Up Next: In Her Verses, It’s Sammus Versus the World
Name: Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo
Hometown: Ithaca, N.Y.
Now Lives: In Philadelphia, where she shares a two-bedroom apartment in a remodeled rowhouse with her partner, the writer Lanre Akinsiku.
Claim to Fame: Ms. Lumumba-Kasongo, whose stage name is Sammus, is a rapper and music producer whose references include first-person video gaming, awkward breakups in the age of shared Netflix accounts, and the politics of black feminism. Her stage name comes from the character Samus Aran, the protagonist of the Nintendo video game franchise Metroid.
“She’s in an armor suit, and you can’t really tell what she looks like until you beat the game,” at which point she is revealed to be a woman in a bikini, Ms. Lumumba-Kasongo said. “For most people, I think the assumption is Samus is a man.”
Big Break: She recorded her first full-length album, “M’other Brain,” at her apartment in 2012, using a laptop and USB microphone she bought at her local university bookstore. She then released it on Bandcamp, a music site for indie artists. “I’d done a very poor job of promoting the project,” Ms. Lumumba-Kasongo said. “I think I tweeted, ‘Hey, buy my album.’” Still, it found its way to two musicians who would become her mentors, the nerdcore rapper Mega Ran, who asked her to join him on tour, and the alternative rapper Open Mike Eagle, who hosts the musical comedy series “The New Negroes.”
Latest Project: Last year, she released “Pieces in Space,” a 12-track album that received favorable reviews from Pitchfork. As the writer Sheldon Pearce put it, the album “documents life online as a black female gamer, and in turn reveals how the internet is dehumanizing us.” Never is that message clearer than on the tracks “Comments Disabled” and “1080p,” which she wrote to raise awareness for mental health. Now she is recording a new studio album.
Next Thing: In addition to her music, Ms. Lumumba-Kasongo is a Ph.D. candidate in science and technology at Cornell University. Her dissertation is on the politics of community recording studios that serve low-income artists. At the end of the day, “It’s a way for me to just continue doing my music,” she said.
Unexpected Influences: Though it may not be obvious on first listen, Ms. Lumumba-Kasongo counts Björk, Daft Punk and Kanye West among her influences. “The kind of limitless sense of possibility about what an artist can be or what an artist could do is something that, from a very young age, I was enamored with,” she said.
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