Derek “MixedByAli” Ali, the mixing engineer behind classic albums by Kendrick Lamar, Nipsey Hussle, Mac Miller, and SZA, has launched a new label, NoName Recordings. Its first signee is Baltimore artist Malik Moses, whose debut single, “Show Me Something” (featuring Bas), exclusively premieres here.
Ali teamed up with longtime friend and business partner Dan Maynard for the new venture. Both are veterans in the music world, having created EngineEars, a music-tech platform that provides tools to underrepresented audio engineers to help them build their businesses. Last year, the duo acquired NoName Studios, which is housed in Death Row Records’ former recording facility, Can-Am Recorders. Ali has recorded and mixed some of the most impactful albums of the 2000s for Top Dawg Entertainment and others, earning him six Grammy nominations and three wins, including Best Rap Album for his work on Kendrick Lamar’s albums Damn. and To Pimp a Butterfly, and Record of the Year for his mix of Childish Gambino’s “This is America.”
The label was already in the works when Ali discovered 25-year-old Moses at the beginning of the pandemic. Ali and Twitch partnered to help artists keep making music amid the uncertainty of lockdown, holding weekly competitions where musicians from across the globe submitted songs. Twitch viewers then voted for their favorite live on the platform. The artist with the most votes received an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles to record in the studio and have their record mixed by Ali.
Moses won out of hundreds of record submissions. “The way he was able to really catch my attention with his selection of beats, the way his production was laid out, the way his songwriting and just how he carried himself sonically, that reminded me of working with Kendrick and working with Thundercat and Terrace Martin,” Ali tells Rolling Stone. “It gave me that same feeling instantly as soon as I heard the first four bars of his music, and that’s rare nowadays.”
The first single for the label — and Moses — features Dreamville rapper Bas. “Show Me Something” was produced by Groove, and one of the first tracks they recorded when Moses arrived in L.A. “It told me a lot about him, just his writing style, his personal life, just being able to talk about things when it comes to relationships,” Ali says of the grooving, soulful single. “A lot of people they’re desensitized in a sense, or want to keep that stuff private rather than putting emotions on the table. It kind of made me open up a little bit more to him just off the fact that he was being vulnerable in these songs.”
Ali says his mission with NoName and his other ventures is to give back to underrepresented communities who struggle to break through. “We just want our label to be that safe place where artists can create, artists can have that creative freedom,” he explains. “I don’t hear of too many audio engineers starting ventures like this, so it’s a different perspective to bring into the industry, the perspective from somebody who’s in the trenches understanding how it works and the grind that it takes to really be successful.”