Mad About Mamadou. – Childhood, Storytelling, Religion and Love
22 Sep 2022
Praised by Kazi Magazine for “carry(ing) the torch of Tupac’s philosophy and (his) ability to depict the Black perspective in America at such a young age”, 22 year old Harlem-Malian poet, songwriter and filmmaker Mamadou. has been able to connect with a wide array of audiences with his captivating storytelling ability. With genre-bending soundscape, his music amplifies the emotional vulnerability across the Black diaspora, Islamic spirituality, the first generation experience and unveils the stories of marginalised communities. First and foremost, Mamadou is an exceptional musician. Having cropped up on my radar with his single ‘A Rose Told Me About Love’ finding its way onto Fresh Finds on Spotify, I instantly reached out to have a chat with the young talent to find out more about his ethos, spirituality and background. With the last three years being spent releasing music, spoken word and short films, the innovative and creative prodigy has slowly but surely been edging his name out there. I had the privilege of having this chat with Mamadou. and here’s how it unfolded.
To start off, tell me a bit about yourself.
My name is Mamadou. I’m 22 years old at the moment – I’m from Harlem, New York originally but my family are from West Africa. I consider myself a storyteller essentially. My early kind of creative influences and aspiration had always been to be a storyteller. When I was in seventh grade, one of my mentors who was my English teacher at the time, introduced me to the art of poetry and that kind of creative realm. From seventh grade, I fell in love with it, with the ability to put words to combine fantasy and reality in order to depict, a community or somebody’s internal state of being.
That kind of navigated me through my growing, my coming of age and growing up in a marginalised community with my Islamic faith. I guess with the educational system in America, writing and being a storyteller has always been a backbone. So I’ve always leaned onto that. In terms of me putting myself out there, it’s been a fairly new journey in itself. It’s been about two or three years of me actively putting myself out there, putting the stories out that I like, and intertwining my love of poetry, film and music to really be a storyteller. So that’s me.
That was perfect in depth response, thank you for that bro. You’ve said you’re a storyteller – as much as you create film and are of course an exceptional musician – is the ‘storyteller’ descriptive the main umbrella you would like to come under?
Absolutely. Absolutely. I don’t want to put myself necessarily in a box – that’s because you know, Inshallah, I don’t know how I will evolve as time prevails, you know. I want to dive into so many different kind of avenues – I think a storyteller is a good umbrella because essentially through all those mediums, that’s what it’s doing, you know. Being able to put different kind of themes together and portraying in a way where people can either connect or learn something new from it, or I can learn something new from the experience of making those stories as well.
What inspired you to be so creative? Did you have a good experience within the education system or is it just your passion as a whole?
I think it’s a mix. It’s a little bit of both. I think I was definitely exposed to it early and I give a lot of love to my mentors for helping me. Growing up, they really exposed me to the arts, especially in a curriculum where a lot of things were focused on test scores and exams. They really went adjacent to the common core and exposed that. I owe a lot to my early influences especially my seventh grade English teacher. Also just growing up in my neighbourhood, there was a lot of soul, there was a lot of beautiful art that was happening in the marginalised communities.
I think also growing up in Harlem definitely inspired my early creative influences. I think it was a mixture of the exposure as well as a sentimental connection that I had to just being able to have a canvas where unconditionally and unconventionally, I can spell it all out. I was my own barometer and I think that was something that I hold onto since I was young till now.
I’d like to talk a bit about the song, which helped me discover you – ‘A Rose Told Me About Love’ – Chat to me – what’s the meaning behind it and what does that song mean to you?
A Rose Told Me About Love – the metaphor of the rose is something that I’ve seen throughout my life. I’ve touched on it in a lot of different bodies of work – that metaphor of the rose essentially is this ‘figure’. I leave the space for ambiguity as well, but essentially it is this natural figure that I converse with navigating themes of love. Love in all spectrums, love to create a lost funnel with and love with yourself. I think our biggest mirrors, not the mirrors that we have, you know ones that are manufactured, I think more of the mirrors that are around us, like the rose, I think are a rose is our mirror – nature is our mirror.
