There is a couch or air mattress in my living room for Mahogany Jones if she ever needs it in SoCal, and she said the same for me if I ever find myself in Detroit. We bonded in just a few emails talking about her life as an emcee, how the UK is representing for the genre, freestyling tips, how she works to give back to Detroit and so much more.
Kendra: Possibly one of the coolest things for my generation was Freestyle Friday, and you’re a four times champ of those battles. Of course, it’s not an easy feat, but did the nerves get less and less as you continued to win?
Mahogany Jones: Wow, it is a really funny story because it was my first year as an emcee, and I think because I never thought of what wasn’t possible, with prayer and just sheer nerve, each time felt as fresh as the first. I was nervous, but I knew that I could freestyle and cats were spitting pre-packaged written.
Kendra: For artists just starting out, what does it take to be good at something like freestyling?
Mahogany: Practice and permission. We have to give ourselves the permission to not be great out of the gate and know that’s great. We have to have creative freedom to play and explore and push. Criticism is the #1 killer of creativity and greatness. Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is an artist best friend.
So it’s a balance between being open to correction and not allowing your inner critic or anyone else to “crush your mic.” Practically, every time you get a chance – drop an instrumental and freestyle. Write a stream of consciousness pages daily. Love this with a passion and pursue being great at your craft.
sKendra: Let’s talk about touring really quick. You’ve toured a lot overseas, which seems to be the norm for a lot of women in hip hop that I have talked to over the years. Have you noticed more female emcees in the UK market?
Mahogany: Yes and in general it’s been refreshing to notice more women who emcee and are practitioners in all of the elements of hip hop.
However, overseas audiences have been extremely welcoming and embracing of women’s contributions and voices to the culture, so super grateful. The overseas low key is ahead of the curve when it comes to catching the wave of what’s authentic and artistic and fresh.
Kendra: So three albums out, including 2016’s Sugar Water. What kind of artistic growth have you noticed in yourself from your debut through that most recent release?
Mahogany: Wow, great question! I feel I am growing more secure in being unafraid to test the boundaries. I’m open to testing the limits of what people know hip hop to be, sonically and aesthetically. I also feel as if I’ve grown open to desiring more growth personally, spiritually, and artistically.
Kendra: One song off that album, “Gold,” has great context about the materialism in our culture. Being that you’re someone who gives back (which we’ll talk about in a second), how important was it for you to shine a light on that subject with this song?
Mahogany: Very! It’s a struggle for me, because I love this art, and I understand my responsibility to use this art to empower and educate and how that doesn’t always pay off and isn’t the most lucrative, and the temptation to flip the script can get real. I know I’m not the only artist who battles with staying true to their message and sound at the expense of what can be viewed as holding back their career. But, at the end of the day, living and speaking truth is all that matters. What good is it to gain the world, but lose my soul.
Kendra: Now you’ve dropped two new songs this year. Are there plans for those to be on an album soon?
Mahogany: Nah, those songs are just extras for the people. We created and we let them go. I’m living to the fullest in efforts to work on the next album, Charyse. I’m also working on a project with composer and trumpeter Kris Johnson; excited about both.
Kendra: Okay now let’s talk about giving back. You’re a brand ambassador for a wonderful organization in Detroit, United Way. How did that partnership come to be, and how much does it mean to you to be a part of their mission?
Mahogany: As far as being a brand ambassador for United Way, the way it happened was such a gift.
Their principles and mission align with so much of what I stand for and how I want to live my life. When asked to write and perform a piece that captured that mission, it was a privilege to do so.
Their organization has actually funded organizations I have taught for, so myself and the youth I serve have been direct benefactors of their generosity and diligent compassion to equip our community.
Kendra: Flipping to a completely different topic now, Instagram. I love to dig deep and I found you posting some Fresh Prince pics. So in your honest opinion which Banks family member are you most like, or are you a Will?
Mahogany: Yes! I am most definitely Will Smith, I’m like a hybrid of Will and Aunt Viv.
Mahogany: I am featured in Jenny Risher’s Dcyphered photo exhibition featuring Detroit hip hop that’s in the Detroit Institute of Art Museum
I’ll also be touring Nepal March/April 2018. I’ll be continuing my awareness efforts against domestic violence and sexual assault through my org aPUREmovement. I’m looking to tour nationally this Winter and Spring. Dropping my single “Bring Back The Soul” courtesy of my label What’s The Irony, on vinyl this Fall with CulturePower45 that will have joints on it from John Robinson, Iomos Marad, LifeLong and others.
Kendra: Because you love Detroit if you had to make a mixtape that best represents your city – what five songs would have to be on it?
Mahogany: Ohhhh dope question.
Too many other songs And artist I need at least 2 volumes:
Royce 5’9’s “Starter Coat”
Marv One’s “Air Mattress”
The Athletic Mic League