l_deb4f957aff4624dd7421335d907485b.png Clutch Contributing Editor Rif Raf caught up with the “GoldenGirl” with the Musical Midas touch, Muhsinah before her first international mini-tour in the UK, chatting up music, travel, fruit stereotypes, what you’ll likely find in her “clutch”, and collaborations with Soulja Boy? Read more and be sure to catch Muhsinah at the 2008 Black Lily Festival and The First Annual Roots Picnic two of her last few US performances before she heads overseas early this summer.

Muhsinah: La di da, di da da da da

Rif Raf: You there?

Muhsinah: Hello?

Rif Raf: Man you singin and everything?!

Muhsinah: I was “La la la’in” – Hey!!!

Rif Raf: So you got a new album out Day.Break and a sort of prequel called Pre.Lude – congratulations on that!

Muhsinah: Thanks!

Rif Raf: What was your inspiration for this project, I know some of the songs were re-done – some entirely new – so what was your inspiration leading into Day.Break?

Muhsinah: Um just the fact that a lot of people havent really heard of me before, y’know kinda making it a metaphor, just kinda coming in and being in my earliest stages. So if you like compare it to morning – that’s what Day.Break really is.

Rif Raf: So lets get back to the beginning of the interview – you were hyped as hell! What is YOUR sign?

Muhsinah: Cancer!

Rif Raf: Oh you and MJ Zilla are both Cancers that’s crazy. Are you the typical Cancer by astrology terms.

Muhsinah: Noo, I’m not – I’m like 2 days from being a Leo.

Rif Raf: So you’re name means “Doer of Good Deeds”

Muhsinah: Yea you can pronounce the “i” as an “e” { Moo~See~nuh }.

Rif Raf: We know you’re very passionate about music – what kind of things you like to do aside from music?

Muhsinah: Um, I like to make things . . . like my Mom’s a seamstress and I pretty much I learned to sew as a process through my whole life. I like being outside – like you can hear the birds.

Rif Raf: Yea I just heard a random bird like “what kinda habitat is in that room”?

Muhsinah: I had to go outside! That’s why I get so excited – its spring! Everything is gettin hype! I think growing in my age I really want to be a gardner at some point and just be really like corny and like, not necessarily being a hippie, but y’know growing my own food.

Rif Raf: REAL organic food you can trust…

Muhsinah: Exactly and not something that’s gonna make me sick.

Rif Raf: Do you like fruit or candy more?

Muhsinah: FRUIT more! Cause fruit don’t make you bug out like later on – yknow? You know like with candy – you get hyped and excited at first and then later on . . .

Rif Raf: You crash.

Muhsinah: Yea exactly. But fruit like you can eat fruit all day and be hopping around and be all right.
Rif Raf: So what’s the favorite fruit?

Muhsinah: Mangos!

Rif Raf: Mangos?

Muhsinah: Man actually – I would say Watermelon but, err, um like you know . . .

Rif Raf: Yea – there are some social stipulations with that.

Muhsinah:

The stereotype of watermelon I don’t know . . .I really want to get rid of it, because watermelon is so good for you it’s one of the best things.

Rif Raf: Yea I feel your pain on the watermelon.

Muhsinah: Yea like I be in the store like, making sure nobody is looking at me when I’m buying one. Yea like when I buy watermelon, I buy watermelon like every few days nowadays – its really stupid – like I love it – like I could eat it all day.

Rif Raf: I used to work at an Art Museum, and when I saw the title “Gogh” it made me wonder who are your favorite visual artist if you have any.

Muhsinah: Wow – uh my brother. Yea he’s really talented, he’s an animator, he draws, he does all types of stuff video – he’s probably my fav visual artist because he’s the closest to me. I’m not really picky, you know I might not remember their name – I’m not a name kinda person, but I’m really appreciative of visual art. Of course everyone is gonna name like Dali, but I like local artist. Like I go to the Herschorn Museum – that’s my favorite. Its free, and its a big circle, so you just go around the big circle and there is new stuff all the time. And I never remember who it is, and I go there like once a month -just to see what they have.

