Humility, Loyalty, & Patience: The Malik Burgers Story

Burgers

Photo by Lee Hernandez

He that can have patience can have what he will.

Benjamin Franklin

Loyalty and patience. These are two qualities that many strive to obtain, but very few have. Even fewer have them in the music business, specifically Hip-Hop. What started off as a way for OG crews like Zulu Nation to establish unity and lower the crime rate in their neighborhoods, has been overshadowed by the lure of money, clothes, and women. Gone are the days of block parties in the Bronx accompanied by future HOFers kicking fresh 16s, as we are now in the age of selling out arenas and performing in front of multicultural sold out festival crowds. The growth in the genre has really been astounding. But naturally, with that growth came a lot of greed and selfishness. We’ve seen literal Hip-Hop empires fall due to various reasons such as women, fame, and money issues. That’s not to mention the laundry list of cases where two people who started out as damn near family, end up not speaking at all. But that’s them. When it comes to loyalty and patience, the two Achilles heels of hip-hop, 19-year-old Malik Burgers sees no issue with waiting your turn, even when it seems like it’s never coming.

Burgers

Photo by Lee Hernandez

You might recognize the Burgers moniker from the wildly successful, and catchy single from Rob $tone, “Chill Bill”. “Shoutout to Burgers, even though he don’t be flipping them Burgers” says $tone towards the tail end of the Billboard darling – the song was one of only 10 Hip-Hop songs released in 2016 to go platinum. The track catapulted $tone to fame, money and a new deal with RCA records, but he wasn’t the only one. The success blew the door wide open for the rest of the 1207 crew to take advantage as well. Spooks and J. Davi$ — the two featured artist on the track – have parlayed their new found radio fame into full length projects and buzzing singles, respectively. But it’s the guy who wasn’t featured on the track, Malik Burgers, that has perked the ears of industry insiders. The San Diego native has accompanied $tone on much of his mainstream journey for the past year, which saw them treat NYC like a second home and head out on the nationwide “Turnt & Burnt” tour with A$AP Ferg and Playboi Carti. “Ferg is a real genuine and humble person.” says Burgers, and when speaking on the advice he received from an industry superstar like Ferg, Malik said the Harlem native kept it simple, “He just told us to keep going and make as much money off this shit as we could. I didn’t take that as in greed, but a lot of us came from nothing, so why not make a change in your life and get to it doing something you love?”

Burgers

Photo by Lee Hernandez

It was that need for change that sparked the, “Pulp Fiction” rapper to start making music, “I was a sophomore in HS trying to find myself — doing sophomore type shit.” Expanding on that notion, Burgers continued, “I was just trying to find direction in life, just having fun. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life but I just knew I couldn’t be regular and live a regular life and work a regular job, it wasn’t me. Still isn’t.” Around that time, Malik met J. Spooks, a buzzing young rapper from the same area as Burgers, but somebody on a totally different wave. *As of recently, Spooks announced his departure from the crew, citing creative differences but silencing rumors of tension between he and the crew.* Never the one to box himself into a category, Burgers decided to link up with Spooks and combine ideas.

Me and Spooks were in a studio in Lemon Grove.. He mentioned starting some type of movement & I was instantly with the shit. So both of us kind of merged our group of friends that we were always with that made music too.

There it was, the start of something fresh. Something new. Something San Diego had never seen before and something that Hip-Hop has been lacking. A unified movement. The crew though, needed a spark. Something to put them over the edge and something to help get their movement to the forefront, even if it wasn’t from them. Enter in Rob $tone and “Chill Bill”.

Photo by Lee Hernandez

Within the hearts of men, loyalty and consideration are esteemed higher than success.

Bryant H. McGill

After leaving California to pursue school and other interests in Atlanta, Georgia, Rob swiftly returned back to the Golden State. Upon return, he was not only a different person, but a completely different artist. Having focused strictly on bars and lyrics his first few months of rapping, Rob returned from Atlanta with a knack for melodies and off-beat cadences, a trait Atlanta has long been known for. Spooks and Burgers saw Rob – who was an old high school buddy – as the perfect missing link to their unified puzzle and approached the rapper about joining. Just like that, the roster was set. When asked how many in total are in 1207 – an acronym that’s a play on the Lemon Grove, California zip code – Burgers pauses, then answers with a giddy smile, “9 that make music I think. As a whole, around 11 or 12.”

