How would you describe your art in three words?
Smooth, Personal, & Versatile.
Mahal Slick, the moniker of Dan Onal, is a 21-year-old hip hop/indie artist based in Chicago, Illinois. Coming from a musical background, his family exposed him to music at a very young age, but he ultimately taught himself the piano by ear. After that, Mahal Slick’s love for music flourished with his devotion to involvement in his skills and communities. He notes, “Listening to old Filipino rap songs as a kid was also an early influence, and singing songs with my family was always a blast.” In high school, he started creating his music, influenced by a friend’s mixtape-inspired photo edit that transformed into a song. Even though he approached this as a joke, he became interested in writing lyrics and recording them through a microphone, which later became his hobby. In 2016, he later stumbled upon the lo-fi- hip-hop scene on Soundcloud with underground artists such as Atlas, Samsa, and OTJ, among others, who have connected him to a community of creatives. One of his main collaborators and immense influence as a musician comes from his good friend JP, otherwise known as dustbunnybedroom. They jumpstarted his musical journey, and even today, they continuously work together as “a sort of ‘rapper/producer duo'” that stimulates their creative progress.
As a university student, his approach to music manifests whenever and wherever he finds inspiration and has free time. From “memoing ideas, making checklists, writing lines, humming melodies, and doodling cover art”, music and art supplement his way of life. The journey of his music is one of his favorite parts, as he enjoys seeing everything come together to life. Listening to Mahal Slick’s discography, it is clear that he makes music for himself as he constantly endeavors diverse genres to amplify his personal sound, from hip-hop rap, boom bap, R&B, soul, rock, and so much more. When working on his projects, he knows they are finished based on his emotional responses, whether or not his music “feels good”. This pursuit of music stems from his belief that his music speaks for itself, and the audience will naturally gravitate toward his authentic sound. Mahal Slick is the embodiment of self-assurance, and he grounds himself in his desire to shape his own musical identity, regardless of where he is in life.
Highlights of his discography include his personal favorite, “Colder to Me,” released at the end of August 2022. His deeper involvement with the melody and instrumentation validated his growth as an artist and creative. From the texture of the drums to the captivating contrast of vocal tones, this song solidifies his musicality and versatility. Without a doubt, this song can immediately lift someone’s mood. Another recent single, “got your back!” is a love letter to the community around him, evident in the background conversations that prelude and resolve the single – almost stimulating a visual and aural sense of a comforting hug with the reassuring lyrics he sings. The visualizer of this single is on his social media, filled with memories of his friends and family. More of Mahal Slick and his artistry is on Instagram, Twitter, and on occasion TikTok @mahalslick. His upcoming music releases include a future EP, closed eyes & open ears, with the conceptual theme of his aspirations and dreams, which will be on streaming services (along with his other songs) on Spotify and Apple Music.
Where/how do you gather inspiration?
My inspiration comes in many forms when it comes to making music. Whether that comes from my daily life, the media I see online, musical artists that I look up to, or even just a random idea that I think is cool, all of that contributes to the art I make in some way, shape, or form. Seeing other independent artists in the smaller music scene performing well on their own is also something that inspires me greatly. These smaller artists coming together to make music all for the sake of making music is what keeps me driven to improve my work in a fun and passionate direction. One day I hope to grow bigger so that I can help and inspire smaller artists the same way I’m being inspired today.
What do you hope audiences retain from your work?
My music tends to present itself in a variety of genres. Ranging from traditional hip-hop, boom bap, lo-fi hip-hop, jazz, soul, pop, and sometimes even rock, I always want my music to be presented in many different ways based on how I feel at the moment. I like to think of this as a way of showing that I’m not tied to one style as an artist. There are times when I feel like making a chill R&B project one day, and other times when I want to make a full-on rap project. I want my audience to know that I am somebody with many hats, and they can get different sounds out of me through my music. Despite having all these different sounds, I still always want my music to come off as “me”. I try my best to be very personal and healing in a way so that people can listen to my music as if it were made by a close friend. Having an audience relate to the art you put out in some type of way is something I think is really cool since it helps build this connection with others that you may not even know is there. Whether you feel happy, sad, or excited, I want people to know that I have something that they can listen to as a way to relate, ease off, have fun, and enjoy.
Curated and written by Bell Pendon