Hip-hop is a diverse genre, but many fans hope to hear women’s perspectives more often in the music. This is one of the many reasons fans should give Sammus a listen. She’s a rapper who began as a producer and continues to show growth in her work. Her latest EP, titled Infusion, shows that her music offers a lot of personality and substance.

In the conversation below, she discusses her creative choices and the wide array of issues spoken about on the project, such as racial stereotypes, the use of therapy and the African diaspora. And check out the premiere of her video for “The Feels” after the interview.

Blavity: A lot of times, people describe artists with terms that the artists themselves may not use or identify with. Because of that, I want to start off by asking how you describe yourself musically?

Sammus: For sure. When it comes to what I make, I’d call it black girl nerd rap. That’s the best way for me to describe it.

B: Cool, that definitely makes sense given what I’ve heard from you before. I’ve been listening to the new EP leading up to now, and something that stands out to me the most is the insight you give into who you are and what you’ve experienced. How important is content to you as an artist compared to the other elements of your music?

S: To me, content is everything. The kind of artist I am, everything has to sound good sonically. But, I’m personally tired of music that sounds great but is demeaning or homophobic. It’s important to me that my music reflects my values, because words matter.

B: For sure, I think that focus comes across clearly in your work. Building off of that, I heard you mention therapy a few times on the first song of the EP, “1080p.” Could you speak about how using that service influences you as an artist?

S: Yes, “1080P” is definitely a standout song. It’s the first song I made for the project, the first one I made after the last EP. When it comes to therapy, it’s connected to my time in school. I’m originally from Ithaca, NY, and I came back to New York to go to Cornell University. I did a PhD program, and a PhD just has so many ups and downs.

For a while, I was caught under the weight of academia on top of a serious relationship of mine coming to an end. From 2013 to 2014, I just wasn’t doing anything right. Therapy helped me out because it allows freedom. It’s liberating to share your experience with someone else. Going through therapy has motivated me to reveal more insecurities in my music.

B: Thanks for sharing that. Another thing that you mention, this time on the song “Mighty Morphing,” is the misconception of what it means to be black and what it means to be white. Was this something you only dealt with earlier in your life or is it a hurdle you still face today?

S: Well, that was a problem I mainly faced as a kid in Ithaca. Growing up, I was told that I was acting white because of how I talked and what my interests were. I was able to move past it when I was in college. I realized that there are different ways to orient yourself in the world as a black person.

Coming out of that, I don’t like being put in a box as an artist, and that happens often to women. A lot of times people label me as a conscious rapper, but I want people to know there’s a lot to me. I like to read, twerk, do calculus and go out with my friends to drink.

B: For sure. Another aspect of your songs that stood out to me is your delivery – from the way you intonate on certain lyrics to the comedic sense of some lines. How intentional is the way you deliver your rhymes? Is it deliberate or does it just happen naturally?

S: That’s a good question, I’m not asked that a lot. As an artist, my voice is still emerging. This project is the first one where my studio hasn’t been my bedroom. My mixer is a guy named Sosa, who works a lot with Homeboy Sandman. We originally connected at SXSW and, once we began recording, we had a long conversation about delivery.

He said that he loved my energy when I performed live, but it didn’t translate to my projects. Since then, I’ve tried to capture my emotions in a raw way. From playfulness to intensity, my delivery’s intentional.

B: That definitely makes sense. Now, I know video games and other forms of animation have been part of your music in the past. Could you explain how this influence adds to your music?

S: Well, I think that interest of mine is a niche that’s becoming cool. Right now, a lot of nerdy personalities are becoming big. One big example is Kid Fury and the success he’s had. I was a ‘90s kid and Nintendo became so big that those games became a large frame of reference for me. I spent so many days playing games with my brothers. And video games were the first place where I appreciated music.

B: That’s really cool. Going back to the EP, one of the standout songs is “Backstabbers,” where you speak about the diaspora and lineage. Could you explain what motivated you to make that song?

S: Yes, those topics were chosen intentionally because I wanted to deviate from my last project and show I can rap about more than just video games. I’m a first generation African-American. My mom’s from the Ivory Coast and my dad’s from the Congo. Growing up, I didn’t feel deeply tied to the culture of the Ivory Coast or the Congo. I chose to talk about my insecurity in fitting in on the song.

I have anxiety talking about issues within my race on my songs because a large amount of my fans are white. I’m weary of how people challenge injustices that happen to us with things like “black on black violence,” which is a trash argument. Yet, I don’t want to overlook the bad ways I’ve seen black people interact. In the past, I was asked things like “did you play with lions as a kid.” We all have shared histories and individual histories and ultimately we’re all trying to heal. I’m anxious to see how it’s interpreted.

B: For sure, it’s a topic that can be spoken about for an hour, even used for a lecture. It’s hard to cover it in one song, so I’m glad I got to ask you about it. To wrap up, what do you hope to achieve with your music moving forward?

S: I have personal benchmarks to reach. One is to be 100% self-sustainable as an artist. I also want to do more workshops and speaking engagements. Ultimately, I want to show that black womanhood is a growing experience. I hope to be an influence on little black girls by sharing my authentic experience. And something I’d love to be part of is a cartoon with a diverse cast of rap women that are bounty hunters.

Make sure to listen to Sammus’ Infusion EP and check out the premiere of her new video below!

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