Muse L’Artiste is an artist, producer, songwriter, pianist and a “bunch of other things”; also and above all, a rapper whose single Losing my head, available on streaming platforms, is the foretaste of an upcoming album, Mirror Identity.
But Muse L’Artist wasn’t always – there was Afro Diamond first and before that, an indescribable passion for music.
“It’s always been in me, ever since I was little. It’s quite a cliché, yet it’s true. Every Sunday at home was music day. My father would play CDs or vinyls at full blast and it was absolute bliss for my sisters and me. Makossa, soul, funk, R’n’B, country, French classics… all this gave me a huge musical background.”
A musical background like a precious treasure. At the age of five, she started piano lessons and at 11, she deepened her basics with music programming classes. It is then that the attraction for hip hop is felt more and more strongly. It is the 90s and rap, taken out of its cement straitjacket, unleashes new passions.
“I used to spend all my time on MTV Base. My teacher was a hip hop DJ and most of my friends lived for hip hop culture. Things just happened naturally.”
Muse, who was not yet Muse, tried her hand at production, put her voice to her beats and flew from opportunity to opportunity. She performs a series of concerts, collaborates with Manu Dibango and Femi Kuti, sings on stage with Vitaa and Diam’s, all this before she is 21 years old.
The origins: from Afro Diamond to Muse L’Artiste
Let’s rewind – the emotional and vocal shock comes early too. Being passionate about music is one thing. Being certain of your talent is another.
“I was 11 years old when I started middle school. My music teacher didn’t put any gloves on and asked me to sing Le Sud by Nino Ferrer in front of the whole class.”
What could have been a great trauma turns into a revelation.
“I had never heard myself in a microphone and there for the first time ever, I discovered the sound of my voice. Something happened, I really didn’t know how to handle it.”
The result is unequivocal. That same year, she sang in front of a crowd of 400 people at her school’s end-of-year concert. To the sound of Diana Ross’ Upside Down, she gave a dizzying performance to her audience.
“It was amazing! That’s when I realised that sharing an experience with an audience was something I wanted to continue. I just wanted to replicate those emotional moments again and again.”
And so, the artist is looking for herself as she grows and becomes a woman. She wants to conquer the world and morphs into Afro Diamond.
“Afro Diamond came at a time in my life when I needed to project an extremely strong image. In reality, it was a shell. It allowed me to express myself, to rock my world.”
With Afro Diamond, the artist blends the cultures that influence her and delivers the 2013 single Who’s she? whose heady percussion echoes the question she’s hammering out – who is she? – while the bass compliments her deep voice.
“Classic soul, Motown, Sade, funk, R’n’B are major influences on my career. Singing in English is also a direct result of these influences and my many collaborations with British and American artists. My brain made the switch and I started to think in English… which helps when you dream of a career outside of France.”
A year later, the singer did it again with Prisoner, an ode to the all-devouring love that consumes everything in its path. Finally, What’s goin’ on questions the world in a rhythmic soul ballad. Three songs that complete the tracklist of The Journey, a first album with Afro soul roots as described by the singer who places it at the crossroads of all her influences. But Afro Diamond has arrived at her destination. One era ends where another begins.
“After a few years as Afro Diamond, I felt confined, constricted. It became too restrictive. Between The Journey and Losing my head, I became a mother, I took time for my family and especially to refocus on myself. It was through this process that I became Muse L’Artiste.”
A more than beneficial break that brings her back to her first love: hip hop. Muse speaks of a true culture that addresses subjects that are close to her heart. She grew up in the 90’s, the golden age of French rap, which exploded and upset a French society that readily imagined itself to be soft and welcoming. MC Solaar, NTM, IAM, le Ministère A.M.E.R.E, Doc Gyneco disembowel the evils of a youth in need of justice with poetry and leave them gaping in the eyes of all. A primal scream that resonates in Muse L’Artiste who raises her voice against all forms of oppression.
“It comes from my mother. She is a rebel who fought for everything, who always defended the weakest. I hate injustice and for me, that’s what hip hop is truly about. It’s the thermometer of an era and a generation.”
Losing my head is the first single from Mirror Identity, an album as a reflection of the millennial experience seen through one’s own. In collaboration with rapper Uhmeer, Losing my head is a tribute to the black man. Over a funk-tinged beat, the two artists celebrate black excellence in a liberatingly carefree atmosphere.
