So what’s the secret behind Mali Music’s name? The Grammy-nominated R&B artist—who will be performing at ESSENCE Festival, June 30-July 3 in New Orleans—reveals, “My mom used to call me Mali. People in the South are really free with nicknames. Everybody calls me by my middle name, and my name is Kortney Jamaal Pollard.”

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The Savannah, Ga. native describes Mali Music as “a lifestyle music. It’s something that you can hold close, it’s powerful. Mali Music is for people who love themselves, who are attached to accomplishing their full purpose in life.”

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From Kendrick to Mariah, Our Weekly ESSENCE Fest Playlist Brings the Beats

Mali recently dropped a new single, “Digital,” off his upcoming album The Contradiction of Mali (due this summer). Of his next LP, he says, “I believe ultimately it’s going to reveal the contradiction in everybody: opposing thoughts and opposing forces, the different thoughts and images from the things that they want to display and release about themselves. Once people do hear it, they’ll be able to identify the contradiction within themselves.”

Don’t miss Mali Music and a star-studded lineup at the 2016 ESSENCE Festival. Buy your tickets now!