When talking about the hottest rappers in Australia right now, Melbourne’s Miko Mal (f.k.a Babyface Mal) is definitely at the top.
He had a big 2022, releasing his The Crib, Vol.2 EP, but it’s undeniable that 2023 feels like Mal’s proper breakout year. Seemingly unable to drop anything considered “average,” Mal’s consistency makes it feel like we’re watching a future star blossom before our eyes.
His latest single, “Online”, released today, comes just two weeks after Mal releases a HoodBars freestyle and roughly a month after his “Erling Haaland (Elet Adab)” anthem. If you listen to any Mal song, including the latter, two things are guaranteed: authenticity and humour, and he delivers both and more on “Online”.
In modern day hip hop, fans often struggle trying to decipher what’s real and what isn’t, especially in Australia, where many mainstream sounds, topics, and bars are frequently copied and tend to lack authenticity and originality more often than not. Mal is one (of many) exceptions. On “Online”, Mal touches on shady dealings and street crime, but from the perspective of a mentor detailing his own past and experiences.
His approach on “Online” immediately grabs your attention. It’s the horns at first, but Mal’s tenacious cadence quickly refocuses the listener. The track is littered with Call of Duty references, witty bars such as “…she talking ’bout moon and sun, tell her I’m Capricorn and Sagittarius, she don’t believe me I’m two in one,” and personal references to family members.
For many rappers, “Online” would be their best track, and it would be everywhere for months. But for Mal, he’s it feels like just another step in his upward trajectory – there’s more work to be done, which is what currently separates him from many of his contemporaries.
Mal’s creative prowess is intensely thoughtful. Going back further, February’s “Bubblin Up (Get Fizzy)” found Mal taking inspiration from Jersey club, a large contrast from last year’s “Ya Rab”, where he switched between his native Egyptian/Turkish tongue and English over traditional instrumentation, throwing in several cultural references.
“I wanna bring the creativity back to music…I just wanna bring a vibe back,” said Mal on Take Flight in April last year, and 17 months on, he’s been true to his word.
Casting eyes forward, it’s looking bright for Mal. His pen is strong, being able to mesh witty lines that connect across borders. He brings presence and charisma to the mic, his presence being further felt throughout Melbourne whenever he drops, to which he always represents, whether it’s through the visuals for his videos which are extremely Naarm-centric, or lines mentioning suburbs or landmarks that connect local listeners to his message.
Mal is joining Chillinit on his upcoming tour starting next month, and will also drop a set at Yours & Owls Festival, sharing a spot on the poster with people like Earl Sweatshirt, Lil Tjay, and Bakar, very much in his element.
Mike Mal’s “Online” is out now via Warner Music Australia.