Jersey City. It’s the State of New Jersey’s second largest city, and it sits between Newark (NJ’s first largest city) and the Hudson River. On the other side of the Hudson is the “Big Apple.” Now that the geography lesson is complete, please allow me to introduce you to M. Josephine, also known as Mary, a singer with emcee ability, a lover of nature and humanity, and a proud Jersey City native.
M. Josephine’s first encounter with music began at the tender age of 5 when Kindergarten Choir Teacher, Ms. Small, called Mary’s mom to her office revealing her musical gift. “My mom had no idea what to expect to hear. When a teacher calls a parent requesting to meet, it usually means trouble,” says the singer. But it actually turned out to be the opposite of mom’s expectations. Up until the age of 9, Mary’s mom organized with several Senior Citizen parties booking young Mary to sing what mainly consisted of Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey classics. The party guests enjoyed her so much that the performances resulted in money on the floor. Her mother ensured that it became a regularly scheduled event.
A variety of sounds and cultures that were present in Jersey City had a formative impact on her. Her brother introduced her to Hip Hop, Salsa, and many more sounds. Mary became particularly attached to groups like A Tribe Called Quest and Groove Theory, as well as artists like KRS-ONE, Sade, Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige, and Chaka Khan. The emcees, especially, inspire her to produce. “[T]here is something magical about a dope emcee/rapper that can deliver heavy truth, dope lyrics with a one of a kind delivery.”
She is also inspired by life and the struggles of her community and surroundings. The injustices she has endured provide her with plenty of subject matter to guide her pen. Growing up in a single mother household, she never knew her father and experienced poverty as a child. “A lot motivate me as an artist and compel me to write and sing.” Her love for family, overcoming obstacles, and a passion for community development provide inspiration for new music and has steered Mary to work for a not-for-profit organization called “Rising Tide Capital” which seeks to empower distressed, urban communities.
Listening to M. Josephine’s music, it’s clear how her sounds reflect her experiences growing up in Jersey City and being exposed to a diverse community that introduced her to cultures from all over the world. “I [like] to personalize my music in hopes that it speaks to someone who can relate to the songs and feel empowered from them. The theme and message that connects my work tends to be about love and awareness (social or self-awareness).” Songs like “Push On” and “Apoco” are clear examples of this message. “Push On” borrows the instrumental from one of my favorite Soulaquarian creations, “Didn’t Cha Know.” To compliment the fantastic music, Mary vows to tap into her own inner strength as she struggles to be herself in a society that encourages people to sell their souls. It is a soulful tribute to Ms. Badu and many of Mary’s other Hip Hop and R&B inspiration, as well as a message of self-love that many people would benefit from internalizing.
“Apoco” is a direct challenge to systems of oppression and the boundaries of sound that box artists into genres. This track points out the disparities between those who have and those who have not within the context of environmental, political, and social ills that We (society) must address before it is too late. Mary’s use of “the walls keep tumbling down” in her refrain gives her message a fire and brimstone feel that compliments the heavy metal feel of the drums, and synthesized violin and piano loops that are prominent in the song’s melody.
Another notable song (out of several that should be mentioned) is “Death Up In Me Pouch,” which features Ysrayl. This song is a nod to both Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (“Anikulapo” means death in my pouch) and Bob Marley, from whom producer DJ Irs likely found instrumental inspiration.
M. Josephine is currently working on a number of great projects. One is Donut Soul, an EP paying tribute to legendary producer, J. Dilla. She is working to release this project on April 23, 2012. Mary is also working on a currently untitled project with her producer, co-writer, and “spiritual equal,” DJ Irs, which should be available by the end of 2012.
Dream collaborations include KRS-ONE, emcees Yaasin Bey and Q-Tip, as well as Erykah Badu, Zap Mama, and Cee-Lo Green. She is always open to building with other artists and producers about potential projects, so if you dig her music, be sure to reach out. You can do so by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org and by connecting via Facebook and/or Tumbler. Tweeters can drop a line as well to @MJosephineMusic.