TELLING STORIES, CHANGING THE CONVERSATION

Switching between vocalist and emcee, Mumu Fresh consistently shows she was already royal

in Ark Weekender by

Maimouna Youssef goes by her birth name when she sings, but when she rhymes, the Baltimore native transforms into the dope, bar-spitting phenom, Mumu Fresh.

A Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter who chose to take the independent route early in her career, Mumu Fresh is probably the most underrated vocalist-emcee in hip hop.

Every time she takes the stage, and she takes many, her concerts are both healing and aesthetically explosive. Two studio albums, one EP, a list of singles and a catalogue of features, she goes between bars and jazz notes within a drop beat or intermezzo.

In many ways, artistically, she’s done what Lauryn Hill could not. Consistently releasing projects and work that flex her creative skills both vocally and lyrically, in spite of the dirty game of the industry. But, like all freedom riders, freedom is not free. She used to be a substitute teacher to supplement income earned from performances. Nevertheless, she endureth.

Mumu Fresh is a consistent staple who tours with Common, the Roots and Erykah Badu. As well, she’s shared stages with Sting, Bobby McFerrin, Lalah Hathaway, Lauryn Hill, Ed Sheeran, D’Angelo, Femi Kuti, Aloe Blacc, Zap Mama, Bruno Mars, Nas and Dave Chappelle. Her range and creative talents, are anything short of magnificent.

Another dope aspect of Mumu Fresh is her commitment to grassroots advocacy. Mumu Fresh continues to hold fast to her diehard grassroots, give-back commitment to indigenous and communities of color with performances and participation in movements and protests. Her form of resistance, though, often comes through her artistry. As an answer to Lorde’s highly 2013 popular song, “Royal,” Youssef created, song and video, “We’re already royal.”

A mixture of Black Power patrilineal DNA and matrilineal Native nations, she maintains a sound foot in her indigenous heritage. Often, she wears customary Native clothes to represent her Choctaw, Creek and Cherokee ancestry. Or, at times, she rocks mohawks and feathers in colorfully dyed hair that frequently comes as a braided crown.

Rearing a son, Youssef gigs between motherhood duties and advocacy participation. On Saturday, she headlines the Indigenous Youth Fest in Arizona. She tweeted out:

I can’t wait to fly out to Arizona tomorrow to talk Native Health and perform a few songs for you

Although she carved out her own lane, her own category and even, a creative way of being, you can also see her performing her song “Say My Name” on this years’ Black Girls Rock to honor those Black men, women, and children who have been murdered at the hands of law enforcement.

Throughout the year, Mumu Fresh tours from Washington DC to the Shrine in Lagos, and down to Nicaragua, she is a global citizen who uses art for healing. On October 26, Mumu Fresh will be in her hometown of B-more, performing at the Baltimore Museum of Art for the Art, Youth and Justice concert and benefit.

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