2013 was the year that changed Malik Najwan Alston-Deckard’s life. Also known by his stage name, Najwan, Deckard began his music career of production and songwriting in 2013, during his sophomore year at The University of Arizona. By way of Los Angeles, California, Najwan has always had an ear and a gift for music. From listening to his mother play her gospel records to watching his uncle create in his home studio to singing in the church choir, Najwan has experienced throughout the duration of his life thus far. By far one of Najwan’s biggest accomplishments is his release of “Back To Your Regularly Scheduled Program,” an inclusive  7 track EP produced by Najwan himself featuring artists such as Jay Ward and $treeb. In 2018, you can expect to see Najwan finishing up his album that will be written, performed, and produced by himself!

Q: What is your full name/stage name?

A: My name is Malik Najwan Alston-Deckard but i go by Najwan. 

Q: How long has music been a part of your life?

A: Music has been apart of my life for as long as i can remember. my mom would always play her favorite gospel tunes when i was a kid on the way to school. from elementary school all through high school and would always have the music blasting when sheʼd clean the house and still to this day. i remember i use to have this storage bin full of CDs and iʼd always play my favorite records and put on mini concerts in my room and even make up dance routines.

Q: Did you know that you always wanted to do music?

A: Early on i really just enjoyed listening to music like most people. i didn’t ever think to pursue music as ) career. looking back now, i was pursing it subconsciously i think. my uncle had a home studio step up and had tons of vinyl records and i remember seeing him create. my grandfather had a guesthouse in his backyard and heʼd go back there and burn incense, play his records and taught me a bit about playing the drums. iʼd also perform in my church holiday plays, singing in the choir and things of that nature. so its always been there, i just hadnʼt tapped into it yet. it really wasnʼt until 2013. i was a sophomore at the University of Arizona and i started making beats on garageband on my ipad in my dorm room.

Q: Where do you currently reside?

A:  I currently reside in Dallas, TX. iʼve been here for the past two years. i moved here cause i felt like i just needed to get away from all the noise a city like LA brings, all the distractions and focus. i felt that i was relying too much on my friends for my own success and i needed to prove to myself that i could make it happen on my own. and also i thought a change of scenery would be nice.

Q: What are some of your best accomplishments from 2017 and how do you plan to make 2018 better?

A: I think my biggest accomplishment of 2017 was my EP, by far. putting that together really ignited my confidence and taught me many lessons that were necessary for me to learn. i finally had an official body of work to showcase what i c)n do. i plan to make 2018 better by just building off that project. since releasing it iʼve seen my music level up. my growth has never been more clear to myself. i use to think that whenever i made a beat that i was rocking with heavily, i wouldnʼt be able to top it. now it just starting to get easier. that j.cole line from false prophets always pops up in my head – “…i play my old shit knowing i could top it”. i pa)n to really put myself out there and make connections with other artists and work on separating myself even more from just being a beatmaker to an actual producer, cause thereʼs a difference, possibly do a part 2 to the EP.

Q: Were there any moments in your life where you had setbacks in your career? How did you overcome these setbacks?

A: Oh definitely. when i got serious about making music all i had was my ipad. i literally had no other equipment so i was very limited to what i could create. it was like that for 2years. iʼd go to the studio a lot during that time but i wasnʼt really creating anything there and of course that can be frustrating. but i kept going and i just tried to be a sponge and absorb everything i was seeing. in 2015 i had finally got a laptop but by then i had kind of given up on the music route and got into film & photography. i did that for all of 2015 until my laptop screen shattered. i ended up moving to dallas in january of 2016 and i put the camera down and told myself that im going push this music even if it hurts. i saved up and got my screen fixed and downloaded the cheapest version of Ableton Live until eventually i saved up enough to get a new laptop and had my boy hook me up with all the bells and whistles, and a year and a half later, i released my EP.

Q: How would you describe the growth of your skills, from the time you started until now?

A: I can remember the first beat i ever made like it was yesterday, as well as all the ones that followed. not too long ago i was listening to all of my old work and itʼs crazy to think about how far iʼve come. it only gets me more excited for how my music will progress a year from now. like i can hear the years put into my music. the progression is so clear to me. 

Q: How long have you been songwriting?

A: Iʼd say iʼve been songwriting since 11th grade. i was actually inspired by a couple of my friends who had started a rap group and i was trying to join so i started writing my own raps to beats off youtube. i never got the nod to be in the group though.

Q: What is the best process, to you, about songwriting?

A: I think the best part is when i finally finish the lyrics and say them aloud. knowing i got some fire.

Q: Have you written songs for just yourself or other artists as well?

A: No i never written anything for anyone else. not because i donʼt want to but i just havenʼt come across anyone who canʼt write their own lyrics or would want help with the lyrics. and then it gets real tricky when it comes to rappers. they get scrutinized if someone else wrote their raps. i never really saw the big deal that. but thatʼs another conversation.

