“A Portrait of a Human Experience”: Shungudzo Talks Debut Album, Activism, Motherhood, & Love

Shungudzo © Yazz Alali
Shungudzo © Yazz Alali
Singer/songwriter Shungudzo engages Atwood Magazine in an in-depth conversation about activism, love, motherhood, the human experience, and the many sides of her debut album ‘I’m not a mother, but I have children.’
‘I’m not a mother, but I have children’ – Shungudzo

I just hope that everybody does with it what they want, and that people are able to see through the labels and the gender and the color of this album and just see a portrait of a human experience and find elements that they relate to, or bravery to tell their own stories as well.

Shungudzo’s debut album is a work of art, truth, and unbridled passion.

Intimate, unapologetically raw, and hauntingly beautiful, I’m not a mother, but I have children taps into the artist’s core while engaging listeners in a visceral, multi-dimensional dialogue about life and our shared humanity: Of self-worth and love, family and motherhood, social justice and equality, and more. It’s an ambitious, genreless record riding the zeitgeist of our times. Yet while it may have been born out of the Black Lives Matter and Zimbabwean Lives Matter protests of 2020, its roots were sown long ago, passed down through generations of strong, resilient women and captivating storytellers – people who dared to dream big, and bring their dreams to life.

I’m not a mother but I have children - Shungudzo
‘I’m not a mother, but I have children’ – Shungudzo
I woke up feelin’ great
The birds are in the trees
They’re singin’ me a melody
La-la-la-la, fuck the police
My head is on straight
My heart is in peace
My soul is incredibly
Ready to change history
It’s a good day
To fight the system
– “It’s a good day (to fight the system),” Shungudzo

Out June 18, 2021 via BMG, I’m not a mother, but I have children is an emotional, spiritual and awe-inspiring musical journey – a “portrait of a human experience” whose vision extends beyond the individual, to our collective humanity. It’s a cathartic, long-awaited release for Shungudzo Kuyimba, the Zimbabwe born, Los Angeles based artist, producer, songwriter, and activist who stormed into the tail end of 2020 and has continued to enchant and inspire throughout this year. A member of California musical collective Age.Sex.Location and one of Atwood Magazine‘s 2021 artists to watch, Shungudzo blends meaning-driven poetry and progressive activism with invigorating music. Her galvanizing “style” is eclectic and indefinable; she pulls from folk, pop, R&B, Afrobeats and more, embracing a world of unlimited potential for her art while interspersing catchy hooks and moving melodies.

“I didn’t set out necessarily to make an album: I set out to make a body of work about my life internally and externally, and as a result, our communal lives,” Shungudzo tells Atwood Magazine. “I just wrote down a lot of feelings at first, like optimism, sorrow, frustration, loneliness, joy, and then within those feelings, I wrote down my first thoughts about what the songs could be about, subject matter-wise, and I found myself wanting to write, initially, a lot of songs about family, about my mother and my father. And as I dug into my upbringing, where I’m from, and kind of what that taught me, it really naturally led me down a path into talking about who I am now, and also who I hope to become, and what kind of world I hope to live in someday.”

People really piss me off
Certain kinda men
Praising God but burning crosses
The world revolves around them
I try to take the higher road
So pardon my descent
But fuck all these criminals
And free the weed man
There’s only so much a soul can take
Oh, it’s a picture perfect night in
Greater USA, where
People know my color
Before they know my name
I try to be agreeable
I try to be a saint
But sometimеs an upright middle finger is the way
– “There’s only so much a soul can take,” Shungudzo
Shungudzo © Yazz Alali
Shungudzo © Yazz Alali

I’m not a mother, but I have children isn’t the easiest or simplest album to process, but it’s one of 2021’s most important releases from a thematic and topical standpoint, and it goes down smooth.

Shungudzo’s music is filled with calls to action and calls for social change; her music is a soundtrack to activism in the 2020s, tapping into her lived experience as a Black woman and as a person in today’s world.

America is a car salesman
He sold me a car with no engine
I tried to give it back
He told me, “Sorry ma’am, but this shit is yours now”
America is a postcard dream
With palm trees and bodies hotter than lit kerosene
Nah, he don’t want no foreigners to see beyond the ocean lust
Here, people work their whole lives to be homeless
People work their whole lives to be hopeless
‘Merican dream, my only hope
Turns out to be mirrors and smoke
‘Merican dream, don’t breathe, you’ll choke
On pageantry, mirrors and smoke
– “Merican dream,” Shungudzo

Of course, “there isn’t one way to be a woman, nor is there one way to be a black person,” she says. “It’s hard for me to use the word “identity” because it feels so singular to describe things that are so multi-dimensional – infinitely dimensional, even. That was really one of the goals of my album, too – to express how multi-dimensional I am and how multi-dimensional a female artist of color can be, because I have found in music specifically, but also in life, that there’s a lot of pressure for people of color to be one thing; or before you’ve even shown someone all of the things that you are, they assume that you are one thing, and that makes it very difficult for them to believe you or understand you, to even hear you deeply when you express yourself as you are.”

“That’s one of the reasons that the album flows through so many different sounds, because I didn’t want to put myself into a box of one thing, and I wanted to open people’s minds to the fact that an artist – and more specifically, an artist of color – can have many sounds and many interests, and that they can go together, because the voice and intention atop those sounds is the genre, rather than the sound itself.”

“My hope is that, in spite of this album feeling like it’s leaning in a direction of womanhood and Blackness, that people who aren’t women and aren’t Black can feel the sentiment in the songs… If you listen to the songs that way, you’ll see that they split between ‘This is my experience as a woman of color,’ and, ‘This is my experience as a human being.'”

Shungudzo © Yazz Alali
Shungudzo © Yazz Alali
I’m not a mother, but I have children
They’re in the future, what I wouldn’t do for them
Maybe the world we’re fighting for
Isn’t for us, isn’t for sure
But I have children
What I wouldn’t do for them
Tell me I’m not dreaming alone
Are we on a road headed to a better home?
Even if we’re not even close
Every day we’ve got, can we still build the road? Oh
Isn’t the point to try?
Even though somе things will not be alright before wе die
– “I’m not a mother, but I have children,” Shungudzo

Shungudzo’s art is soothing, stunning, and stirring: Her songs and stories come from a place of empathy and hope, anger and pain, frustration and longing – but ultimately, compassion, connection, and beauty. I’m not a mother, but I have children is a rallying cry built on love, justice, and a steadfast belief in humanity: Shungudzo takes on the world with grace and gusto, packing a limitless scope into forty-three inspiring minutes. Between its multifaceted styles and sounds and its intent-driven lyricism, I’m not a mother, but I have children is a standout LP.

