Tag: hiphop

Vagabon, Sammus, Pleistocene

Vagabon, the moniker for multi-instrumentalist, Lætitia Tamko, was born in late 2014 during her final years of engineering school. Currently living in New York City via Cameroon, Tamko’s cultural duality and engineering background informs her inspirations as a musician and a producer. Blending elements of west and east African music from her childhood with punk as well as electronic leaning instrumentation, Vagabon songs vary in themes and genre.
In November 2014, Tamko self-released an EP, “Persian Garden”, a collection of the first songs she had ever written. “Persian Garden” caught the attention of a larger than imagined audience which led Vagabon to a couple of U.S tours and several Northeast tours.

Sammus is the stage name adopted by Ithaca, NY producer, rapper, activist, and PhD student Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo. Known as much for her rousing stage presence as she is for her prowess as a beatmaker and lyricist, Sammus has spent the past several years cultivating a strong following of activists, hip hop heads, punks, and self-proclaimed nerds and geeks, among others. Now ready to make her Don Giovanni debut, she is poised to cement herself as an artist who consistently thinks outside boxes and dances across lines (and does other neat things with geometrical figures).

Pleistocene – Brilliantly melodic shoegaze pop from Rochester.


Busdriver, Zeroh, Winston Bongo, Robot Detective

Underground legend Busdriver returns to Ithaca! Having collaborated, toured, worked with the likes of Deerhoof, Milo, Clipping, Mono/Poly, Modeselektor, P.O.S, Daedelus, and Boom Bip, Driver is ever evolving with releases on imprints like ANTI-, Fake Four, and Polyvinyl. Most recently, Bus costarred in the Brainfeeder/Flying Lotus film KUSO, which premiered at Sundance this year

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Ithaca Underground 10th Anniversary Celebrations & Fundraiser!

Ithaca Underground celebrates ten years of nurturing a radically inclusive, safe space for music & art outside the mainstream.

Over the last decade, Ithaca Underground has grown from a hobby for DIY concerts to an ever-expanding, caring community of the talented, the inspired, and the weird.

In addition to hundreds of live, all-ages music events, IU continues to provide learning and growth opportunities for volunteer artists, designers, photographers, videographers, grant writers, sound engineers, and marketeers.

Our 10th Anniversary celebration kicks off, with your chance to meet the Ithaca Underground board in a relaxed atmosphere, to learn more about the volunteer opportunities and safe space that we provide to our local community. Thanks to The Watershed co-owner and long time IU-supporter Ashley Cake for the space to meet and mingle.

We continue our 10th Anniversary celebration with a visual retrospective of Ithaca Underground. Join us to look back through student documentaries, performance videos, photographs and stories from our panel to catch a glimpse of how we’ve grown into the second most active independent booking organization in Ithaca. $5 Admission.

We close our the weekend with our annual February fundraiser at the Haunt to fund another year worth of events, volunteer training, equipment, and supporting local musicians. Ithaca Beer will provide our Rolemodel IPA, exclusive to the event. A Beach Parade Spritzer, N/A mocktail will also be available just for the night. Get your tickets now.

Big thanks to our partners at McNeil Music of Ithaca, Ithaca Beer Co., Cinemapolis, & Ithaca Fantastik.

Interview with Monki

I recently caught up with Monki, the notorious noise artist, in anticipation of his upcoming performance at Big Day In, which takes place this Saturday at the Haunt. Upon sitting down with Monki, I became aware that he is actually incapable of communication. Thankfully fellow No Aliens member, Mad Brain, was present and willing to discuss: Monki, No Aliens, & their unique backstory.

Evan: Hey Mad Brain, could you explain how Monki came to be?

Mad Brain: Monki was actually once a wild monkey, abducted by scientist in order to test a new Gerber Baby Bath & Skin product. Unfortunately, due to lack of care his face was badly disfigured. Later, an uprising took place in the animal containment, which led to a fight between animals and humans. During this fight a device in the lab was activated, which coded Monki’s brain with a human scientist. After this, the animals escaped leaving Monki free to roam, fated to never find his past.

Evan: Why does Monki feel the need to create music?

