“Mommy! Can you come here for a second?” Soul vocalist, Grammy nominee and Roots collaborator Maimouna Youssef aka Mumu Fresh, has taken a time-out of the interview to ask her mother, fellow singer Nataska Hasan something only a mother would remember. “Ma, I’m doing an interview and he wants to know what my first big performance was,” she says in between chats with her son. “I know first big performance with The Roots or whatever. But I’m sure I had a big performance with you.”
Notable shows in her history isn’t really something the Baltimore native can keep track of now a days. Since dropping her first solo EP “Black Magic Woman” and her first full-length solo album “The Blooming” in 2011, things haven’t exactly settled down. As an adult, she’s swapped licks with everyone from Nas, Dead Prez, Will Downing, Cody ChesnuTT and Martin Luther to Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Angelique Kidjo. Not to mention The legendary Roots crew who she earned a Grammy nomination with for her work on “It Don’t Feel Right.” “Daddy always talks about Ruby Glover,” she says to her mom still trying to remember the show that started them all. “But what do you recall being my first big performance?”
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Maimouna does recall the size of the audience when at 17 she successfully auditioned during Baltimore’s “American Idol” trials. After winning the first two rounds, she was flown to LA where the home schooled, middle child of 14 would catch the culture shock of her young life. “It was kinda weird seeing everybody look the same,” she says through laughter. “They’re all like… clones! It was just really strange for me.” She discovered the feeling was mutual when she was mocked after winning another round wearing an African style dress her grandmother had made her.
“I had a camera crew from Fox 25 Baltimore following me and they told me I was too ethnic. (Laughs) But they said if they had an ‘Ethnic Idol’ they would call me.” Where many of us may have felt justified in shaking a table or two, Maimouna decided to be better instead of bitter. “I think what I learned from that experience and many others like it that I’ve had, is that I would rather be me then be a replica of someone else. I reach people in a different place when I just stay authentic.”
With her new mixtape “The Reintroduction,” Maimouna Youssef is out to show the world covered in business suits, button ups and day jobs, just how natural they can be. A place she’s been since her first show with her mother, who remembers the story after all. “My mom says the first big stage I performed at, I was 10 years old with Ruby Douglas at the Meyer Hoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore. The seating capacity is over two thousand people so that was my first big performance,” she says giggling.
The tradition continues.
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