Mahogany Jones is an activist, an educator, and an artist. A former four-time 106 & Park Freestyle Fridays champion Mahogany Jones puts lyrics first, A Detroit resident, Jones’ music is consistent with the Motor City sound – soulful, thought-provoking, and unapologetic.
in the summer of 2018 she released her critically acclaimed album, Sugar Water. The 13-track album displays Mahogany Jones’ versatility and growth as an artist and a lyricist. Sugar Water was produced by Mozaic, iRonicLee, and Darell “Red” Campbell.
Why’d you title your album Sugar Water?
Mahogany Jones: Oh wow. When we first started putting things together I want to say it had been Outkast’s anniversary. I was really thinking about their formula and whether intentional or not this is how it kind of fell down. It was this interesting mixture that made what they had to say and how they had to say it more palatable. It seemed like Big Boi always came with the raw what your everyday average Joe on the street was up on. Dre always had something that was always on some higher consciousness and just made you think. Their mixture made it that if you were about that street life you were gonna listen because of what Big Boi had to say and if you were on the aware conscious tip you were going to listen for what Andre had to say.
I thought about my own formula and I kind of previously had just been in your face, whether it had been my faith or different things that I stood on.
The song Dying Breed is incredible and speaks on our culture. Why was important for you to convey that message?
Mahogany Jones: Thank you. I think for a few reasons. I serve as a Musical Ambassador with the U.S. State Department and pretty much get to experience Hip-Hop globally and get to and see how certain countries are doing such a great job of preserving Hip-Hop culturally. It’s not just, “Oh, we’re out here making dope records and doing dope graffiti,” but truly the essence of the culture. Brazil actually has a department that uses Hip-Hop in its government. They get it. They get that Hip-Hop is really a tool that can be used for social change and to engage people. It just seems as if nowadays we don’t really get it. I’m not speaking about the differences.
I believe that Hip-Hop can be many truths. Sonically it can be different, the experiences that people have can be different — that’s cool. I just mean it’s essence of peace, love, unity, and having fun. The same way that rock music is passed down generationally, it’s something that we need to start taking pride in. We got so many people coming up but nobody is looking back to the roots of understanding where it came from or why it’s here, but people are making records sounding stupid and looking dumb. I feel like we need to understand it and appreciate it so we can continue to be vanguards of it. We need to continue to push out a culture that’s respectable and important.
What inspired the song Home?
Mahogany Jones: Again, I think it’s a very compromising situation for me as someone who is a U.S. Musical Ambassador and has worked with the State Department and seen great things come from our country and seen how in a lot of ways the U.S. does really help a lot of countries in regards to foreign policy. But in a lot of ways we’re also pretty foul [laughs]. Being a woman of color and living in the country I’m definitely pushed to the edge in society, I’m definitely marginalized in a lot of ways. Our bodies are disregarded. This recent rash of police brutality is crazy. I live in a predominantly white neighborhood and the things that come out of people’s mouth sometimes just blows me away. I just realize that in a lot of ways we’re definitely displaced and we don’t have somewhere that feels like it’s ours. It’s very compromising because as much as I am African, I’m more American. I’ve been to different countries in Africa and it’s like, “Oh yeah, you’re an American,” and I’m like, “Wait, I’m African!” and it’s like, “Not really, shorty!” It’s rough. Read More Here
The album title, Sugar Water, comes from the chorus on the first tune, "Bring Back the Soul." On this track, "soul" appears to be something from the past, a sweet drug that everyone was addicted to at some point in their lives, but have since replaced with things of lesser value. Jones' intentions are clear when she raps, "resurrect it, then perfect it, liquefy it, then inject it, in the hearts of the people when they least expect it, give 'em that sugar water" after verses of reminiscing on boom-bap, Michael Jackson, listening to music with her mother, and other touching memories.
After the second verse, it's clear we as a society have devolved from the purity Jones wants to bring back into music: "When being original was vital for survival, when having a rival wasn't about the image, wasn't about record sales, wasn't about the gimmicks, we was in it to win it and to win it didn't mean we had to mimic who was hot for a minute, cooled down by their second round, career was finished ... ain't nobody committed to making classics, you can feel the difference, we need soul." Amen.
Next, Jones shifts to a more literal interpretation of "soul" with the track "Gold," while still continuing the commentary on contemporary artists. A perfect Kendrick Lamar sample explains the inner turmoil Jones and many other artists will experience at some point in their careers: "Look inside of your soul and you can find out it never exist. Look inside of my soul and you can find gold and maybe get rich." Exploring the dangers and influence money can have over a person, Jones, similar to Lamar, is exploring the cost of making money off something that comes from a very sensitive place. The verses say: "don't you wanna know how it feels to make a mill," "what's real, I don't even know no more, don't even know what I'm looking for," and "is this really living, you're getting it just to make millions," which all lead up to the chorus: "your soul is worth so much more than gold."
All of this suggests that the potential millions aren't worth creating something that doesn't come from the soul. The value of the soul, and by extension, soul music, cannot be measured in gold. Jones and a killer guest feature are touching on an age-old cliché ("We broke but money can't fix") that proves the struggle of finding happiness yet needing money to survive as a human experience.
However, Jones bounces back from this state of confusion on the track "Untitled" — "lyrical Cassius, who needs cash when purpose is perfectly intertwined with rhythm and passion ... my words speak life ... resurrect the dead then they lead the masses." Here, Jones knows in her soul that her music provides fulfillment not just for herself, but for others as well. The rest of the song has two amazing features, and ends with more on the unifying powers of hip-hop. These dialogues all work to clue the listener in to what Jones is trying to do with the rest of the album.
The state of contemporary hip-hop isn't the only thing Jones is critical of on the album. On the track "Home," she delves into the soul-splitting dichotomy of living in a country that once thrived on the enslavement of her not-so-ancient ancestors and delivers a powerful verse: "This is information that's not falsified/I guess that's why I find it difficult that I reside in the land of the free and home of the brave/home of the brave is the home of the slave trade/tragic like the World Trade/tell me about a god that saves and turned around and made the Atlantic my mass grave/But how can I forget when daily I relive, no reconciliation, no recompense, no reparations."
The feeling of alienation in America in 2016 is possibly the most tragic sentiment expressed on the album, and something which is seen all too often in society at large. "Home, a place where there's love overflowing" is unfortunately not so easy to find.
Jones is not afraid to dig deep and open up about some very intense and important topics. This album is not only excellent ear candy, but an important discussion about contemporary issues. Jones uses hip-hop as her platform to address not only personal subjects, but also to further discussions we as a society have yet to resolve. This album is jam-packed with killer rhymes, smooth beats, and important topics that need to continue to be talked about. Jones closes the album with a bit of encouragement to help you get through some things, proving she has indeed brought back the soul: "Never call a truce, minds never lose. Never call a truce, spirits never lose." Read More Here