New Sound 014 \\ L.A. artist Kuma Overdose on connecting the East and the West

17th May 2019
L.A. based Kuma Overdose is presenting an exploration into his dual heritage with ‘LOFTY’. 
 
Kuma Overdose found that studying Jazz and producing hip-hop was a way for him to understand his childhood in an American Asian household. His seven track EP ‘Lofty’ uses digital and analogue samples, and makes connections between Eastern and Western styles – namely Japanese folk music with Western hip-hop . Lead single ‘Wonda’ features Lord Apex; it’s a calm head-nodder with gloopy, Jazzish synth. Most definitely night-time music. 
 
With plenty of radio play on Rinse FM, NTS and Reprezent Radio, Kuma Overdose is bringing his music to the UK for the first time. We get to know the artist a little better. 

\\ What’s the meaning behind the name of your EP, ‘LOFTY’?  
I’m able to see both sides of my world (in this case it means Western and Eastern culture) clearly because I am looking at them from above.
 
\\ You set out to explore your dual heritage with your EP; what have you discovered along the way?
I learned a lot, but one of the most important things I discovered is that no matter where people are from or what they know, they want to be loved, by family, by the significant other, or simply just by the environment they live in. We all are humans after all. 
 
\\ What kind of impact has suburban L.A. had on your exploration?

I lived in a neighborhood full of typical suburb kids with lots of rich people who are very detached from the real world. I grew up in that toxic environment until I got a chance to move out for college. The urge to live differently from the past and be true to myself was the initial motivation for me to find the “lofty” part of me, and given the music knowledge I’ve learned along the way, I was able to explore this cultural difference sonically.  

\\ Tell us about your transition from Jazz to hip-hop – how did your previous knowledge inform your own music?

I started as a jazz trumpet player and pianist. I was in big bands and combos, playing all types of jazz (I could play the lead trumpet in a big band swing piece then hop on the Rhodes for a Herbie track right after). When I was a kid, I was never able to talk to my friends about the newest music trends because I simply just didn’t know or listen to any. It wasn’t until the day I heard my friend blasting ‘Sucka N***a’ by A Tribe Called Quest in the car. The concept of sampling blew my mind away. Ever since that, my love for hip-hop began. With combined knowledge and vocabs from Jazz and hip-hop, I sample, design, and recreate soulful sounds and rhythms from the golden ages and write lines on top of them.  

\\ Tell us about the story behind the first track on the EP that you wrote?

When my grandma passed away a couple years ago, I swore to write a song for her. During the songwriting stage, I quickly realized something. I would often sing the drafts to my mom and ask how she thought, and she always gave me the same answer. “It’s a really good song, but it’s just not something people in my generation or my cultural background would understand.” I mean it really made a lot of sense, because I wouldn’t expect a Chinese immigrant mother to blast Kanye or Frank Ocean in her car. I started trying out different things like writing in a more folky way and using instruments like piano and acoustic guitars instead of synthesizers and 808’s. I finally came out with a version that infused my style at the same time my mom could understand while listening to it. This version includes ballad piano background as well as samples from a Japanese folk song named ‘Takeda’s Lullaby’. I was amazed how such a traditional Asian folk melody can blend so perfectly into an R&B beat, and that basically started this journey of making ‘LOFTY’.

Listen to ‘LOFTY’ on Spotify

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