V Girls: Mahalia

Meet Hip-Pop’s ascendant star as the British-Jamaican songstress is paving a soulful, cross-genre path in London’s buzzy music scene

This feature appears in V134, now available to order. 

British-Jamaican artist Mahalia characterizes her sound as “psycho-acoustic soul,” a self-defined genre that combines a love of guitar with a focus on lyricism and reflection. Born in Leicestershire, U.K. the 23-year-old topped the charts with her 2019 debut album Love and Compromise—a delightful showing, full of neo-soul riffs, honest lyrics, and ‘90s-inspired instrumentals. Since then, the dynamic star has been navigating the ins and outs of stardom: heartbreak, high-profile collaborations, and a surreal 2021 Grammy Award nomination.

Mahalia wears dress, jacket, shoes Burberry, Jewlery Bulgari

The daughter of musically inclined parents, Mahalia felt expectations to succeed, being the only girl surrounded by three brothers. Coupled with the realities of her British-Jamaican heritage—feeling like an outsider at school—Mahalia matured quickly, and was already signed to a recording label by the time she turned 13. “I always felt like my family was looking to me to be brilliant,” the artist remembers. “I didn’t have another sister to compare to, so I definitely felt pressure to be great as a kid.”

Growing up in a predominantly white area, Mahalia escaped her surroundings by embracing the melodies of music icons. “I grew up being one of the few Black kids in school,” Mahalia says. “When I found music, it felt like the thing that didn’t just make me different, but made me special.” Looking to legends like Billie Holiday, Lauryn Hill, and Erykah Badu, Mahalia expanded her musical repertoire through the lens of Black female powerhouses. That knack for sultry storytelling is seen throughout Mahalia’s music. On tracks like “Simmer” and “Whenever You’re Ready,” her breezy tone and production value shine through, expertly blending storytelling with gospel and neo-soul influences, reimagined through modern experimentation.

Mahalia was recently nominated for Best R&B Performance at the 2021 Grammy Awards for “All I Need,” a high-octane collaboration with Jacob Collier and Ty Dolla Sign. She made her long-awaited return to the stage with a sold-out show at London’s Brixton Academy last November. And she enlisted the help of U.S. rapper Rico Nasty for the animated “Jealous,” which also dropped in the latter half of last year. “All of those pieces that I felt were stripped away, I got back,” Mahalia says. “I’ve been trying to put very little pressure on myself,” she says of releasing her upcoming album, which (as of now) does not have a release date. “I’ve got a lot of music that I’m ready for people to hear. There’s definitely a lot to expect.”

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