Driven by an endless love of funk, the ever-stylish Kamaal Malak is a man of music. A producer, songwriter, and bassist, Kamaal gained notoriety as the bassist for the Grammy Award-winning band Arrested Development. This was a perfect match for Kamaal, as the band’s diverse beats and embrace of Pan-African sound were exactly the kind of music he wanted to play. His fashionable threads accompanied the band’s eccentric African clothing, which helped the act go against the grain of the sex, drugs, and thug identity of the period’s rap music.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Kamaal’s family attended church on Sundays and listened to gospel music regularly. Going to church meant looking ready for worship, and so fashion and music were blended into his personality from a very early age. His mother was a talented seamstress who always kept him looking sharp. Kamaal’s attire matched his father’s motto: “Always dress to impress.”
“My father was a stylish cat,” Kamaal says. “In the pictures as kids, we were always in suits and ties. That gave me a sense of style and presentation. He always said, ‘You only get one chance to make an impression. Make it your best.’”
Fashion is a huge part of Kamaal’s life. He is known for his signature hats created by his designer brother, Khalil Jenkins. His Sunday best carries over to his adult life, as him standing in a crowd means others asking, “Is he famous?”
Kamaal picked up the bass guitar at an early age while singing and writing his own songs. Drawn to certain musical rhythms and beats, he fell in love with funk, jazz, rock, pop, soul, blues, and gospel music. His admiration of hometown jazz legends Stanley Clarke and Alphonso Johnson inspired Kamaal to write his own music.
“I honed my chops and became a part of the Philly scene, or what you can call the ‘Philly sound,’” Kamaal says. “I felt as though I needed to expand my horizons because Philly was known for its music and musicians, but there was not a lot of industry there at the time.”
In the early ’90s, Kamaal decided he needed to grow his musical talents. He left home to pursue the trending LA hip-hop music scene. He networked in the clubs, at shows, and joined The Musicians Union of Los Angeles. His first job was at Nadine’s Music Store, which was located right next door to Paramount Studios. One day at work, he was approached by Hip Hop producer Sir Jinx.
Kamaal explains, “Sir Jinx had asked me to come in and lay down some bass tracks. At the time I didn’t know what the final music would be, but I played on a lot of different tracks. Many of them ended up on some big pop and rap albums.” – Kamaal Malak
That meeting led to laying down bass tracks at the label with artists such as Third World Lover, Donna Delory, CeCe Peniston, and Chocolate Soul Genius. LA further opened up new producer and songwriter opportunities in hip-hop music and the film and television market.
In 1993, Kamaal felt that it was time to move on. The hip-hop scene was blowing up in Atlanta with artists like Kris Kros, TLC, OutKast, and Jermaine Dupri , so Kamaal headed east to be a part of it.
“I have always believed in being where the music is and at the time the music in Atlanta was jumping off the charts so I moved to Atlanta because I knew it was the place to be.” -Kamaal Malak
In Atlanta, he visited studios and navigated the music scene. He ran an ad in a local publication called Creative Loafing that simply said, “The Funk Is Here” with his phone number. He received a call from a DJ in Macon, Georgia who introduced him to tour manager David Norman. A prominent figure in the area’s music scene, David suggested Kamaal come down to the studio to meet with him. When Kamaal arrived Arrested Development was recording their second album, “Zingalamaduni,” for which David was also serving as the engineer. The band was headed out on their first world tour and their original bassist, Foley was unable to go because he got his own record deal. That random event plunged Kamaal into stardom as the band’s new bassist. They rehearsed for 3 weeks, headed out on tour and he was catapulted into immediate stardom with the group.
“It was one of those classic stories of being in the right place at the right time. They needed a bass player and asked me if I would want to go on tour and be a part of the group. From there it was history, my first gig was playing for Nelson Mandela in South Africa!” – Kamaal Malak
For three years he worked with the diverse 10 member band of artists ranging from ages 13 to 69. Their first show in South Africa was an event benefiting the African National Congress. They performed 11 shows with Peter Gabriel on his WOMAD Tour, played at Woodstock 94’ and made a guest appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman.
As hip-hop morphed into rap, the Atlanta music scene started to feel stale to Kamaal. He wanted to collaborate with more songwriters. He admits that Nashville was never on his radar because he perceived it was just a town for country music. After attending the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) summer conference, he changed his mind. It was there that he was introduced to the diversity of Nashville’s music scene.
“The music scene had changed in Atlanta, being a songwriter I wanted to write songs and collaborate, I felt that Nashville was a hub for songwriters so I moved and hit it off right away.” – Kamaal Malak
These days, Kamaal prefers to work behind the scenes rather than onstage. His production company KM Entertainment allows him to create music, as well as sound and video content. His work has been used in commercials, films, television shows, games, and interactive presentations around the globe. His client list includes the Atlanta Falcons, the Kentucky Derby, ComPub Music, Fox FX Networks, Coca-Cola, TBS, NBA, NFL, and MTV. He enjoys developing diverse beat compilations and is working on his own podcast called “How I Create Beats.” With the ever-changing landscape in the music industry, Kamaal’s talented, humble and soft-spoken demeanor will lead to many new exciting projects in the future.
For more information about Kamaal Malak, be sure to visit his website.
Thank you for reading and please share with other creatives. I hope that you’ll sign up for the Learn and Create newsletter to stay a part of this creative tribe! There is much more on the way!!
Do you know someone who would make for an interesting interview? Please feel free to reach out via email and social media! I’m always looking to connect.