Photo: Daniel Mendoza/Recording Academy
Mumu Fresh On What She Learned From Working With The Roots, Rhyming & More
Mumu Fresh has done back up vocals for the likes of Erykah Badu, the Roots and Common, but now she's taking center stage and sharing all of herself with the world. Her magic in front of the mic can be seen during her NPR Tiny Desk performance, where she sang pieces of what she grew up with, including soul, hip-hop and Native music.
The mix of sounds is something that has become important to her. "It's so so important for me. Before I used to compartamentalize my identities." she told the Recording Academy backstage at ESSENCE Fest. "There came a time when I was like, I want to be my whole self. I don't want to compermantalize."
She may be doing her own thing now, but that doesn't mean she's leaving behind what she learned as a back-up vocalist.
"I've learned so much working with those artists, like my childhood heroes and some of the best performers in the game," she said, "I keep the lessons I learned from them with me."
Born Maimouna Youssef, she attended the Duke Ellington High School of Arts in D.C. and said she felt empowered being able to develop her talents in school.
"It was really powerful being able to be taught by teachers who are working in the field, so they could give you not just the experience they learned in school, but the experience that they were learning everyday being working, living artists, " she said. "I think they really helped me as a writer, especially with my confidence as a writer ... I used to write rhymes, but I don't think I looked at myself as a writer and and there I started to not just write rhymes, but short stories and screenplays and then horizons just broadened in terms of what I could create and how powerful the ability to control your narrative was."
She added: "As a band leader, I think being a woman I wasn't really confident in the beginning leading men, so I really learned how to do that."
But Fresh developed her rhyming skills outside of the classroom too. Her brother, a master MC, wouldn't let her come outside of their house during the summertime without a rhyming battle.
"If I didn't win, he'd send me back in the house. Everyday I would come back outside trying to sharpen my skills" she said laughing. " I loved it,I was a good student and loved having his approval."
As for what she loves about ESSENCE Fest, "It's like a family reunion even though you don't know everybody here, they've shared your experience."