You know the story if you know Maimouna Youssef: She performed with rap duo dead prez at Dave Chappelle‘s block party. In 2006, she sang on The Roots‘ “Don’t Feel Right,” the lead single from the group’s Game Theory album. “I Got a Man,” the lead single from Youssef’s The Blooming, was produced by DJ Jazzy Jeff. Most recently, she went on tour with Common as a background singer and MC.
When she was 18, Youssef recorded a track with two other Soulquarians: J Dilla—yes, that J Dilla—and producer James Poyser on a song called “We Could Be,” that’s just now seeing the light of day. It’s one of the first songs Youssef recorded without a rap group. The beat sounds like Dilla circa 2000, during Common’s Like Water for Chocolate sessions (in fact, just skip to the 4:02 mark here to see what I mean).
Clearly, this song was influenced by the prevalent neo-soul music of that time. It’s carefree and easygoing, not as heavy as what she’s doing now. And while it’s light on depth, it’s still summery and affable. Makes you wonder how a Dilla/Youssef EP would have sounded.