This Friday, March 25 marks the one year-anniversary of Zayn Malik leaving One Direction. And in either the most deliberate assault on pop fans’ emotions or the most appropriate coincidence ever, it’s also the day Zayn will release his debut solo album, Mind of Mine.
Ahead of that fateful day, Complex has unveiled its April/May 2016 cover and interview, featuring a revealing discussion with the new solo star. The lengthy chat covers a lot of ground, including the benefits of leaving 1D, Zayn’s surprising post-album plans, and his relationship with Gigi Hadid. Here are nine things we learned:
He wasn’t allowed to have a beard in One Direction.Giphy
“There were certain restrictions in terms of the way that we could come outside of that young teen boy look,” Z said about the band. When pressed about what specifically those restrictions were, he said, “Mainly my beard, honestly. I wasn’t allowed to keep it. Eventually, when I got older, I rebelled against it, and decided to keep it anyway. That was just because I looked older than the rest of them. That’s one of the things that is now quite cool. I get to keep my beard. I also wanted to dye my hair when I was in the band, but I wasn’t allowed to.”
You’ll probably be adding Mind of Mine to your sex playlist.Giphy
When asked if he wants people to have sex to his album, Zayn replied, “Well, if that’s something that they would choose to do, then yeah. […] Who knows? It’s a very sexual album. I’m sure it could fit into that scenario.”
Don’t expect him to speak about politics anytime soon.Giphy
As we’ve pointed out before, Zayn has never set out to be the Muslim pop star, and he’s never been particularly outspoken about politics and religion. That won’t be changing anytime soon, he says. “I see everything. I see the political thing. I see the Trump thing. I see it on the news. They are saying, ‘Does this mean Zayn Malik has to leave America?’” he said. “These things are always there. I see what’s going on, but I’ll never be the person that will make some sort of statement. I never want to make anybody biased toward anything. I could have an opinion, but that’s my opinion. That’s the main thing for me. I don’t want to influence anybody’s brain in any sort of way.”
Tupac had a huge impact on him.
When asked which album has had the most impact on him, Z chose Tupac’s 1996 LP All Eyez On Me. “The songs are so real, and from a perspective of a place where somebody is not afraid to be completely 100 percent honest,” he explained. “He’s the first rapper to talk about the fact that his mom was a crack addict. For me, that’s courageous as fuck. He took that risk and spoke about everything in detail openly and without any shame. For me to listen to that album as I grew up, it really helped me to understand that it’s OK to be honest with your art, because people appreciate that.”
Kanye has also inspired him to be more real.Getty Images
“Being real” is more important to Zayn than being successful, he said. “I believe that success follows authenticity. People see through fake shit,” he explained. “They don’t want to see that; they want a real person. That’s why Kanye is so successful. He’s speaking the truth, regardless of whomever he offends, he isn’t bothered. That’s admirable.”
His love life definitely informs his music.
Zayn revealed that his music is “massively” influenced by women, saying, “I feel like women are a big part of life, so I’ve got to include them in my songs!” He further revealed that Mind of Mine will have a mix of upbeat songs about being in love and downbeat ballads about falling out of love. “There’s a good ratio of both,” he said. “There’s a lot of falling in love and a lot of falling out of love. It’s probably 60/40, falling out of love.”
One key scene in his “Pillowtalk” video was actually a candid moment.GIphy
Asked about the moment in the vid when he and Gigi smile at each other, Z revealed, “To be honest, the reason it was used was because we were just messing around. It wasn’t even, like, part of the shoot. You know when they say, ‘action’? They didn’t do that. It was just rolling.” He also remained tight-lipped about his high-profile relationship, saying he’s “learning to deal” with all the attention. “It’s just one of those things now, in the background. I just leave it as a bit of a noise in the background.”
He has some tattoos he prefers to keep private.Giphy
“I’ve got a couple of Arabic writing tattoos and nobody knows what they mean,” he said, adding them he keeps them private, just for himself. “That’s why I wrote them in Arabic. Obviously some people can read Arabic, but the tattoos are in places that people won’t necessarily see.”
He wants to go to college after his album drops.
“I want to go to school. I’d love to get a degree in English, or literature,” he revealed. “I think I’ll just do a home thing. I’ll get my courses from one of the universities around here and just do home study. It’s always something I’ve wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to get my degree eventually. I want to do that, and hopefully write my next record while I’m doing it.”
BONUS: A behind-the-scenes vid from his Complex shoot features a preview of Mind of Mine's spacey title track -- check it out here.