Dive into the depths of this exceptional album and learn more about its songs in our interview below: Shungudzo opened up to Atwood Magazine in an in-depth conversation about activism, love, humanity, motherhood, and the many sides of I’m not a mother, but I have children.

It’s hard for me to use the word “identity” because it feels so singular to describe things that are so multi-dimensional – infinitely dimensional, even. And that was really one of the goals of my album too, was to express how multi-dimensional I am or how multi-dimensional a female artist of color can be.

— —

:: stream/purchase Shungudzo here ::


I’m not a mother but I have children - Shungudzo

Atwood Magazine: Shungudzo, this album is such a long time in the making. Can you share a little about the story behind this record?

Shungudzo: You’re so right in calling it a long time in the making, because it’s the kind of music I’ve always wanted to make in terms of subject matter, and the way in which I wanted to do it, but it took me over a decade to get to this point where I could, both in having the time and space to do so, and having the confidence to do so, and I suppose also having the support to do so, through having a phenomenal team, and also sort of the music industry seeming to have really opened up to wanting to hear socio-political music, because for a lot of years in there… [chuckle] I don’t think that people thought my songs were bad, but more so that they weren’t sure where they fit into the musical spectrum, and I think as people have opened their minds and their hearts to what’s happening in the world, they’re also opening themselves up to music about our lives.

I didn’t set out necessarily to make an album: I set out to make a body of work about my life internally and externally, I guess you could say, and then… As a result, sort of our lives, our communal lives. I just wrote down a lot of feelings at first, like optimism, sorrow, frustration, loneliness, joy, and then within those feelings, I wrote down my first thoughts about what the songs could be about, subject matter-wise, and I found myself wanting to write, initially, a lot of songs about family, about my mother and my father. And as I dug into my upbringing, where I’m from, and kind of what that taught me, it really naturally led me down a path into talking about who I am now, and also who I hope to become, and what kind of world I hope to live in someday.

It’s so hard to describe the process of it, because I feel like, although there is a lot of intention set in writing down feelings and little poems and just different things to help inspire the songs, it all really happened naturally within the flow of emotions I was going through while the Black Lives Matter protests were happening all around the world, and the Zimbabwean Lives Matter protests were happening in Zimbabwe. Even just experiencing that moment in time was such a whirlwind of emotions, ranging from, “Oh my gosh, we’re gonna do it. The future is so bright,” to sorrow over the fact that we still have to protest for equity and justice in this day and age. And then my own emotions, being quarantined and really sitting with myself to going through the loneliness and thinking about family I wish I could have been closer to, or thinking about relationships I had that ended. Thinking about childhood experiences, and also thinking about if I could place myself in a world that is all the things that I hoped for the world to be, what kind of world would it be, and how can I put that into a song?

Shungudzo © Yazz Alali
Shungudzo © Yazz Alali

Your words already made me start thinking about your intermission, of “when to stop talking about it.” Clearly, the message there is that we never stop talking about it, but there's a sadness in the fact that so many generations of people have to devote their lives or feel the need to devote their lives to a change, for a cause that is so long in the making, and so exasperatingly slow in coming to fruition.

Shungudzo: Around election time, I was speaking to a lot of elders, my friends’ parents and my parents, and really trying to gauge their levels of hope and optimism, and the range was so wide because they were all people who, throughout their lives, have stood for love and kindness and equality. And I noticed that some of them sort of had this energy of wanting to pass the torch, like “It’s up to you now. Now you and your generation need to carry out new work,” and that’s simultaneously an honor and sad, because it feels like so many people in our parents’ generation and beyond are exhausted and tired, and almost feel like so much of the work they did didn’t work out, [laughter] when in fact it did.

It’s been slow and incremental, but… I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “When is your work over?”, and I really don’t think that it ever has to be over if you can maintain an optimism in it, and that… Generations that came before us, they did a lot of work and they made a lot of incremental and huge changes. It’s hard to acknowledge those changes because so many things are still messed up, but we can’t dismiss the work of the past, because without it, we couldn’t be doing the work that we’re doing in the present.

I really like that. It sounds like you come at life with a bit of an optimistic bent to it. I'm sure that certainly helps. It definitely comes across in your music as well. What was your vision going into this record?

Shungudzo: It felt like such an instinctive process, but I didn’t do a lot of thinking, so much as doing and feeling and a lot of listening to both my internal self, and to the world around me. I wouldn’t say that my intentions really changed. I did start out at one point thinking that I was gonna make an album entirely about family dynamics, and this was something I’ve been wanting to do for years, because I always thought to myself, Why are we spending so much time talking about boyfriends and girlfriends and partners, and love gone great and love gone wrong within our own generation when so many of our relationships are directly impacted by what kinds of relationships we had with our parents. And so I wanted to kind of go to the source of love, or lack of love, and of joy and of sadness for a lot of people, just the source of a lot of the emotions that we feel as an adult – and then have to work through on our own to figure out who we are and what we want, and how we want to view the world and treat the world, and treat ourselves.

So I kind of started on that path. I started with a lot of the songs about my mother. I think there are two songs on the album that are directly related to mothers, but I noticed as I started writing those songs that the theme of… The things that my mother taught me or wanted for me, like wanting me to know that I was capable of anything in spite of the fact that some people viewed me as less capable than them because of the color of my skin, or wanting me to take responsibility for myself and my community, and to… Rather than sit around and complain about what’s happening in the world, to actively try to do something about it, and those are all things that my mother very much taught me, and came into these songs.

And naturally, through talking about my mother, I couldn’t not talk about these lessons she gave me in life, many of which centered around activism and race and growth and capability, and that just sort of started to move forward into me writing more songs about… More songs of protest, essentially. But I would say that, since I began my journey in music, I was writing protest music. Some of my first songs I made with my little sister, and I recorded us both, and this was lifetimes ago, it feels like, and they were about HIV and AIDS, and then to educate people… Educate young people on the topics. And we brought one to a conference and played it there, and it was sort of the first presentation of music that I ever did. And even then, I didn’t really view myself as a musician, I more so viewed myself as someone who used music as a tool to communicate about my hopes and dreams for the world.

I wanted to kind of go to the source of love, or lack of love, and of joy and of sadness for a lot of people, just the source of a lot of the emotions that we feel as an adult – and then have to work through on our own to figure out who we are and what we want, and how we want to view the world and treat the world, and treat ourselves.

