Malik Davage, the 23-year-old DC native who brought The Voice watchers to tears during his blind audition last month, was bumped from NBC’s musical-competition series Monday after losing to Mark Isaiah during the “battle round.” Even though he narrowly missed the live-performance round, which starts next week, Davage was still upbeat when Washingtonian caught him on the phone. “There’s no love lost in that situation,” he says, “I’m just thankful I was able to showcase my talent on a stage like that.”
Davage’s run started with a rendition of Miguel’s “Sure Thing.” Twenty seconds in, he got the coveted chair-swivel from co-host Adam Levine and at first had to play it cool and finish singing. But in footage that aired last month and now has more than two million YouTube views, he breaks down in tears of joy after realizing he’d compete on Levine’s team. Davage hugged Levine and Gwen Stefani in appreciation, sat back in Levine’s chair, and watched as his mother and daughter gleefully came up from backstage to hug him. “I just gave everybody who I was in a moment of life,” he says, “I didn’t think it’d go viral.”
Davage describes this as one of the best moments of his life. “Growing up in the neighborhood I grew up in, having my daughter there, having my mom there, going through years of situations where I had to feel like maybe I’m not the best singer…” he says, “I grew up hearing so many no’s and the moment I got that yes, it came all out.”
Davage grew up in Southeast DC near Capitol Hill with his mother, Sharon Stringfellow. He blew the roof off the assembly hall at his eight-grade talent show at Alice Deal Junior High School when he sang Marques Houston‘s “Circles,” and decided he had the chops to turn pro. He recorded his first song as a student at Delaware State University, and also performed on BET’s 106 & Park four times. After graduating, he moved back home and sang for any gig he could get his hands on, including openers for Monica Brown and Rico Love, a halftime show for the Wizards, and the national anthem during DC’s Turkey Bowl, all while holding down jobs at Foot Locker, H&M, and MedStar Washington Hospital Center and caring for his newborn daughter, Paris. “I tried to stay in the loop of things to prep me for if I had a big-stage moment,” Davage says. “So if The Voice came, I’d be prepped for it because I was so used to placing myself in situations to sing in front of people.”
Davage got a preliminary audition with The Voice last year in New York. The show reps liked what they heard and invited him to Los Angeles for the recorded blind auditions–”and what did I know, I got a whole chair to turn,” he says.
Davage’s daughter, who turns three in June, watches every performance. “Every time she watches me on TV, she winds up crying,” he says. “She’ll see me start tearing up and then she’ll start tearing up.” He describes Levine, the Maroon 5 frontman, as an “awesome individual,” who’s “great at giving constructive criticism.”
So what now? Davage is working on new music and spending as much time as he can with his daughter. He wants to work more with Levine and John Legend, who also coached Davage during his stint on the show. Davage hopes his new platform will help people see DC in a new light. “I feel like I’m one of the few people around my age group coming out of the city with a positive outlook, doing something good,” he says. “I get to put DC in a situation where we’re not just known for political reasons, we’re known for our music and our culture.”