Mad Brain: In his case, the music is a search to call on something that can’t be particularly seen. It’s primal, every noise and sound you hear in his music expresses his story. Even though his [Monki] level of intelligence is considered genius, he is still unable to communicate.

Evan: No Aliens, what exactly is it and can you tell me about the other group members?

Mad Brain: No Aliens is a three person collective comprised of Computer, Monki, and myself [Mad Brain]. Monki created Computer, similarly cursed with a high level of self-awareness, he is better able to cope due to his ability to communicate. Computer is also responsible for all production for No Aliens, his music specializes in trance & ambient loops. His inspiration includes Brian Eno, Miles Davis, and Soulja Boy.

Evan: I [Mad Brain] am the voice behind No Aliens; I’m responsible for the lyrics and expressions where Monki fails. Typically, when you hear rapping in our [No Aliens] music, that’s me. I was once a scientist, whose mind was fused with Monki, leading to a constant struggle for control of this body.

Evan: Has Ithaca Underground helped you find a sense of community?

Monki: For the time being, I suppose so, but the point of No Aliens is to never have one home.

Ithaca Underground is proud to present our 12th annual Big Day In. Featured artists on the Main Stage include: B. DolanGuerilla Toss, Japanese Breakfast, LVL UP, Eskimeaux, Sharpless, Izzy True, Sammus, Alter, Mr. McBean, Imperials, First Pet, Spazzare, & the Horses. Featured artists on the Deck Stage include: Benjaminto, Shull (formerly _____), Tender CruncherotodojoKNEW, MONKI, FlocariousMotorcyclez, Eternal Savages, & LC Jones. The show takes place this Saturday, from 12pm to 11:59pm, at the Haunt.

Ithaca Underground Poster Show & Sale

As part of the First Friday Gallery Night, Ithaca Underground, presents it's second annual Poster Show & Sale, showcasing select event posters throughout our history, celebrating the unique talents of our artists. Prints will be available for sale, as well as additional artwork from IU artists. Proceeds will drive Ithaca Underground's commitment to radically inclusive, all ages music & art events.

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Interview With Sammus

I caught up with Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo, better know as Sammus, in anticipation of her upcoming release show for her latest EP, “Pieces In Space”. The album will be her first release with Don Giovanni Records and is available for purchase on October 28th. Produced entirely by Sammus, “Pieces In Space” features: Jean Grae, Homeboy Sandman, Open Mike Eagle, and Latasha Alcindor, as well as label-mate, Izzy True. Besides her career as a musician, Sammus is working towards a PhD in Science and Technology studies at Cornell, serves on the Board of Trustees at Ithaca Underground, and is a founding member of Black Lives Matter Ithaca, among other things.

Evan: Sammus, you’ve mentioned early memories of producing music on the MTV Music Generator, which was a popular game for PlayStation. Recently, you’ve stated that producing your own instrumentals has been critical in your music. What impact do you think video games have had on your production style?

Sammus: Video game music has informed my production style primarily in that I see a piece of production as more than just background music for vocals. I believe a beat should be able to stand on its own as an enjoyable and engaging piece of music.  So I always try to make my beats dynamic whether it’s incorporating a variety of melodic flourishes or subtle changes that can only be heard on headphones. I want my beats to paint pictures just like some of my favorite video game tracks have done for me.

Evan: Alex Trebek recently caused some controversy with his comments surrounding nerd-core music. I saw you, along with a few other rappers, recorded a response track. What do you think would cause Trebek to make such comments?

Sammus: I’m not actually sure why Alex Trebek would make the comments he did. It seemed uncharacteristically snarky to call nerd-core music for “losers” but it’s pretty obvious to me that he was joking around and I hope that people who listen to the response track recognize that it too was made in jest. I do think his words struck a chord with folks because although I’m ambivalent about using the term “nerdcore” to categorize my catalog, nobody can deny that the genre has produced a rich scene full of artists and incredible supporters who have worked hard to build a space for themselves. Some of my biggest supporters have been people who found me through my more “nerdcore” tracks. I have friends who identify as nerdcore artists that are making a full-time living performing their music across the country. Nerdcore has such a significant following, that for the past several years SXSW has seen fit to give nerdcore musicians an official showcase—So yeah, anybody who took issue with Trebek was probably taking his comments to be a dismissal of a genre that has found a lot of love with a lot of great people.

