Gospel rapper Mali Music released his debut album, ‘2econd Coming’ in 2009, but it’s his appearance on the 2011 BET Awards (as part of the channel’s showcase of new talent) that earned him the most buzz. So impressed was Akon with Mali’s sound, he personally requested to meet him, and later signed on to co-manage him.

Not comfortable with classifying his brand of inspirational hip-hop as only gospel, Mali says he believe he’s on the verge of a new genre.

We spoke with the Georgia native about his church background, working with Akon, and working on his upcoming album, ‘Mali Is.”

ESSENCE.com: Where did the name Mali Music come from?
My full name is Kourtney Jamaal Pollard, but in the South everyone calls me by my middle name, which is Jamaal. So you just jazz it up [laughs]. My little sister, mom, and dad say Mali-Mali, and then music is my weapon of choice, so it just stuck.

ESSENCE.com: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into Gospel music?
Well, I’m from Savannah, Georgia, and I am the minister of music at my church. This is where I wrote songs, produced, and sharpened my craft. The next thing you know the Mali Music was born. It started on Myspace, transferred to Youtube, and we’re here today. It’s just taken off.

ESSENCE.com: You recently signed with Akon. What’s it like working with him?
MALI MUSIC: It’s amazing. He’s a mogul. He’s done so much and it’s just a blessing that he was affected and impacted by the ministry and by the songs. He was impressed by it so much that he would associate himself with it, and take himself up with our mission to take this dream further. It’s amazing.

ESSENCE.com: You do gospel in an unconventional way…have you taken any flack for that?
MALI MUSIC: Most definitely. I don’t have a religious or traditional bone in my body and that’s actually not by choice, because I really wish I did. The only thing that I would gain by that is fitting in. And because I have every reason to be counted out, I have every reason to be counted in. At the end of the day if you get an opportunity to experience this kind of upliftment in any way, whether it’s music, or visual, you feel the presence of God and it’s really and unforgettable experience that I’m grateful for.

ESSENCE.com: You’ve got a new album, ‘Mali Music’ out soon.
MALI MUSIC: I’m so excited. It’s looking like a January or the first quarter release. So I’m here grinding. I’m on the mission tour now, getting a lot of inspiration on this time, and I’m ready to get back in the studio to finish up on it.

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