Rather than traffic in pre-existing lanes, innovators divert from the beaten path and carve out their own trails.
Oliver Malcom decided not to wait around for another wave. Instead, he caught his own. The Swedish-born and Los Angeles-based 19-year-old singer, producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist went from producing bangers behind-the-scenes for the likes of IDK and Joey Bada$$ to introducing a raw, raucous, and real signature style. On his Darkroom debut, he actualizes a daring, dangerous, and dynamic ambition with a lot of attitude.
“It’s too easy to be boxed in to a perception of what you’re supposed to be,” he explains. “People are scared to break the mold. I needed to do something new and innovative though. A year ago, I thought, ‘I can already produce. Why can’t I sing? If no one is going to make this sound I’m hearing in my head, fuck it, I might as well just do it myself’. There wasn’t going to be five writers in the studio; this was going to come straight from my heart. I’m writing this shit for me.”
A crazy journey pre-destined him to do so. Born in Stockholm during 1999, he moved to the UK at two-years-old. He initially fell in love with Eminem after hearing “Lose Yourself” on a friend’s Sony PSP handheld game system. Soon, he consumed everything from Dr. Dre and Tupac (on the way to school with pops) to MGMT. At 12-years-old, he picked up a £50 DJ deck and taught himself how to spin records. With this foundation, he downloaded a cracked version of Logic and became immersed in beat-making. After living in 14 different houses around the UK, mom decided the family should move to Los Angeles.
By his sixteenth birthday, he settled in Little Armenia. Lonely, yet driven, he entered local beat battles and went so far as to find Pete Rock’s geo-location on an Instagram post in order to pass the MC a USB-stick of beats. Under the moniker Bigg Kid, he made a name for himself as a producer and added keys, guitar, and bass to his musical arsenal. Among a bevy of cuts, he cooked up “Pizza Shop” [feat. Yung Gleesh, MF Doom, & Del The Funky Homosapien] for IDK. He also turned heads by co-producing IDK’s “Lil Arrogant” [feat. Joey Bada$$ & Russ] with Lo-Fi. By 2019, he found himself in the studio with everyone from Cee Lo Green and Jay Rock to Tinashe, Ari Lennox, and AlunaGeorge.
Along the way, Oliver quietly developed his voice as an artist.
“I spent a lot of time experimenting,” he says. “I didn’t want to be the same as everyone else. One day, I woke up and started making a beat. I was so tired I wasn’t even thinking. I began singing, and it finally felt right. That was the first song I ever made.”
It’s also his first single entitled “Switched Up.” He constructed his own sample out of a midi-keyboard guitar track, chopped it up, and added drums, crafting an ominous soundscape punctuated by robotic spoken word, falsetto, a ringing phone, and a screech of strings. The verses indulge in lyrical paranoia as his voice stretches from evocative melodies into a confessional chorus, “Please don’t call, don’t trust no one, no more.”
“When I moved out to Los Angeles, I lost touch with my friends in the UK,” he sighs. “They never called to check up on me. After they started to see me in the studio on social media, they suddenly asked to visit and hang out. It was fucked up, so I’m talking about how they switched up. In another sense, it’s also like I switched up from producer to artist. There are multiple meanings.”
By being himself through and through, Oliver ultimately lights the way for more innovation to follow as he smashes every wall between genres and delivers something wholly his own.
“It’s a crazy time we live in, man,” he leaves off. “I want to show that there’s good music on the horizon. I’m prepared to push the culture, fucking come in, storm the industry, and turn the whole thing upside down. I want to be that light at the end of the tunnel.”