Rif Raf: You would have loved my job, I would just go there sometimes for lunch.

Muhsinah: Yea, Yo! Like people are NUTS! The stuff that they come up with. Like visually – I just get so inspired I take a tape recorder or my phone to the Museum sometimes, and just record.

Rif Raf: So the songs, I guess this goes back to the beginning – it changes the mood so much. Only and Always versus Always – I got 2 totally different feelings one was really heavy, with what I call the “Paul Robeson” voice, this deep rumble – do you have an alter ego?

Muhsinah: [Laughs] – Well I think I’m really sensitive to the environment, and I’m really sensitive to my surroundings so if something happens that day – even that day, like the day I wrote Always, the first version . . . James Brown died. That’s why that version is totally different from the other one.

Rif Raf: Wow – and I guess that’s why his voice is the sample?

Muhsinah: Exactly, but I didn’t even do those scratches – I went to Roddy’s house [DJ Roddy Rod] and asked him to do it, and I was like “Yea I did this, can we do it as a James Brown tribute – but not like directly?”

Rif Raf: Well yea just inclusive of him.

Muhsinah: Yea! And I mean that was what I was on that day – so why not? Yea alter-ego? Yea its growing – a few of em’ actually I think I could have a couple – but hopefully they’re the kind that  people won’t know its me. . . unless I tell em’.

Rif Raf: Ok well I ain’t gonna ask you to divulge anything else with your Clark Kent…

Muhsinah: I just wanna try different kinds of music so if my “little cousin” comes out with a CD, don’t be mad.

Rif Raf: That’s important though separating the person from the music sometimes – so you don’t have to worry about people saying “this is too much of this” “this doesn’t sound like the last one”.

Muhsinah: Yea, cause people automatically wanting to put you in a box before you even do anything. Even now I’m in such an early phase of my music, that people already want to hop on it and call it something.

Its like dagg like, man I’m like 5 years old – leave me alone.

At least let me get to middle school, cause I’m always going to be trying something else. I have ADD when it comes to something being called a certain style.

Rif Raf: What’s your fav place to travel or anticipate traveling to?

Muhsinah: Hmmmph! Well I think the first place I’m always gonna say is India, because its so far and its the biggest deal of a place that I’ve ever been to. And its pretty much one of the most beautiful places I been to. If you go to the right part of the country. even in the more . . .

Rif Raf: Impoverished areas?

Muhsinah: Yea, you can still appreciate how people just make do, and do what they gotta do to make their lives what they are. They appreciate nature, and appreciate sleeping on the ground at night in the summer, because its cooler than in the house. Just simple stuff that we take for granted and be like “Eww, I ain’t doin’ that”. I really appreciate that.

Rif Raf: Favorite accessory. What is one thing you can’t leave the house without?

Muhsinah: I take headphones everywhere.

Rif Raf: Like a doctor without a stethoscope?

Muhsinah: People laugh at me cause’ sometimes

I have a quarter-inch or a mic cable in my clutch, or something so not girly

– like you’re not supposed to have in there like “Why do you have a soldering iron in your bag?”

Rif Raf: McGyver is why!

Muhsinah: I might have to do a circuit board – I have no idea…

Rif Raf: Hey, you never know, you riding MTA, you might need to fix something.

Muhsinah: “Why you got a microphone in your bag?” Ya never know – just depends on where I’m going. I always have big headphones, even in the gym.

Rif Raf: Running on the treadmill with the studio joints?

Muhsinah: I don’t like the little plugs, they hurt my ear.

Rif Raf: If you had to transmit to outer space a song – any song yours or anyone else’s, that sort of summed up humanity what would it be.

Muhsinah: Um wow- do medley’s count? To sum up humanity is totally subjective – I don’t even know. . . I don’t think that song has been written yet. That song doesn’t exist. Its my goal to write it, or somebody else’s place to write it. That’s the thing I love so much music, but I think we have so far to go as far as figuring out what we are and try to convey to someone else – that song ain’t out.

