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Motor City Cribs

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When Detroit gospel-soul-jazz-funk-techno keyboardist-vocalist Malik Alston heads back to his pad after a gig, he really is going home. You see, his south-of-Boston-Edison crib-studio is also the house he grew up in.

His maternal grandparents originally owned the home. "When I was growing up I could just run downstairs and see my grandparents. I was blessed," he says. Alston's grandparents passed the house on to his mother, and when she passed away five years ago, Alston took over. Today he shares the upstairs with his wife, vocalist Badriyyah Wazeerud-Din, while his aunt lives downstairs.

Alston's studio is in the attic that he shared with his brother growing up: "It's very spiritual for me — it's heavy being able to go to the first piano I ever played." Surrounded by keyboards, it's here that the prolific Alston pursues his diverse sounds.

He grew up immersed in music; his mother was a touring classical vocalist and piano player. Alston's own musical beginning was as a gospel singer, and he's worked with such luminaries as James Cleveland, Ortheia Barnes and the Winans. Not surprisingly, since gospel is the root of soul music, Alston followed his gospel muse into his own soul-inflected genre-straddling sound(s).

In 1996 he started the band Planet Pluto with stars-in-waiting Dwele (whom Alston has since toured with as a backup vocalist) and Saadiq (from Platinum Pied Pipers). To name a few of his other collaborations, he's also worked with Detroit house legend Mike Clark and produced a number of spoken word events in the D. If it's got soul, Alston's got his finger on it.

Who would have thought so much sound could come out of a modest home on Tuxedo Street? For Alston, it's the perfect place to further his music. "I don't dwell too much on the past since it's all here — you see, my home allows me to think about the future and where I need to go."

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