September 14, 1978 (age 42)
Malay is the professional alter ego of prolific Grammy-winning producer, engineer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist James Ryan Ho. While best known for producing Frank Ocean's Channel Orange, Malay was in the game long before then, and has a long and storied credit list. Though active on the independent club and studio scenes since 1998, his first major-label credit was for adding keyboards to the hip-hop track "I Don't Know Officer" by 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, Prodigy, and others on the soundtrack to Get Rich or Die Tryin' in 2005. The following year provided a true break, when he co-produced Hot Rod's "Be Easy" (feat. Mary J. Blige) with Jake One. In 2008, he began netting songwriting as well as production credits. He worked with Donnie Klang, Day 26, Killer Mike, and most importantly, John Legend on half of Evolver. Singles and albums with Big Boi, Yelawolf, Jamie Foxx, Fantasia, and Goapelle followed. The work with Ocean was his true industry breakthrough, the record that put him in the pantheon. The pair had known one another for years when they decided to write and record together on what would become a modern soul classic. In interviews, Malay claimed the sources of his own musical inspiration as Pink Floyd, Marvin Gaye, and others who had done conceptual recordings where small elements were important parts in telling a story. After that chart-topping breakthrough, which netted him a Grammy, Malay had more work than he could handle but always seemed to welcome more. He chalked up credits on records as diverse as Alicia Keys' "One Thing," Linus Young's Category 5, Rascal Flatts' "Wildfire" (as James Ho), and tUnE-yArDs' Nikki Nack, to name a few. In 2015, Malay was not only producer but executive producer (as well as songwriter, instrumentalist, and engineer) on Stacy Barthe's debut full-length BEcoming, and produced and co-wrote the singles "Wild Things" and "Stone" (ft. Sebastian Kole) on Alessia Cara's Know-It-All. He also worked on half of Yelawolf's Love Story. Malay's next massive success was in assisting former One Direction member Zayn Malik transform from boy band heartthrob to ZAYN, smooth soul loverman-superstar, by co-writing and producing his debut, 2016's chart-topping (and digital sales-record breaking) Mind of Mine. That same year, Malay wrote Corinne Bailey Rae's single "In the Dark," wrote and produced 6Lack's "Shaolin's Theme/ Pray" from the Netflix series The Get Down, and produced Ocean's chart-topping follow-up album Blond (cut at Britannia Row Recordings studio in the U.K., where Pink Floyd worked on Dark Side of the Moon). At the end of the year, Malay announced that he and his manager, Randy Cohen were partnering with BMG to launch his own label imprint, which wasn't named at press time. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi
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