Photo by Lee Hernandez

Now while that may seem small if you refer to the “Hip-Hop Crew Handbook” and is certainly not near the size boasted by posees like Pro Era — who humbly claim a 47-man-roster — and Wu-Tang — who’s roster had stopped count at about a million; but if history has taught us anything, it’s that the smaller the crew, the better. Despite having huge membership numbers, neither of the aforementioned groups have been able to all come together in recent years to put together a project of note – though CJ Fly told us last year that this may change. Pro Era’s one and only crew cut was impressive to say the least, but hasn’t been followed up, and though the Wu has list of classic solo projects that span the Atlantic Ocean, the crew has failed to match the energy brought in their first two albums.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life but I just knew I couldn’t be regular and live a regular life and work a regular job, it wasn’t me. Still isn’t.

– Burgers

While it’s early, 1207’s relatively small collective plays into their favor, as highlighted on the recently released, ‘Lemotional Season’ a collaborative effort between $tone, Spooks and Burgers that is oozing potential and showcases each member gracefully. Songs like “Sweet Baby J”; “Beta” and “Outside” display the potential solo star power represented by $tone, Spooks and Burgers – respectively, while the standout track, “You Think You’re in Love” allows a sneak peek into how the three mesh together, which is beautifully. But again, it was the raspy voiced, energetic Burgers who caught my attention, with the best verse on the best song on the album, “On Me”, an ode to Lemon Grove – known as The Grimy Grove — and their newfound celebrity status back home. Rooted in chilling keys, draped in Rob $tone adlibs, Burgers absolutely rips the melodically driven track: “Sticking to the muthafuckin mission, on my mama Ima get it,” kicks Burgers on the track, giving you a peak into his determined process of thinking.

Burgers

Photo from Instagram

It’s this determination and this attitude that has allowed Burgers’ to stay patient while $tone receives the accolades. Not only does Burgers morally support his 1207 brethren on tour, he’s $tone’s DJ, hypeman and the opening act for his shows, displaying a level of versatility that 1207 members gush about. It also displays his patience, a word that is key to the success of the 19-year-old. During my first conversation with the SD native, he had just gotten kicked out of his mother’s house during a disagreement about, music. “I wish I could just live on tour,” Malik said to me, visually fatigued from the apparent argument with his parents. This quote has and will always stick out to me. Having not even went out with Ferg, Carti and Rob yet; Malik created his future in his head. He knew right then and there, that being home served him no purpose, at least not full time. He was right.

During our second conversation – post tour – Burgers confirmed what he had envisioned,

Tour definitely met my expectations. I still feel the same way if not stronger. Tour life is amazing. Just waking up in a whole new environment, performing every night with wild ass crowds. Nothing beats it.

When asked about his favorite cities on the journey, he gives two surprising answers that, honestly, sum him up in a nutshell. “Montreal, Quebec, because it was out of the country and the crowd was insane,” says Burgers, “Can’t forget about the states, though. Lincoln, Nebraska was fucking crazy.” Despite the rock-star lifestyle and the aforementioned argument, his situation with his mother is better, having moved back in and proving to her that this was the right path for her son. One way he did that other than the tour, was by securing his own headlining show at Soma, a legendary venue in the San Diego area that is the hub for the local metal scene, not generally known for housing Hip-Hop acts. “I didn’t know it was really a big deal until I sat and looked at the facts,” spews Burgers, “I remember being in middle school and only hardcore bands would play at Soma, it was very popular. I never thought I’d be one to headline it one day.”

