interview: reinventing R&B Down Under – Rein Mali’s ‘Game of Love’

"It’s incredibly exciting to see the R&B space gain more recognition and respect in Australia and beyond"
25 October 2023

In the vast landscape of Australian music, where sun-kissed vibes and indie rock anthems often take center stage, emerges a rising star determined to add a new rhythm to the scene. Rein Mali, the Perth-based virtuoso, is on a mission to intertwine the soulful sounds of R&B with the distinctive essence of Australia in his latest release, Game of Love.

Game of Love is Mali‘s enchanting love letter to the Land Down Under and a nod to the timeless classics of R&B and Neo-Soul. ​ Teaming up with producers Blake Weller and Christian Meares, Mali has fashioned a nostalgic Neo-Soul vibe that pays homage to the golden eras of College Dropout and Graduation. The result is a warm, soul-stirring composition that seamlessly blends earnest lyrics, captivating melodies, and Mali‘s signature falsetto vocals.

But Mali didn’t embark on this musical journey alone. Enter rapper CHISEKO, providing the track with a classic alley-oop moment that elevates Game of Love to new heights. The collaborative effort of these Australian creatives is a testament to the thriving R&B scene that Mali is helping to spotlight.

Game of Love ​is the ideal follow-up tune ​t​o Mali‘s acclaimed debut single, Like Ah, released last November, which set the stage for his unique take on the genre.

Delving into Mali‘s musical roots reveals a journey that began in the church, evolving into a passion for drumming and singing. His pursuit of music has been unwavering, and each release reflects a depth of musicality honed over a lifetime. Mali‘s commitment to redefine the boundaries of R&B and Soul is evident in every note, promising listeners an abundance of new projects marked by creativity, authenticity, and a voice that stirs the soul.

If you’re in search of an artist to soothe your spirit and warm your heart, Rein Mali is the Perth-based singer deserving of your attention. Get ready to experience the Game of Love, as Rein Mali takes center stage and leaves an indelible mark on the Australian music scene.

It’s incredibly exciting to see the R&B space gain more recognition and respect in Australia and beyond.

Hey Rein Mali, what’s going on? What’s occupying your thoughts at the moment?

Hello Fame Mag! Thank you for having me. I’m doing well man – right now, I’m just so grateful for such a huge release week for Game of Love. Releasing this song has been a journey, so it’s awesome to be living in the fruit of what was the most patient time of my life in getting this track out, all so worth it. 

I’m feeling the love for sure. 

Rein, Australia might not be the first-place people think of when it comes to R&B. How do you feel about being a part of the movement that’s putting Australian R&B on the map?

I’m honoured to be part of the movement that’s helping put Australian R&B on the map. It’s incredibly exciting to see the R&B space gain more recognition and respect in Australia and beyond. I’m seeing more and more R&B artists come out of the woodwork and I’m so here for it. The fact that I get to part of this movement is an honour for sure, if there’s one thing I’d love to see other than Australia be known for it’s R&B music, it would be to inspire more and more AUS based artists to emerge. 

Your latest track, Game of Love, has a unique blend of nostalgic Neo Soul and ‘College Dropout/Graduation‘ vibes. What inspired this distinctive sound, and how did the collaboration with producers Blake Weller and Christian Meares come about?

The inspiration behind the sound for Game of Love is from the music that I grew up loving. I remember the first CDs I ever bought when I was 9, was a Kanye album and an Usher album, and Game of Love really came from a place of me digging down into my roots and creating something that brought me back to that era. Collaborating with Blake and Christian is the best, these guys have that mindreading Professor X type thing, they just know the sound and the direction that I wanted. I’ll give them their flowers any day of the week, a lot of the Rein Mali sound is because of these two. This collaboration came from a place of us loving and nerding out over the same type of music, these guys have been the homies for the longest time. So, when it came to me writing Game of Love – it was a given that I brought the tune to them and that the result would be a certified banger.

Working with rapper CHISEKO on Game of Love brought a dynamic element to the track. Can you share a bit about the creative process and how this collaboration enhanced the overall feel of the song?

When I sent CHISEKO the song, he got back to me immediately and sent through the whole rap, recorded within the hour. He truly is the maestro and captured the vibe of the song perfectly. Initially, this song was not even going to have a rap but we knew something was missing, and having CHISEKO’s fingerprint really completed the classic R&B hip hop summer banger aesthetic. It’s been such an honour to have an artist like himself do his thing on Game of Love

Your influences include a mix of classic and contemporary R&B artists like Musiq Soulchild, D’Angelo, and Daniel Caesar. How do these artists inspire and shape your own musical style?

A lot of who I am as an artist and person, is because of the music I love. Names like Musiq Soulchild, D’Angelo, Daniel Caesar, Stevie Wonder and Joyce Wrice are artists that I look up to for sure, each one of them really trailblazed a new ‘style’ with their sound. They are all expanding and have been redefining what R&B/Soul music is, all while staying authentic and true to the sound aswell. It’s the Stevies, Musiqs and D’Angelos that I draw my inspiration from and it’s the Daniel Caesar’s and Joyce Wrice’s that show me that it’s okay to dig into the past and expand the ideas. 

Your musical journey began in the church. How has your early exposure to music in that setting influenced the way you approach and create your own music today?

Growing up in church taught me that music is powerful and can be used to move people and invite/create a better atmosphere. I’ve always taken that into account when it comes to my performing and creating, to be a good steward of what I have in my hands and use it to create better things. I’m one for bringing people together through music and church has taught me that for sure. 

How do you think your sound has evolved from your debut single Like Ah to Game of Love, and what can listeners expect from your upcoming projects in terms of musical exploration and growth?

Game of Love is more-so a statement to my sound and the ‘polishing’ to my introduction as an artist. It’s my sophomore release and at this point I’m really starting to paint the picture of who Rein Mali is. 100 percent, you can expect all the R&B Neo Soul summer anthems from me, but I have some really exciting things I’m working on that show different sides of my artistry which I’m thrilled to release. Just like Matisse, I’m a diverse one, I got so many colours of Rein Mali for everyone to experience. 

The music scene is constantly evolving. As an artist aiming to redefine the boundaries of R&B and Soul, what are your aspirations for the future, and how do you see your role in shaping the landscape of Australian R&B?

At the moment, I see that R&B is at a very interesting place. There’s so many artists out there doing different things within the umbrella of R&B and it’s so inspiring to see. At the same time though, it gets messy for real and I like to think it’s important to educate a country like Australia where R&B isn’t the biggest genre on the foundations of the sound. For me, it’s important that peeps know the root and the cornerstone of R&B/Neo Soul – which is the two-step feel and good vibes that yourself, your mama, your uncle and your neighbour could all get down to. I’m trying to spread that same feeling and joy that I got listening to ‘I Found My Smile’ by D’Angelo for the first time but nationally and God willing globally. 

What first got you into music?

Growing up in church for sure, I always surrounded by music. My Dad is the pastor of a church, and every given Sunday I remember as a family we always had to be the first peeps to open the doors of the church to get set up for the Sunday service, and that meant watching and being around the church band as they rehearsed. This obviously evolved into me playing in the church band from a young age and then actually embarking on my own musical journey. 

What changes would you like to see happen in the music industry?

Support for Independent artists and more diverse representation. There are so many great artists out here creating amazing music and expanding the art, but often times we don’t get the opportunity to be heard because of the circumstances of what gets to be played, the certain look you need to have or if you fit the ‘criteria’ or not. To see the industry change and furthermore create opportunities and doorways for independent musicians of all backgrounds and genres to be heard and represented is the path to a growing and thriving future for all artists.