Pre-debut-album musings.

Tama Gucci—the Miami-raised, New York-based singer and DJ-producer has a knack for pushing the envelope. What began as a bedroom SoundCloud project to cover and remix popular songs soon evolved into something far greater and Tama began to write, produce, and perform his own music and became enamoured with his hometown’s queer underground rave community. The breakbeat-heavy sound of the city’s bustling warehouse parties rubbed off on his music, morphing it into an immersive blend of the ’90s R&B and ’00s pop he grew up loving, and the jungle and drum & bass music that fueled his nights out. The South Florida rave scene also brought Tama closer to his Jamaican roots, as electronic music was built on the foundations of dub reggae and, since its spaces uplifted both queer folks and people of color, he found community there. Next month, he’ll release Notes to Self, a collection of intoxicating electronic melodies and nostalgic pop-punk ballads that make up his debut album. Ahead of its release, XLR8R touched base with Tama to discuss where he’s at and where he’s going.

01. Describe your surroundings right now.
I’m home with my moody blue lights, the air conditioning is blasting and I’m arranging my closet to Sade. So my room is a mess but progress is being made!

02. What’s the most fun thing you’ve done lately?
I downloaded this tennis game on my phone. It’s silly but I’ve been having such a good time playing against random people online .

03. What’s the last thing that made you laugh and why?
The last thing that made me laugh was a bktidalwave collage video on Instagram. She’s just so funny; there will never be another internet icon who is that outspoken and loved!

04. What’s the last thing that made you cry and why?
The last thing that made me cry was when my dog who was 13 years old died. Her name was Mo and she died on Mother’s Day in her little dress, sleeping in her bed. I was mostly sad that I wasn’t there to say goodbye.

05. My understanding is that you’re drawn to spirituality. What can you tell us about this?
I think we are all spiritual people. Some people have such a dark introduction to spirituality based on what they’ve seen in like movies or their upbringing if raised in a religious household. I encourage everyone to look into what about being spiritual scares them and to dive into understanding it. I promise you’ll be drawn into it too and can take from it what works for you.

06. How does this manifest itself in your music?
It’s a sort of confidence that being spiritual brings; it gives me the sense of relief knowing that I’m making music mostly for myself and as long as I love it my supporters will too!

07. Tell me about growing up in the US. What were your favorite memories?
My favorite memories growing up in the US are honestly with my dad driving to school every morning and stopping to get his coffee and then stopping to get my breakfast from Burger King. Sometimes on Thursdays, which was his payday, we would stop so I could get some random thing that I said I needed for school from the department store but really I just wanted to buy a toy and he would always buy it for me!

08. What sort of records were you listening to?
Beam Me Up Scotty by Nicki Minaj; “Cry for You” by September; “Apologize” by One Republic; and “Full Moon” and “Aphrodisiac” by Brandy, to name a few. I really loved music growing up!

09. You began producing music early, but when did you realize you had a knack for it?
I realized I had a knack for it when I uploaded one of my tracks to Soundcloud not realizing how good it was and I got so many compliments on the beats. I was so proud. It’s nice to get direct, unbiased feedback on something you just started!

10. ​When was Tama Gucci born, and why the name?
Tama Gucci was born when I needed a handle. I always collected Tamagotchi’s and dreamed of modelling for Gucci so I went and morphed the two together, and boom! Tama Gucci was born.

11. What’s your production process like, and how has this changed as you’ve matured as an artist?
I used to write my lyrics first and make the beat second. Then once I had the skeleton I would freestyle the melody over the beat and match it up with the lyrics. But as of lately I’ve been making the beats first and writing second as I come up with the melody.

12. Your debut album, Notes To Self, is arriving soon. What can you tell us about it?
It’s simply perfect. It was important for me to love it before I shared it with anyone. It’s sexy, it’s honest, it’s romantic, it’s heartbreaking. A little something for everyone to enjoy.

13. What’s the most-played track or artist on your Spotify/other streaming service?
My most played track is “Save Me” by Nicki Minaj because it’s the first song I purchased digitally. I have so many demos also in my phone so I’m definitely the most played artist!

14. Whose music do you listen to for inspiration?
I love love love Imogen Heap, Ellie Goulding, Nicki Minaj, Brandy, and Fefe Dobson.

15. What do you perceive to be your strengths and weaknesses as a producer?
My strengths are that I can sing the melody I want before I’m able to get it down in the software. But my weakness is that I’m sometimes intimidated by Ableton since I’m fairly new to it but I still keep trying!

16. What advice would you give yourself 20 years ago?
Never ever shrink yourself! Your flaws are not actually flaws; they are what makes you you and you are perfect!

17. What would constitute your perfect day off?
A perfect day off would be a joint, my favorite songs on repeat, my boyfriend next to me, and a cozy couch or a bed to chill in with a cozy blanket. And it’s pouring outside!

18. Dead or alive, who is your dream person to go for dinner with?
Grace Jones.

19. Where do you see yourself artistically in 10 years?
In 10 years I see myself happy producing and writing chart-topping music for other artists I love.

20. What’s the first thing you’re going to do after answering these questions?
I have a grape soda watching me as I type this so I’m gonna chug that and then watch “90 Day Fiancé.”

Photos: Jonathan Qualtere & Pierce Pyrzenski

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