It’s basically having these conversations with natural sources in order to find true love and what love really means. That’s essentially what it is, just a conversation that I have with a figure represented by the rose, but it can really be an enigma of what the world represents.
Did it do as well as you were expecting it to? It obviously made it’s way on to a couple editorial Spotify playlists. Have you noticed that your listening listening portfolio has expanded a lot since the release?
Yeah, – I’ve promoted that song a lot on TikTok as well a while before I released it. I didn’t really think too much of the song – I feel like I’m always just kind of in a creative process. I try to create and then let go. I don’t really try to hold on to things too much, but for some reason, a lot of people really connected with that. I remember creating that like December of last year and then not releasing it until I think a month ago but you know, I think that’s the beauty of creating art and letting it go and moving on because you never know what can connect with folks.
And I think that’s the beautiful thing of detachment. I’ve definitely seen an increase of folks starting to really connect with my whole world because I have supporters that support me for my poetry, there’s folks that support my music, there’s folks that love the short films that I’ve done. I’m grateful for sure.
My next question almost ties in with that question directly. Childhood Memories dropped more than three years ago – what’s kind of changed for you over that time period?
I just think I’ve grown as a person. I’ve grown in my intentionality. I’ve grown in just all facets of my life. I was 18 going on 19 when I released that track. I’ve just started to become more intentional with my art, as well as my relationship with my faith and relationship with how I want to grow just as a man, as a human, poet, musician and as a story. Over the years I’ve learned to just become more intentional with the words and the messages that I’m putting into my work. I just try to be a little bit more intentional now and I’ve just seen that reflect within my growth. I just don’t create any type of art. I guess I’m just growing up and I’m seeing that with my work. I think that’s been the three year journey and that’s also changed the style of music that I create. The genre, as well.
Well, it’s interesting you say that. How would you actually describe your sound to someone that hasn’t heard your music because it’s quite a diverse discography, isn’t it?
That’s a great question too man. I think putting it in a genre is tough too. It’s tradition if you’re trying to be traditional and put in a genre, I think now I’m definitely leaning more towards like indie song, singer songwriter, folk, I guess maybe alternative R and B. I don’t really have a genre because sometimes I might just put some things in a spoken word. Sometimes the track will deviate from this folk piece and then go straight into straight spoken word. I would just say indie to keep it, I guess, simple. Yeah, but it’s throughout the spectrum. I don’t really know myself to be honest.
What general message or messages do you try to convey through your poetry and music and does every song possess some kind of different sentimental value to you?
Yeah, absolutely. I think the one thing for sure is vulnerability. I think growing up, I’ve had a hard time navigating my vulnerability. Growing up in Harlem with so many different identities getting thrown at me, not knowing how to, you know, express myself, but still assert myself as a man, as a human being, as all these different things. Vulnerability is definitely one thing and I think a big thing as well is imperfection. I’m so imperfect. There’s so many things that I’m learning that I’m still navigating through within myself, within my Islam, within everything and questions that I still ask myself, contradictions that I feel. I think that’s exactly what my arts represent – the imperfection. I don’t want somebody to listen to me and feel like, oh, he has all the answers. I want them to just feel like that I’m actively in pursuit of truth. Within myself, within my purpose on earth and then also finding and amplifying the truths of the communities and neighbourhoods around me. That’s ultimately where I found myself, just navigating within vulnerability and imperfection and trying to somehow make it make sense, you know.
So I have to ask what is the big dream for you?
Wow, man. I’ve been huge on manifesting man. I’ve been with my mentors talking about that – they’ve been asking me that what the five year goal is. I’d say the big goal is to be stable and secure, actively pursuing my art at its fullest. So being able to support myself and my loved ones without any kind of second thought, and staying genuine with my work. I think another goal of mine is just to be able to carry out projects or be a part of projects that I will fall in love with. So whether it’s working in film, working in production or working on the acting side, doing that and connecting with folks whilst being able to travel. I think when it’s all said and done, for any of my work, I want it to stand the test of time, so when I’m long gone regardless of whether I get all the accolades when I’m in existence, I just want an ounce of my words to, to still be here.