Evan: You’ve recently aligned with Don Giovanni, a label specializing in punk music. Are there any areas you draw similarities between Hip-Hop and Punk music/culture?

Sammus: First, I think punk is largely about incorporating and celebrating a kind of sonic rawness in the music. The centrality of rawness as an aesthetic can certainly be found in hip-hop circles, whether in live performances, in recordings, or in the very practice of putting a song together. On a personal level, I believe in utilizing my rawness as a way to engage audience members — I think anybody who has seen me live would agree that I give all of myself to each and every performance.

Additionally, I think that the DIY ethos that is the heart of punk music/culture is just as deeply embedded in underground hip-hop spaces. I never thought of my work as DIY until I became a part of the Ithaca Underground scene. It was then that I began to associate being DIY with the creation of music on one’s own terms. I realized that even though the sounds were often different, the values that went into making my music and the punk music I heard at IU shows are very much the same.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, many forms of punk and hip-hop music are rooted in culturally critical political discourse and activism. One need look no further than the powerful messages behind songs from bands like Downtown Boys or punk legend Alice Bag to see the connections with politically-minded hip hop artists. Themes of resistance, cultural pride, and rejecting the status quo have all been integral parts of the definitions of both of these genres/cultures.

Evan: Over recent years you have been very active in integrating Hip-Hop performances into Ithaca Underground shows. Any specific performance(s) come to mind, which you are especially proud of?

Sammus: One performance that was really special emerged out of a collaboration between Ithaca Underground and the CFCU Summer Concert Series hosted by the Downtown Ithaca Alliance. For the first time since the inception of the Summer Concert Series, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance reached out to Ithaca Underground to host the concert on the Wednesday before Grassroots. Although typically this date had been given to an artist performing at Grassroots, both Tatiana Sy, the Concert Series organizer, and Bubba Crumrine from IU decided to prioritize artists who were not going to be on stage at Grassroots. I was so honored to be selected to headline this show—it made me reflect on the lack of opportunities I saw for weird hip hop to flourish when I first moved back to Ithaca in 2011. And when I contrast that with my set at the Concert Series, in which I got to rap in front of so many different Ithaca residents, I realize that I’ve played a role in changing the kind of music that this town prioritizes. It was exciting to share my raps as well as talk about the importance of Black Lives Matter and Ithaca Underground to me to a captive audience of folks, many of whom may never have seen me otherwise. That moment was really important to me.

Evan: On your single “Weirdo” you speak about being an introvert, however you seem to be involved in many different communities. As a student myself, I’m curious: how do you maintain your mental health while balancing a career in music, working towards your PHD at Cornell, serving on the Board of Trustees at Ithaca Underground, among other things?

Sammus: It’s been challenging to keep all these things together because my preference is generally to be on my couch being weird by myself or with my boyfriend. So, I take self-care time where I can find it. For example, I often use my performances as a space to get certain things off my chest. I’ll tell the audience how I’m doing —if I had an annoying issue I had to deal with in class or if I’m stressed about the state of things nationally. I also have gotten much better at saying “no” although it might not seem like it. There are quite a few times that I’ve turned down opportunities because I knew it wasn’t in the best interest of my health. A few years ago I took any gig that was offered to me but now I make sure that I have enough time in my schedule and that it’s going to add something substantial to my life before I accept. Finally, I would say that sometimes the work itself can be a form of self-care. Yes, meetings can be exhausting, but it’s exciting to talk about the future of music in Ithaca with other volunteers and artists or in the context of my work with Black Lives Matter, it’s energizing to have conversations and plan actions that will result in a safer world for black people.

Ithaca Underground & Helen Stride are proud to present the release show for Pieces In Space, Sammus’s latest EP. Featuring Sammus, Sad13, Kelsey McBean (aka Mr. McBean), and No-Comply. The show takes place this Thursday, October 27th at the Haunt, doors open at 7PM