Malik grew up in East Bowling, south of Bradford city centre, in a working-class family and neighbourhood. He attended Lower Fields Primary School and Tong High School in Bradford. Malik has stated that he started taking pride in his appearance after moving schools at the age of twelve, and as a teenager he took performing arts courses and appeared in school productions. He grew up listening to his father’s urban music records, primarily R&B, hip hop, and reggae. He starting writing raps when he was at school, and sang on stage for the first time when singer Jay Sean visited his school. Malik also boxed for two years, from the age of 15 to 17. Before beginning his music career, he had planned to pursue a career as an English teacher.