When I first met hip hop artist Mahogany Jones, it was July 2017 at a hip hop celebration event in Southwest Detroit. I remember it well because I was super pregnant with Zephaniah (baby #5). She probably doesn’t remember this, but I had passed by her while walking into the Southwest Detroit Welcome Center and she greeted me with a warm smile and friendly, “Hello! How are you doing?” Not one of those mumbled hellos, either. She had a big smile on her face and said hello as if we had seen each other before.
I didn’t realize at the time Mahogany was one of the performing artists for the event. Since I had only been living in metro Detroit for a year, I wasn’t very familiar with the Detroit hip hop scene. When it was her turn to do her set, I was amazed at Mahogany’s performance. Elijah, my oldest, was with me at the time and we both agreed we loved her sound. Her music was captivating and “Bring Back the Soul” instantly became one of my favorite songs from her Sugar Water (2016) album.
After our time at the hip hop event, I’d run into Mahogany a few more times over the years at various Detroit events. And each time I’d see her, she’d have that big, beautiful smile on her face and greet me as if we were old friends. I’ll always remember her for that because when being hundreds of miles away from home and living in a new place, it’s encouraging to see a familiar face and have someone take the time to connect with you.
“Y’all, continue to pursue what you know is for you. People will tell you ‘no’ and that is your yes…When God give you that yes, that’s a yes– no matter who say no! You hear me today? Y’all better believe that…”Mahogany Jones, We Found Hip Hop 2018 at The Wright in Detroit
I love Mahogany’s positive energy and humble spirit. I knew early on I wanted to interview her for a feature on the blog so I’m happy that we were finally able to make this interview happen for today’s feature!
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I had the pleasure of connecting with Mahogany to discuss her brand new EP album Floating. Have you heard it yet? If not, then go check it out now! It’s been on replay on my Spotify for the past week now. The seven-track EP dropped last Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and I can’t say enough wonderful things about it.
Mahogany’s accolades include four-time winner of BET’s legendary 106 & Park Freestyle Friday and performances at SXSW, Black Women Rock, the Detroit Women’s International Jazz Festival, and We Found Hip Hop 2018 at The Wright (just to name a few). She has performed with highly acclaimed music artists such as Moonchild, Common, The Roots, H.E.R. She also gave a Ted Talk in 2018.
Mahogany is also passionate about working with youth in the community. She’s worked with Detroit organizations such as the Yunion to teach young women life skill classes and Inside Out teaching poetry classes.
These days she has a new and very special role in life– mama to her new baby girl Elle. We talked about how she’s loving mom life. I could tell she was beaming with joy as she told me all about Elle even though we were talking on the phone.
Yet, despite having experience with working with young people in the community, Mahogany said she felt nervous about being a parent. “I was nervous about the idea of being a parent,” she told me during our phone conversation. A perfectly normal feeling for any mom to have, no matter if she’s a first-time mom or a mom of many, like me, a parent always wants the best for their child.
To help her with overcoming her nervousness of parenting, Mahogany said she prayed and asked God to give her guidance on how to shape her daughter’s character. “I want to be able to feed her mind. I want her to be sharp and smart, but I want her to be a good person, too. I want her to have good character so now that’s paramount in my mind.”
Featured on the Floating album is a beautiful song dedicated to baby Elle, also named after her daughter. Mahogany, Leon Timbo, and her husband Dre Marshall collaborated together on the track. When Mahogany was pregnant with Elle, she felt inspired to create a song about her pregnancy experience and love for her baby. While working on a music challenge with a friend, the two would write a verse a day for a month. “And randomly this beat came to me and it spoke to me,” she explained. “The song came to me before we had her name. I wanted her to know how I was feeling and that I was thinking about her.”
During our interview we also dived deep into the meaning behind a couple of the songs on her new album. This album is a personal reflection into Mahogany’s journey as an artist, a mother, a wife, and as a woman. It is also a special project to Mahogany because she worked on it with her husband. Powered by The Thirties, the two executive-produced the album and Dre also produced five of the seven tracks, along with Jimmy Ali (TAG feat. Pitbull “Backpack”).
I hope you enjoy reading today’s feature interview with hip hop artist Mahogany Jones!
Five Questions with Hip Hop Artist Mahogany Jones
A few lyrics that stuck out to me in the song “Elle” were when you said you promise “never to try and change you” and that you want your daughter to “have a seat at the table. Never let them give you labels, I want you to be someone you can believe in.” As a mother, why is this important to you?
MAHOGANY JONES: “I want to give her what I didn’t have. You know that lyric, the last one (‘I want to be someone you can believe in.’)? I want to be someone who she can believe in. And I love the flip– I want her to be someone she can believe in, too.
She’s going to be barely walking before somebody is going to look at her and have a whole laundry list of assumptions about what her place in the world is. And I just want to be able to cultivate her in such a way that she is so clear about who she is, that other people’s opinions and thoughts and attempts to kind of box and label her will not stick onto her. She’ll be able to be who she is, in the face of just popular opinion.”
One of the songs I really like on your album Floating is the song “Regrets”. I listened to “Regrets” several times because it’s something I feel I can relate to on a personal level. What are your thoughts on the song?
MAHOGANY JONES: “If you want to physically do something about your appearance, you look in the mirror. And when God wants you to do something about your character, He puts you in relationships so you can really see yourself in ways that maybe you never saw yourself before. And so, you know, being married, God had kind of given me such a mirror to just kind of see some things that I really just needed to deal with.
