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SAMMUS: An Anomaly in Hip-Hop

When a hip-hop song comes on the radio, you’d probably expect something along the lines of party music, or maybe even a song about gun violence and social change. One theme that we would never think would manifest within the genre is video games. From an outsider’s perspective, nerd culture and hip-hop are completely separate entities, but one innovative rapper is making waves by mixing together what seem to be two contradicting ideas. This creative genius is none other than SAMMUS.

Known off-stage as Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo, she is definitely not your average rapper. A former teacher and currently pursuing her PhD at Cornell University, she first started rapping during her teaching years, incorporating songs into her lesson plans. But she felt that alternative rock and video game soundtracks were more her style, considering that’s what she grew up with. According to an artist feature on the Ithaca Voice, she initially intended to make music for a cartoon or a video game. However, after listening to Kanye West’s The College Dropout, she decided that she had her own story to tell—her struggles, female empowerment, and her love for video games.

Although this New York underground rapper isn’t the only person in the hip-hop landscape to be rapping about video games, she may be the only woman rapping about her favorite vintage titles, 8-bit soundtrack style. Music has always played a crucial role in video games, as the designers from tech company Gaming Realms explain on a long-form article posted on the digital hub Pocketfruity that the audio is a major factor in game-play, affecting a player’s anticipation and final feedback. Positive experiences from playing old-school titles from childhood and all throughout adulthood inspired her to translate those memories into songs using those familiar sounds that would resonate with any gamer.

Whether you call her music nerdcore, blerdcore or feminerdcore, her artistry is extraordinary. Thanks to her brother and Gym Class Heroes member Disashi, she has managed to produce a sound so unique in the genre and opened a new demographic of hip-hop fans, classifying nerdy activities like gaming as cool.

SAMMUS self released her first EP Fly Nerd back in 2010. Her latest album from 2016, Pieces in Space, is her debut LP with Don Giovanni records. She collaborated with several local legends for her latest tracks, including Jean Grae and Homeboy Sandman.

Pieces in Space is available on iTunes, Bandcamp, CD and vinyl.

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