Could you talk to me a bit about Tread Slowly as well as that came out this year. How did that song come about. And what does that mean to you?
‘Tread Slowly’ is about my relationship, in the form of a dream that I had about a home going with my grandmother. I never got the chance to meet any of my grandparents – that’s just how life kind of goes. But I had this dream that she was taking me away from this material world, in a search for divinity. And she’s telling me as we make this transition from the material to elsewhere for me to tread slowly in that. And I feel like I wrote that that, that kind of dream that I had, I like woke up one day and I just wrote, it kind of wrote like the skeleton and the theme of Tread Slowly because I feel like that has been the metaphor of my life as of to date, you know, as I’ve gotten older, me trying to navigate material kind of aspects of this world and more spiritual, getting closer to my faith, trying to be more intentional with my Islam and trying to decipher between those two worlds. But I also allow myself the permission to tread slowly while I’m trying to be better, right. I had a lot of fun making that film as well. Yeah, that’s what the song about.
So, moving on from the Tread Slowly – are you planning on releasing any more music this year? Or does it all just come kind of naturally, and you just release music when you feel you have music to give people?
Yeah, I mean, I definitely think it’s more of like a natural thing. But I definitely am planning for a lot of things. I don’t want to overwork myself, so not too many things but I’m definitely working for something. Before this year ends I’m working towards something bigger. So yeah, so definitely something to wait on, at least for the end of this year. Definitely.
What do you do with your free time besides writing?
Yeah, you know, my free time is kind of tucked away just because I work as wel – trying to balance that is a great creativity. I love to hoop, I haven’t hooped in quite a while though, I gotta get back hopping soon. I love watching films – I’m an avid film watcher. I love biking, I’ve also been watching some boxing too. I like to watch boxing. But yeah, that’s me when I get free time
What advice if any, would you give to your younger self?
These are one of the soft core questions coming out now. I like this one. I say like, be patient, be patient. And I say also . I’ll tell him that so like, you know, trust your intuition and lean into the discomfort. Yeah, I think often because when I was younger, I always loved to write but I didn’t always put myself out there when I was younger. I think that’s something I wish I did a little bit more but you know, there’s always timing now. But that’s something I would have told my younger self, just like lean into if you know you want to do it, but it feels uncomfortable that exact thing that you had to do. So I would have told myself that.
I love that comfortability quote honestly.
I’m gonna give you a list of like a series of words one at a time. And if you don’t mind, it’d be great for you to kind of elaborate what that word means to you. So what does the word faith mean to you?
I think it’s the unconditional beliefs in the spectrum of life to Allah. So whether you are on cloud nine, and you’re doing amazing when things fall apart, and you’re given the biggest examination, the unconditional belief in the release of your grip on life almost into his palms.
What does the word love mean to you?
Love is… I wrote this yesterday, Oh, no, yesterday, well, a couple of weeks ago, I put it like this, I say like, love is like, keys in the crowded bedroom, I’ll put this in like a like a metaphor. I said Love is like your keys in a crowded bedroom. Because oftentimes, when you’re in a rush, you know, you’re trying to go to your daily hobby or trying to go to work, but you didn’t put your keys in the right place. So you’re scavenging all over your room, looking looking, looking, searching, searching. But then when you finally just take a second to sit down, and you just check, you know, right here in your physical damages right in your pocket. I wrote that. And I think it holds true because I think a lot of us we try to search for love outside of ourselves, and like scavenging scavenging, but when we take a second to really breathe, be with ourselves, it’s always been right to write down in your pocket. So I think that’s, that’s my definition for now. If I keep trying to go, yeah, maybe. I’ll put it I’ll put it like that. And that’s like, that’s, that’s my current definition right now.
What does happiness mean to you?
