DUBAI: Maimouna Youssef, more popularly known by her stage name Mumu Fresh, is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, rapper and activist looking to make a difference in the world with her music. And on Dec. 11, the American musician will take to the stage on the closing day of Sole DXB, the popular Dubai street culture and music festival, returning after a two-year hiatus.
“Oftentimes, people who come to my shows say that they experience a full range of emotions. They feel the joy, they feel hyped up. Sometimes they feel emotional, they cry and then they dance. So yeah, you can expect to have a full range of emotions and feel renewed and restored after,” said Youssef about her upcoming show.
A third-generation singer-songwriter and musician, Youssef grew up in Baltimore and has African American and Native American ancestry. Coming from a musical and blended family, Youssef grew up listening to various musical genres, which gave her the ability to seamlessly straddle various styles with ease and create her own unique sound.
“My grandmother was a gospel choir director, so I learned that very young in my grandmother’s house. My mother became a jazz singer, so I learned to sing jazz when I was very young. And she was very particular about what kinds of music could even be played in the house. If she did not think a person was a good singer, they could not be played in the house. So, she curated the playlist in the home, and I heard a lot of blues, a lot of gospel, a lot of jazz. Funnily enough, I did not hear a whole lot of R&B music, honestly. I kind of studied R&B on my own,” said Youssef about her musical education at home.
“My parents were fans of rap music as well, so I grew up listening to KRS-One, Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest. And then my brothers, they were into Wu-Tang Clan, you know, and at that time, hip-hop was very heavily influenced by Islam. So, growing up Muslim, that was also music that was approved,” she added.
Over the course of her musical career, Youssef has collaborated with various artists including The Roots, Salaam Remi, D Smoke, Anderson .Paak, Bruno Mars, Femi Kuti, Zap Mama, Nas, Jill Scott, Ed Sheeran, Common, Raphael Saadiq and Tobe Nwigwe, just to name a few.
A track close to her heart is “Dance Daughter,” released earlier this year, which she says is about “unapologetic joy and care.”
“I really wanted to create something that helped women, in particular to heal, to let go, to be able to release, to feel some relief after struggling for so long and so hard and holding families together, holding nations together. So often, (as a woman), you’re raising children, you may have careers and you are wives, and you are all of these different things to different people. I identify with that. In my own family, I’m a lot of things to a lot of people. And I have to remind myself to be that to myself too. Okay, everyone needs me, but I need me too. And I can’t come last,” said Youssef.