With the Grammy nominations coming out this past Monday, I’ve got music on the brain. This isn’t a departure from my usual state of brain, but it’s been intensified. And also, the current social climate in the U.S. has been, well, less than friendly towards people of color. So for this week’s web crush, I want to highlight a Black woman making geeky music: nerdcore rapper Sammus. As always, hip-hop is an open, candid art form, so some mild to extremely not safe for work language in some of the songs.
Now, if you’re a dedicated fan of this blog, you may recall me mentioning her music back in February, but I think she deserves a bit more attention than that. While that post was about nerd music in general, it’s equally important to spotlight individuals. Sammus (sometimes stylized SΔMMUS), or Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo, is part rapper, part beat maker, part PhD student, so you already know she’s serious business.
As her MC moniker suggests, some of her subject material circles around the Metroid franchise. For instance, her album Another M is a described hip-hop semi-retelling of Samus Aran’s story from the game. Not only that, but she used samples of the game’s soundtrack to continue the theming. Besides than that, she dips into other nerd territory, and general rap topics when they arise, such as her song about wanting to play video games and watch cartoons… named Games & Cartoons. Tonally, her music is as varied as anyone else’s: it can be both lighthearted (like below) or more intense when it needs to be. Her songs Three-Fifths and America take a break from the nerdy and fun to speak completely soberly about racial injustice in our country.
As always, I’m a huge supporter of diversity. Just like rap, nerdcore is dominated by dudes, especially white dudes (the rap genre, at least, is not as white). Her presence is good proof that women not only obviously deserve a spot in the genre, but are equally as skilled and valuable as their male counterparts. She discusses some of the struggle and impostor syndrome from this demographic in an interview with Impose. For me, I can relate more specifically to her openness to Black inequality, such as in the songs mentioned above, but her callouts of misogynoir (like in A Woman) definitely strike a chord and remind me to be cognizant of biases and prejudices I might hold because they don’t directly hit me in the face. Again, misogyny and anti-Black bias are problems that affect us all, and we should always be aware of them, especially in our art.
Furthermore, she is vocal about the need for diversity and promotion of women on her Twitter. It’s hard to find a specific example without creeping into someone’s tweets, but seriously, any semi-responsible feminist and/or person of color on Twitter is doing this. In a similar vein, she promotes an artist that we should know about the first Thursday of every month on her site. In her words, these tend to be local artists (New York) such as Izzy True, a fun songwriter from Ithaca. It’s great to see promotion of local scenes, other women, and even other genres. These promotions also show a general love for music which gives myself and other fans more reason to trust her spirit and genuine personality.
Her YouTube channel is also home to a series of vlogs, which give you the opportunity to keep up with her work. This level of transparency is always welcome from artists, as they can’t possibly constantly release music, but this interaction keeps audiences attentive. Also, any artist showing their human side always is appealing to me, and it makes them more relatable.
Even dope rappers are just people with everyday stuff going on.
If Sammus sounds like someone you want to listen to in person, fear not! She frequently goes on tours with other talented, geeky musicians! She’ll be at the ever-growing MagFest this February. Beyond that, you can visit her website which can link you to all her music, interviews, tour dates and the like.