Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter/producer/emcee Maimouna Youssef is one of the industry’s best kept secrets. She pretty much does it all but, despite having worked with popular artists Nas, Yasiin Bey, Big Daddy Kane and Dead Prez, many are still only just catching on. Her music is a delightful fusion of jazz, hip-hop, Latin, and R&B. I fell in love with her newest video “Meet Me In Brazil” featuring the gorgeous Lamman Rucker from Tyler Perry’s Why Did I get Married Too, and her debut album The Blooming is possibly one of the most underrated albums of the year.
Soultrain.com: It’s been almost exactly a year since your last interview with Soultrain.com. How have the last 12 months been? What have been the highlights?
Maimouna: I’ll say the Canadian company we linked with that’s promoting our music in Montreal, the French parts of Canada. We’ve been having a good relationship there. Just the response from people from the record. You know, with any independent albums, the time it takes to spread it to the masses is longer. It’s kinda like a butterfly effect. There’s a lot of people who are still getting to know about the project and it’s awesome every time that happens. We’re still shooting videos. We have two more videos to shoot for the album. I’m really excited about the next two videos. I’ve been able to travel a lot and collaborate with a lot of artists. That’s all an artist really wants to do.
Soultrain.com: What are the other two videos from The Blooming you are going to be filming?
Maimouna: We’re doing “Black Magic Woman” and we’re doing “Reach Into Your Mind”.
Soultrain: The visuals for “Meet Me In Brazil” were released a few weeks back. It was so fresh, summery. Why Brazil of all places?
Maimouna: I don’t know. I guess when the producer sent me the track–he sent me a bunch of different tracks. Honestly, I really liked that one. There was something about the tempo that I enjoyed just playing with. In particular, with emceeing. It was a bit of a challenge because it’s not a typical 4, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4 on the bars like that. So I enjoyed just the challenge that it would present to tell a story about a place that I had not been yet and tell a cohesive story, keep it in rhythm, add some flair from that country with some urban flair from where I’m from. I just thought it would be an exciting challenge, just creatively for myself. And it ended up being the song that everyone really loved. I put it out on Twitter and different social media outlets and asked them what video should be next after “I Got A Man”. That’s the one that everyone suggested I do and I had to learn Portuguese for it. It was a nice little project.
Soultrain.com: I have to mention the leading man in the video. What was it like working with Lamman Rucker?
Maimouna: It was awesome! It was definitely intimidating at first (laughs) [He’s] a real actor. But he was great. He really helped me through all the scenes. He added a great eye. Really cool, down to earth. We had a great time, it was so much fun–the most fun I’ve had on set yet. I got to ride a speedboat (laughs). We had a ball. He was easy to work with. It was awesome.
Soultrain.com: Your music and overall vibe are just so upbeat and uplifting. Which rules/mantras do you live by to maintain a positive outlook?
Maimouna: I think it’s just kind of a reflection of how I live. I think as artists we are already emotional people and we feel things so deeply that for me, it’s always important to keep an optimistic outlook on life period just for your own health and wellbeing. If you are a person who is aware of some of the social woes and things like that… I’ve always been very aware just because of the family that I come from. I was homeschooled. My mother and father were very much aware of things that were going on in society and it helped me to understand some things pretty young. It’s always been a bit of a burden, you know how they say ignorance is bliss? Sometimes awareness is a burden. So it helps me to stay uplifted. And when I’m inspired through that it’s only natural for me to translate that through my music. I’m inspired from words that I’ve heard through Wayne Dyer and Michael Beckwith, people like that. That type of stuff keeps me motivated and feeling inspired.
Soultrain.com: What was the last album you bought?
Maimouna: Let me look on my iTunes! I was just buying music. I bought some music from Damien Rice and Amos Lee. I think I bought some Beatles, Robert Glasper, I bought his Black Radio album. I bought Common’s last album The Dreamer.
Soultrain.com: Speaking of Common, I saw a picture of you with Common recently. Is there a collab coming soon?
Maimouna: I hope so! We’ve been talking about it for years. That is something that’s probably going to happen in the future. We’ve been friends for a long time. We collabed on the BE album. I sang on that album on the song “Love Is.”
Soultrain.com: Can we expect any new projects from you soon?
Maimouna: I’m working on a new project due to be released next year so I’ll be recording. I’m also recording group projects with an artist out of Chicago named Rhymefest, who is one of Kanye West’s right hand men. I’m coming to Europe in the spring. I’m excited about it! I don’t have all the names of the places right now but I’m gonna be in Belgium for two days. I’m gonna be in London for about a week. We have something else in France. I’ve been to Belgium before but this is going to be my first time in London and in France, so I’m super excited about that. We’ll be back in Montreal too next month. I am working on some French remixes for my French fans. So that’ll be fun.
Soultrain.com: If there’s one thing you would want listeners to take away from your music, what would it be?
Maimouna: I would definitely say a sense of boundlessness. To be inspired. To feel powerful, as powerful as we really are. That’s what I want people to pull away from it because even when I write sometimes, I write for that same reason. To inspire myself. A lot of times I’m speaking to myself. To really start to believe in your own power. Reality is only what you give your attention to long enough and keep long enough that it becomes reality because you believe it. You give it power. That’s something I’m teaching myself, too–to believe in the limitlessness of my source. All the other boundaries that we put on ourselves like time and age, physical ability… is not really real. Once you can live with that, my God! The possibilities as a human being are endless. I’m an artist because I love to do this, that is my purpose in the world. To be able to share my gift to inspire people but it’s not the only thing I want to do. I have a deep desire to build an art school that will really help children to understand why we’re all so connected. More of a universal understanding of human beings, of spirituality and of art and of how they are all intertwined. There’re so many things I think about outside of the music but using the music to inspire the masses.