By Marcus Chang
Two years ago, Nathalie Yepez — a 29-year-old first generation New Yorker who was born to Dominican parents in the Bronx and grew up in Washington Heights and the East Village — moved back to her mother’s house, quit her bartending and waitressing jobs to pursue music full time, and reinvented herself as the singer Maluca Mala. “I thought to myself, Enough is enough!” she recalls. “I’m miserable sitting at home writing music and just talking about it.” Mala, who not surprisingly identifies as a “hood hipster,” performs a mix of what she calls “ghetto-techno, Latin-dance, hip-hop, rave music.” It’s a decadent mix that has not gone unnoticed — especially by Lady Gaga, whose beer-cans-as-rollers look in the video for “Telephone” appears to have been inspired by Mala’s headgear in her video for “El Tigeraso.”
The Moment caught up with Maluca Mala in a landmark East Village cafe, around the block from her former all-girls high school, to speak to the self-made artist about her struggles as an independent singer, and of her coming Dominican Independence Day performance at S.O.B’s, in the West Village, on Sunday.
Why do you call yourself Maluca Mala?
I’ve always been Maluca, which means crazy in Spanish. It’s a nickname my uncle gave me as a child because I was so mischievous. I added the Mala part, which means bad, when I decided to really go for it in the music business.
Did anyone ever tell you that your song “Hector” sounds like Bjork?
Yes, actually, my back up dancer Oscar. When his mom heard the song she told him that it sounded like the Chinese singer he likes — she meant Bjork. [laughing]
Here’s something I don’t understand, why is your cellphone shut off when you were just in a BlackBerry commercial?
Oh yeah, they gave me a phone, but it’s not like it came with a year of service or anything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to hate on BlackBerry, but right now all my money is going to Maluca. My Dream. Having a cellphone and going out to dinner is a luxury that is not part of the plan. I’m calling people using Google phone online. It’s free.
So you’re totally broke?
Yeah, basically. I just finished opening for Swedish singer Robyn in her U.S. tour, and since I’m not signed to a record label, that tour ended up putting me thousands of dollars in debt.
Check out the trailer for Maluca’s Wepasodes below.