Interview: Haleek Maul

May 29, 2012

Haleek Maul is a 15-year-old rapper from Barbados with an uncanny knack for dark, contemplative music, like if Drake and his island's most famous expat, Rihanna, adopted a baby who was always sad. His incredible debut EP, Oxyconteen, comes out June 18th, featuring an impressive selection of producers like Supreme Cuts, The-Drum and King Britt. Later this summer, Mishka will release Maul's joint mixtape with Supreme Cuts. Stream "88," his newest track from the EP, below, and read our interview about growing up online and conquering music from a computer in the Caribbean.

Stream: Haleek Maul, "88" (Prod. by The-Drum)

Where are you? I’m in Barbados right now, but I’m originally from New York, and always I go back for the summer. I’ve been here mad long, though, since when I was little. I live next to a noisy ass highway, and the highway is next to a beach, totally serene. It’s kind of crazy. But it’s a whole lot easier to make original music here, because I can just choose not to listen to radio, or choose not to watch TV, and it pretty much shuts me off from everything. Have you ever been to the beach really late at night? And have you ever realized that the water seems to hit the rocks so much harder? A quiet anger, sort of. Throughout the day, you don’t realize that because kids are playing and being all jubilant and shit. The truth is, maybe the ocean is angry 24/7, and you don’t realize it until everything else quiets down. That’s how I like to look at my music.

How did your taste develop? I’m a huge nerd. I’ve been on the internet since I was around eight at least. I’ve seen it all. I was making my own beats ever since I was 11. I’ve been planning this project since I was 12, 13. When I got into secondary school, my best friend, Shannon, she was into everything. She was into Fuck Buttons and Otto von Schirach, French electro. I remember when Justice brought out Cross, we were flipping our shit. When the first Fever Ray LP came out? Replay for months. I used to spend all my time on Hypebeast, just admiring artists. Producers especially, because I was heavy into the beat scene. It was so crazy, I just got open to this whole new world that no one that I really knew, aside from two of my friends, knew about. In 2011, I told myself I’d be serious about my rap career. Now I’m just an Outkast boy. I listen to Aquemini and ATLiens at least twice a week, like straight through. And I listen to Lost Boyz’ Legal Drug Money, it’s a sick album. I just like the fact that they’re so raw. But I set up that to say this: I’m into the beat scene.

What about the Chicago producers on the EP, Supreme Cuts and The-Drum? I used to fan-boy out and add people on Facebook. I got put on to Supreme Cuts last summer from my friend Robert Disaro, who runs the Disaro label, and he gave me their email. At that time, I didn’t have any raps out, so I didn’t expect them to email me back. I sent them my beat page of beats I used to make, and they were like, ‘Your stuff reminds me of William Basinski.’ At the time I didn’t even know he was, but that made me really happy. Austin from Supreme Cuts gave me his number, so I called him, and he was like, ‘Tell us what you’re about.’ I just sat on the stoop and dropped a freestyle. Austin told me he thought I had an English accent, and he thought I sounded like a grime rapper, and that was why he liked it. He asked me what my favorite rap album was, and I told him Aquemini, and at the exact same time we said our favorite song was “Art of Storytellin’ (Part 2),” and we’ve been buds since. I’m on every single track of their new mixtape for Mishka. And through Supreme Cuts, I hooked up with The-Drum.

Can you picture yourself rapping at 24? Yup. I could do a lot of other things, and I’m doing accounting courses at school, but the truth is, none of that shit fazes me. I see so much more in speaking to people and relating to people. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but people just spend their time doing idle shit. It’s not even funny. I just never understood it. If we just instill in people from very young ages that you can do something productive, you can be a member of society… I think some kids hold onto the crutch of being a minor, and that bothers me.

Interview: Haleek Maul