NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concert series has been on some next level status this year. With artists like Big K.R.I.T., Daniel Caesar, Tom Misch, Jorja Smith, GoldLink, PJ Morton and Frédéric Yonnet bringing their A+ game over the past few months, it's a wonder that desk is still standing. As great as these artists are, only one 2018 performer was so nice she had to do it twice. That distinction goes to our girl Maimouna Youssef, aka Mumu Fresh.
Her debut actually came a few months back when she practically stole the show during a guest stint with supergroup August Greene back in February. Sis was so good, it's only fitting that NPR invited her back for a headlining slot. And trust when we tell you, she did not come to play, wasting no time putting both her singing and rhyme-spitting skills to use with opening number "Ink Pata." Youssef went a step beyond "doing it for the culture," sharing healing harmonies and reverential chants in her native Lakota tongue before breaking out into a passionate spoken word piece – a powerful homage to her ancestors who "survived the Trail of Tears AND slavery."
After shouting out creative partner and production wizard DJ Dummy, Mumu captivates the audience and ends up taking us to chu'ch with an incredible "Miracle" and "Work In Progress" medley from their 2017 The Vintage Babies collaboration. Dummy isn't the only musical genius working his magic in the background. Ray Angry, Chelsey Green, Corey Fonville, Romier Mendez, Monique Brooks-Roberts and Kevin Jones held it down on the instruments while Rayshun LaMarr and Amber "A.D." Harmon gave vocal support.
Another Vintage Babies track, "Say My Name," served as both a tribute to Sandra Bland and a biting critique of the ongoing injustice that burdens women of color. Her emotions, uncensored and unfiltered, gave voice to those who have been silenced. Afterwards, in a somewhat full-circle moment, Maimouna brought out the man who dubbed her "Mumu Fresh" – iconic rapper Black Thought – to rock the mic and bless the crown with a poignant verse.
As you can imagine, the performance was a milestone for the artist as she admits, "I’ve been a fan of the powerful work NPR has been doing for years and the Tiny Desk Concert series has always secretly been on my bucket list. I actually wrote it on my vision board this past New Year's Eve while I was making my new year's resolutions, so this is a beautiful manifestation come true to be able to rock on the Tiny Desk stage with my partner DJ Dummy; not once but twice this year! The icing on the cake, Black Thought is my special guest. Of all the people in the world, Black Thought, who happens to be one of the greatest lyricists on the planet and the first MC I had the honor of touring and becoming GRAMMY-nominated with, happily agreed to be my special guest. The spirit was high in the room, the impact was felt and history was undeniably made. It’s a blessing that I'm forever grateful for.”
Watch the performance below and be on the lookout for her upcoming project titled, Been Here Before. Produced by 9th Wonder and The Soul Council, the album, which features Rapsody and Musiq Soulchild, is due later this year.