Putting the (hip) hop in hope

Putting the (hip) hop in hope

MKTO tell Chris Lau that positivity and sarcasm are keys to their unique sound


Tony Oller (left), and Malcolm Kelley want to remind people how important it is to have fun
Tony Oller (left), and Malcolm Kelley want to remind people how important it is to have fun
Sarcasm is a brilliant way to highlight problems. That's why when American duo MKTO wrote their debut hit, they decided to name it Thank You, instead of Stuff You.

"Sarcasm is such a beautiful thing these days, and you can use it to your advantage," says Tony Oller, 22, a singer who, along with rapper Malcolm Kelley, 21, makes up MKTO. The group was in town recently to promote their upcoming self-titled debut album.

Since its release a year ago, the music video for Thank You has garnered more than a million views.

Oller says the song was written based on his own past. "I grew up in Texas. I didn't want to do sports, I wanted to act and sing. That was not the norm, so there was plenty of hazing," he recalls, referring to the often cruel initiation rituals some social groups practise on new members.

Thank You, he says, is about taking negative vibes and turning it into something positive. The song is also for everyone who has been barred from chasing their dreams for whatever reason.

"It's like giving them the finger in a positive way," he jokes.

The duo says their aspiration goes beyond music: what they are doing is just a way to express themselves and encourage other young people, many of whom suffer from economic instability and intense school pressure.

Introducing the album, Kelley says: "Our style is kind of based on Hayley Williams and B.o.B's Airplanes, which is mixing a pop melody with rap."

But unlike those tracks which are only possible when an enlightened rapper decides to join force with an R'n'B singer, MKTO have an entire album full of the excellent mix of Oller's vocals and Kelley's rap.

It won't just be RnB, either. The pair say the record is diverse, with styles from dance tracks to ballads.

"It will take you to a lot of different emotions. Our sound is a roller coaster ride," adds Kelley, who reveals the new record will also feature some well-known acts

"We have a song with Ne-Yo in our record called Could Be Me, which is really cool."

The two Americans are continuously concerned about young people's affairs, but they urge fellow youngsters not to forget the importance of fun, and to live life to the fullest.

"There are always going to be problems in the world:" Kelley says. "We're entertainers. All we can do is to speak about it, make music about it, and let people feel good for that three minutes."


This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Putting the (hip) hop in hope


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