AIDS, as a cause, has been a really big part of your life over the past two decades. Can you talk to me a little bit about why that's important for you, and why that's just something that you glommed on to, earlier in your work and what you've been wanting to promote?

Shungudzo: Yeah, the AIDS epidemic hit Sub-Saharan Africa in such a terrible way. There was a time when so many people were infected and so many people were dying, and the government didn’t step up, and I’m not the government, so I can’t tell you exactly what the reasoning behind not stepping up for their people was, and I also know that politics are global, so I’m sure there were international forces that also made it hard for them to step up. However, I also know that Zimbabwean culture is very morally conservative, so having discussions about things like sex, is really off the table, and I think, even during the AIDS epidemic or the height of the AIDS epidemic, people weren’t comfortable discussing one of the causes.

And then I also know, Zimbabwe, which was under the rule of a dictatorship for a very long time, and one might argue still is, but it switched from dictatorship to a military take over, the government really does not like when people speak negatively about it, freedom of speech isn’t really a thing that existed in Zimbabwe when I was a child, and it still doesn’t. In fact, they’re currently trying to make it illegal for Zimbabwean people who are not in Zimbabwe, to say negative things about them, whether it’s on Twitter or Instagram or wherever you might do so. And they didn’t want to… They hate bad press, so I’m assuming, part of their reasons for not wanting to talk about this terrible thing that was hurting so many families, was because they didn’t wanna be seen as bad leaders.

America knows something about that too. It’s the idea of a leader not wanting to admit that a problem exists, and not wanting to do something about it, because they don’t want to look like a bad leader, for even letting it happen in the first place, essentially. And we have that with Trump, and Zimbabwe had that with Mugabe, in the AIDS epidemic, and still does. So it was quite frustrating, to see your community dying, and as a kid, to… I think kids feel things a lot more than adults sometimes, because you haven’t yet learned how to compartmentalize or how to look beyond the scenario, to the next thing. It was just really difficult for me to deal with, and it kind of fell in line with what my mom taught me in gymnastics, which was, “If something is really bothering you, the best thing that you can do is something about it.”

And so, I started an organization with my little sister to help kids whose parents had died of AIDS, and it started off in Zimbabwe and then branched out to some other places, and it was a wonderful experience at that young age, to be able to do something, although it wasn’t the grandest project in the world, just to feel engaged in helping people from where I’m from and to be engaged in that with my little sister too, was very meaningful.

Was activism a large part of your childhood, growing up? Is that something you were exposed to a lot?

Shungudzo: Yeah, it definitely was. I think that in a lot of moments in which I experienced very extreme examples of racism, there was a layer of activism built in. For example, in doing gymnastics in Zimbabwe and being a person of color, there weren’t many people of color, specifically girls of color, who were within the sport, and there was a lot of racism in the sport and within my team, amongst my teammates and their parents. And so, as I was experiencing this racism, whether it was verbal abuse or physical abuse, there was this element that my mom reminded me of the fact that I needed to continue on in gymnastics, because if I could make the Zimbabwean national team, I would be the first woman of color in artistic gymnastics to do so, and so that… But in order to make the team, I would have to withstand that racism or fight back against that racism. So sort of one of my first experiences with… Direct cognizant experiences with racism, there was this element of activism built into it, and then from there, I sort of began to view all of life in that way, in the face of oppression, whether it’s somebody oppressing you or somebody else oppressing somebody else, we have this power to do something about it.

You've had multiple careers in various facilities, from gymnastics to television. I first heard of you three years ago, when Atwood premiered “Cinnamon Girl,” a song from ASL, your project with John Ryan. You've been a songwriter for years, though; can you talk to me a little bit about the past decade or so of songwriting?

Shungudzo: Well, I started doing music in a full-time way, I think it was about 12 years ago, and I did it for a couple of years, but I wasn’t in the right situation with the right support system in order for it to be a scenario in which I could grow in all of the ways that I wanted to, as a musician and as a person. I did… I can’t explain the scenario without being so grateful, because I had the opportunity at a very young age to be in a studio every day and make songs and have these brilliant musicians come in and play on the songs, and it was one of my first ventures even into producing, in the sense of asking these musicians to do specific things, or deciding, out of what they played, what I wanted to end up on the songs, and it was a really wonderful place to incubate.

But it wasn’t the right place for me to grow from there, essentially, and because I didn’t know anyone else in the music industry at the time, I figured that maybe music was… Not the wrong course for me, but that it wasn’t the right course for me at that time, and wasn’t the right way for me to be the best person I could be for the world outside of me at the time, so I quit and went into journalism. And I went into journalism thinking, “I’m gonna save the world. I’m gonna do news and save the world.” This really cute, naive viewpoint on what journalism was, and there are so many phenomenal journalists, and whether it’s in written form or documentary form. I do think that there are many journalists out there whose goal is truly to do good and bring people together, but I would say that a lot of news is really polarizing, and it’s more of a… It kind of makes entertainment out of tragedy, and then makes money out of it, and I found that side of it, specifically in doing world political news, to be very heartbreaking, to have set out intending to bring people together, but to realize how polarizing the news could be. And how… Unbiased isn’t the right word, but how sort of the perspectives of the founder of a news company very much impact what the company says and does, and what angle on stories are taken.

And so, after a few years of doing that, I realized that news actually wasn’t the best place for me to use my words and my voice to make a difference, and that music was, but that… The next time around, I needed to have a better support system, and I needed to have a team. I didn’t have managers or publishers or anything like that back in the day, that’s what I mean by support system, just a team of people who can help navigate you through the wild industry that is music. And I also decided that, in order to quit my job to do music full-time again, I would need to learn to produce and engineer myself to a level that I wouldn’t require someone else to make a song, so that whenever I did work with someone, it was by choice and not out of perceived necessity, because when it’s perceived necessity, you can end up in a lot of rooms with people who may not respect you, or may not be the right people for you to work with based on what they envision for their careers.

I wanted to find myself in more scenarios with people with whom I was a good creative match and good human match, and so I made a bunch of demos, and that’s how I wound up finding my current publishers, and then I, through that, kind of fell into some writing for other people, and my own music was put on hold, in order for me to, I guess from my team at the time’s perspective, in order for me to establish myself within the industry. And after doing that for many years, I realized that there are so many great sides to being a songwriter, because I’m one person with one perspective. And my story alone isn’t enough to tell any story, really. We have to listen to the voices of many people in order gain a clearer picture of who we are, who they are and what’s happening in the world, and I very much enjoy helping other people tell their stories and speak their truths.

But over the course of doing that, and that many phenomenal artists whose music I aligned with, but also many artists who are phenomenal, but whose desires and subject matter were so different from the things I wanted to talk about, and in those situations, I found myself really dissatisfied and feeling like I could be doing more, and it really highlighted the fact that it was time to do my own project, to make music exactly in the way in which I’ve always wanted to, and to use words in exactly the way that I’ve always wanted to. Everything is self-taught.

Is this entire record self-produced?

Shungudzo: Not self-produced. I produced all of the songs. I wrote 15 of the 16 songs, lyrically and melodically, by myself; the only one I didn’t do fully be myself is “Already Free,” which I finished with John Ryan. I had the demo from home, and I just knew that he would have an idea to get me out of the stuck place. And then production-wise, I think I produced a little more than half of it alone, and then the other half I produced alongside friends.

I’m not a mother but I have children - Shungudzo
‘I’m not a mother but I have children’ album art – Shungudzo

Diving headfirst into I'm not a mother, but I have children, can you talk about the significance of your album's title?

Shungudzo: The album title is the title of a song on the album, “I’m not a mother but I have children,” and I wrote, I would say in total, maybe a little over 20 songs for the making of this album, and there’s 16, including the poems, on the album. I tried about 20 different things, so I didn’t really let go of many things that I made, in the process of making the album. I had this list of subject matter that I wanted to touch upon – we were talking about earlier, I really wanted to talk about motherhood and my relationship with my mother, and of all of the songs that I didn’t use, they were all mother-“related”… I couldn’t figure out the right song about my mom, essentially, and I tried a few. The rest of them, I wrote and they were on the album, there is no back and forth or slotting one in or out. I wrote a bunch of songs about my mom, my motherhood, and “I’m not a mother, but I have children” was one of them, and I didn’t set out to write it knowing what I was going to write – I just liked the guitar part, and “I’m not a mother, but I have children” kind of came out of my mouth and then I had to contextualize for myself what that meant, like, “Why did my brain think of that? What does this mean?”

And as the song started out, I thought that I was writing about children I might have in the future, or writing from my mother’s younger perspective, about children she might have in the future, but as I kept writing… I wrote it in order, from the first line to the last, as I kept writing, it really took on a new meaning for me, which was not about having children of your own, whether it’s biological or adopted or fostered or whatever, but rather, about the responsibility I feel, to build a better world for future generations and the knowledge I have, that everything I do now, impacts some other living thing. I feel quite sad when I talk to friends, who like to discuss the smallness of being human and the insignificance of being human. Because, to me, it feels like negating all of the power that we have, to do really wonderful things, both for ourselves and for others, and this song is taking that perspective of, “I’m but one small human,” and instead, saying, “No, I’m a human, I have this life and I can do so much with it, that doesn’t just benefit me, but benefits people and animals and life in general, that comes after me, and we’re all part of that, in big and small ways.”

You never know how you turning right instead of left one day could have impacted somebody else’s life, and you never know how a kind smile to a stranger could save their life. And I say that, because in a time when I was really sad, strangers smiling at me was what kept me going. And then aside from that, these are just small things, but then when we really take action for the causes that we care about, and we commit to it, not just today, but as long as it takes to remedy that issue, which could be a lifetime, or many lifetimes, we really do have the power to impact things, and I think part of why we’re… As we were talking about earlier, we say, “Wow, we’ve been fighting for things like equality and equity for such a long time. Why haven’t we done it?” It’s because a lot of people don’t see that kind of work as forever work, they view it as work that they can do in the moment, or they view it as work that they can do on themselves, and once they’ve done it within themselves, they think the work is done, but I really think it’s also about thinking and working and acting outside of ourselves.

Shungudzo © Yazz Alali
Shungudzo © Yazz Alali

You strike me as someone, or at least the perception you put off is somebody who has found her worth in living with purpose.

Shungudzo: Oh, yeah, absolutely, both. My parents can hear this, they very much raised me to work really hard and to do the most meaningful work possible at all times, and that was such a wonderful thing to instill within me. But for a long time, that was sort of where I derived value, and I think that deriving value from anything external to yourself, even if it’s a great, good, kind thing, can be unhealthy because if that thing isn’t going the way that you hoped it would, then you feel like a failure. So I would say, yes, I do feel like my purpose is to do good things for other people, but I’ve been learning lately, that my happiness and my internal love and respect of myself and my ancestors, all of the DNA within me and the people who had to live and fight and survive in order for me to be here, that if I’m not right with that stuff, what I do doesn’t really… What I do can’t make me happy.

For me, this record is an album of poetry, of motherhood, of social and cultural critique, the beauty, strength and the power of Black identity, and it's an album full of calls to action and calls for social change. It sounds like a soundtrack to activism in 2020 and 2021.

Shungudzo: Wow. That’s so beautiful. You’ve just described it better than I could.

The two most salient topics, I think, on this record, are female identity and black identity. Can we talk about those two identities and what they mean for you and how they came to life for you and your music?

Shungudzo: That’s such an interesting question, because even I go back and forth in my head, about the concept of identity, and how much of that is internal and how much of that is what you’re told you are, and what that means. There isn’t one way to be a woman, nor is there one way to be a black person, there isn’t one way to be a man, or somebody who doesn’t subscribe to gender or someone of any race. So it’s hard for me to use the word “identity” because it feels so singular to describe things that are so multi-dimensional – infinitely dimensional, even. And that was really one of the goals of my album too, was to express how multi-dimensional I am or how multi-dimensional a female artist of color can be, because I have found in music specifically, but also in life, that there’s a lot of pressure for people of color, to be one thing, or before you’ve even shown someone all of the things that you are, they assume that you are one thing, and that makes it very difficult for them to believe you or understand you, to even hear you deeply, when you express yourself as you are.

And that’s one of the reasons that the album flows through so many different sounds, because I didn’t want to put myself into a box of one thing, and I wanted to open people’s minds to the fact that an artist and more specifically, an artist of color can have many sounds and many interests, and that they can go together, because the voice and intention atop those sounds is the genre, rather than the sound itself.

I would say that, obviously, my experiences as a woman and a person of color have impacted my life in so many ways, both the positive experiences and the negative experiences that have been brought to me. [chuckle] It would be impossible for me not to talk about those things, but my hope is that, in spite of this album feeling like it’s leaning in a direction of womanhood and blackness, that people who aren’t women and aren’t black can feel the sentiment in the songs, and that’s also part of why a lot of the songs… In the verses, are specific, but in the choruses, I tried to touch on more human feelings. In “There’s only so much a soul can take”, the verses are very much about race, but the chorus is just, “There’s only so much a soul can take, oh my, my, my.” And that’s a human experience, regardless of race or gender or whatever. And if you listen to the songs that way, you’ll see that they split between “This is my experience as a woman of color,” and, “This is my experience as a human being.”