2018 was an amazing year, but a really difficult year for me because I had began to see or bear fruit from all the seeds that I planted, in regards to my career as a musician and as an artist. And things were starting to happen. But I think so much of my career was built on the foundation of having to prove myself to myself.
I wasn’t able to really sustain different opportunities that were coming to me because I was really struggling with unworthiness and feeling like I wasn’t worthy of having the different opportunities to come at me. [I was] really wrestling with imposter syndrome and wrestling with the anxiety around how people viewed me, what people thought about me, and how I was performing in different spaces.
I think, personally, it was beginning to ravish on my relationships, and definitely, professionally, it was beginning to ravish that anxiety. “Regrets” came from this place of realizing: ‘People may have been foul. You may have had some people who betrayed you but take responsibility and ownership for where you missed it. You just needed to show up better. You think that you’re humble, but it’s arrogant for you to just show up in spaces and think that the rules get to change for you, or that you get to come up kind of halfway because you’re so good or you’re so talented, and then expect people to be cool with it.’
And so I wanted a song that was a realization for me– or a coming to Jesus moment for me– as something that was almost like audibly an apology.”
In your song “Regrets”, I like the lyrics where you said: “How did I manage to clip my own wings? I was always so afraid. Wish I was brave. Wish I wasn’t a slave to my emotions.” I really felt that.
MAHOGANY JONES: I mean, that’s what it was. [Inner thoughts Mahogany had on her self-reflection] ‘You know, here you are– you’re getting all these amazing opportunities, and your inability to see yourself in the light that you are working so hard for others to see in, you’re destroying them with your own hands.
And if you don’t tap into the dopeness of who you are, you’re gonna tear apart your marriage. Allowing your insecurities to take over you and for you not to show up– that’s who you are. We got to pull us together!’”
“Black Girl Magic” and “Melanin” are also two beautiful songs that I feel can serve as personal anthems for many Black women. Tell me about both songs. I love them both! I feel like they tie in together, too.
MAHOGANY JONES: “Very much so. I didn’t go into it like, ‘Ooh! Let me write these two anthems about Black women.’ But that is kind of what just came out of me. I feel like the music came to me.
“Black Girl Magic” was an idea actually that I had worked on– I want to say maybe 2018. My longtime friend and producer ironically had a beat. I started working on it then and I only had a verse. And then the producer kind of took the beat away.
[Then] my producer Ron Lee tried to make a new beat to it, and it still wasn’t quite it. I played it for my husband, and when we were talking about the idea of working on an EP, I [said] ‘Man, I just really want to finish this song.’ And [he said], ‘Well, let’s let’s finish it!’
One of the producers, who worked a lot on this project (Floating album) Jimmy Ali, had given me a bunch of tracks, and I heard this really hard militant track. And I [said], ‘…I just want to write a song that’s just me being unapologetically Black. Black Black Black Black Black Black!’
I really wanted “Melanin” to be an anthem not just for Black women, but for Black people and Blackness. But when Dre heard it and he thought about it, he [said]: ‘You know, you need something that is feminine and something that will make women proud of their Blackness. “Black Girl Magic” is cool and it’s inspiring, but it’s for young girls. “Melanin” is the adult version of “Black Girl Magic” and I’m sure men will rock with it and it will touch them, but it’s really for women.’
We’ve had a very tough year this year. There are starting to be more conversations about Black Lives Matter, especially in regard to Black women. I feel that the timing of the songs are also really good. What are your thoughts?
MAHOGANY JONES: I couldn’t have planned it. I wrote Black Girl Magic in 2018, and I had written Melanin fall of 2019. There were a few moments that were happening from Lizzo to Zendaya. It was a lot of highlights– a highlight reel for just Black girl magic and for amazing melanated moments. ‘Well, here we are– out here being great!’
And it was also timely and great because, sadly enough, we needed to remind people of how valuable and precious we are when, again, we were hit with a stream of deaths that were happening because of police brutality. I’m just happy to have what I feel like are anthems that we can be proud of who we are and not have to keep apologizing.”
My last question for you is: what do you want people to get from your album?
MAHOGANY JONES: “I want people to get that there’s somebody out there that gets you. I want people to get that there’s nothing wrong with being resilient. I want people to get that in the same extent, there’s nothing wrong with being vulnerable.
And with a song like “Regrets”– as long as you’re alive, you always have the choice to make another choice. I just want people to get that it’s okay to share your whole human experience and that I’m happy to be …someone who happens to make hip hop music. Hopefully, people dig and enjoy it.”
Mahogany Jones’ new EP album Floating is out now! Feature artists on the album include: Dannie Baylor (“Floating”), J-Hyde (“Regrets”), and Dre Marshall & Leon Timbo (“Elle”). Additional producers on the project are Tahj Elliott (“Wait A Minute”), Inkredibeatz (“Floating” co-produced with Thirties). “Melanin (remix)” is produced by Mahogany’s friend and long-time music collaborator Ironic Lee and Red Campbell.
Follow Mahogany Jones on her official Instagram account here. For bookings and interview requests, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Unless otherwise stated, all photographs are courtesy of Mahogany Jones.
Special thanks to Mahogany for taking the time to interview with Good Life Detroit!
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