“I composed Losing my head in 2018. I was in a good mood, the inspiration just came to me and everything followed. It was super simple. Working with Uhmeer too. When I first heard him, I knew he was the missing part to my piece. I contacted him, he said yes. That was it.”
Mirror Identity is a personal album but you will have to be patient before hearing the first notes. Muse L’Artiste’s priorities have changed with another project that will be released much earlier.
“Opportunities come when you least expect them. It’s a very exciting period right now!”
Through the looking glass
Muse L’Artiste has more than one string to her bow. With her husband, she founded Indimore, a label that has gradually become a music publisher with a roster of twenty artists.
“It’s a field I’m particularly fond of. I love to accompany, push young artists, get them opportunities. They’re really like my babies.”
As an artist and producer, Muse lets her creativity carry her through and navigates the quiet moments and the ones where her art shines through.
“The inspiration, I let it come to me. I don’t force anything or it doesn’t work. Most producers act like they have to create every day. I hate that. It happened to me not to produce anything for two years. I don’t stress. I wait, listen to my emotions and take in what the world has to say. And then one day it explodes and I write ten songs in one go!”
A creative process that is not one and that contradicts the standards of a talent-hungry and ruthless industry. Muse experienced this when she dropped everything almost overnight and moved to Los Angeles when she was only 21 years old. It was a formative leap into the unknown that not only helped her to find herself but also avoid the pitfalls that await many artists just starting out in the business – especially when young women.
“Hip hop, but the music industry in general, is dominated by men. As a teenager, I was lucky. I was surrounded by caring older brothers. I was relatively sheltered… which I came to think was perfectly normal. It was when I moved to the United States that I was confronted with the reality of the music industry. Between signing bad contracts, indecent proposals, and disappointments, I learned a lot of lessons. I forged myself.”
Muse is a UFO by her own admission. With a physique suited for modelling, an essentially neo-soul voice, a rapper, a producer, she is a confusing contradiction for a world that is dissected and categorised by algorithms. But by abandoning the recording booth for the mixing desk, she is firmly in control, conceptualizing songs and albums from notes to theme.
“For me, producing means accompanying an artist from start to finish, whether it’s the vision of the project or its composition. You have to think about the red thread, how the songs, the interludes fit together.”
A talent that the artist did not recognise as such for a long time. The lack of representation has an undeniably disastrous effect on our imaginations, causing us to internalise limitations where others enjoy unwavering confidence.
“I started producing at a very young age, even before I moved to the US. I worked with a lot of French and American rappers. But for a long time, I didn’t consider myself a producer. There are so very few women like me in the business that you don’t even realise that’s what you’re doing!”
The lesson is well learned: (re)acknowledge your skills. Value your services. Leave your mark
“We fall for our nurturing and mothering nature, we women. I didn’t realise the value and significance of my work as a producer until almost two years ago! In my head, I was helping to curate an album, while in reality, I was producing it – quite a world!”
For Muse, being a woman in the music industry means keeping your head on your shoulders in all circumstances. Abuse is rampant and young women are the obvious victims.
“I’ve experienced both sides of the industry – the benevolence and the abuse. I’ve avoided some very tricky situations when I was just starting out. When I went through the other side of the mirror, I learned a lot. That’s why I’m helping other artists who may not have the same weapons so they don’t make the same mistakes I did.”
The evidence if it is of a fundamentally altruistic soul. Moreover, when we ask her what message she wants to convey with her music, the answer does not take long to come.
“The notion of justice – social, environmental, in relationships, etc. – is a very important one. Of course, there’s always the idea of having fun with words, expressions… but justice first.”
There is certainly a new Muse in Los Angeles, but perhaps the City of Angels has a new guardian in its ranks.
Where to find Muse L’Artiste
- What’s one collab you’d dream of doing?
- Denzel Curry. He’s an American rapper with a DMX vibe that I really enjoy
- Which artists inspire me the most?
- I fell in love for life with Marvin Gaye.
- My second mother, Whitney Houston.
- Sade through my father’s brainwashing – By your side.
- Music recommendations?
- Denzel Curry
- Glam, rapper
- Morray, rapper
- Jay Rock
- Lil Simz before fame
- Anderson .Paak before fame
- Your current playlist?
- This is my sports playlist. It’s a super positive playlist, it’s all about the boost. It makes me feel good. It’s a mix of makosa, afrobeats, you got Mister Easy, Burna Boy, Medical, Drake because he just gets me pumped, Kanye and Jay Rock.
*Music publishing is the business of acquiring, administering, marketing and promoting musical works.