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'therapy' Dublin rapper Malaki says music helped him cope with his mental health struggles

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HE'S one of Ireland's hot tips for 2021, and exciting new hip-hop artist Malaki reveals that music has helped him to turn his life around.

The 21-year-old rapper says he was struggling with mental health issues when he found an outlet through penning poetry and song lyrics.

Malaki, aka Hugh Mulligan from Stillorgan, tells Shuffle: "I was really struggling with life around the age of 18, which I suppose is a difficult time in the lives of a lot of young people.

"It was a bleak time as I had a lot of friends who were going through alcohol and drugs problems.

"I was involved in a relationship where there were problems, and we eventually broke up.

"I was also a very sensitive kid, so all of that accumulated in my mind and it broke me down.

"Thankfully, I ended up seeking help and I used the pen and paper to do that, which is where the music all started.

"I had a really tough time with my mental health and I used journaling and writing my thoughts down as a way of therapy.

"A lot of my songs are a complete and utter reference to the struggles I was going through back then.

"It's great that people can relate to that, and if they find some sort of solace in it that's a bonus for me. I was quite lost back then and music was my saving grace."

A key figure in Malaki's life has been his co-writer and producer Matthew Harris, who he met through his ex-girlfriend. "One door closes and another opens," he jokes.

"Matthew really laid the foundation for me to be who I am. I didn't know a whole lot about instrumentation, and production wasn't my thing.

"I was about lyricism and poetry, but I had no clue about music and how to formulate a song.

"And that's where Matthew came in.

"He taught me how to do that, and then I taught him about lyrics. We worked hand in hand and it's been a match made in heaven.

"When I teamed up with Matthew he allowed me to transfer my thoughts and verses and poetry that I had in my journal and put them into music.

"I then decided to release them to the world when my life turned upside down after my relationship ended. I was just having such a horrible time that I said, 'I've hit rock bottom, what's the worst that can happen?'

"When I released the music everything changed for me and I got the chance to really show people what I was made of.

"So becoming Malaki and having a creative outlet did everything for me. Malaki really saved my life. It was an incredible thing, and I'm continually grateful for it. I couldn't be happier with the response I've been getting and the opportunities that have come my way."

One of those opportunities was his recent interpretation of Van Morrison's Someone Like You on The Late Late Show.

"It's amazing the reaction you get when you appear on The Late Late Show," he says. "I think people take you more seriously. It also introduced me to an older generation, and that was the biggest thing for me because I want to appeal to everyone, young and old."

During lockdown, Malaki and Matthew collaborated with different artists, including Lucy McWilliams on the song Fair Play.

Lucy, a daughter of well-known economist David McWilliams, has a stop-you-in-your-tracks voice. Malaki agrees: "You get used to some voices very easily, but with Lucy's when I hear her sing I'll never get used to it because it's such a special voice.

"And there's no doubt in my mind that she's going to do great things with a voice like that."

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