Malik Mays, who performs as Mahawam, tells Out in the Bay their music is “about resilience, it’s about power, it’s about beauty, it’s about sex.”
Mays grew up between Arizona and Texas with a single mother. In their early twenties, Mays settled in Oakland where they’ve lived since 2013. Like many in the Bay, Mays shares living space with six other people, including their partner.
There’s a chicken coop in the backyard and a garden where Mays grows mugwort. “I got it because I wanted to try to be a psychonaut and kick up my dreamspace another level,” says Mays. “It’s supposed to induce vivid dreams if you make a tea of it, but I read up on it and apparently ingesting large enough quantities can be dangerous.”
Mays released their first EP, Is An Island, two years ago, giving them the confidence to take their artistry to the next level and embrace aspects of their personality they had rejected. Previously, “wanting to be recognized as good took precedence over wanting to be recognized,” they say. “You weren’t seeing my queerness, my queer nature, you weren’t seeing the comedy, you weren’t seeing Blackness.”
The intersection which Mays lives makes their work inherently political, but they say they “also just want to be a dope rapper.”
Hear Mahawam’s music and their conversation with producer Truc Nguyen about the musician’s next project and more on this week’s Out in the Bay. You can watch one of Mahawam’s artistic music videos on YouTube (and hear and read the lyrics we couldn’t broadcast on terrestrial radio).
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Photo of Mahawam courtesy of Malik Mays