Pin It

Dream Girl 

The making of Malika

Wednesday, Mar 14 2007
Less than two years after working as a Budweiser model at Oakland Raiders games, Malika Ubaka was hanging with Diddy on MTV. The aspiring entertainer, who has since dropped her surname, was angling for a part in the all-girl group on Diddy's series Making the Band 3. The music mogul was so impressed with Malika that he allowed her to advance to a second season.

The singing hopeful was cut in fifth episode after bobbling difficult choreography, but not before impressing the judges with a marked slim-down. While she didn't get picked for the group — which went on to release a number one album as Danity Kane, and is currently touring with Christina Aguilera — she maximized her fitness acumen by releasing a workout DVD, and is working on an album to be released later this year. She also hosts a local hip-hop interview show called "Hyphy" (online at produced by celebrated filmmaker Kevin Epps (best known for the documentary Straight Outta Hunter's Point).

Time will tell if Malika ends up languishing locally, or using her reality TV star status to grasp bigger fame. One advantage in her favor: Major labels already have an eye on Oakland in a way they haven't in more than a decade, recently contracting residents Clyde Carson (Capitol) and Mistah F.A.B. (Atlantic) as well as Berkeley quartet the Pack (Jive). Another artist originally from Oakland, the platinum-selling singer Keyshia Cole, has cracked open the door on Bay Area R&B. Malika's voice lacks the visceral pain in Cole's, but she possesses a tonal control that often eludes Cole and a deep register that couldn't be duplicated by most young R&B singers without computer trickery. She'd likely yield good results if she got a chance to work with stars like Alicia Keys or Kanye West as producers, as Cole did on her debut. Keys and West, at least, would recognize that Malika's voice has a throwback quality (she sometimes sounds like a sassier version of classic '80s soul singer Stephanie Mills) and could craft an appropriately timeless sound for her.

Major labels want artists that have built up momentum on their home turf. Malika calls herself "Queen of the Bay" (the title of a new song on her MySpace page), but she still needs to work on becoming a household name. "Seven Seas," her track in rotation on Wild 94.7, isn't the best spark for a grassroots wildfire. The song is laden with clichés and masks her vocal prowess with a thin melody.

What she really needs is to take those robust pipes and match them against money — and hitmakers who know how to turn golden voices into gold records. Give her a shot with pricy pros like Atlanta's Sean "The Pen" Garrett (who has written hits for Mary J. Blige and Beyoncé) or Johnta Austin (creator of chart-toppers for Mariah Carey) and the resulting alchemy could make for addictive hooks and substantive lyrics absent from the material she's floated around so far. Instead of patterning songs after airwave vapidity, she needs to angle for originality — or at least that little bit of uniqueness that the industry can help spitshine. People already fell for the televised Malika; now she needs to bring out the real in her music. Her tenacity and that singular voice make her someone to listen up for in 2007.

About The Author

Tamara Palmer


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment


  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed