ASBO Meets: Tama Gucci

Tama Gucci

Yes, he is a fan of Gucci; no, he won’t be your personal stylist. Tama Gucci is as original as they come, from his striking personal style to his contemporary club bangers which he produces and writes himself for the most part. He speaks about his music with such passion, one can only imagine how much this passion bleeds into his live shows. Yes, I can confirm, a live show in London is on the cards for Tama Gucci, will you be there? With influences from reality TV show ‘Love after Lockup’ to Nicki Minaj, Tama Gucci infuses his lyrics with drama and energy that’s bound to keep you coming back for more; not exactly a Tiger King Binge or a Too Hot to Handle dilemma but rather a Tama Gucci exclusive. Brace yourself, you’re in for a treat. 

When did you begin your career in the music industry?

Well, I will say, professionally, my career began in 2019 like towards the end of 2019 when I moved to New York. That’s when I decided to enter the music industry for real, I will say, as an actual artist. But I was always making music, singing ever since I was a kid, but professionally, or like taking it more seriously, I will say 2019. 

And what inspired you to follow this path?

Well, before I started producing music, I always wanted to make my own music. So, before I was writing, I was always writing, but before I started recording my own music, like original music, I was always doing covers. But it always was very uniquely me. So, I felt that my inspiration to kind of make music was because only I can make what I want you know? It was something that only I felt I can do. So that was my inspiration. Also, some of my favourites are Brandy and Nicki. So those are people who constantly just put out things that I love. So, it always pushed me to want to make music.

Listening to your music I noticed a strong modern retro-punk feel, especially in the song ‘Lower my Shades’, where does that influence come from?

At the time when I put out that EP, that was my first mixtape that I’ve ever done. And that was kind of my introduction into the world as Tama Gucci. So, when I made ‘Lower My Shades’; you know when you’re dating someone and you kind of, over time you feel like you start dressing like them or you start listening to the music that they’re listening to? Who I was with at the time, he was listening to a lot of that style of music. Kind of like beach wave music, indie pop. So that was kind of my inspiration just because that was what I was listening to mostly at the time. So that’s the story behind ‘Lower My Shades’. I did it because I was just really inspired at the moment. But I love that song.

You were a part of Caroline Polachek’s club quarantine, how did you find that?

It happened so randomly. I just got asked to do it because I met Caroline in Paris right before everything shut down. I was opening for Christine and the Queens, so that’s when I met them both. And then, I think, that was the last show to be honest that any of us did. I think it just made the most sense, so that’s how that happened. It was actually like my first DJ set that I’ve ever done. It was a lot of fun. It was pretty cool to see people still, you know, kind of holding on to it. And I felt like, in that moment, I realised how important music was. Because, you know, it’s kind of a luxury to be able to go out and listen to live music, and a lot of people forget that. So, I felt like that was the first time that I realised like, wow, music is actually kind of what’s going to get everyone through this weird time, even though we can’t consume it live. It was pretty exciting to see all the faces on the Zoom squares, just enjoying it and having a good time. It was so fun. And it was like so freeform, you really could do whatever. That was the best part about it.

What is it like working with the ‘Anonymous Club’?

It’s so much fun. I think what’s so exciting about it is just the group of musicians that are a part of anonymous club. I think everyone is so open minded, and kind of freeform. So you never really know exactly what you’re gonna make until it’s already made. Everyone is just so open minded and so talented. All the producers that I have been working with on Anonymous Club, like Night Feelings and Pablo, they’re all so amazing. Yeah, it’s just so fun because there’s no rules, really. They’re just kind of like, how you feel at the moment, and just what it turns into.

Your third EP ‘Almost Blue’, what would you say makes it different to your other projects?

I will say ‘Almost Blue’ makes it different because one, this was the first time that I recorded any of my vocals in a professional studio. So, I felt like you can definitely hear my voice a lot better. Quality wise, I feel it’s definitely a step in the better direction, it’s definitely my best. I will say artistic wise, for the most part, I produced almost everything on there. So, I felt, what makes it different, is that I’ve gotten better at producing. And I worked with this producer named Nick León on it, he’s from Miami, so it was just kind of the perfect match on the tracks that he co-produced with me. I think that this one is just honest. I was just happier and in a better place when I made this EP. I think that’s the difference, it’s just more kind of like a bliss feeling.

And you produce most of your music?

I produce almost all of my music, everything on the fantasy EP, I produced and wrote myself. I write all of my music as well, so everything is always written and produced by me for the most part. Nick León co-produced three of the tracks on ‘Almost Blue’, but for the most part, everything is done by me.

‘Challenge’ from the EP has been described as an ‘anthem about the empowering nature of the dancefloor’, how does it feel to know people can now enjoy this song on a dancefloor without any lockdown restrictions?

Oh my god, it feels so good. Because I see it – I’ve like performed it on the dance floor. You see people captivated by the lyricism of it and how romantic it is, but also very fun. And you see them really enjoy it, but you also see them enjoy it with their loved ones or whoever they’re dancing with that night. So, it’s really cool. I’ve also been seeing a lot of DJs play it in the club and they always send me videos and it’s just it’s so rewarding to know that it came out when we couldn’t, or like, fully do it. It’s just so refreshing.

Tama Gucci

It has been said that a lot of your inspiration comes from reality TV tropes, can you elaborate on that?

Yeah, a lot of circumstances that I write about or sing about is things from reality TV. I like to write about circumstances, breakups or heartbreaks – especially really embarrassing moments on their behalf. And then kind of describe what I feel like that person is feeling. So that’s like my inspiration. I love reality TV. Like lately, I’ve been watching ‘Love after Lockup’. It’s basically a show about them dating while they’re in jail. And then when they get out of jail where they’ve been for years and there’s so much drama within that. Yeah, that’s been my thing.

How much of your music is inspired by your Jamaican identity? 

I will say a lot of it is inspired by it. As I started producing, I didn’t realise that in learning more about music, a lot of Caribbean rhythm is electronic music but slowed down. So once I understood that better, it made so much sense that I’m making what I make. Growing up listening to reggae and spending some summers in Jamaica growing up as a kid all contribute to the music I make today. So, I will say it’s a huge part of my identity, just simply because I’m making music that just naturally occurred or just things that I’ve always loved as a kid. It’s just more sped up now.

Your music explores romance in the digital age, why is that important to you?

It’s important to me because I grew up on the internet. I know, no shade to my mom, or my parents, but I felt like the internet also raised me. I’ve always been on the internet, especially My Space. So, I feel, just growing up on the internet, I’ve noticed how people use the internet to find love. It’s just important to me, because that’s just kind of the reality. And I just kind of want to be the soundtrack to the reality.

Tama Gucci

Alongside being a musician, you work a lot in the fashion industry, who or what would you say have been your biggest influences on your unique style?

I would say biggest influences on my unique style, definitely HBA as in Hood By Air. I’ve never seen anything like that ever. And then I will say Gucci just because it’s classic. The prints, even though I could never afford it growing up. But I feel that seeing these things definitely kind of helped me forge my way into like making something of my own. 

What is your favourite song to perform live?

My favourite song to perform live is definitely ‘Challenge’. I’ve always wanted to challenge somebody on the dance floor. And not even in the sense of “oh, let’s have a dance battle” but more of just somebody who you’re interested in romantically. I just want to dance with you, you know? so it’s nice to be able to perform that and then see people do that amongst themselves.

You perform in your city’s emerging underground queer scene frequently, how does that compare to your other live shows?

Performing in Miami, it was definitely a different experience because it’s not really, I wouldn’t say that it’s not appreciated, it’s just not what they’re used to in Miami. So now that I’ve been performing more in New York, it’s just so refreshing because I feel like they’re more open to it here. And it’s just so rewarding to see people being captivated by the lyrics and yeah, everything.

Tama Gucci

Is a live performance in London on the cards?

In London? Oh yeah! That’s my goal. I need to perform in London, especially since I have some family in Wolverhampton. I think that’s in England. Considering the music I make; it just has to happen. I have to perform there at some point.

What audience do you find your music connects to the most?

Definitely the gays. I make music for everyone, but I feel like the most open minded and the people who truly connect with it the most are the gays and I feel like the people who appreciate it the most is the black queer community.

Do you have any live shows coming up or anything exciting you’re looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to working on my next album. It’s actually my first album, so I’m excited about that. That’s really what I’m looking forward to the most. No performances at this exact moment, but that’s what I’m working on.

Words: Brandon Thomson

Images: Lauren Davis