2017 was a banner year for Steven Malcolm. His self-titled debut project for IVAV resulted in the first single, “Hot Boy,” receiving national recognition from NBA on ESPN with airplay through 2016-2017. The second single from Steven Malcolm, “Party In The Hills (feat. Andy Mineo and Hollyn),” was featured on Spotify’s “New Music Friday” playlist of 2017 and VH1’s “Black in Crew,” while garnering 700,000 views online. The hip-hop artist from Grand Rapids, Michigan was featured on the “2017 Winter Jam Tour” and performed for over 650,000 people. This success led to Malcolm being nominated for three Dove Awards, New Artist of the Year, Rap/Hip Hop Album of the Year (Steven Malcolm) and Rap/Hip Hop Recorded Song of the Year (“Party In The Hills feat. Andy Mineo and Hollyn)", along with a powerful live performance of “Party In The Hills” with Hollyn at the Dove Awards. This was followed by another high-profile tour, Sadie Robertson’s “Live Original Tour,” that ran Oct. – Nov. 2017. Never one to rest on his laurels, Malcolm is taking his music to the next level in 2018 beginning with the release of his latest EP, The Second City - Part 1 in January. The Second City – Part 1, was executive produced by Word Entertainment’s Senior Director, A&R, Joseph Prielozny, and features four new songs written or co-written by Malcolm. Guest artists on the record include Taylor Hill, Anderson Michael and Zauntee. The Second City – Part 1 is the first of a four-part rollout, with the three other EP’s being released each quarter in 2018. The EP, which is an homage to the nickname given by locals to Montego Bay, Jamaica, where Malcolm's father hails from, is a sonic journey of infectious beats mixed with tried and true tales of divine redemption and worship. We recently caught up with the amiable Malcolm to discuss his latest project and how he keeps his success from getting the best of him.
If there is one message you hope people take away after listening to this EP, what would it be?
I hope people see the hope and redemption that was captured with my relationship with Jesus and how it transformed my life.
Lyrically, you display a range and sound that harkens to artists like Kendrick Lamar. Is he an influence? Who are some of the artists that inspire you?
It's crazy. I take it as a compliment though. Bro, Kendrick is not one of my musical influences, that's what's crazy about it. I feel like Kendrick is dope and I enjoy his album, but I'm not the guy that's like, K-Dot, K-Dot, K-Dot. My biggest, overall, musical influences are Michael Jackson and Bob Marley. Like them two are basically the foundation of why I do my art, aside from Jesus. But musically, rap-wise, I love Travis Scott and Drake.
What I think it is [that reminds others of Lamar] is that I'm a super hip-hop head. I love being lyrical and I love trying to paint a picture with words, so it's probably that. That and the voice tone. Because I got that light tone and I know Kendrick has that too, so it's probably that. But its super dope, Kendrick is one of the best right now so it is a compliment.
So how did you get into music?
I went to this hip-hop church up here in Grand Rapids and I grew up in the hip-hop culture. My thing was I was in the streets hooping, doing graffiti, b-boying, and freestyling in the ciphers, that's just how I grew up. I was always freestyling and rapping with my boys growing up. But in 2010 I went to this hip-hop church and I found the Lord and I gave my life to him. After a year of serving, getting to really know who Jesus is King and the foundation of what it means to really follow him, my pastor was like, 'Yo, it's time for you to get up and serve, serve God's people, serve the church.' So I was like, let me get on the worship team because I rap a little bit. I hopped on stage and just fell in love with using my gifts to glorify Jesus and spread the gospel. It was a way for me to express this and take this gospel thing around the world.
You had a tremendous 2017 with the release of your debut album and the various accolades it received. How do you keep this newfound success and fame from becoming a distraction? How do you maintain focus and vision in light of your newfound status?
It's been crazy in the fact of just having new problems. That's really it. Your life 180 degrees and you have new problems, new goals, and new obstacles to get over and new prayers to throw up. But I would say honestly, just keeping it all in perspective and continuing to work hard and be super grateful.
If you could work with one artist in the game who would it be?
Probably Drake [Laughs.] I throw Drake on a hook bro!
Visually, your music videos have a high level of creativity and artistry. Do you have input in the visuals and concepts?
Absolutely, it's definitely a team effort. On our squad we have this one cat named Jacob Henley, shout out to him, he's our creative director at IVAV, and he's just a creative human being. I don't know, his brain is on another planet. So I just let him know my vision and he adds his spices and so we've always just come up with crazy ideas. Like, "Watch" was my idea and "Fadeaway" was his idea. You know with "Fadeaway" it was unique because he was like we should remake Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video and saw the video and I was like that is super dope and I used to play basketball in high school so it all connects. We all come together as a team and push the envelope.
How do you continue to push the envelope, be artistic, but not lose the message of Christ?
One thing that I love about my music that I always have done is people will be like the sound of my music is really current, really mainstream, but if you dissect the verses, I can preach from the pulpit. I love it, God is good.
What is your evaluation of the Christian Hip Hop scene? Who are some of the artists you are excited for in 2018?
Christian Hip-Hop I feel is growing and there is a market for it. People love it, need it, want it. I feel like its growing through people like Lecrae and the cats at Reach Records who have really honed in on their gifts and glorified Jesus with it. I feel like it's in a good spot. There is a whole thing like, I'm not a Christian rapper, I'm a rapper that is Christian, that I feel is super lame. I'm here to push the culture of CHH (Christian hip-hop). Some artists that I'm super excited about are, honestly, my own camp here in Grand Rapids, Infinity Music Group. We are doing our thing here, shout out Beacon Light, Beezy, Kevi, Isaiah, we doing our thing over here. Another guy is Torey D'Shaun, he's super dope from St. Loius, Rockstar JT, he's from Alabama, and they are super dope cats. Shout out to the homie KB; Social Club Misfits album just dropped and its super dope. There are a lot of good things going on with Christian Hip-Hop.
What would be your main message on faith that you would like to share?
I just want to inspire the world in the truth of Jesus through hip-hop.