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KiNG MALA is the nom de plume of Los Angeles-based artist Areli Castro, whose twisted, beat-driven sound, as heard on songs like "She Calls Me Daddy," "Cult Leader," and "Sunny Side Up," evokes dark alt pop contemporaries like Billie Eilish and Banks -- the latter track was featured on her 2023 EP Spilt Milk. Castro spent her formative years performing at coffee shops and wine bars in and around her native El Paso, Texas. An outsider by nature, she felt hemmed in by her hometown's conservative social and cultural restrictions and relocated to Los Angeles. Assuming the alter ego KiNG MALA, a play on "bad bitch" in Spanish, Castro began experimenting with masculine tropes (King as opposed to Queen) and, after the release of her 2020 EP Gemini, found her voice amidst the discord. With that connection secured, she started writing songs rooted in themes of truth, self-empowerment, and patriarchal confrontation, culminating in the release of 2022's Honey Catching Season, which included the intensely dark "Cult Leader" as well as "Sloppy," a collaboration with fellow pop provocateur UPSAHL. Castro kept the momentum going in 2023 with her third EP, Spilt Milk, which skillfully married darkness and light on standout cuts like "Dirty Dishes" and "Sunny Side Up."
© James Christopher Monger /TiVo


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