Radio Active

Get to Know Muhsinah

More than 20 years before 2 Chainz made being different the “it” thing in popular music, a single and seemingly unassuming woman from Iceland floated her way into the mainstream music scene and single-handedly dismantled the world’s perception of how music can be created, imagined and consumed.

In 1993, Björk, the originator of different, seceded from being the front woman of rock band The Sugarcubes and branched out on her own to release her first solo opus, Debut.

Literally unlike anything the world had ever heard before, Debut proudly boasted a goulash of genres that were previously considered to be like oil and water—never before envisioned to have the ability to mix together in a cohesive manner. Techno, jazz, pop and even hip-hop influences framed Björk’s beautifully ferine vocals and the future of sound was realized way ahead of its time. Disrupting the status quo, Björk’s bravado to experiment artistically played over poorly with some, even prompting Rolling Stone to review the album as “painfully eclectic.”

Perspective is everything, though, as the same album that the magazine dubbed “utterly disappointing” way back when for its creative risks is the same exact album that, along with nudging from a few friends, inspired classically trained pianist, Muhsinah, to quit hiding behind her piano and finally step behind a microphone to share her enchanting voice with the masses.

“Björk was the first person I heard sing really complicated melodies. Remember, I’m classically trained so I can hear all these things very clearly and she was the first person to bring that musical complication to the pop world,” says Muhsinah. “She encompasses so many of the things that I really love and hearing her early on really helped me to be brave in the choices that I make with sound, with melodies and how I express what I want to say. And she’s just dope.”

Björk  – “Venus as a Boy”

The pot loves calling the kettle black as Muhsinah can be summed up as dope in her own right. She must be as her electronic-R&B, wraithlike soulful sound captured the likes of rappers Common and Phonte (Little Brother, The Foreign Exchange) when they happened upon music from her MySpace page several years ago. From taking a creative leap of faith and posting two songs on the popular social media site, the Virginia-raised singer is now immortalized with features on Common’s Universal Mind Control album, The Foreign Exchange’s Leave it All Behind project and a Grammy nomination in the books.

The creative journey is one of evolution and Muhsinah explains that her musical voyage is far from over.

“My sound has changed a lot over the years and I’m sure that the music that most of the public has heard is completely different from what I’m doing now,” says Muhsinah. ”You can still expect some aspects of what I’ve done in the past, but I think it’s a lot more refined, it’s a lot more focused and it’s really intentional.”

The singer is completing the finishing touches on her next album, Amazing, which she explains will be about “going for what you want and becoming as amazing as you’re destined to be.” The album is set for a late-summer or early-fall release. Until then, stream Muhsinah’s beautiful Dear Blank EP below.

Dear Blank EP by Muhsinah:

About Marissa Wallace

Marissa Wallace

Marissa Wallace is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist who delves into the multifaceted and rich fabric of Black arts and culture. Follow her happenings on Twitter @MarsWall_ for more.