Burgers

Photo by Lee Hernandez

The opportunity was put on the fast track following Soma hosting 1207’s celebration show for Rob’s signing to RCA, which is where I first encountered the group. While the night was meant to be a celebration of Rob and his achievement – and it was – Burgers again, unintentionally — non pun intended — stole the show. During Burger’s solo set, he broke out into a performance of maybe his most popular track to date, “Hilary Duff/Pulp Fiction”, and commanded the crowd with the poise of a veteran way beyond his years. An underrated topic in performance that often gets overlooked is breath control. Especially in the spazzy, bass heavy trap music realm that we live in today. Although many of these energetic artists sound perfect on wax, trying to translate that into a live show leaves many of them falling flat, and often out of breath. Despite the punk rock like aesthetic to Burger’s music, his voice never wavered. Burgers kept the crowd engaged the whole time by yelling at them constantly, crowd surfing, playing live instruments, and perhaps most impressively, by swinging the mic over his head like a helicopter. At 19-years-old, before the deal, before Billboard, and before the tour; it was obvious that Burgers had the chops to be a star.

True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.
C.S. Lewis

Now, the San Diego native is more at peace with himself, his home situation and life in general, some of which was put on hold to address a sticky situation recently. Burgers took his show back on the road with $tone, Ski Mask The Slump God and Desiigner earlier this month for Desiigner’s nationwide tour. During a one of the first shows on tour, Rob claims that Ski, who came out during Rob’s performance, seemingly to hype up the crowd, only did so to try and take their shine. According to $tone, they then reached out to Ski about hashing this out face to face, which was apparently never happened. In a now viral video taken during the next stop in San Diego, Ski is seen standing on stage with his arms folded, while Burgers performs a track. It’s pointed out in the video that Ski is 30-minutes over his set time and he is then escorted off by security. Doesn’t seem too crazy, right?

Wrong.

What happened the following day is now part of internet rap history. Buzzing enigmatic Florida rapper, XXXtentacion — who is part of Ski’s Member’s Only crew — quote tweeted the video of Ski with some thoughts on the situation that included threats of a genital stabbing and obvious hurt egos. This prompted a response from Rob, defending Malik, saying, “I’m not Drake”, a jab at X’s ever-growing obsession with dissing the Canadian rapper. After a few back and fourths between the two crews, things came to a cimax the following night in Los Angeles. In a now deleted video, you can see Rob, Malik and a host of others running on stage to confront Ski, which is then followed by footage of him on the floor following an obvious case of being jumped. What followed next was an internet assault on Rob and Malik from the infamous cult fanbase boasted by X, and apparently Ski. Insults and verbal jabs were thrown back and fourth but nothing more. Now, the two crews are at a standstill. It’s been reported that both are now off of the tour but with X and Rob both set to perform at the Rolling Loud festival in Miami next month, this situation could be anything but over.

Regardless of what could happen, Malik says he’s trying not to read too much into the situation:

Photo by Lee Hernandez

We’ll see, man. When you go out places, treat people how you want to be treated. Be on time, handle your business and stay in your lane. Everything else will be perfect.

But all of that negative energy is something that Burger’s chooses to put behind him for now. Although X may be a flash in the pan sensation at the moment, Malik says he’s “unbothered” by the situation, instead choosing to focus on the future. One that’s looking brighter and brighter for him. Despite he and $tone pulling out of the tour, Burgers says he’s in a good place mentally. He’s also gearing up to release his second project, and his debut album, ‘Contrast Therapy’ later this year. If the lead single, “God Damn” – featuring fellow 1207 member, Keely – is any indication, the project will be one that changes his life, again. “God Damn” is a trademark Malik Burgers track. Produced by 1207 member Ed Jones, the song sounds like if 2 Chainz‘ “Watch Out” met “Straight Outta Compton“. The melodic, almost juvenile piano keys are mirrored with lyrics like, “I’ll fuck your bitch like god damn, get that neck like god damn/ fuck up a check like god damn, you know we next like god damn,” highlighting the internal struggle between wanting to live grown, but still being too young to do so.

