Grand Rapids musician Steven Malcolm finds calling at hip-hop church

Steven Malcolm shot a music video with Grammy-winning reggae artist Shaggy. Courtesy Garden State Hip-Hop

It’s not unusual to find faith in a church.

Steven Malcolm also found his music career.

The Grand Rapids-based hip-hop artist said his dream was to become a professional basketball player. From neighborhood pick-up games to playing high school basketball at Wyoming Park, the sport was Malcolm’s sole priority.

The shift toward pursuing a career in music came after he attended a service at The Edge, an urban church in Grand Rapids where hip-hop and dance are used for worship.

This came as a surprise for Malcolm. He did not grow up in the church, but he said he was “in the hip-hop culture, fatherless, (single) mom, life was crazy.” He explained how seeing hip-hop come together with religion changed his life.

“It touched me, it reached me. It was something that spoke my language and was good,” Malcolm said. “I fell in love with it.”

Through the church, Malcolm, 29, found not just faith but also the inspiration and opportunity to make music.

“My pastor was like, ‘Hey, you should try to be on the worship team,’” Malcolm said. “So, I wrote a song called ‘Cloud Nine,’ I’ll never forget it. I performed it for worship and just felt a feeling I never felt before.”

Malcolm began his career independently, then later signed to IVAV, a division of Curb I Word Entertainment. He named Michael Jackson and Bob Marley as his two biggest musical inspirations, along with Lil Wayne, Drake and Travis Scott as hip-hop influences. His second major label album, “The Second City,” was released in 2019. Streaming numbers for songs from the record are in the millions.

One song in particular, the single “Fuego,” caught the attention of Grammy-winning reggae artist Shaggy after Malcolm’s A&R representative showed it to Shaggy’s manager. The connection led to a remix of the song featuring a guest verse from Shaggy and a music video shot in New York.

For Malcolm, the collaboration was “legendary.”

“I remember being a little kid in Florida listening to his music. There was a time in my life where Shaggy took off, where everybody was listening. So, on the set (of the video), I’m standing next to him, and I had to nudge him like, ‘Hey, bro, I listened to you a lot growing up, so this moment right now is surreal.’”

Today, Malcolm is staying busy, despite the trouble the COVID-19 pandemic has made for artists.

“Honestly, it’s worked out all right because it’s got me in a focused spot,” he said of the pandemic.

Unable to tour as he usually would, Malcolm is now concentrating on things outside of music. He’s preparing to have his first son with his wife in November.

“It’s got me home, able to spend time with friends and family,” Malcom said. “It’s got me diving into boxing. I’m able to spend time with my wife and get ready for my son.”

As a boxer, Malcolm trains with former WBO middleweight champion Peter Quillin. Malcolm has always enjoyed watching the sport and wanted to get involved, and the slower pace of his life during quarantine gave him the time to finally do so.

“Honestly, with me having a son on the way, I got a family to protect,” Malcolm said. “This is fitness, it helps me with my stage presence, my endurance, but it also gives me the hands. It’s a win-win in every category.”

But amid these other activities, Malcolm has remained musically active.

“Musically, it’s being able to just zone in,” he said of working on music during the pandemic. “Usually, I’m traveling places and I’m so busy, it’s hard to take the time and get into the studio and lock in sometimes. I feel like the pandemic, it’s zoned me in to really focus on what’s at hand.”

“I feel like 2020 has been filled with lies, been filled with deception, with craziness and death. Me, I carry light, I carry something that everybody needs to hear, which is truth.”
Steven Malcolm

What is at hand in this case is Malcolm’s forthcoming EP, “All is True.”

“I feel like 2020 has been filled with lies, been filled with deception, with craziness and death. Me, I carry light, I carry something that everybody needs to hear, which is truth,” Malcolm said of the EP.

The EP marks another significant collaboration for Malcolm: producer Street Symphony and the label Track Or Die have worked with rappers Meek Mill, Nipsey Hussle, Yo Gotti and others. With this release, Malcolm said he hopes to expand his brand and to “just zone in on my hip-hop sound.”

He added he hopes to release “All is True” by the end of October before his wife gives birth.

“Because (after that), it’s lockdown,” he said.

But once he finishes this EP and gets settled into family life, Malcolm said he has high ambitions.

“Going into 2021, I want to drop consistently, like I probably want to drop two albums in one year,” he said.

Despite all his ambition and success, Malcolm said he chooses to remain local, continuing to live in Grand Rapids and still attending church at The Edge.

“When I’m home, the music industry is not a thing,” he said. “The music industry is a lot of chaos. I feel like home is peaceful. This isn’t L.A., this isn’t New York. I feel like I can come here and walk around and have it just be chill. I feel like home really keeps me sane.”

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