Radicle Sounds is a seasonally-curated playlist series created in partnership with Black DJs. This spring, we collaborated with Houston-based sound curator Mo Nikole, whose performance name is WOMON. Earth in Color Founder, Darel Scott, sat down with her to discuss her musical journey and the intentional process behind curating this season’s Radicle Sounds playlist.
Darel scott What’s been your journey with music? How did you become a sound curator?
WOMON My journey with music predates my life on Earth. I feel like I was listening to music in the womb by way of my family, so by the time I came out, I feel like I knew all the songs on Majic 102, the old-school Black radio station out here in the South.
I started playing the piano in the first grade and learned the jazz piano in middle school. I was classically trained, so those foundational practices set the framework for my current relationship to sound. In high school, I was the girl who made the mixtapes. I was burning music from Limewire, illegally. I still have a lot of those mixtapes! In college, I was always into underground music. To me, SoundCloud, DatPiff, and Bandcamp were like going to the thrift store, sonically. You didn’t know what you were going to discover. I was so drawn to that, so I started this blog called “Voice Box.” Every day, I would write about the music I was listening to. This led to grad school when I was a music journalist. I was going to shows, I was writing about music, and I started writing about music for Solange, right when Saint Heron took off.
After college, I ended up in digital media marketing, and when I was at work I would be listening to a playlist on SoundCloud, and I’d be like, “damn, I wish they would have put this song after that song.” I was consciously and subconsciously critiquing the things that I was hearing. And so, with one hundred dollars worth of life insurance points, I bought a ninety dollar DJ controller. I didn’t know where to start, but I knew that my intention was to make music that flowed and felt complete. In the same way that I was writing about music in college, I wanted to use sound like a pen to communicate what I was trying to say. Today, I feel firmly rooted in my sound practitioning. I’m a storyteller, and sound is just a catalyst to the stories I want to tell.
“I feel firmly rooted in my sound practitioning. I’m a storyteller, and sound is just a catalyst to the stories I want to tell.”
Darel scott Tell us about the playlist. Where does this playlist take you when you listen to it?
WOMON If I’m listening to “After the Party” or if I’m listening to “Dance Tonight” and then I switch over to “Rain” from the Sunday Service Choir and then I go listen to afrobeats, I can find an element of home in all of these different spaces. I just think it’s so beautiful that we, as Black people, exist all across the spectrum. We can do all of the things. There’s nothing that Black people cannot do, and music affirms that.
With the playlist, I wanted to start with something soft and subtle that encourages a gentle start to the morning and Dorothy Ashby’s “Little Sunflower” feels like the perfect soul vibration to rise to. The uncle in me had to pivot over to Roy Ayers’ “Searching,” an ode to the wandering minds and gentle introspection we carry along the way but with groove and with feeling. Auntie Erykah reminds us of our blessings and wisdom on “Appletree” and for me, it feels a lot like taking the wisdom of those wiser than us with us as we journey through the world. I wanted to slowly pivot from the neo-soul sound into the afro/amapiano vibrations that encourage movement, shedding, and surrender. These sounds give us the permission to fall apart without a need to pull ourselves back together again.
“These sounds give us the permission to fall apart without a need to pull ourselves back together again.”
And after a spiritual movement segment such as amapiano, I wanted to bring us back down into afrobeats and afro R&B to catch a smoother vibe. I had to put rocksteady reggae sounds in the mix for a soft twerk, slow whine, dutty whine, or however the body feels it needs to move. From there, I wanted to return back to the 90s jams I grew up with at the many school dances or backyard parties that still feel contemporary, yet nostalgic.
So it was very important for me to end with Lucy Pearl, Koffee Brown, and Sounds of Blackness, getting back to southern roots with gospel music that sounds secular (like when Kirk Franklin had a “Melodies from Heaven” rendition on Soul Train in the 90s, that blew my mind). And then I ended the playlist with “Rain,” throwing your hands up and giving glory. After any journey, I give thanks.
Darel scott Wow, I just love that this playlist is just an invitation to be.
WOMON Yes! I love that. An invitation to be. Beautifully articulated.
darel scott What’s your favorite way to be in nature?
WOMON Arms wide, hands up, just open, giving the world a big ass hug.
darel scott What’s your favorite place to be in nature?
WOMON My grandpa’s backyard. He has a sugarcane field back there.
darel scott What 3 words describe how you want people to feel when they listen to this playlist?
WOMON Present. Open. Connected.
darel scott What’s your favorite thing about springtime?
WOMON The opportunity to begin again.