Coolest Person in the Room: Tama Gucci

1 views 3:20 pm 0 Comments June 5, 2024

Popularity is relative, especially in the digital age. You could have hundreds of thousands of followers online but be completely unknown in the streets — massively famous on Instagram, YouTube or Twitter, but lack any kind of real, authentic cool in person. For our series Coolest Person in the Room, we pinpoint all the people whose energy is contagious regardless of their following count or celebrity. Meet Tama Gucci — the Miami-bred, NYC-based musician and true internet kid whose sweet R&B-infused tracks (“Runaway Pup” is out now, and his debut album Notes to Self is out August 16 via Sindelyn) will melt your heart.

Can you pinpoint when Tama Gucci was born?

I definitely can. Because of COVID, time doesn’t really exist anymore to me, but I started Tama Gucci when I was 15 or 16. I was working at American Apparel. It was my first job. I needed a handle for Instagram and Twitter, and a bot account had @tamagucci. I was obsessed with Tamagotchi pets. So I was like, okay, let me figure something out. So I came out with @tamahoochie because @tamagucci was taken. It’s been like that ever since. I want to say it was 2015 or 2016.

That’s when I moved to New York. It felt like a way more creative time.

I was watching it from afar, growing up in Miami. I remember I would see all the cool shit that was happening in New York at that time. I still couldn’t even really grasp how cool it was, but then when I got here, I caught this infectious, super creative energy of New York. That was mind-blowing. I feel like it’s kind of slowed down a little bit, but I caught the end of it. I always knew it was going on because I was always on the internet, so I had so many mutuals in New York.

I associate that era with the last sort of club kid energy. But that’s kind of dead now.

Yeah, it definitely is. I miss it. Where did they go wrong? Honestly, I think it’s just that people are tired. I really do. It’s only getting harder and harder to survive. And now the clubs have become infiltrated with, I don’t know if normies is a good word, but normies make it expensive. It’s a whole thing.

Even thinking back to that era when Bossa Nova was really lit. Now, it’s such a different crowd there.

Yeah. Bossa was the first place I ever performed in New York. I’ll never forget it. I performed two songs. I remember that night. Byrell and LSDXOXO were DJing. It was also my first trip to New York. I remember being obsessed. I was like, the music here is so great and I’m having so much fun. Then I went back to Miami, moved here in 2019, and signed a music deal. And literally, like three days later, the pandemic happened and everything shut down. So it’s kind of been question marks ever since.

How does being from Miami manifest itself in your art?

Being from Miami manifests itself in my art because it’s very unexpected. Growing up in Miami is very, I don’t want to say easy, but you just know your routine. You know what to avoid. Nothing is really random. In Miami, they don’t really change, so you know what to expect. I think that’s what gave me the room to just try everything. Especially seeing all the cool stuff that was happening in New York and London and LA, I was like, “Oh, I want to do something different that I’m not doing in Miami,” because I’m inspired by everyone else. I wanted to try everything to know what I like and how to make it my own. It’s also made me embrace chaos. Because Florida is insane. All those crazy Florida man stories and stuff are very true. I’ll never forget that story of the bath salts zombie guy who ate somebody’s face. And it was all over the news.

I remember that distinctly.

I remember being in school, absolutely terrified, but so fascinated being like, “Oh my God, there are zombies in Miami.” So cool. I remember being obsessed with it. So it definitely made me embrace the chaos which comes with being an artist growing up in Miami.

Wasn’t there that alien sighting a few months ago, too? Like, the aliens were walking on the street?

Yeah, Florida is so random. But honestly, I believe everything I read. Even if I don’t see it, I’m like, it’s true. It’s real. I never put anything past it.

I remember that because the night before, I had a really vivid dream of an alien attack on the beach. You know those dreams that are so real that you have to write them down when you wake up? Then, the next day, that Miami alien story dropped.

Oh my God. No, honestly, that was the aliens sending signals that they were coming before they actually landed. Only a few got it.

I believe it. How connected are you to spirituality? I know your recent video for You Lost Me” was shot in one take during the eclipse.

I’m very spiritual in that sense. I definitely come from a lineage of witches. That’s not the proper term, but that’s the term to put it for the masses to grasp. But my family is definitely spiritual. I’ve seen my mom do some crazy stuff in the sense that she’s had dreams and told me about the dreams, and exactly two days later, it kind of happened exactly how she said it would. So I definitely will say I’m a spiritual person. Even the eclipse video. The feeling that I got after shooting that was so insane. I was like, whoa. It’s hard to explain.

I’ve had weird psychic dream-related stuff recently, too.

You just have to embrace it. One thing I’ve learned about it, too, is the older you get, the more you’re able to trust in these instincts and you kind of just become at ease with it. Even if it’s something scary that you kind of envision, you’re just like, ‘Okay, noted,’ and move on.

Were you a super internet-obsessed kid growing up? Just on Tumblr, Twitter, etc?

Yes, I was always on the internet. Even in elementary school, I remember I got suspended for four days because I was cursing people out on MySpace. Mind you, I’m like nine years old. There are so many photos of me in hoodies, in the office taking pictures with middle fingers. I was always on the internet, so I was very inspired by the stuff that I was seeing. But when I became older, I started going to this warehouse where everyone out of Miami kind of met. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Nick Leon, he’s a producer from Miami. There’s also this collective called Internet Friends. I’m sure you’ve heard of Ava, AKA Antpuke, after the whole scandal. We all met at this one warehouse, which is called 229. That’s where I first performed as Tama Gucci in person. That’s where I met Ava. We all came together at this place, and that’s what kicked it off as far as being a serious artist.

