Mali Music learned how to inspire people with his melodic sounds the righteous way: in church. Starting at just 11, he was playing the keys every Sunday, taking the congregation at Faith on the Move in a Savannah storefront, to higher ground. “Church is one of the hypest places you could go in the South,” says the 28-year-old singer, songwriter and producer, who was born Kortney Jamaal Pollard.

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“I found out through serving in church that my favorite way to affect people with my music is to elevate them.” Which is exactly what Mali has been doing since his Grammy-nominated major-label debut, 2014’s Mali Is…, which blurred the lines between R&B and gospel. Fresh off his work on the Chi-Raq soundtrack, he offers his upcoming LP, The Contradiction of Mali (ByStorm/RCA).

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It continues to explore the musical dichotomy of an artist who grew up “sneaking off so my parents wouldn’t hear me listening to D’Angelo.” At the end of the day, he believes, “if the music is good, then people are going to be jamming to it.”

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