A few weeks ago, The Starboy team visited Brighton for their first show on the south coast of the UK. During their stay, Maleek Berry spoke to our music correspondent on his career and what fans can look forward to from him in the near future.
Who is Maleek Berry?
I’m a creative artist.
How did you become a fan of music?
I’ve always been into music ever since I could remember
How did you initially start music production?
I started properly when I was around 15 years old, playing around with some production software. I took it more serious when I began to learn the keys.
What music genres majorly influence you?
I’m influenced by all types of music. I generally don’t have limits. That’s how I’m able to use sounds from all over in one production.
Who where the producers that inspired you then, to begin music production?
Rodney Jerkins, Pharrell, Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, Bryan Michael Coz & The Underdogs.
You came into public knowledge years ago in Davido’s pre-mainstream career. How did both of you meet?
His cousin, who I went to university with introduced us.
Many assumed since you maintained a close working relationship with Davido, you were to naturally progress into HKN. Why didn’t you?
At that time, it was really early stages in HKN, it was like a family then, not really a fully fledged label as it is now.
How proud are you of him and his movement?
I never miss the chance to tell him every time we speak. I always knew he was going to be a star. I guess that’s why I aligned with him so early on. He always had charisma and a love for creating songs.
One of your earliest mainstream hits, Sauce Kid – Carolina (ft. Davido). How did that track come about and what did it do for your career?
Well, I wasn’t exactly present in the session. I left some beats on Davido’s computer and that was one of the ones they picked to use. The rest is history. It did a lot, but at the same time it was weird because most people still don’t know I actually produced that record. I didn’t mention my name in the track. I definitely learned my lesson.
What effect does being based in the UK have in your career? seeing as the Major Afrobeats stars are based back home.
I guess it just gives me more space to breathe. I can escape whenever I want and just clock out from “the matrix”. When I come back I’m always more refreshed. In terms of networking it doesn’t really make a difference because most people I need are just a phone call away.
Let’s talk Starboy, how did you meet Wizkid initially ?
I actually met Wiz through David.
What do you think made him want to sign you?
I think it was the fact that I had that “international” sound, in the midst of all of the music that everyone else in Nigeria was making.
The news of you signing to Wiz was released with your officially Starboy single, The Matter which was gone on to be one of Wizkid’s top hits. Did you know the song will be this big? How did it affect your career ?
I really didn’t think it was a hit at first. But Wiz was so confident about it that we dropped it the same day we created it. It definitely had a huge impact on my career. Everybody knew my name.
Except production, do you contribute creatively to Wizkid’s craft?
Not really, just production mostly.
What is the synergy between you and the other Starboy producers?
We are like brothers. We learn from each other all the time, not just musically.
You released a cover of Loyal to positive reviews, are we ever going to get official singles from you as an vocalist?
Possibly. I’ve been recording my own music for a long time. I just recently did my first feature on a friend’s track called “They Know (Wan Mo)”. His name is Ikes. We’ve done work together before. it’s something different for the Nigerian industry. People will understand when the video drops.
How did you personally manoeuvre the brief Davido and Wizkid misunderstanding, seeing as you are close to the both parties involved?
One thing I can say I am gifted at is minding my own business. It’s just exercising wisdom really. I never get involved in those kind of situations because as soon as people make up, you may look a little silly in the end.
Did you at any point try and liaise with both parties involved In attempt of a resolve?
Do you have plans of relocating to Nigeria?
Possibly in the future. I love Nigeria. As of now, I’m back and forth.
Are you working with any UK local acts?
Yes I just produced Fuse ODG’s new release. Lots more coming this year. Don’t want to speak to much. I’m superstitious haha!
How conducive do you feel the Nigerian industry is for the producer today?
I always say that the music industry in Nigeria is not built for producers to ‘benefit’ only artists and labels. The only producers that will stand the test of time are the smart ones that can actually build a brand.
What Nigerian producers are currently your favourites?
Legendury Beatz, Shizzi, Jazzy, Cobhams, Sarz and Del B.
You and Wande Coal make great music together. How did you both meet?
Funny enough the first time we met wasn’t face to face but the first time was on Skype years ago while I was talking to Davido and he just popped up on the camera. Ever since we have remained close. His new album is going to be amazing.
Which artistes have you worked with void of public knowledge?
That would be telling! Haha
What artistes do you hope to work with? Locally and internationally
I still want to work with Tiwa Savage. I would love to write with her. She understands real songwriting. Also D’ija from Mavins. I think she has superstar potential.
You have a very strong brand presence and it seems you have some plans. What are the plans for the Maleek Berry brand?
I don’t like talking about my plans to much, but I’m glad you noticed, so I guess my what I’m doing is actually working, and i give thanks to God always for that.
But on a serious note. I just want to be a major contributor in helping birth new levels of creativity. Not just in the music industry but in every creative sector in Africa as a whole. I have a creative company called Berry’s Room and I will be doing a lot of stuff with that.
It’s been good speaking to you. What can we expect from you this year?
New singles. Possibly a project. More awesomeness.