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The Roots feat. Maimouna Youssef

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The Roots, also known as The Legendary Roots Crew, The Fifth Dynasty, The Square Roots and The Foundation, are an influential, Grammy winning hip hop group based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, famed for a heavily jazzy sound and live instrumentation. Inspired by the “hip-hop band” concept pioneered by Stetsasonic, the Roots themselves have garnered critical acclaim and influenced later hip-hop and R&B acts.

Maimouna,Though raised on jazz and soul music, Youssef discovered hip-hop at an early age. “I used to have to MC so I could play with my older brother and his friends,” she says. “They’d sit outside freestyling and beat-boxing, and I wasn’t allowed outside because I was younger. I was 8 and he was 11, so I would practice rhyming so I could go outside and sit on the steps with them.”

Her basic education was as diverse as her musical one. She was homeschooled by her mother and aunt for most of her life, first in Baltimore and later in Virginia, where her family moved in 1997. She entered Washington’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts two years later to hone her vocals. She graduated last June and spent the summer dabbling in filmmaking at the New York Film Academy, where she directed her first short film and music video.

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