Muamin means believer in Arabic. It’s in the nature of the jazzy hip-hop group Muamin Collective — to be optimists, and open to new ideas and forms. It’s also heard in its latest recording, Dig, a live album named for its head-bobbing title track layered with ‘70s funk, which the group plays at Feb. 18’s Brite Winter Fest, joining more than 45 bands on six stages. “We weren’t going to let anyone pigeonhole us and tell us what hip-hop was or is,” says Aaron “Alive” Snorton. The group, which has been playing for 10 years, wanted to capture the raw nature of a live show and working with a live band on “Dig,” so there’s minimum post-production. Snorton, along with Josiah “Zion” Quarles and brother James Quarles are busy working on a follow-up recording, aimed for a summer release. We chat with Aaron and Josiah about settling into a more organic sound.
CM: What direction is your music headed in?
Josiah: The thing about “Dig” is that it’s got that brass of our catalog, but it’s brand-new. This record I feel will be an extension of the tightness of So Blue It’s Black but more open and diverse. Like World Be Free but more musical. Adding in the elements of the band. And then James as well because his tone is much more different then mine. And Aaron, he kind of has a similar tone, but James is a better singer, and he can modulate really crazy. And the way I spit is very much straightforward. I’m not jumping off the walls. Like Busta Rhymes.
Aaron: This new studio recording, we’re adding a lot more live elements. It gives you a fuller sound. That’s a big direction we’re going in: adding a more organic element into the studio.
Josiah: With “Dig,” it’s got a call-and-response feel to it. The beat kind of evokes that too, because it has that kind of backyard feel, like at a barbecue or something. Like ribs, baked beans.
CM: What’s it like playing with a live band?
Aaron: It’s very, very laid-back. We have room to grow. It’s a new kind of funk.
CM: How is your writing evolving?
Josiah: I’ve been writing verses since middle school. I met Aaron at the time, and he handed me Saul Williams’ Seventh Octave, and I was like, ‘Aw, man! This is what I’m talking about!’ I was blessed to have very literary parents, and people around me who fed me books, information. I mean, we always try to stay timely, but in the context of a long history, so that’s it’s connected for years. Meaning I’ll look back on a verse and say, ‘Oh, man. That’s so relevant right now.’ That’s the great thing about music; is that it can be so timely and also so timeless.
Aaron: That’s just going to be what we are from now on. I feel like our music now is constantly expanding.