I believe, you know, happiness. Happiness, I think is a state of being where you know. I think happiness is a state of being where things are more, I guess, lean on a positive side. However, I don’t think happiness is always the goal. I think peace is acceptance. Because happiness, you may not always be happy, or there may be a season for you to not always be happy. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s a life on fulfil I love a lot of people say they want to find happiness. I think that’s, that’s, you should definitely experience happiness. But to sustain happiness is not always a is not always a linear thing. Right? Like is a graph all convoluted and whatever. So I think I think, you know, when speaking about, you know, things to pursue in life, I think happiness is something but I think more over acceptance and peace. Because you can accept peace. I mean, you can accept happiness, as well as you can accept, you know, things that are not happy, you know, melancholy or sadness or whatever. So, yeah, I think you have is the state of being that people should pursue. I don’t think it should be the pursuit of this line. I think it should be acceptance and peace.
What does beauty mean to you?
Dang, dang. This is good, though. He got me thinking. I think obviously, I believe everybody has their own definition of what beauty is. I think that is like that phrase, ‘beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’. But I think it’s a little bit more than that. I think beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but I think also beauty must be and I use this word earlier, unconditional as well as seen to transcend beyond the means of physical and beyond the means of material. It should be things that transcend all of that, because looks will fade. You know, material things will fade but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be you should you shouldn’t be seen as beautiful. Life’s beauty transcends physical. It’s a feeling, and I think it also ties back to faith as well. If you are constantly faithful, I think you’re constantly in hold of something beautiful, this constant belief of something. So yeah, I think beauty transcends the physical for sure.
I feel very much taken back by your answers – I feel as if I’m learning something myself.
One thing I feel you’re really talented at is turning something that may be interpreted as a negative and flipping it into a positive through your writing. What’s the key to maintaining a positive outlook from a negative situation?
That’s a great question. Well, because sometimes I lean in too much to the negativity at times, to try to derive something beautiful, it’s sometimes for the sake of trying to make a negative situation look beautiful. It may cause you know, it might compromise how I personally feel at times. So I’ve had to monitor how much I dive into more of this negative complex, emotional palette in order to protect my own peace. I think a lot of guys just like me need to take breaks. You know, when I feel like I am overwhelmed – sometimes I just need to simply stop writing and live life.
I guess that negative feeling is the entry point, the access point can become a little bit better, instead of just diving right into things. Sometimes just living life allows me to keep my peace when I guess navigating more hard issues or topics or whatever can cause negativity.
I’ve got one last question to kind of wrap up the interview. I don’t expect this to be an easy question to answer. But I do typically close all of my interviews with this question. What is the meaning of life?
Yeah, that’s a question. Oh, I feel like I have an answer. And I have like a subset of answers. I think you know, to speak on a religious aspect, I think is just to serve in the most authentic way possible. The pillars of Islam. To just be a human in the eyes of Prophet Muhammad and be that design human, internally and for your community. That’s one thing that I agree with you in terms of how I navigate my life in terms of meaning. But then there’s also a subset of meaning within that, right. People say the meaning of life is finding your purpose, right. Then you can kind of dive into that a little bit deeper.
You know, people find purpose, there’s different phases of life for different purposes. Your purpose, when you’re a baby may be different from when you’re toddlers, for when you’re an adolescent, to teenager to adult to elderly. They have to guess to live to those different phases, in different purposes. You know unconditionally, as you can, humans simply exist, we have a right to simply breathe. That could just be a simple meaning of life as well, to just breathe to exist in your basic necessities. And I think the problem with our world today is just that, even when it comes down to basic human necessities, we’ve not allowed each other to do right on a global scale, we see that in so many different political climates and throughout the rest of the globe, we’re not allowing that to be met, the ability to brave the ability to simply exist, right?
The meaning of life is so much based on the context, so much based on privilege, it’s so much based on just where you find yourself in life, what cards you were dealt – and how you make it work regardless. I think it’s finding acceptance and finding peace in whatever cards you were dealt. We’re only here for a temporary time.
Thank you for your time bro, this has been a great interview.
What a way to wrap up the interview. Mamadou. is certainly one of the most talented and exciting artists on the rise at the moment – I fully expect him to be up in flashing lights soon. His morals and human values stand tall as a great qualities on their own, alongside the ability to create such media that he does. If you don’t know, get to know!