Burgers

Photo by Lee Hernandez

When asked about the project, Malik harbors the demeanor of a proud father, “It’s a lot more self-reflective than my previous work, I’m excited.” After hearing two tracks that are slated to be on the album, one slow and one that BANGS, you can instantly see what he was referring to. Simplicity seems to be the best musical trait of the young rapper/producer. On one of the unreleased tracks, “Dreams“, a simple piano melody carries you through the intro when the all of a sudden the beat drops and Malik slaps you right in the mouth. “I came to paint a picture, sh*t you never seen, if I die before I wake it’s probably just another dream/ If I die before I wake, just know that you can’t f*ck with me,” boasts Malik as the chorus drops. “Dreams” serves as what could be a hit single for the SD native, creating a dynamic duo with the aforementioned, “God Damn”. It also gives a quick insight into something Burgers has stated multiple times. “10 toes down, I ain’t never goin’ pop, bit*h,” rhymes Malik as he closes out the second verse, silencing any talk of him using his talents to sellout to the masses.

‘Contrast Therapy’ Album Cover

Though, “Dreams” will surely be a fan favorite, “Picture” — another unreleased track slated to appear on, Contrast Therapy — is the one where Burgers lets his pen bleed. Throughout the 6-minute-track — which sounds perfectly suited to be the outro — Malik lets it all out. He speaks on death threats, “Niggas want me dead but they won’t see the day,”and the struggles of real life friends coming to terms with your success, “Niggas who ain’t been around, quick to say this niggas changed/ You fuckin’ right, I’m sick of ramen on my dinner plate.” Perhaps my favorite part of this track, though, has to be Malik finding a distinct confidence and swagger during the otherwise emotional song. “If you need my time, I need the cabbage and a bag of chips,” and “I’m not with these niggas, so I’ll be damned if you put me in a box with these niggas,” are two examples of an artist who’s starting to realize their worth, a beautiful step in the evolution to accomplishing even your most wild of goals.

With the buzz surrounding his latest single, coupled the success of 1207 and the impending release of his debut album, the question on everybody’s mind has to be: Will you sign?

I’m just playing the field really,” says Burgers, “I never really worry about anything like that. When it comes, it will. In the meantime, I just stay working, stay plotting & stay loyal to those around me.

When asked if the attention Rob has seen lately gets to him, the 19-year-old almost feels disrespected at the question.

First and foremost that’s my brother, it’s deeper than the music. It’s never been about the fame, I enjoy seeing my niggas doing their thing and putting on for all of 1207, you know? It gives me time to work on my craft and all of my talents so when I step up to the plate, all my shit is ready, I don’t have to play catch up.  It’s cool because I get to watch what he (Rob) does, the shit he goes through with this music shit — and a lot of real life shit — before i even have to go through it, so when it is my time I’ll already know what to do and how to move because I’ve seen this shit happen before, I’m in a really good position I feel like.

Photo from Twitter

In a way, it’s ironic that Malik’s first big break came under the wing of Ferg and the A$AP Mob. Like Burgers, Ferg was once – and still might be – in the shadow of a leader paving the way. But like Burgers, Ferg stayed undoubtedly loyal and patient while Rocky tore the industry in half, waiting for his turn. Of course his “turn” resulted in two top-10 albums and a handful of highly charting singles, so I’d say Burgers is in good company. Another excellent, though odd, comparison to Malik was actually brought to the attention of me by Burgers himself. A known movie buff, I asked Malik if he could be any character from any movie ever, who would it be? Predictably, the young cat chose a character from rapper-favorite, Scarface. To my surprise, though, he chose Sosa, the cool and calculated nemesis of Tony Montana. When asked why, my shock turned to understanding.

Because Sosa had the plan. He was organized and humble with his shit. Tony was lit but we all saw everything get to his head and what happened? Everything went left and his whole organization went to shit (and the nigga died in his own home) That’s not how you wanna run your ship.

Humble, a word that’s tossed around more frequently than GOAT, but the true meaning often flies right over people. But again, those are them. Malik Burgers isn’t worried about them. By the looks of it, he knows exactly what he can bring to the table, but chooses to let you find out instead of berating you about it. Humility, loyalty and patience, the unusual calling cards of a Hip-Hop star in the making.

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