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How Malina Moye teamed up with Bella Thorne for one of 2021's hottest hip-hop guitar crossovers

Malina Moye and Bella Thorne
(Image credit: Paige MacCready)

Fresh off the stages of the Oates Song Fest 7908 in partnership with Feeding America, Malina Moye is hitting the ground running in 2021 as she brings rock ’n’ roll guitar back to mainstream music. 

The “female Jimi Hendrix” draws audiences in with her seamless blend of funk, blues and rock. Over the past few years, she has inspired players with a string of successes, including her third studio album Bad As I Wanna Be charting for two consecutive weeks at no. 1 on the Billboard Blues chart, and most recently, her pandemic check in with Fender where she shared her secrets for getting more emotion out of a guitar solo.

This year, Moye linked up with another industry boss, Bella Thorne – star of the likes of Dirty Sexy Money, Blended and Infamous – for new single, Phantom. Set to appear on Thorne's forthcoming debut album, What Do You See Now?, the track features a gritty, guitar-driven hip-hop groove that's highlighted by some searing high-gain solo spots from Moye.

Guitar World caught up with Malina to learn what inspired her approach to the track, her favorite parts of the process, and what gear she used to produce her soulful hip-hop-meets-rock guitar. 

How did you come to working with Bella Thorne and what was your favorite part of working with her?

“Her people reached out to me through Instagram and our teams worked together to get us into the studio. I loved that she had one note for me. She said, 'Do what you feel. Do what inspires you.' When it came to the music video, I loved the fact that she wrote and directed it. She also had a diverse crew working behind the scenes, which was amazing to see.“

What was your approach to writing your guitar parts?

I wanted the guitar to be my voice and hopefully have listeners say, 'Oh yeah, that's Malina'

“When Bella sent me the track, I heard the Southern hip-hop bounce influence and I wanted to bring a soulful rock sound to match. There's a cool lick that producer No I.D. created with the trumpet throughout Jay Z’s Death of Auto-Tune that inspired me to make something melodic but simple, using a yin and yang and adding in the big E chord in the hook for depth. 

“In the solo sections I had more freedom, and the song is in E – one of my favorite keys to solo in – so I wanted more feel and screaming on the notes with tasteful shredding that could still be melodic like Mamacita by Tyga featuring YG & Santana. I wanted the guitar to be my voice and hopefully have listeners say, 'Oh yeah, that's Malina.' To me, less is more, so I work with a simple E scale in all positions by leaning on my ear. I hope people dig it.“

Malina Moye and Bella Thorne

(Image credit: Press)

What guitar gear did you use in the studio and on the music video set?

“I actually used two guitars to record this song. I’m all about textures and layering. I used my custom Seafoam [Green] Fender Stratocaster. It’s designed to my specifications after trial and error over the years from playing. It’s a left-hand body with a right-hand headstock, strung in reverse with my signature Dean Markley strings. The neck is based off of my ’78 Strat. I use DiMarzio pickups in the neck and bridge positions. 

I play upside-down, so the Gibson luthiers shifted the bridge and made a special plate so that the Hendrix Flying V can be strung upside down and stay in tune

“The second guitar was my Gibson Custom Shop Flying V, which is a recreation of Jimi's left-handed 1969 Gibson Flying V. This guitar is incredible. It features a Murphy Lab aged ebony finish and has aged gold hardware. It’s extremely light but has a lot of grit and punch.

“The guitar is extremely custom so getting it set up for me was an interesting process. I play upside-down, so the Gibson luthiers shifted the bridge and made a special plate so that it can be strung upside down and stay in tune. This is the first sample in the production of this guitar since it’s a lefty, but actually strung in reverse.

“In the video, I used the Flying V and my Swarosvski crystal Strat. I had to work in some bling to make it Malina.“

What's next for you this year?

“Finishing up my album, staying safe and looking forward to launching my signature Dean Markley strings. I also have movie projects on the horizon, too…“