew me into the record. I maintain only a casual listenership to rap and, prior to listening, would have preferred Chrome Lips sans the vocals. But, even through my beat fascination, Haleek’s flow stuck out on the release—it was aggressive and introspective at the same time and complimented the productions perfectly. It was clear that a rare young talent with a devilish rhythm was about to make his way to the foreground of diabolical lyricism.

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

Unfortunately, according to Haleek, not enough people listen to his words. The prolific beats he raps over may have given him a complex; one which instills a fear that listeners won’t actually hear what he’s saying. At the same time it pushes him, challenging him to constantly step up his game as a lyricist—pushing more boundaries and touching upon more taboo topics.

The words Haleek spits are no doubt provocative. They’re profane and would scare the shit out of most of middle America—a similar reaction Haleek gets in Barbados, where religious conservatism rules. His lyrics aren’t on par with contemporaries his age.

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

Haleek’s contemplations and his quiet understanding of the outside world set his lyrics consciously ahead of most young rappers. Nothing about his verses are surface level and you’d be hard pressed to find a track of his that doesn’t leave you with a feeling of unease. On his debut EP Oxyconteen (released last June), he mentions suicide, death or demons in every song, barring a minute-long Intro of ambient noise and the album’s closer, Forever, which deals with the feeling of immortality (whilst on Oxycontin, of course).

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

Haleek’s rap persona acts as a dark extension of himself. On paper, his words would have you believe the real life person (real name Malik) is a bona fide psycho—a sentiment that couldn’t be further from the truth. He is aware of the image he portrays and mirrors his Haleek Maul project to parallel the darkest of thoughts that he, and presumably, everyone else has.

Outside of this dark extension of himself, Haleek is a pretty humble dude. He prefers Bjork to hip-hop and feels more connected to visual art rather than music. He counts Harmony Korine, Gaspar Noe and Jean-Michel Basquiat among his favorites. The latter he expressed as being especially influential.

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

Staring off into the distance, he marvels on thoughts of JMB for a while, then makes a few casual comments about the waves in Barbados. He chuckles and comments about the populous of good-looking girls in New York. Then, as the cameras begin to role, smiles fade and Haleek’s focus is locked in once he begins to spit an apocalyptic a cappella.

Time to listen.

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