Singer-songwriter Tama Gucci (IRL name Kymani Floyd) was in Miami as the lockdown hit. He was happy that he could quarantine with family and friends rather than at his new home base in New York City — at the time, the U.S. COVID-19 epicenter.
"I wasn't mad at it at all," he says. "It's better to do nothing with people you've known forever."
The only downside was that the musician found himself stranded without his studio equipment. The situation interrupted a productive roll that had begun after Gucci moved away from South Florida last year.
After arriving in NYC, Gucci wasted little time getting into step with the city's fast-paced vibe and signing with B4, Remote Control Records' incubator imprint. After releasing the self-produced EP Fantasy, which included the velvety standout track "Online," he recorded and filmed the music video for the trance-banger single "I Let You," featuring X Coast, in March.
With his second single, "Crazy About Me," Gucci proves the 2020 hellscape has done little to impede his creative output.
The single's visuals were filmed back in March in Miami with a scaled-down team of three, including Gucci, his partner and longtime collaborator Rodrigo Alvarez, and local cinematographer Michael Morales.
"Since I moved to New York, I've had to be on the hustle," Gucci adds. "There's always so much happening, and in order to survive, and continue to create, I've had to be a lot more disciplined. I never leave demos just lying around now. It's changed my artistic process."
"Crazy About Me" exemplifies the thoughtful, hard-hitting tracks Gucci's growing fanbase has come to crave, perfectly juxtaposing his silken voice against the chaotic decays of a drum 'n' bass beat. It's a genre-bending amalgam of disparate inspirations such as Russain teen-pop duo t.a.T.u., Brandy, and trance music.
"Naturally, I morph everything I love into my sound," he explains. "I try not to reflect on genre too much. There are so many ways to make music now — you can make a track on your iPhone."
During his forced lockdown in Miami, Gucci ventured out to purchase studio recording equipment from a local pawn shop.
"It was like $40, at this place called Value Pawn [in Brownsville], but I had to haggle them down," he admits. "At least I could get on the ball about getting creative during the quarantine. I even learned how to DJ."
Gucci recently showcased his new, self-taught talent for a set on former Chairlift member and hyper-pop singer Caroline Polacheck's Club Quarantine livestream series.
Still, before the pandemic, Gucci was no stranger to the internet's inner workings. The singer had earned a bit of social-media notoriety, most notable for his remix of Blueface's "Thotiana." The video garnered 37,000 likes on Twitter and was subsequently released on Bandcamp by popular demand. Given Gucci's experience, coming up with new ways to been seen and heard online is a well-covered territory and a big part of the artist's start.
That's not to say Gucci didn't feel the pressure to capitalize on his rapidly growing fanbase.
"Me being a black queer person coming from a place where there aren't really opportunities for people who look like me, I felt like I needed to make the most of it," he says. "Once I realized I didn't even know how to make the most of it, I stopped focusing on it. Otherwise, I would have gone crazy. It did give me the push to move to New York, though."
While the singer is keen to return someday, he felt Miami wasn't the place to get his career moving. After facing what he described as a "brick wall" of rejection from modeling agencies — he had initially wanted to go into the industry — he then became frustrated that he and his friends in the DIY queer community were being overlooked.
Miami's shortcomings aside, Gucci credits the local scene with fundamentally shaping the artist he is today. According to the singer, Miami's DIY scene is unique in its nurturing of a creative safe-space, noting that fellow Floridian musician Get Face (AKA Skylar Schubert) helped him get his production sea legs with Ableton software. This was a significant step for Gucci, who says that when he first started making music, he was shunned by more prominent producers when he reached out to use their beats.
"It was very limiting, but once I figured out the production side, it made my music-making process so much stronger," he says.
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Even from afar, Gucci continues to be inspired by Miami's creative landscape: He cites local nightlife collective Internet Friend and artist Akia Dorsainzil (who recently did a comic for Gucci, the brand) as an example of Miami's thriving scene.
His penchant for collaboration has continued after his relocation, connecting with Serbian-born, Brooklyn-based musician X Coast for "I Let You." The two found each other on Instagram after one of Gucci's performances at the Lot Radio in Brooklyn. Together, they made a boundary-pushing song that somehow both lands as futuristic pop track and a nostalgic nod to '90s drum 'n' bass anthems.
As for the future, Gucci says he has some big projects looming.
Unable to yet publicly announce the collaboration by name, he lets it slip that his foray into the fashion industry and an eight-track EP will come to fruition next year.