But I was very much always on the internet. Any platform I had. I couldn’t really get into Tumblr because it was a lot of typing and coding, and I’m dyslexic. I couldn’t do it. Working at American Apparel, you know how they would take photos of their employees wearing full American Apparel? I was obsessed with taking photos during my shift and then going on the American Apparel Tumblr to see how people reacted to my photos. But that’s as far as I got with Tumblr.

What is your biggest strength as an artist?

I don’t take myself that seriously. Artists who take themselves super seriously, I feel like it puts a cap over their limits. It doesn’t make them moldable, it doesn’t make them try new things. I’m always down to try something new. Even if it’s silly, even if I fail at it. I wouldn’t know I could do it if I didn’t try it.

I love your pop culture references. I’m very much the same way. I’m super obsessed with pop girls.

Growing up being on the internet so much, I was definitely doing a lot of researching. I also loved the radio. I was obsessed with listening to the radio and hearing new music. I would record stuff off my phone. And then reality TV, too. A lot of my music is inspired by reality TV. That’s all I watch.

Early 2010s pop nostalgia is such a thing right now, and I feel like it’s because the current state of pop girls is a bit bland.

It’s true. And when all the pop girls right now reference something, they only reference one piece of that era. Obviously Britney is the blueprint, but there are so many other facets to that era, you know? I need them to tap in all around it, not just with one [reference].

Who are the three pop girls from that era that influenced you the most?

The first would be Nicki Minaj. I have her on my keys and a flag in my room. Secondly, I would say Katy Perry. Pop perfection. One of the best catalogs ever. The last one, I wanna say Britney, but it’s like, Britney doesn’t count because she defined it. So that’s a given. Somebody who I’ve never said and doesn’t really get their flowers is Kesha. Kesha kind of woke it up a little bit in a way that people didn’t really fully grasp. I still feel like they don’t know what Kesha did, but I’ve been really listening to a lot of her stuff, and she was having so much fun. That’s a good three. I’m proud of those three.

Danity Kane or The Cheetah Girls? Pick one.

Oof. Cheetah Girls. The part in The Cheetah Girls where she’s like, “Now bump this,” and they’re in that little room auditioning for that guy. That moment lives in my head rent-free. But I do love Danity Kane. I had the CD.

I love Aubrey O’Day. My point being that back in the day, the pop girls really had to prove themselves and be judged. I think that’s what we’re missing these days.

Yes. Everybody now is just like, “I have a following on TikTok. I know what I’m doing. I don’t have to prove anything. This is me.” I feel like there are good sides to that, too. But then there’s also a bad side to that because then you start to take yourself too seriously where you’re like, “I know what I am. I know what I’m going to do. I don’t need anybody to tell me anything or give me any suggestions. I built this audience myself. I’m not changing.” But in reality, it’s like, you can have an audience, but you can still be like, “How can I grow my audience? What new can I do? What do you think?”

I love PinkPantheress. I think she’s a good one.

Love PinkPantheress. That interview for Rolling Stone where she’s like, “We don’t need a bridge. We don’t need a hook.” I agree. Like I said, she doesn’t take it too seriously where she’s like, “I have to have a bridge.” There are no rules to it. If you love it and it makes sense to you, great.

I was listening to your music before this, and I noticed that your songs are very short.

When I first started making music, it was so long. But it’s because I wasn’t making my own beats. And then once I started producing myself, I was like, “Oh, okay, I feel like this is done. Is it done? Yes, it’s done.” I can’t fathom doing anything else, and ever since then I’m like, if it’s short, it’s short. If it’s five minutes, it’s five minutes. But for the most part, I wrap it up like at the two or three minute mark.

That’s what you gotta do nowadays, literally for the Spotify algorithm.

Also, people’s attention spans are short now. Even with movies, I find it hard to stay awake. I’ll drink a full coffee, and I’m dozing off 30 minutes into a movie, which is terrible.

Tell me about your debut album. What can we expect?

So it’s coming in August. I’m really excited, it’s my first album ever. Some of the songs are tracks that I made during the pandemic that I forgot about and then revamped later on when it was time to wrap it up. But I’ve tried everything from being on the internet so much, experimenting with different sounds and what I like and learning how to make them my own. With this album, I definitely wanted to have a club track. I wanted to have an ambient track. I wanted to have an indie track. I wanted to have what I call Dance Dance Revolution, but it’s really just like a trance techno track. I wanted to make sure I covered all the dots on it. I’m really proud of it. It’s going to be major. I produced almost 80% of it myself. I wrote everything myself. All the collabs on it, which is just two, are super sweet. They’re people that I respect, and it’s not about the numbers game. Because of course, I could’ve probably gotten features that were heavy hitters, but then that is a whole process. I mostly work with people who inspire me and have always been in my corner as mutuals on the internet.

Photography: Diego Villagra Motta
Styling: Matthew Mazur

Styling assistant: Hanna Berridge
Grooming: Brazier Ray

Editor-in-chief: Justin Moran

Managing editor: Matt Wille

Editorial producer: Angelina Cantu

Music editor: Erica Campbell
Story: Ivan Guzman

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