Q: What can you tell us about your latest EP release “Back To Your Regularly Scheduled Program”?

A: What can i say about my EP? that itʼs an introduction. iʼm just scratching the surface with this. but itʼs a solid body of work with great artist and great production. it can be streamed on my soundcloud (soundcloud.com/njwn) and it can also be downloaded at najwan.bandcamp.com. i started it sometime in late june, early july and gave myself 6 months to get it done. November 10th i believe was the 6 month deadline and i released it on October 27th.

Q: What was the process behind creating this project?

A: Well the first track on the EP “What Do You Know” featuring Jay Ward and $treeb was really the birth of the whole project. that was the first beat that i had made for it and i immediately knew i wanted to do a whole project. i had posted a clip of the beat on my snapchat and $treeb hit me up saying he was rocking with it. i sent it to Jay asking if he was messing with it. i let both of them know what i was trying do with the song and pitched my EP to them and if theyʼd be willing to both hop on it together and they were down. that was pretty much how the whole EP came about.

Q: What were your favorite songs to produce on this album?

A:  I definitely enjoyed making “Pʼs & Qʼs” (https://soundcloud.com/njwn/ps-qs-kadar-prod-najwan) by far. to this day that is still one of my favorite beats all time. itʼs in my personal top 3. and shoutout to Kadar on that track. that beat nor him were suppose to be on the EP. I posted a clip of the track on my instagram (instagram.com/funkbrothanaj) and he messaged me with the fire emojis i think, and like that he was on the EP. making “On The Hood” (https://soundcloud.com/njwn/on-the-hood-j-rashad-prod-najwan) was pretty enjoyable too, i made it a priority for it to be on the EP. it ended up being the last song turned in, a week before the day i was planning to release it.

Q: What is your favorite piece of equipment to use?

A:  I think my favorite piece of equipment is also my most important piece which is my laptop.

Q: Are you working on any major projects for the upcoming year?

A: At the moment im not working on any projects that are a sure thing right now production wise but i do plan on finishing up my album, written performed and produced by myself by winter next year. i got a couple of tracks locked in for it. it doesnʼt have a title yet. 

Q: How would you describe the music that you make?

A:  Iʼd say itʼs funky. can be a bit unorthodox at times. vibrant. itʼs feel good music. and thatʼs just going off of the music iʼve been making as of late. itʼs always been tough for me to describe it because i can do a lot of different things but i have always felt that i’m in my own lane with my sound.

Q: Who are some of your musical inspirations?

A: Soulection definitely. they got me to pick up my ipad and just start. iʼd listen to their radio show everyday like damn, i want to make that cause i love the way it makes me feel. shoutout everyone over there at Soulection. iʼd also say Sounwave, in house producer for TDE is also a huge inspiration. Jake One. Hit-Boy. J.Cole and Casey Veggies.

Q: What’s in your current music rotation?

A: My current music rotation has had a lot of Dom Kennedy in it. some J.Cole. Common. Drake. Casey Veggies and my mans Jay Ward. 

Q: If you could describe the future of your music in one word, how would you describe it?

A: Impactful. 

Q: What advice would you give to those who are working towards being a music producer?

A:  iʼd tell them to know what theyʼre getting into. iʼd want them to understand that youʼre not just going to be good over night, take your time and put in the work. and that everyone is not going to like what you like, and thatʼs okay.

Q: What is some ultimate goals for yourself and your career?

A: Ultimately i look to make a living for myself and the people i care for through music. i look to one day be a multi-platinum, multi-Grammy nominated, multi-Grammy winning producer. i want to win but i donʼt want any of it if my principles and what i stand for are compromised.

Q: Who are your inspirations?

A: My biggest inspirations are my uncle Taj. my mother Marcia. my girlfriend Madison. my mentor Trevor. my brother Julian. my sis Paris and boy Darius aka 15hunnitboy. each one of them inspires me in a unique way and im truly grateful for all of them.

Q: What goals do you hope to achieve in 2018? What are some things you want to accomplish/do in 2018?

A: In 2018 i hope to link up and do at least 3 projects with 3 different artist. but even more so, i hope to network like i never have before and come into contact with various artists and creators, bloggers, designers, anyone who is passionate about what they want out of their art and out of their life. and i hope to take another major leap in my music production and to grow a following. and also learn the bass guitar.

Q: Is there anything you would like your supporters to know?

A:  I just want to say thank you to anyone who took the time to read this interview and hopefully i was able to inspire you. i want to thank freelancer magazine for the love. this was my first interview ever and i really appreciated the questions asked, hopefully this time next year we can do it again. and lastly, i just want to say stay tuned cause i got some tricks up my sleeve, ya dig.

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awkward. college student. entrepreneur. womanist. radiant. lover of all things. growing, blossoming each moment.

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