Words: James Keith
Photography: Caroline Lessire

In nearly two decades, Mala’s career has taken him from the depths of Croydon to just about every corner of the world. With his old friend Coki (they took their names from their drink of choice, Malibu & Coke), he enjoyed a legendary partnership that helped change the face of electronic music forever.

Mala has many anthems to his name. “Anti-War Dub” is a favourite that everyone goes back to, but “Changes” has an influence that stretches further than just about anything else from dubstep. It’s certainly been sampled by more than most; The Game, A$AP Ferg, Lil Dicky, and the late XXXTentacion have all made use of its mercurial, dubby brilliance over the years.

There are many historic moments in the early-mid 2000s dubstep explosion, but perhaps the biggest and most fondly remembered was Dubstep Warz in 2006, when Mala and the DMZ family were invited onto Mary-Anne Hobbs’ Radio 1 show for the now-legendary session. It was an iconic show that’s since gone down in history as a landmark moment for the sound. Eventually, the influence of DMZ grew so vast that Mala decided he needed a label to help push the new music being sent to him from producers outside of the crew. From that initiative, DEEP MEDi MUSIK was born.

By 2010, dubstep itself had grown far beyond its creators’ wildest dreams, stretching its influence across the Atlantic and the rest of the world. The sound was running away from its source and its dubby, spacious qualities were becoming lost in the newer, more aggressive takes on the sound. Keen for a switch-up, Mala left London and started down a path that eventually led him to Central and South America in the mid-2010s.

From that journey, Mala In Cuba was born, a bright and colourful collection that stood in sharp contrast against the cavernous chill of what came before—although hints of dubstep still echo through some of the shuffling rhythms. Three years later, Mala went out to Peru for what would become Mirrors, an album that featured Peruvian music and its players prominently, but with very little of Mala’s presence on there. It was a very different collection from Mala In Cuba, which is why it was never called Mala In Peru.

We’ve yet to get another full-length from Mark Lawrence, but more recently he’s been reflecting on his early work. Because of the nature of dubstep’s origins—when a lot of the tracks were vinyl-only and released on limited runs of heavyweight vinyl—large chunks of Mala and Digital Mystikz’s releases are sadly missing from Spotify, but that is changing, thankfully. For the past few months he’s been remastering and re-releasing a lot of those early gems. He hasn’t got through them all yet, and it’s unclear if he plans to re-release every single one of them, but it’s heartening to know that at least some of these hugely era-defining records will be immortalised beyond sketchy YouTube rips.

Here are 20 reasons to love Mala.

Posted on November 05, 2021