If you listen to the songs that way, you’ll see that they split between “This is my experience as a woman of color,” and, “This is my experience as a human being.”

Shungudzo © Yazz Alali
Shungudzo © Yazz Alali

I think about your song, “To be me” and the lyrics, “Like, oh my God. It's safe, it's safe to be me.” I think when you released that, it was one of the first times I really had that visceral feeling, and I was able to connect with this harrowing experience in a way that I hadn't fully internalized before.

Shungudzo: That’s so important because, for me. It’s not the worst thing in the world, because it’d be quite beautiful to look at a crowd of people who agree with me, that’d be great, but that’s not the intention. The intention is actually to pull people into caring about these causes, who don’t believe that they’re directly related to them, when in fact, as human beings on this earth at the same time, we’re all connected, and our gains are each other’s gains and our losses are each other’s losses. And that’s also another reason the sound varies, ’cause I thought, “Okay, maybe someone might not like the sound of ‘It’s a good day to fight the system,’ but maybe they’re more into folk, in which case, here’s ‘I’m not a mother, but I have children.'” And I thought that changing the sound could help people who might not be instantaneously eager to hear the messages, could bring different people from different areas of life in.

I love that. Can we talk about your musical background for a second? This album does have a lot of different sounds going on. Was your intent to write a multi-genre album? How did you go about figuring out who you are, as an artist?

Shungudzo: I don’t really think about songs in terms of genre. When I think about all of the music I love, the genre is the theme. I love artists who use their voices to talk about what’s happening in the world, or the politics of their communities, artists like Fela Kuti, and the Lijadu Sisters, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and [chuckle] the list goes on, and Tracy Chapman. And these people, sonically, are very varied. However, the messaging on top of it was all within the realm of wanting to use their voices to try to envision or fight for a better world. So I didn’t really think about the songs in terms of genre, I thought about what sound… When I was producing them, ’cause I wrote most of them to just chords, and they could have gone any way. I thought about what sounds would best serve the message and the emotion of the song, so some songs have heavier, harder rock elements, and some songs have really soft folk elements, and others are soulful and optimistic, and I really thought about it from song to song, but also tried to make this throughline… My vocal production, my style in terms of melody and words, and to use as many organic elements as possible, and then just little trinkets of more electronic-sounding stuff.

I love the concept of saying, “I want my voice to be the thing that brings everything together, and whatever sounds you hear around it, they're just a part of the mixture.”

Shungudzo: Yeah, and I had help along the way. At the start of making the album, I sent a couple songs to a friend of mine who’s an artist I really look up to, Jim James, and I was like, “I’m kind of wondering how I get these on the same album. How do I make it make sense to other people, ’cause it makes sense to me?” And he just said, “Your voice is the thing ties it all together.” That sound can change, but the voice is the thing that ties it all together. And when you really think about, I guess… Artists who are in the mainstream and producing these hit songs, they’re changing their sound all the time. There are pop stars who run through whatever is the trend of the moment, from disco, to Latin, to Afrobeat, to whatever’s cool at the moment. Most big pop stars, or the production at least, throws in those elements, and we don’t really talk about the fact that they change genre constantly, especially in a singles-based world. And I thought, “Well, if they can, why can’t I?”

I think we just need to let each other, artists and non-artists, just go through growth and changes and be many things at once. Like right now, I’m happy and I’m sad. And that’s okay, one doesn’t cross the other out.

I’d love to discuss the bookends on the record, your poems “Black breath” and “Silence, hate, beat, kill,” and the mid-album “When to stop talking about it.” Could you talk to me about these tracks, and their significance for you in the context of the record at large?

Shungudzo: I’ll start with “Black breath” and “Silence, hate, beat, kill.” I went back and forth as to whether to end the album on such a tense note. But I think that what some people interpret as me being angry or tense is actually, from my perspective, hope. To be mad at the state of the world is a great thing, you should be. We should be pissed. And if you’re not pissed at the state of the world, you’ve got work to do, internally, in order to feel the weight of how things are for a lot of people, and ourselves included, every single person, in some way, is suppressed. In “Silence, hate, beat, kill”, I really wanted to… Anger was the last emotion I explored on the album. I actually thought the album was done before I made “Silence, hate, beat, kill” and “Good thing I’m not god.” And I woke up a day or two after thinking I had written all the songs really angry, and I thought, “Oh, I completely forgot to express frustration, real, heavy, heavy-fisted frustration. And a lot of my internal work has centered around learning to allow myself to feel all things, that actually, the suppression of anger can be the creation of sadness, at least that’s what it was for me, that instead of being mad at how some things are.

I went inside of myself and created self-doubt and sadness. And as I’ve learned to feel and express anger, which is a journey, ’cause there are right and wrong ways to be angry. There’s anger that breaks things, and then there’s anger that builds things up, and I really wanted to express constructive forms of anger on the album, once I realized that anger was missing, and “Silence, hate, beat, kill”, to me, is an example of that. I am angry, but I’m using that anger to propel me into action, and propel me into making a change in the areas that frustrate me. And that’s what that song is about. And it’s also about anger that is intended to break things, which would be anger that the system projects at us, and how, when you actually send that anger into loving people, you just create more love.

[Meanwhile,] “Black breath” is the first poem I ever recorded myself speaking out loud. I had never done that. I’d always written them, but I felt like I didn’t have the right to record them because I wasn’t a spoken word poet. I love Kae Tempest, for example, this amazing musician and poet, and that is who she is. And I had a lot of insecurity around saying I’m a poet. I thought, “Well, I’m a person who writes poems, but I’m not a poet,” if that makes sense, that… It’s sort of like saying, “I’m a person who make songs, but I’m not a musician,” and a lot of that comes from insecurity, or being told that you can’t do it, or that it’s not the right path for you. And also, it came from respect for people who I viewed as actually doing the work. But I wrote “Black breath” and I thought, “I read poems aloud to myself when I’m writing them,” and I thought, “Maybe I should try recording this.” And I didn’t expect to get so emotional, but as I recorded it, I started thinking about my little brother, and I started just thinking about the importance of his life, and how I wouldn’t want anybody to disrespect him or worse solely because of the color of his skin, and I started crying and screaming, just out of the thought of the kind of world that my little brother has to grow up in, and the desire to protect him, and I… Yeah, that’s how the poem was born, and it showed me as well that I can… I don’t just have to sing, that I can talk in songs too.

The first song I really heard from you for this album cycle was “It's a good day to fight the system.” I think that remains one of the highlights on the record; it's a beautiful song with a clear message. Why did you choose to musically open the album, and the whole record cycle, with that song?

Shungudzo: I chose to open the album with “It’s a good day to fight the system” because I wanted to open with a very direct and easy to comprehend feeling of optimism, and I think that that song is… It sounds really happy and joyous, and that was the point of it. The point is to say that, although the work that we’re doing here is hard and painful at times, that what we’re striving for is something really beautiful, and the fact that we’re even doing the work alone and with each other is a really beautiful thing. And so I thought it was important to open with that optimism, also to help contextualize that all of the songs are optimistic, irregardless of what form of expression I chose to use.

You had this first EP, I motsi, that's sort of a showcase of a couple of the different tunes on the record. What was the purpose of putting that out first?

Shungudzo: It was a way to sort of introduce people to the intention of my project. And I thought, because up until now, I had done so many features and so many things for other people that I think it was difficult for people to comprehend, listeners, specifically, what exactly I was trying to do musically. And if you sort of dig through my catalog of music before the first EP, if you really dug, you would see a common throughline of a lot of socio-political music, but you would also find a few outliers and be like, “What? How are these two things the same person?” And… I’m grateful for everything I did in the past, but it didn’t all fully align with what I wanted. For example, when you’re doing a feature for someone else, it oftentimes very much aligns with what they want for their project. At least that’s how I used to view it in the past. Now, when I do features, I’m like, “Cool, but I’m gonna write about this.” But I wanted to sort of establish, by releasing a poem and two songs, that this is the tone for my music when I’m in control of what I’m putting out there.

I was really struck by the line, “Sometimes a middle finger is the way” from “There's only so much a soul can take,” which is a very special song on the record.

Shungudzo: I wrote that song in a moment of frustration, I would say, and I really wanted to express the frustration without a solution, because sometimes, in the moment of feeling something, you don’t really feel a lot of things outside of it. It takes a lot of practice, and I’m working on it. I’d love to be… Like I said earlier, I’m happy and sad right now, which is me trying to go. But in that moment, I was just… I was feeling quite frustrated, both with the state of the world and the state of certain business and personal relationships in my life, in which I felt like I was being treated and viewed and rewarded differently or punished differently because of the color of my skin and my gender. And I wanted to just… I wanted to express that frustration of… Actually, the first line that I had for that song was “People know my color before they know my name.” I had… That was the very first line I wrote before I had a melody or music or anything, and I was like, “Okay, I need to build a song around this one line,” which is just an expression of being judged before you’re known, essentially, or being… Just your presence going through somebody else’s internal lens and creating a whole story in their head of who you are, without them having ever had the chance to get to know you, and that’s a feeling we can all relate to, irregardless of race.

The song just kind of fell into place after that, and “There’s only so much a soul can take” was me adding that universal human element of… Do you know the feeling of when you’re… I felt like I was tiptoeing a breaking point, not that I was going to break, but that I was right on the edge of… “If one more thing happens to me today, I’m gonna snap.” And that’s sort of the feeling of the song. But also, there’s this optimism in it, and there’s a lot of power in it, because when I wrote it, I was not first discovering, but really starting to lean into the notion that I can and have the right to stand up for myself in situations in which I’m being treated unfairly or poorly, that it’s okay to say, “No, that’s not cool,” or “You know what, fuck you.” And it took me a lifetime to get to that point, of realizing that some circumstances are circumstances in which you can and should speak up for yourself or speak up for other people, and that’s what that line is, “I try to be agreeable, I try to be a saint,” which is about the pressure we are given, as humans, to be lovely and nice all the time, and the fear of “If I’m not nice,” or if I don’t answer the question, “How are you?” With, “Great.” People aren’t gonna like me. [chuckle] And flip that on its head and say, “No, I try to be agreeable and I try to be a saint, but sometimes an upright middle finger is the way, sometimes that is what a situation calls for.”

I’m so happy you love that line, ’cause that’s my favorite line in the song. I love that line too, that’s a line that even though I wrote it when I listened to it, I feel like someone else is reminding me that I can stick up for myself.

I think the best music that we can make is music that we keep learning from long after it's already on the page or on record. I also think it's really wonderful that with this out in the world, other people will see you speaking out and speaking up, I think we need more role model; this music is inherently a role model in itself.

Another song that I was really moved by was “'Merican Dream.” So many folks have written about the American Dream, and so many have more recently wrote about it being a lie. Can you talk about your experience with the so-called American Dream and what drove you to write this song?

Shungudzo: When my family was moving from Zimbabwe to America, the night my mom gave… My little sister and I have been used, we held hands and dance in the circles shouting, “Yeah, we’re going to USA. Yeah, we’re going to USA.” And there was this excitement and optimism, and in my young mind, the idea that coming to America… I was born here, but my emotional and moral compasses were formed in Zimbabwe, and I also… My perspective of America was formed in Zimbabwe, which was that it’s this place where dreams come through and everybody has money, and anything that you want to do, you can do. Anything you want to have, you can have. And in my mind, it was this place with no racism, no poverty, nothing wrong with it, and in my mind, it was also all beaches, there was no middle of America, it was all beaches: All beaches and hot surfers.

And when we moved here, it very quickly became obvious that the things that I thought that we would escape in Zimbabwe exist here too, things like poverty and racism, inequity, inequality, injustice, corruption within a government. I very quickly realized that America is those things too, but that the perception that I was fed of it was propaganda. [chuckle] And I wanted to write a song about that. That’s what it’s about, it’s about that realization that this place that I thought I would come to where everything would be easy, and it’s not that I expect things to be easy, but I expected that if you put work in, you get stuff out. And I very quickly saw, I saw my mom working all the time, I would fall asleep to the sound of her on her keyboard still, and she would work through the night and we would go to her office with her all the time and her life revolved around working.

I’ve never known a harder working person, and yet she had no money. And we were on food stamps and having at times clothes donated from local organizations, and I thought, “This makes no sense. How is somebody who’s working so hard, so poor?” And then I remember I was in an economics class in high school when I was sitting in the front and my white male teacher said, “Everybody poor in America is lazy,” and I raised my hand and it’s one of the first moments I remember sort of really just… I was like, I can’t not say something, I can’t let this whole class believe that my mother is lazy, so I raised my hand, I was just like, “No, not everybody in America who’s poor is lazy. A lot of people in America who are poor are stuck in cycles of poverty that are perpetuated by the system.” And that didn’t go over well, but I was proud of myself for saying it, and I think that there is a lot of people still have that sort of misconception.

Like I say, people work their whole lives to be homeless in the song, because I really hate how disrespected homeless people in America are, how so many people, even people who are perceivably kind and good people and wonderful to their friends and their family and their partners are so rude and heartless when it comes to homelessness, and view homeless people as these people who are lazy or fuck-ups or drug addicts, or all of these things that aren’t even statistically true, when you talk about the homeless population. What you really should see is somebody who is hurting or has been hurt or is trying to escape from hurt, or had one accident that changed their life and didn’t have health insurance and couldn’t afford it. There are so many scenarios, or as we know, via Covid lost their job due to something completely out of their control and no longer has a home.

So for me, that’s the energy of “‘Merican Dream”: It’s a statement of frustration of the fact that this beautiful dream that we’re sold is a lie, but also a statement of compassion for all people who are trying their hardest and still find themselves hitting walls, or not even being shown the doors that they need to get to and get through in order to change their lives.

It's inspiring that you were able to get both of those messages out in the same song.

Shungudzo: Very rarely do I start with the chorus, unless I have some instantaneous ideas, I’d most often start with a line of a verse, and I let that carry me wherever it takes me. [chuckle]

Shungudzo © Yazz Alali
Shungudzo © Yazz Alali

Earlier in our conversation, you talked about wanting to assert who you were as a solo artist. I told you that I first got to know you through your work in ASL… Can you talk for a minute about your work with John Ryan in ASL, this project the two of you have created over the years, and how it affected your music and your approach to music? Did it have an impact on your solo debut?

Shungudzo: I think that in a lot of ways, we impacted each other, ASL as a collaboration between John Ryan and a bunch of our other friends who are writers and producers and artists, mostly I would say, in the mainstream pop world, but of diverse taste and talents. And when I do entered the mainstream pop writing world, I remember going to these sessions and everything being so creatively rigid and there being a boss in the room, basically whoever was the richest, the whitest, the most demand and the most white would end up being the one who sort of everybody listened to. And if you had an idea, but they said, “No,” you go, “Okay, yeah, you’re probably right.” And I remember looking around going, “We’re all equals here, we all have something really wonderful to contribute,” and I think the thing that I contributed in a lot of those earlier sessions was a total disregard for whatever rules there were surrounding song writing.

Like, why does it have to be this way? Who says so? I didn’t get the manual for song writing in the mail, like did I not read something? Really wanting creativity to be a free-flowing thing and to just see where something goes before analyzing it too much and to allow every idea, the opportunity to be tried at least. And then if it doesn’t work, you can move on. And that really became the spirit of ASL, I think that John has quite a similar spirit in that way, and we connected on how free-spirited we were able to be with each other in a way that we didn’t necessarily feel like we could be in every room that we were in when we made music. And all of our friends will have that spirit in their own ways too. We were waiting for a place to use it, and that became ASL.

One of the things I really appreciate about that collective is that I have to force myself to come into every song with zero expectations. I think that's really special – there's not a lot of artists for whom you can do that. Your whole ethos from the start seemed to be, “We're gonna make some good music that we really like listening to, and we're gonna give it to you to listen to as well.”

Shungudzo: Right, yeah, and there are no rules surrounding what it should be or shouldn’t be.

That's a great approach to music, and I hope more people take that rule of thumb.

Shungudzo: Me too. I do think that people, all of us are so much more brilliant than we give ourselves credit for, and that if we truly allow ourselves to follow just the path that our minds lead us down creatively or as human beings, that there’s so much goodness to be found but people have really been trained to hold back.

I write songs as well, but I restrict myself so frequently by saying, “Okay, where's the chorus?” or, “How is this song going to go?” And then I end up not writing the song, and they're in my notes file on my phone, hundreds of hundreds of unwritten songs because something in the back of my head when the creative idea started said, “Hold up. How will that work?”

Shungudzo: Right, yeah, I feel that, that’s so relatable. I think that so much of it is about asking yourself where that voice comes from and realizing it’s not you. It’s the voice of some other creative or some other song you’ve heard that you liked, or what you’re hearing working on the radio right now, or whatever it is, there are all of these voices that kind of tell you like, “This isn’t right,” that aren’t really your own voice, and that if you can stay attached to your own voice, it becomes so free-flowing. But I feel that, whenever I find myself beginning to overthink a song, I stop and I come back to it.

I’ve shared with you a couple of my favorite songs off of this album. Do you have any favorite songs that we haven't yet spoken about?

Shungudzo: You really nailed it with “‘Merican Dream,” ’cause I love that song. I love it merely too, I felt a lot of freedom and how the verses don’t have a symmetrical structure, which is free-flowing in the way they follow on to the music, and it allowed me to say some stuff that I wouldn’t have been able to say otherwise.

Is there an irony in you saying that you found a lot of freedom in “’Merican Dream”?

Shungudzo: Yeah, there’s a lot of freedom here too, that a lot of people don’t have elsewhere, in their job, there still isn’t freedom of speech, and I have that, I have that freedom, and that’s one of the greatest freedoms, I think that we can… It’s one of the greatest freedoms we currently have that we can use to fight for other freedoms.

Other favorites? It’s so tough. Just like you were talking about how you sometimes write songs and they take on different meanings as time goes on, a lot of these songs have taken on different meetings as I’ve lived with them since I wrote them and I’ve grown since I wrote them, and things in my life have changed since I wrote them. Yeah, I’m trying to think. I really struggle with the idea of motherhood and whether or not I’m going to be one, I simultaneously feel this, and I know a lot of that is the patriarchy, but I simultaneously feel this worry that by the time I realize I’m ready to have kids it’ll be too late. And this excitement that I don’t have to have children if I don’t want to, or that there are many ways to do that regardless of if your body is still capable of creating a child within it.

I’ve been, in this past year, going through a lot of lines of conversation with myself, like how much of my lack of urgency toward having a family and stress around not feeling the urgency is the patriarchy telling me, “I’m supposed to want kids by now,” or, “I’m supposed to want a family by now,” and how much of it is not having found the right partner, and how much of it is that maybe that’s not in my life story. And trying to figure out, like we’re talking about earlier, which voice is mine. When it comes to that, I still don’t know which voice in there is mine and I’ve been really mulling around with it, and “I’m Not A Mother, But I Have Children”, even though it’s not really directly about having children, has become the song that I meditate on, and when I listen to, I feel like I gained a millimeter more clarity about what I want in my life in that context, which has been really interesting, and I didn’t see that coming. Let we try to think of another favorite. I just love “‘Merican Dream.” It’s really tough. It depends on what mood I’m in at any given point in time.

I love “The world can’t change for you, but you can change the world.” Most particularly like a lot of the songs on the album, the ending goes in a different direction, and I just love the ending, which repeats, “If you can imagine it, then it can happen,” in harmony. And at the last minute, my friend Daniele Luppi, who is an amazing artist and producer, and his son Lorenzo scored strings, arranged strings for the song, and I thought that that was just the perfect way for it to become finished because although it’s about a mother speaking to her daughter, if you can really look outside of just a word like mother and daughter and the genders you associate with it, it’s really about any elder telling a younger person that they can do anything and achieve anything. And I thought it was really cool that Daniele had his son arranged strings for the song and that they had that bonding moment of a father passing on his knowledge and his faith in his son to him, and that he was able to be part of this song as well. I didn’t intend it that way. I sent him the album and he sent back strings, so it just happened.

As we close up, thank you for taking on this journey through these songs, and thank you for talking with me today. We talked about how this is kind of your debut, and it certainly has felt like a fresh start in a new chapter. What has your experience been as you have put this music out into the world? How has the response been for you?

Shungudzo: It has been so reassuring that when I do what feels instinctively right in my gut and in my soul, when I do things that align with who I am as a person, and I don’t feel like I have to sacrifice or compromise some parts of myself, in order to please other people, that actually that’s when I feel the most understood too, and that’s when people seem to be the most receptive to the things that I do, and I feel like life has been this constant journey of following my gut and then falling into a cycle of paying bills or just showing up and trying to stay afloat, and you sort of forget that you have this magical power that we all have to… Even if it’s just internally to decide who you want to be and to work on that, or who you want to grow into or what parts of yourself you want to heal. The ways in which you wanna better yourself, both for yourself and for everyone who you interact with.

And the process of making this album and really doing it alone in a bedroom and then emailing to get parts, to get little additions from other people, it was so… I had no idea what other people would think of it, I didn’t even share it with my managers when I was writing the songs ’cause I didn’t want any external outputs to influence how I told my story or how I told these stories. I know myself well enough to know that if I love and trust someone and I play a song for them and they are not reacting, what’s… Enthusiasm, a little thing in my head, even though I don’t want it to will be like, “Is it even good?” And I was able to sort of remain in that safe space of working with and trusting myself until I was ready to show the songs to other people. And even the songs that I brought other producers on to, I had built up and had a firmness in what I wanted them to become from that point forward, when I brought someone else in, that allowed me to sort of retain the authenticity of the story.

But I’ve completely gone on a tangent – making this album, it just reaffirms that the importance of following one’s gut. From the day we’re born, we know what’s right and wrong for us, we act outside of it all of the time, by choice or via pressure and sometimes by force, but we know what’s right for us, and if more of us did the thing that intrinsically feels right, starting with what’s right for us, I think that the world would be a much better place.

Shungudzo © Yazz Alali
Shungudzo © Yazz Alali

I certainly hope so; I agree with that whole-heartedly. What do you hope listeners take away from I'm not a mother, but I have children? What have you taken away from creating it and now putting it out?

Shungudzo: Wow, I have so many hopes, and also none at the same time. I try not to have expectations and just sort of let things go the way that they’re supposed to go and trust that however they go is how they were supposed to go, but I do hope that… I hope people will give the album a chance from start to finish, ’cause I really created it as a body of work that was meant to be listened to from start to finish before pulling out your favorite songs. And each song really helps contextualize the other, I think, and to create a fuller picture of who I am and what my intentions are, and how I view the world, and all of the beautiful things I see and the beautiful things that I know that we can create together. I hope… Wow, I haven’t thought that much about it in that sense yet. I just hope that everybody does with it what they want, and that people are able to see through the labels and the gender and the color of this album, and just see a portrait of a human experience and find elements that they relate to, or bravery to tell their own stories as well.

A “portrait of a human experience” is the perfect way to frame this entire album, so thank you for sharing that.

Shungudzo: Thank you for asking. I hadn’t thought about it. I just want to be free-flowing, and whatever happens will happen. [chuckle]

Lastly. who are you listening to these days and who do you recommend to our readers?

Shungudzo: Myself included, there are seven Zimbabwean people performing on the album. I collaborated with a lot of musicians who are currently living in Zimbabwe to add finishing touches to the album, things like bass and drums and marimba, and there’s one man I collaborated with, his name is Ian T. Mhlanga, and he co-produced “Trippin” alongside my friends here, Two Fresh Beats and myself. And I had done this, I had sent out a tweet in an Instagram just saying, “Zimbabwean musicians in Zimbabwe, hit me up.” And as a result, I was able to connect with so many phenomenal people, Ian being one of them, and when he sent me a message on Twitter, he said… Which I noticed a few people did, they said they expected that because they were in Zimbabwe. I wanted them to do Afrobeats things.

And Ian, which also was sad because there’s so many ways to be a musician and so many ways to be an African person, and Afrobeats… All music is dope, but we have to fully comprehend that in every country of the world, there are people making every style of music, and he said, “My stuff is a little weird or it might not be what you’re looking for, but here it is,” and he sent me a YouTube link to a song of his called “The Oblivion Of My Emotions,” and that song blew my mind and continues to blow my mind:

He has such a beautiful voice, and his instincts in terms of writing, he reported it too. And melodically, just wild, I heard the song, I was like, “Oh my gosh, I wish I wrote this.” [chuckle] So I’m listening to him and really supporting him and his music and his career, and grateful that he contributed to “Trippin”, and then he also played some piano for “To Be Me” that I reversed, and that’s the intro sounds, the kind of trippy sounds you hear in the beginning are a piano part he sent me that I reversed and put some effects on. Who else? I really, I would say that I tend to listen to a lot of the same artists, I love The Lijadu Sisters from Nigeria, they put up some phenomenal music, I’m sure that there were errors beyond this, but an album that I love, I believe is in the ’70s. And they had a song called “Life’s Gone Down Low”, which I think is one of the most beautiful songs about politics and people coming together to better their lives and each other’s lives that I’ve ever heard.

I’ve been listening to a lot of just sonic meditational stuff for calming purposes, ’cause it allows me to sort of… It makes me just think about breathing deeply, and so I do. I’m trying to think of who else. There’s so many great people, my friend Sherwyn… He actually helped produce the song, “Trippin” and “Fatherless Child”, he and his twin brother, he’s a phenomenal artist and really also striving to break this one-dimensional perception or expectation of artists of color in the music industry, his music is really genre-less and really beautiful and amazing.

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