We usually like to keep these introductory paragraphs to around 100 words, but that might be a challenge when describing gum.mp3 and his body of work. A true polymath, an archivists's spirit shows through across each of his endeavours, whether lecturing at Georgetown University or joining the dots from garage to house to jazz in his music. When gum and I connect for this interview, it's a week before the release of his new album, Black Life Red Planet, a project two years in the making and with the release date in site, he's able to reflect on his achievement. You know what? Maybe the album is actually pretty good” he says with a laugh. He has begun sharing previews with friends and collaborators, and has been heartened by their feedback. “It seems like everybody is understanding what I'm trying to do both atmosphere-wise and genre-wise. I feel very accomplished that people from various places on the planet are finding an entry point to the work, despite it being so specifically black, and so specifically jazz-oriented.” 

Black Life Red Planet is out on the 7th March. To listen for yourself, click here


What song reminds you the most of your childhood?

I grew up listening to a lot of New York rap and Southern gangster rap because of my dad. He's from Baltimore, but he lived in Long Island City for a bit, so he is big on New York rap. A song that reminds me of riding around with him in his Dodge Neon is “Fallen Soldiers” by Cormega, who was a Queens rapper. I listened to it again today and I thought about my dad immediately. After the Neon, he had a Volvo station wagon, and I remember hating on the station wagon when he first got it. I was like, “ah, you got the old man car.” But then here I am now at 26 years old with a BMW station wagon.


What was the first physical record you remember buying?

I bought my first two CDs ever at the same time; it was Tha Carter III by Lil Wayne and On Top of Our Game, the second album by Dem Franchize Boyz. That was right at the peak of when snap music was coming out of Atlanta, and I loved it so much. Those were my first CDs, got 'em out of Walmart.

CD - Tha Carter III

What song reminds you the most of home?

I'm going to go with Maxwell “Pretty Wings,” because I first heard it on the Russ Parr Morning Show. I think 97.5 was the radio station, we would be riding around town and my mom loved, loved that song and she burned it into my brain. I had it as my ringtone for a few years in middle school and high school. Then when I moved to Virginia as an adult, the Russ Parr Morning Show was also being broadcast in Virginia. I was like, “wait, I didn't know they were still going!” I was so glad to reconnect with my hometown radio station, it brought me all the way back. But yeah, kind of similar to the reason the Cormega song reminds me of my dad, “Pretty Wings” is definitely tied to both North Carolina and Virginia, and also my mom.

What song reminds you of traveling to a specific place?

There's this DJ Manny song called “All I Do Is (Smoke Trees)” that has a crazy Lil Wayne sample. I played that in Portugal when I went with my best friend Swami Sound to play a show together at Musicbox in 2022. I ended up playing a bunch of footwork stuff that night, and I don't know what the crowd thought they were about to get, I don't know if they thought it was some house, some garage, but I started playing some crazy footwork tracks, having the time of my life. It was such an amazing trip and we were already super close friends before that, but after that trip I was like, “yo, this is my brother.” He really helped me get out of the country, not for the first time, but in a way that was super, super meaningful for me.


What song do you wish you had written?

My first one is “If I Was Your Girlfriend” by Prince. The first time I heard that song I was like, “he's a genius.” I literally wish I wrote this song. And that one makes me think of my girlfriend a lot too, it is just amazing. And equally so, I would say “Runaway” by Moodymann. When I first heard that track it was really early in my career as a producer, and it inspired me to take a jazzier approach to my tracks, and that’s something I'm still chasing in my music. I could say that about every Moodymann song, that I wish I had made it, but “Runaway” in particular is when I really realized the intersection of jazz and dance music and I was like, “OK, this is what I'm going to do with my career. This is where I want to take my music.”

CD - Moodymann

What is the best song to play at a house party?

I'm going to give you two songs that work in any situation because I've seen them work every time for the last three years. “Essence” by Wizkid, no matter the situation, it doesn't matter - everybody's going to dance. As long as the girls are having fun, everybody's going to have fun. And for that same reason, the DJ Slink remix of “I Love You” by Faith Evans. I've rinsed that track so much over the last two years. It works every time, to the point where I feel like I got to call him and be like, “yo, do you know how much I played this damn song?” To the point where people think I made it. I’m like “no, that's DJ Slink.” I be playing the fuck out of that. It gets people moving immediately. Those two songs, absolutely. House Party favorites.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I'm going with “fullmoon” by Ryuichi Sakamoto. It is a really amazing song that made me want to be more mindful of the little moments on a day-to-day basis. There’s so many lines from the opening spoken word part that really hit me as a teenager. I think I heard that song when I was 19, back when I first got into Ryuichi in college with my best friend. We were running through his discography, and Async was a huge moment for me and my friend group when we first heard the album. Async did a lot for me, spiritually, mentally, professionally, as far as how I approach music, and “fullmoon” is the song that hit me the hardest. It made me want to be more mindful of the things I'm doing, and be more appreciative of all the mundane aspects of life that can go unappreciated.

You're abducted by aliens and when you wake up on the spaceship, they pass you the aux. What is the song that you're playing to convince them not to destroy Earth?

Dude, I wanted to pick a Young Thug song so bad, but I'm going to play it safe and go with “You Rock My World” by Michael Jackson, because that Darkchild beat is so crazy. There's no way you could destroy the planet after hearing that beat. I actually would've picked that as a song I wish I made, but there was no way on the planet I was ever going to make that. Once the aliens hear that, they're going to be like, “alright, what can we do?” That's like a miracle of a song.