Rif Raf: To be released, coming up on the next album.

Muhsinah: Right.

Rif Raf: If you had to pick a song as your own individual last will and testament – I ain’t gonna put the whole of humanity on your shoulders, y’know just yourself.

Muhsinah: I think me, its whatever song that I wrote last – because I try to make that next song the better one, like each song will get better and better. Whatever song I did last – that’s the one that’ll go.

Rif Raf: This is like the reverse of Office Space where each day was worse than the previous – but with you its the opposite! Every song we get is that much better!

Muhsinah: I get happy about it. Because I’m still learning new stuff, and its been that since the beginning for me. At first it was “I wanna learn Pro Tools so lemme start recording” not “I’m going to change the world – I’m going to change humanity!” No, no no. I wanna learn Pro Tools, lemme get a mic and I’m gonna record some songs because I wanna program some stuff.

Rif Raf: That’s more viable and honest than most people say- the one way to change the world really is to be honest and communicate what you’re feeling.

Muhsinah: Yea and just be. Exactly. Just you know, when we’re comfortable with just being, it makes it so much easier, and it makes you more lighthearted – and I don’t get you know wound up.

Rif Raf: What is your take on the future of music – being able to take Rxlngr digitally and then going the traditional route of distribution.

Muhsinah:

I think the future of music is about to be one of the best – I think people who see mainstream music, maybe they think the future is dwindling – but for us we’re like “Yo we free, we can do pretty much what we want to”

The fact that we [musicians] know we can be empowered- that’s what makes the future so bright. Somebody gotta be happy about it. Everybody so sick and tired – that’s WACK. And not resent everything and be regretful, its just a waste of time, we might as well just have fun and try something new everyday, and like live you know?

Rif Raf: What inspired you to do the “Scatterbrain/Dead as Leaves Remix”?

Muhsinah: Oh My God! Aw man. Like the fact that I had that song on repeat for like days! I was like Yo this is the best song I’ve ever heard in my life. And then the fact that its such a timeless song – I found the album way late, and listening to it and coming back to it, I was like Yo – I don’t even care if people hear the song, because listening to this song I’d be stuck on it if I didn’t do anything with it. People in my house were like “could you not listen to that song ?”

Rif Raf: Yea they’re like “Now’s a perfect time to put the headphones on”.

Muhsinah: [Laughs] Exactly.

Rif Raf: Okay, I got a random draw here, I got four names here – I’m gonna let you pick the numbers 1 through 4 – it’ll be your destiny to answer these questions. So between the numbers 1 and 4 pick two .

Muhsinah: 3 and 1.

Rif Raf: You got the Coltranes and Herbie Hancock – what would you say you channel from each of them, any attribute, method, equipment style, approach – anything that you feel inspires you?

Muhsinah: Well the way they in different ways took their experience and learned from what they got in that time – like Herbie playing with certain musicians when he was younger, and got so much information and did all this crazy stuff with it. And Herbie being a musician and such a scientist.

Rif Raf: He’s literally a Mad Scientist.

Muhsinah: Yea for real! The fact that he understands MIDI down to the circuit board, its like YO! If I could do like a fraction of that – that’s why I try to get thorough and understand music down to theory, we’re supposed to be able to do that as musicians.

Rif Raf: Yea some people know music to a molecular level, which is him well maybe he’s atomic level, others are molecules and some are just throwing compounds around.

Muhsinah: What I learned from Herbie, the fact that you can bring it backwards, scale it back – you can sound like whatever you want to sound like, because you know exactly what you’re putting together.

I could play classical music, like now. . . but I could also play along with Soulja Boy and them.

Rif Raf: Now that would be interesting to hear.

Muhsinah: It would be fun for me, it would be so much fun for me to do that. I was talking to my brother about this, and he sent me a link to a Soulja Boy video where he’s like “My teacher gave me a report with all F’s and I said “Throw some D’s On it”! We were like, if I was a kid, I would be watching Soulja Boy and doing that and. . .

