Vocalo Radio

Chicago's Urban Alternative

Current track



Malik Yusef On Returning To Chicago And How We’re All “Bad Kids”

Written by on August 23, 2023

Multi-Grammy and Emmy award winning interdisciplinary artist Malik Yusef is set to perform in Chicago for the first time in a decade on August 25. He stopped by the Vocalo studios to sit down with mornings host Bekoe and break down the show for listeners, and why it’s been so long since he’s performed in his hometown.

Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, Malik Yusef started his artistic journey as a neurodivergent child struggling to focus in school. With dyslexia, synesthesia and a soundtrack constantly playing in his head, he recalled being frightened at 6 years old by the way his mind turned everything he read into a song.

“I was like, ‘What? Why am I seeing music here?’” he recalled. “I didn’t understand it, it was scary. But then it became a superpower.”

Acclaimed multi-hyphenate creator Malik Yusef is set to perform at Chicago’s City Winery on August 25 — his first hometown show in more than a decade. Rakim Winfert for Vocalo Radio

Today, Yusef is a critically-acclaimed spoken word artist, rapper, writer, composer, director, DJ, activist, producer and more, with more than 20 Grammy nominations and eight wins. He’s the recipient of many more awards and accolades, including several Emmys, a Tony Award, Peabody Award and several ASCAP Awards, and has directed and starred in multiple movies, TV shows and documentaries. He’s worked alongside artists including John Legend, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Rihanna and Drake, and has collaborated with Kanye West on all of West’s albums. 

Looking back on the creative resources he needed earlier in life, Yusef now works to support and encourage creativity with Bad Kids Klass, an all-ages masterclass in songwriting, spoken word poetry and music production. The course gives participants the chance to work on real music for real artists, like Rihanna and Vic Mensa, with past guest instructors including Chance the Rapper and Jordin Sparks.

“I got people in there who are approaching 70 years old that [weren’t] able to live their dream … and they want to come back and do music, play the guitar, produce, sing,” Yusef said. “I just keep saying ‘Bad Kids,’ cause we’re all bad kids. We’re the kids that people wanted to throw away. If you would’ve met the 19-year-old version of me, you would’ve been like, ‘Throw him away!’”

Vocalo mornings host Bekoe and Malik Yusef outside the Vocalo studios on August 11. Rakim Winfert for Vocalo Radio.

Returning to Chicago for his first hometown show in more than a decade, Yusef is set to take the stage at City Winery on August 25. He said he always feels bittersweet returning home, noting it’s difficult to make time for everyone but knows the importance of showing community support.

“Bringing it back home is important for me because I need to show the younger generation that you can come home again, you can come home,” he expressed.

Sitting down for a conversation with Vocalo mornings host Bekoe on August 11, Malik Yusef discussed what fans can expect from his show. He also delved into his relationships with Kanye and Donda West, his most notable Grammy Award, his TEDx Talk “Super Vision” and more.

Tickets are still available for Yusef’s show at City Winery on August 25. Find more information on the venue’s website.

Interview edited and produced by Bekoe

Photography by Rakim Winfert

Written introduction by Morgan Ciocca

More from Vocalo: