EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: A Chat With Lagum
By Byaruhanga Felix (@TheNinjaFelix)
Yesterday I happened to attend one of CODE’s studio sessions and it so happened that it was being conducted by Lagum one of artists I have wanted to have a discussion with ever since I bumped his album “Social Lives”. Towards the end of 2014, we anticipated a lot of hip-hop projects/albums but Lagum’s album was not one of them or even being mentioned as an artist/rapper. Then out of nowhere we had an album of more than 18 tracks self-produced by Lagum. No video, no single, no marketing or hype about the album but it was up on CDBaby being sold. Lagum came to attention of the listeners when he released “1 hunnid” with Ruyonga and Tucker. But then he was known as Lycrizz and on top of that people couldn’t attach a face to the music. After a while her released visuals for his single “Kings and Queens” off the album “Social Lives” and final people could put the music and person together. Thanks to Code I was able to interrupt their session and had a one on one with Lagum about the album, why he chose to release the album without any promo, his transition from a rap group to Lycrizz to Lagum and branding himself as a gospel/Christian rapper in the Ugandan hip-hop industry among other topics.
QN: Thanks for doing this. To take it from the top who was Lagum way before “Social Lives” and how did you jump into music?
I was fascinated with computers really. I used to do animation before I started music and then one day I was scrolling through YouTube and I see this thing called FL Studio. I think it was back in 2008 and “I’m like eh what’s this?” I click and I see it’s someone making music on their computer and I was like I had to get this thing. From that day I was just taken with making music. My love for music has always been there since before I can remember, I have always had fascination with music.
QN: From what I understand and the research you’ve been around the hip-hop scene as a rapper and part of a group (Elevator music) how has it been so far? Also how did you get from production to starting a group?
As a rapper I have been making music from 2012 may be. But it wasn’t consistent because in 2012 we released only one song.
Actually I’m the one who started the group with my friend Mark. Even before we were born our parents were all friends and so we all happened to do rap in our free time then we decided to start something serious. Mark and I were producing stuff at that time so we were like let’s start a group “Elevator Music” (EVM). At first we started we wanted it to be like an actual group like Slaughter House four guys, but then eventually the group just grew to eight people so there was Elevator Music then Elevator Music Empire which became complicated so we ended up going as solo artists under the umbrella of Elevator music.
QN: After you went from Elevator music the group to Lycrizz and now Lagum. How has the transition been?
From Elevator Music, when we decided that we were going to be solo artists under EVM, I chose a name but I was Lycrizz already. I was planning the “Social Lives” Album I realized the theme is about being who you were and not being ashamed to show that so I realized why not use my name. And Benezeri had been telling me to use Lagum for almost a year, so I think he was right it’s about time. Using my own name is unique; you’re not going to find a rapper called Lagum somewhere.
QN: Let’s get into the album. Like you said earlier the album’s theme is about being who you were, let’s talk about the first song off the album “whiskey” that’s after the intro (wake me up). I sense a lot of honesty can you talk about the process of creating the song. How do you connect with the story of the song?
For that particular song, a lot of the experiences were things that were pretty close to home. They weren’t necessarily my own but they were things that happened to people close to me so I was able to relate to them, I was able to empathize cause these were things I was seeing myself and I understood. So when I was writing the song, it was quite hard because a lot of emotions came from a real place. So you know it’s just generally hard to show yourself in anything for anyone like hey this is where I come from, these are the people that I know, and these are experiences that I have seen. It was hard but I thought it was necessary.
QN: Speaking from the consumer’s perspective the album came out of nowhere. There was no build up to the album, no singles or videos and still when the album came out it went to CDBaby for sale. What were you planning to achieve with your team?
Yeah, the album came out of nowhere but honestly I didn’t have a team. The only team I had was a focus group when we were trying to decide what to do with the music cause I recorded a lot. So when I was planning I just want to release the music because I know It’s kind of a surprise because people don’t start with an album normally it’s a mixtape or something. The logical thing might have been to release a mixtape but I felt like it’s something I needed to do. There wasn’t so much build up cause I was working then and I had school.
QN: Would you consider yourself a gospel rapper? And if yes do you think that limits your reach cause the gospel stations are few in number and also the few that are there don’t vibe to the genre that you are in, they vibe to the likes of Judith Babirye. How do you handle it?
I’m a Christian so yeah I’m a gospel rapper. Here’s something interesting, Secular stations play my music more than gospel stations. I found that out recently. I’m a Christian but there are somethings that I’m going to say cause there’s no other way to describe it without sounding explicit. To be honest I’m not bothered I’m just here to get the message out. If someone doesn’t want to listen to my music cause it’s gospel that’s their decision but I feel that’s judging too fast. I’m Christian but I will do a song that someone who isn’t Christian will vibe to it.
QN: We all know the Ugandan music consumer isn’t big on buying the album or if the buying avenues are available the system of buying doesn’t favor the consumer especially digitally. That way the music fails to reach the people. So how do you handle that cause at the end of the day you want people to know about the music.
There was a time when I was selling then I noticed that sales started to slow down. I just realized Ugandans don’t buy digitally, they want the physical copy. So I just decided to do a deluxe edition, CDs for that are out so I should be delivering them soon. Another way I dealt with that I put it up for download on soundcloud.
QN: What’s your view about the current state of UG hip-hop or what do you think is missing?
You’ve heard music that comes out of the U.S and music by our best producers here. The sound is really good but when you put it against music from the U.S you notice the sound is way better. I don’t mean the beat but the quality of production or post production is way better. I think what we’re really missing in Uganda is extremely high quality studio cause those things do matter.
I also feel like people need to be more real in their music. They need to be unique and diverse in the sound they put out.
QN: Lastly your top 5 UG rappers?
Ruyonga, Tucker HD, CODE, Enygma and The-Mith.