Being invited to play Soundset can act as a barometer of who in the local rap scene is really pushing themselves and their craft forward. Each year a few up-and-coming artists get the chance to rock the same stage as certified legends, and MaLLy not only got the opportunity to play the festival this year, he also witnessed Slug wearing one of his T-shirts during Atmosphere's closing performance. "There's only a few things I could see ever making me cry, but looking at it and just watching it happen, I almost cried," MaLLy recalls. "It was the highest level of respect I've ever seen from any artist, especially one that's from here of his accolades and his stature.... He didn't have to do that, you know what I mean?"
The co-sign led to a Slug cameo in MaLLy's video for "Heir Time" and a notably higher profile. He chalks it up to good timing and being well prepared for the opportunity. MaLLy has been steadily dropping albums since 2007's The Letter (when he went by MaLLy from the 612), but teaming up with like-minded producer the Sundance Kid in 2010 for the ongoing "Free on the 15th" series helped catapult the young MC both musically and business-wise. "A big piece of it, too, was presentation and ease of access," says MaLLy, citing his improved takes on self-promotion. He recalls being told he was looked at to perform at Soundset in 2010 but was ultimately passed over. "I'm glad they didn't pick me in 2010; I can't even lie. Who knows if I would've capitalized on the moment as much as I did in 2011? I don't think I would have felt as prepared. I didn't really feel like I had a huge amount of momentum."
After a number of high-profile shows this past year, including opening for Grieves and Budo and Guilty Simpson, it's evident his momentum has been steadily increasing. "I definitely have taken the mistakes I learned from my last record and decided to do what I have to do to make myself stand out, in addition to just having good music. I want all avenues, from a business standpoint, to be sharp and on-point." With a slick design sense (also provided by the Sundance Kid), he associated each month's new free download with imagery, such as depictions of Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee, that visually sum up the track's confident energy and powerful tone. Along with the new sounds came a new philosophy, which MaLLy calls "HEIRoggance"; the term speaks to his humble confidence and yearning for success, all while maintaining a level of genuine humanity. As he prepares for the release of his next album, The Last Great, MaLLy intends to continue to "ride the wave" and push himself even further. [City Pages, October 2011]