To say Yusuf Muhammad is a busy man is an understatement. I caught up with him at his Red Bull Sound Select/Veteran Freshman event last Friday night, held at The Blockley and headlined by the dynamic Kilo Kish, and he began our interview by briefly mentioning that he was heading to DC the next day to do a music festival. Now some of you may not readily know his name, but at age 27 Yusuf has accomplished more than persons twice his age. An engineer, photographer, filmmaker, and videographer by trade, the event curator has worked with BET News, and filmed music videos with Black Thought, Meek Mill & more. His first two concerts, under Live Nation, had 850 & 700 attendees respectively. He also contributed to the production, booking, marketing & promoting of 45+ shows in 2012, and has already been involved with 40+ shows in 2013. He’s worked with both independent and major artists, including Kendrick Lamar, Kelly Rowland, Brandy, Elle Varner, Miguel, Questlove, Nas, and Wale to name a few. And he’s also been named the Philadelphia Ambassador for the Atlanta-based music & film festival A3C.
Born in Philadelphia and raised in both Philly and New York, he describes himself as a “Philly-Yorker” and currently resides in the former. I started our interview by asking what he preferred most about each city.
MMT: It’s almost the best of both worlds, so what is the vibe about both (Philly and New York) that you can’t do without or most enjoy?
Yusuf: The vibe about Philly that I can’t do without is if they actually support you, they support you. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to get that support. Somehow I’ve been able to average about 200-300 people who follow what I’m doing and keep (things) going. New York is so big, there are a million of me. I tell people all the time I only stand out because I’m in Philly. (However) before the year is out I’ll be doing consistent shows (in New York). What I can’t live without there is its size. You can literally spend a week in one borough, and then another, and none of them feel the same. Philly is small and that makes it unique in its own way. Everybody kind of knows everybody here and that’s something that I like.
MMT: I’ve read that you wanted to curate shows and give a platform to unsigned/independent artists. Is the primary focus of your shows Hip Hop artists?
Yusuf: No, when I started doing shows in 2011 I did two R&B shows with soul, funk (artists) and live bands. The majority of shows I’ve done have been Hip Hop, and tonight is my second Rock/mixed genre show. My main goal is (to showcase) local artists in various markets. I’m a big fan of local artists. I always say I don’t book rappers, I don’t book singers, I book artists. What I mean by that is there is a difference between a typical rapper/singer and an artist. Some rappers just rap, and some singers just sing. (An) artist takes it as a craft, and they are actually painting their path…that self-starter aspect.
MMT: Now you’re taking artists to Atlanta for the Hip Hop festival. Have you selected those artists that are going, and what was that process like?
Yusuf: Yes, I paid for a bus and there is a total of 10 artists. A lot of it was loyalty. For it to be my first big project there, I needed to make sure the camps on that bus would represent me. Those artists who’ve kept their word, sold tickets to shows, those are the ones that I called. Some of them were speechless. And this is the first time there has been an all Philly showcase at A3C, so it’s historic. I’m going to film it actually, turn it into a short, and screen it when I get back. And this will be the first of many! I want it to be Philly to SXSW (South by Southwest), Philly to Art Basel (Miami). Anything I do is always with the foresight of what it will look like in the future. So I’m working on the next four bus trips now.
With Yusuf also being a filmmaker, I had to ask that MMT signature question of which musician he would make a biopic about if he could; and this “old soul” who’d named Phyllis Hyman, The Jacksons, Philadelphia International, Patti LaBelle and several more old soul artists during our interview rapidly stated “Marvin Gaye.” He also mentioned that one of his favorite Gaye albums was “Here My Dear.” Now you all know this Yusuf Muhammad is my kind of music fan right?
Currently planning shows in New York for later this year, and planning to host Veteran Freshman shows in Toronto, Ontario (Canada), Muhammad will be one to follow for finding hot artists in a variety of locales; and to get to know if you’re an aspiring artist perfecting your craft. You can find out more about the A3C (All 3 Coasts) Hip Hop Festival, being held in Atlanta, GA October 2-6, here. You can also keep up with Yusuf Muhammad on Instagram or Twitter @yusufyuie and email him at YusufMuhammad215@gmail.
Until next thought family, Thomasena