From a young age, Charyse Lois Marshall, better known as Mahogany Jones, was engrossed in poetry, compiling hundreds of poems scribbled in various composition notebooks. During her first year of college in the New York City area in 1996, she began attending the Brooklyn Moon Café where she honed her art of poetry and spoken word.
She went on to win BET’s “Freestyle Friday’s” battle competition in 2001, emerging as a four-time undefeated champion. She parlayed the fame of the competition into a move to Detroit where she looked to combine her emerging spirituality with her burgeoning lyrical abilities.
Click on the player above to get a feel for Mahogany Jones with these five essential tracks:
Jones’ distinctive style was punctuated by her focus on spirituality and social issues in her lyrics. The track “Easy” off her debut album “Morph” gives a glimpse into her philosophical and spiritual mind-set.
Following the release of her debut, Jones looked to take her art and activism to the next level by putting structure behind her efforts. She launched A PURE Movement, a foundation and initiative designed to fight violence against women. To align with the foundation work she was doing, she released a compilation called PURE, which promoted themes of empowerment, feminism and spirituality and aimed to uplift women of all shapes, colors and creeds.
Jones was encouraged by a mentor to apply for American Music Abroad, a cultural diplomacy initiative built on the legacy of the Jazz Ambassadors program and facilitated by American Voices on behalf of the U.S. Department of State. She was ultimately selected for the program and assembled a four-person ensemble called Mahogany Jones, with herself as lead vocalist, and traveled abroad representing American music in countries including Botswana, Uganda, Rwanda, Baghdad, Iraq, and various other far-flung countries.
Armed with her experiences as an international cultural ambassador, Jones would unleash the album “Sugar Water,” a landmark release built on lush chords, melodic harmonies and healthy dashes of nostalgic boom bap. Jones’ flow was a refreshing blend of multi-level lyricism, imaginative production and relevant social issues that made for a memorable sonic experience that rewarded music fans with each listen.
“Sugar Water” would reinforce the notion that Jones is an artist with one of the most unique voices in hip-hop who has something substantive to say. Over the course of her career, she has released three full-length albums, and has been featured on over 30 compilations and mixtapes. She has shared stages with everyone from such greats as the late Gil Scott-Heron, Talib Kweli and India.Arie.
5. “Black Girl Magic”
Jones’ musical abilities are only outshined by her community and philanthropic efforts as she has consistently given back to future music leaders through facilitating InsideOut, one of Detroit’s largest literary arts nonprofits, serving as an adjunct instructor at the Detroit Institute of Music Education and serving as a member of the Foundation, a women in hip-hop collective based in Detroit.
These days Mahogany Jones continues to add layers of life experience to her constant evolution as an artist. She continues to build bridges and expand the reach and borders of hip-hop to the world. Her blend of hip-hop, soul and electro is soulful and intimate, and those aspects combined with her vivid storytelling make for an engaging presentation that is distinctive in style and sound and gives listeners soul food for thought — exactly the way in which the originators of hip-hop intended.