NYC-based electronic R&B singer Tama Gucci shares with us his favourite shade of blue.
Tama Gucci (IRL name Kymani Floyd) has been making moves for a while now. From Miami to New York; from taking videos in American Apparel’s fitting room to walking for Hood By Air; from covering tracks online to working with LSDXOXO, supporting Christine and The Queens in Paris to taking part in Caroline Polachek’s club quarantine. Among all that madness, changes and learning how to play, or ditch, the industry games, for most it’s pretty easy to get lost in that fabulous chaos.
Tama’s different. Since starting out recording for and by himself in the safe space of his room, he knew what he’s about. Digging into digital spaces, queer underground scenes and inside of his heart, Tama Gucci cracked the code to the seemingly enclosed music industry. You need to know who you are.
He proves that more than fine on his new EP Almost Blue which features emotive R&B on the dopey, dance-demanding and 90s hinting beats’ backdrop. Tama’s tracks are a tricky business though. One moment you boogie the house down to get hit hard and completely off guard by the love-life revolving lyrics in the next second. All spiced up with thumping bass and jungle influences. Tama knows the perfect balance between precious and playful. Whenever you enter his world, he wants you to feel as if he’s one of your friends offering both a comforting shoulder to cry on and a crazy club-based night out. We catch up with Tama Gucci and talk all things Almost Blue, the New York queer community and Nicki Minaj supremacy.
Almost Blue is out now, congrats on that. Can you tell me what sparked the process of creating it?
Almost Blue was made two years ago. The oldest song that’s on there that I made was the song called ‘Panties’ which I made maybe three years ago. When I made it wasn’t specifically for Almost Blue. I just knew the title. The title of it being called Almost Blue means that I’m almost where I want to be in life whether it is my career, my love life or just everything in general. I feel like I’m just shy about reaching my fullest potential. That’s the meaning behind the title and blue being a comfort colour. That’s what it foreshadows.
How does it feel like listening to it now after two years?
Looking back at it now, I feel like everything definitely happened for a reason. I’m grateful. It probably was not the right time for it to come out. Could you imagine if it came out two years ago and then I wouldn’t be even able to perform it? I feel like it just was for the best. I’m just really grateful for the experience. It taught me a lot.
It’s really good timing. You seem to be an artist who wears his heart on his sleeve. On the EP, you talk about love and emotions yet keep it danceable. It’s cathartic but playful. People need it especially now.
Exactly. You can reflect on everything that has happened but you also can dance in that sense. I love that.
How do you find that balance?
It’s something that I do naturally. Before I started recording my own music, I was doing a lot of covers. Just naturally a lot of the songs that I was covering, they would be something that you cannot dance to or you probably shouldn’t dance too. When I would cover it, I would make it in a way where it is more digestible and more fun. Just naturally the music that I make is the best of both worlds just because that’s what I like to hear.
What were your inspirations when working on Almost Blue?
I was listening to a lot of Everything But The Girl and Brazilian Girls. t.A.T.u is like a faith. Brandy is another one. I feel like I listen to Nicki Minaj all year round. Just naturally. It gives me the element of being a little cheeky but also whimsical in a sense of my music which I feel like I gravitated from Nicki.
Watching the video for ‘Put It In Drive’ feels like almost being on the road with you. Since you’ve self-directed it, can you tell me a bit about it?
The guy in the video is actually one of my best friends. I was in Miami and I was just like ‘I want to film a video for this song’. The videos are what we always do. He would pick me up and have nothing to do so he would just go with me to run my errands, whether that’s going to shop, to get food, just anywhere or I’ll just accompany him going somewhere. I was like ‘let’s just get the GoPro camera. Let’s just put it in the car. Let’s just film’. That’s how it happened. It is very intimate because it was just me, him and his cousin that helped us get a couple of footage. We just put the GoPro on her car. We drove alongside her. It’s just such a special video for me because I feel like people can feel that it is intimate.
How important is it for you to express your vision visually as well?
It is very important for me. I always try to find this balance of having something visually represent the music as well. It’s because when I’m making music, I make music around something that I’ve seen or like in vision. If I’m going to have cover art or if I’m going to have a video, it needs to explain it in the most honest, true way. That’s how I go about making my visuals. Since the beginning of my social media being, I always gravitated towards a simple clean white background. Years ago, I used to work at American Apparel. I’m sure you know that era when everyone was wearing American Apparel. I used to work at the store at Miami Beach and there was a fitting room where it was just a white room with a bunch of LED lights. I would literally be on fitting room duty and I would just come to work to take pictures in that room. From that moment alone, I’ve always loved just a solid background, fashion or something whimsical being the centre of attention. That’s how I ended up with the cover I have for Almost Blue.
You’re pretty active on TikTok. What’s your approach when creating videos?
Honestly at first, I was so anti-TikTok simply because I felt like I didn’t know how to use it. Once I figured it out, it changed everything and this just made things so much more fun. When you’re trying to put something into words but you want somebody to visually see it, TikTok is a perfect place to go for that. Also, I feel like I have the perfect, I wouldn’t say personality, but I have the perfect schedule for TikTok. Sometimes when I’m getting ready, I’ll just put my phone on a tripod or whatever. Then I’ll just record a video before I leave and then I won’t even post it, I’ll just go back and look through but yeah, I love TikTok.
Making music is a great way to find out new things about yourself through expression. What has been the most shocking/interesting thing that you have found out?
What I actually found out is how comfortable I am allowing others to be in my space while I’m creating. I always from the beginning of time up until probably this year was creating music alone, just by myself, my computer, my microphone. When I started to get an environment or just work on bigger projects that involve more hands on, just to make better music also because I’m not that much of a technical person, I’m just mostly a vocalist, I figured out about myself that I don’t necessarily like crowds. I like it to be intimate settings and just people who are a part of it. I don’t really like extra eyes for no reason.
Talking about community, you’ve moved from Miami to New York. How did that influence your search for your identity and sound?
In Miami for the music that I make there’s not that much representation so I had to go on social media, not necessarily social media, but the Internet in general to source out things that I like, to create something that I like myself. Coming from Miami that definitely helped me know exactly who I was before I left. Then when I got to New York by already knowing who I was or what I bring to the table and also being on social media naturally the people who get it, we just gravitated towards each other. When I got here, I felt like I already knew so many people here so I made a home here easier than most I would say but it’s just because I was already finding my people before I ventured out of Miami.
If you know who you are, you can attract the right people.
Yes, because then you lose yourself. You’ll just completely lose yourself. You’ll get here and then you’ll think that you need to do something a certain way or you’ll be just influenced by maybe not the best influence so yeah.
Have you ever felt pressure to fit into the music industry’s boxes?
At some point in the beginning, this was when I was making my music for myself, by myself, before I had any label support as label support from me is fairly new, last year I started releasing things with a label. In the beginning, I wanted to be the most presentable. I wanted to be not necessarily myself but what I felt like the industry wanted but once I realised that the industry is a never-ending game of what you should be, what you shouldn’t be, you might as well be yourself. Two years into making music, I completely forgot all of that and I haven’t felt any pressure just because I know who I am.
Right now, do you feel a sense of belonging to any particular scene in New York?
It’s hard for me to say one specific thing but I’m definitely where the gays are and the queers. That’s who showed me the most love and it’s where I feel the most comfortable. Now in New York, there are a lot of things that are joined together. Also, I know so many people out here so I feel like I’m a part of so many things but where I have the most fun and feel the most comfortable is in New York with the queers, the gays and the underground rave scenes here.
It’s the same in London, it’s one of the most open-minded and safe spaces to express yourself.
Exactly, where you don’t have to worry about anything really.
What’s your dream collaboration?
There are so many people that I would love to work with. Since I started, the feedback that I’ve been getting from Almost Blue and music that I’ve released before ‘Almost Blue’, I’ve been getting a lot of like PinkPantheress, not necessarily comparisons, but also just listening to her music. I love it so much. I feel like that would be the perfect collab. Naturally I think we both get it. Also, Brandy, Nicki Minaj, Imogene Heap or Frou Frou.
What are your plans for the near future?
Now that Almost Blue is out, I’m soaking it all in. I’m possibly going to try to work on a video for it. Fingers crossed. I’m also gearing up for what’s next. I want to start working and I’m going to start working on my first official album. I’m gearing up for that, relaxing and documenting my experiences and my feelings. That way I can have something to look back on when I’m ready to start the process of making the album.
I hope Nicki Minaj will feature on it.
Fingers crossed. I would cry.
Press play on Tama Gucci’s Almost Blue below now.