Mala Rodriguez commands attention. She has an uncanny way of making people stop and focus solely on her. It might be that she beholds the “it” factor or because she’s an attractive woman. Whatever it is, as soon as she takes the stage, all eyes are on her. Everyone waits for her to speak.
In a recent gig at the Bowery Ballroom during the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC) in New York City, the 29-year-old performed a stellar set and did something remarkable. She walked across the dark-lit stage in a tight black skirt and top with stilettos, grabbed the mic, looked at the audience, and told them to be quiet. When they didn’t obey, she told them again and again until the only one that could be heard was her. Rodriguez then commanded the crowd to crouch down to the floor. They laughed a bit, but she wasn’t kidding. She told them, kindly again. While some listened, this wasn’t good enough for her.
“Is there a problem with this communication?” she asks in a lecturing Castilian tone.
And that is all it took. Everyone then squatted down. As soon as they were at her feet, she smiled, which cued the music and the show was under way, after she told them they could all get up of course.
“There is a point during the shows when everyone becomes one thing,” Rodriguez says.
“I have moments on stage where I’ll have a connection with the audience and everything is fantastic.”
Spain’s reigning queen of Spanish hip-hop didn’t get to her throne by chance. Rodriguez began her climb to the top as a kid fascinated by art and music in her hometown of Cadiz. Since the early ‘90s, Rodriguez’s passion for R&B and hip-hop intensified and in 1996, she had her first onstage performance. With buzz growing about a female MC, Rodriguez, who was now going by the stage name Mala, began working with Sevillian acts, such as SFDK, La Gota Que Colma, and La Alta Escuela.
Rodriguez’s collaborations began to surge in the late ‘90s and in 2000 she released her debut album Lujo Iberico. Her international draw came with notable singles, including "Yo Marco el Minuto" featured on the 2001 film Lucía y el Sexo, as well as “Afila el Colmillo” alongside Titan for the movie Y Tu Mamá También in 2002. She then released Alevosia in 2003, which featured the controversial smash song “La Niña” about a female drug dealer. Four years later, Rodriguez debuts Malamarismo, a completely different style of music which shows growth while still carrying that edge she has always brought to her lyrics. Part of that edge Rodriguez encompasses is that she wants complete power over everything she does, which shows in Malamarismo. “I like to control my work,” she states. “I don’t want someone else doing it for me. I rather make a mistake instead of the person I am working with.”
Currently, the mother of one seeks to get more hands on, not just with her lyrics, but with every aspect that goes into making an album. “Honestly, all I care about is releasing my creativity,” she explains. “I would like to learn how to produce. I like to direct things.” And Mala’s appeal continues to expand. She’s worked with major hit makers, such as Calle 13, Julieta Venegas, and Tego Calderon on Malamarismo. However, she doesn’t dare say who she aspires to work with next. “I don’t like to say because I want those artists to surprise me.” One of those musicians she’s gotten into recently could be someone she may be working with in the near future.
“The last album I bought was from Juanes,” she states. “I know it’s rare that I like him, but I saw his album at the store and it was at a good price, so I picked it up. There is something really beautiful about him, something very special. He is very pure. Aside from image and all of that, I like artists who cross boundaries.”
It’s evident by her genuine smile that Rodriguez isn’t pretentious and that her deep, real life lyrics in hip-hop music isn’t a passing fad because she’s the one doing the designating. “Once you are focused and have your ideas in order, you’re able to take control of the wheel.”
To learn more about Mala Rodriguez, click here.