Rif Raf: You’d be having fun with it.

Muhsinah: Yeah exactly, why everybody gotta be so heavy about everything? You’d smile more when you let it roll off your back. Don’t even worry about them. As far as the Coltrane’s I’m really inspired by the fact , the way that they learned from something was their traveling, the fact they went to India, and were blown away by this huge culture that’s been around thousands, and thousands of years that nobody really knew about. Its like Yo, they have so much stuff that they knew about way before any of us knew what was going on. There are so many people in India. The fact that they went and merged it with the music that they knew how to make already is mind boggling to me…

Rif Raf: They literally created a hybrid within jazz-  you could really open a subject on Coltrane method jazz just specific to their experience, it broadens music in a way that its just specific to them. And then you think if everybody did that music would be endless – which is a good thing.

Muhsinah: Well there’s a lot of music out there now, that we haven’t even touched yet. If everybody taps into their own experience genuinely – it’d be the craziest music. I consider myself behind sometimes, if I really, REALLY tried – I would shock myself. And that’s what I want to do, I want to surprise me. That’s what its about – all the greatest people that we pull from shocked themselves, they shocked everybody around them, nobody knew what was going on, people thought they were crazy – and all they did was pull from what they are. Yourself changes from day to day, Myself now is not me from ten years ago.

Rif Raf: Or even ten minutes ago.

Muhsinah: It will never be again.

Rif Raf: Not that this was a life-changing interview or anything! [LAUGHS]

Muhsinah: I mean if I moved to Africa, I would be a totally different person, I would make totally different music.

Rif Raf: Yea and not on some missionary “I can change your world” stuff but on “Your world can help change me”.

Muhsinah: Exactly, and if you know what you wanna be – the essence of who you are, or at least ballpark it makes the experience a lot better. If I went to India and didn’t feel good about what I was doing, I wouldn’t value the experience enough.

Rif Raf: Well I’m going to South Africa in 2010, and I’m taking people with me.

Muhsinah: Well put me on the list then!

Rif Raf: So collaborations – you’ve worked with Hezekiah, Roddy Rod, Benji B, Little Brother – featured in Okayplayer. Who else would you like to work with?

Muhsinah: Everybody, pretty much. Anybody who wants to do something. I’m really open to trying new things, I think that’s pretty much what I live for

Rif Raf: I’ma hold you to this, if you come to Atlanta we’re hunting Soulja Boy down, I’ll tell ya that right now.

Muhsinah: Aye, aye – you got my word: I will do a hook for Soulja Boy. If we can find him and he wants to do it.

Rif Raf: I’m putting this in

HUGE text, its going to be so BIG. I’m going to have five Million links pointing from his YouTube page to that 1 statement – trust me.

Muhsinah: Word up! See that’s the thing we need to do, as independent artist we got to work with people we’re not expected to. All the crazy collabo’s from the 60’s and 70’s people were like “Wait a Minute. You Black and you White – but why you?”

Rif Raf: I found this crazy jam session with Stevie Wonder and the Beatles all in the room together, and I’m like “what the hell” is this a comedy skit or for real? How’d this happen? Anybody you wanna give shout outs to?

Muhsinah: Everybody!

Rif Raf: You got more fans than you probably know about.

Muhsinah:I’m surprised everyday. I be at home, drinking watermelon juice – I have no idea, anybody who’s out there listening I appreciate – I don’t take it for granted. I do my hardest to make music for me – and if you like it listen along. Zilla of course, angelic monster, crazy great person. And to my momma and my daddy and my brother – and um yea, y’know. This was a fun interview.

Rif Raf: Your fun in the beginning was contagious.

Rif Raf: Thanks again for the interview!

Muhsinah: Thanks for calling and asking good questions. I’m inspired, I’m probably gonna go make music now!

Rif Raf: Now that you just said that, you know I’m putting this in right?

Muhsinah: Word up!

To learn more about Muhsinah please visit www.muhsinah.com and www.myspace.com/muhsinah

(Photo Credit: Jati Lindsay)

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