Mali Music, an undeniably talented and inspiring Christian singer who ditched the gospel niche to find "freedom" in the mainstream music industry last year through a deal with RCA Records, released his first R&B/soul album with the company last week, but maintains that he is still on "assignment from God" despite critics arguing that he isn't.
"Sittin' back, reflecting on one of the most memorable days of my life!! A lot has happened and there's EVEN MORE to come. I'm grateful for and focused on my assignment from God. So stay tuned....it's gonna be a BEAUTIFUL journey!" wrote the 26-year-old singer whose real name is Kortney Jamaal Pollard on his Facebook page Sunday.
Mali Music, who released his first mainstream album with RCA on June 17, says many Christians were surprised when he announced he was going mainstream and made hurtful pronouncements on his decision without fully understanding what he would be doing.
"Initially it was a shock. No one knew what was going on. Especially with the second coming, my first album, was heavy, heavy, heavy gospel, spirit-filled content," he explained in an interview with the Yolanda Adams Morning Show last October.
"Going from singing lyrics like 'all the glory belongs to you oh God' to what they (fans) don't know. But all they know is that I probably won't be singing that next to Akon…They think it was really bad and I was hurt," he said.
He says he went mainstream because the deal with RCA allowed him to reach and inspire more people with the message he was already sharing with the proverbial choir.
"I went mainstream because it was a wonderful opportunity. I love gospel music. I grew up listening to it. I have a lot of wonderful friends who are into gospel music but there is this unspoken ceiling on top of it like we only know that there is so far that we can go and I didn't want to settle for that," he told the Yolanda Adams Morning Show.
"And I guess that it is the second or next generation's job to push the envelope and create a greater avenue for our sons and for our children to be able to go. And I thought it would be great for the kingdom. Great for the ministry and great for my life," he said.
Last week, in an interview with Vibe Vixen, Mali Music reiterated that ambition.
"I wanted to be able to have an opportunity to [reach] statuses with people I admire like your James Browns, Bob Marleys, and Michael Jacksons and in order to do it, I had to enter into the professional industry that they were in," said the 26-year-old.
"Not to succumb or to conform to them, but to inspire them, to be myself within and possibly build a platform to make it easier for people with heart like me, people with songs like me, and people with content like me in the future. Imagine if Lauryn Hill and the Fugees never opened up and came into this; if they kept everything underground and Common stayed underground. It's the fact they went mainstream because they had something so special that it went beyond their core and I believe that's what has happened. It's just an expansion, so I haven't changed," he said.
He explained that even when he was operating in the gospel music industry he never really fit the traditional gospel mold.
"Of course you have 'Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…' but I never had those type of songs you know what I mean like, one of the gospel singles from my gospel album was called 'I Hate You.' [Laughs] Even when I was in gospel, my whole thing was controversial," he said.
"One of the lyrics from my quote on quote 'gospel' songs is 'I'm tired of meeting up, feeling one way, beaten broken down and I'm hungry and I'm needing and I'm wanting and I leave the way I came. Will I ever change? The church is busy shouting raising offering and they never ever pay attention to the needs of the lost anymore," he said.
"So I was always kicking it from a true place. It's funny because when I would come into the churches everybody is all suited up and beautiful. I was always a part of it (church culture) but never a part of it so it's very good. I was like, if I'm not gonna belong to anything I was gonna do it on a major platform and be able to touch as many rejects and outcasts as I can," he said.
When asked about the difference between his creativity in producing explicitly gospel music to what he is doing now, he said "freedom" bluntly.
"I can go and do, play, and sing when or how I want. I don't have to think about or over-evaluate offense. It's a lot easier to offend people than make them happy you know? So I think just the freedom of it – like if I wanted to sing a song about this I can because there is no cant's and I like that freedom because it causes what I do choose to do to have more value you know?" he said.
"I think that's just what it was. I could be more of myself and I can introduce myself a lot more which is why the album is called Mali Is… because everybody has such an idea kind of like when John Legend released his initial album and somebody only downloaded his 'Ordinary People' single, they wouldn't have heard the hip-hop beat on 'Let's Get Lifted' and they would have categorized him as just a piano balladeer. Not recognizing that he was rocking on hip-hop beats too so when they went to the concert they might have been confused," he noted.
"So Mali Is… is a introduction of all the aspects of me ummm you know with all my heart, my content, my musical liking, my flow, my cadence, my confidence and my humility you know what I mean? So it's gonna be really good and I think the only word that can describe all of it is 'new' or something that I don't believe anyone has heard before. It's reminiscent of a little bit of that and a little bit of this but it's a new concoction and I can't wait for the world to hear it," he said.
Since hearing it some of the singer's former critics like Shane Marshall have softened their initial outrage over his decision to change platforms.
"I was initially disappointed to hear so much about Mali's "cross-over"...I mean, hurt to the core to see another great gospel artist fall off the wagon. HOWEVER THIS DOES NOT SEEM TO BE THE CASE!!! Mali music is definitely continuing his journey in preaching the gospel with JUST another style," wrote Marshall in the comments section of a copy of the singer's album on YouTube.
"I was definitely blessed by all of the songs on this new album! He really IS doing what God asked us to do...GO out and preach the gospel...Us Christians are not the only ones who need to hear the word.... and not everyone is able to hear the gospel that (sic) way that we're accustomed to hearing it," he said.
Critic Johnas Maurice, however, didn't agree in his comment on another video interview posted on YouTube.
"Is it just me but didn't Christ say if I be lifted up? Most of you say he is reaching people and God is more than 4 walls or we are attacking mali etc..his music doesn't lift up Christ or mention God. How is he reaching the world for Christ through his music? Help me understand," said Maurice.
"Because if I'm not saved and heard his songs now they don't tell me about the Christ you serve or how to gain salvation. Christians today are so accepting of everything, we have become lukewarm, weak in our stance on the word of God. Mali should be held accountable by other believers because that's what the word says," he ended.
LISTEN TO MALI MUSIC's NEW ALBUM MALI IS BELOW: