Fret not, Muhsinah fans. The D.C.-born Howard University graduate has not gone into witness protection.
Instead, the versatile singer/songwriter has taken it back to basics and repackaged herself as “safia” to acknowledge a transition to electronic pop music, somewhat removed from the experimental soul for which Muhsinah is known.
Before I confuse things further, you should know that Safia—-which means “pure” in Arabic—-is her middle name. As for her decision to record under a different name, safia says there was no “ah-ha” moment, no epiphany, no bolt of lightning.
“It was time to strip everything down and come with the most honest perspective I could,” safia told me on Wednesday. “safia is more who I am than anything else.”
It’s been almost one year since Muhsinah released The Oscillations: Triangle, a quirky, distinctive album that fiddled with atmospheric arrangements and experimental break beats. A year before that, she was an integral part of The Foreign Exchange‘s landmark Leave It All Behind, and earned a Grammy nomination for her performance on “Daykeeper,” the album’s opener.
While Muhsinah says she is proud of her work under that moniker, safia’s music will be laced with live instruments, not sample-heavy beats. On Tuesday, safia released her cover of Kings of Leon‘s “Use Somebody”—-the first of a few covers she plans to release by year’s end. safia also plans to drop an EP in the next few months.