The Come Up: Sango
Up until recently, when you were looking up in the internet for Sango, chances are that you come across a popular Japanese anime character from the 2000s. Things have changed in recent months, however. If you type in the five letters today, you will find the Bandcamp page of a certain Seattle-born, now Grand Rapids, Michigan-based producer, who's experienced a significant growth in popularity and exposure in media recently. Although the 22-year-old producer is currently enrolled at Western Michigan focusing on his degree in graphic design, he has managed to release three albums -- Da Rocinha, Da Rocinha 2, North -- and two EPs in 2012 -- Otra Vez and Trust Me -- in the meantime. Not to mention the countless singles and remixes that populated music blogs around the globe. He's also been associated with forward-thinking musical movements such as Soulection and Huh, What & Where Recordings. Through these coalitions, he was linked to fellow rising beat architects such as Kaytranada, Beats by Esta, IAMNOBODI, Stwo. Together this loose collective has the potential to re-design the musical landscape in the coming years.
Due to his studies he's surrounded by musical destinations such as Anne Arbor, Detroit, and Toronto, his sound, however, has been influenced by two different regions - the West Coast and, as most of those familiar with his music should know by now, Brazil. However, it was his family and the internet that played a larger role in his musical pursuit as we have found out in our conversation. Have a read below and also learn about his current label situation looks like, what he has to do with Crips and how he feels to be a part of a promising producer generation.
How did you connect with Soulection? Can you share some details on your relationship with them?
I've got in touch with Soulection through a friend of mine named Angel and she worked really close with Joe Kay -- one of the co-founders. She hit me up on Facebook one day, telling me she was a big fan of my music and asked me if she could upload some of my songs, that I've had on my Bandcamp, to her SoundCloud profile. At that time, SoundCloud was just beginning to hit the scene but has already turning into the influential tool it is today. From there, I've started to get more recognition and eventually got hit up by Joe and things took shape right after that.
What does your deal entail?
It's a two-album deal basically. I've already turned in the first one recently and I have one more album due. Soulection is great. They are not holding me down like, "you're stuck with us now." They let me all creative freedom that I need to do my music and also let me work with other artists. It's all really flexible. I can release other material freely and when I feel it's time for the new album with Soulection, I'll just let them know.
Tell us a little bit about your early days and background. Was there a time before Sango?
Yeah (laughs). Before I came up with my current artist name, my brother and I made beats together. Back then, we moved from Seattle to Michigan. I don't know if you get this, but when you're from the West Coast and you move somewhere else, you want let people immediately know where you are from -- LA, the Bay, Seattle. Our original name as a production crew was DubWest. At that time I also started to experiment on my own sound when my brother would be busy with school or so. I was like 16 or 17. I came up with the name LumLOCC (laughs). Lum because I saw a luminous future for me, kind of corny I know (laughs). I sticked with the name for about a week or so.
That does indeed sound very West Coast. Doesn't the ending LOCC imply some sort of affiliation with the Crips?
(Laughs) Yeah man, you're spot on. A lot of people don't even know that I grew up in a Crip neighborhood in Seattle. I've never been a Crip or a Blood though. I was never a gangster but I chose this name as a dedication to my origin. A lot of Crip members from Los Angeles or Oakland, Riverside and all that, moved up to Seattle to claim fresh soil to sell drugs. As for me, I was just a kid in the ghetto. Generally speaking, Seattle is a nice place and like any other major city, it has its rough patches. It's not as dangerous like Compton or Oakland but there are people that I grew up with that were kind of crazy. There were also a lot of fake gangsters, wanksters out there that tried to make a name for themselves. There were a lot of corny and fake people among them, and a lot of stupid things happened because of that, like people getting robbed or killed just to make a name for yourself. I have to thank my parents for not having ended up being in trouble too much.
How did Sango develop from there?
I was like one of these nerdy kids in the hood that played Pokemon all day, rolled scooters, played basketball and soccer, and watched internet at night (laughs). I thought of the name by watching InuYasha anime. I loved InuYasha for a month but the character Sango was a girl that slays demons and I thought that was rad. I liked the character's bold attitude and decided to adopt it to my music. But I can see how this name can end up being confusing to some. I found out that Sango is also a language in Central Africa, so some people would hit me up and ask me if I was Congolese (laughs).
As it is generally known, you do have a Brazilian component to your music so far. What was your first real encounter with Brazilian music?
I was introduced to Brazilian music through Sergio Mendes by will.i.am. They both did a song together called "Funky Bahia." I remember first seeing the song's video on tv and I was blown away by the music and its visual. It was something completely new to me. So I started to do a little research on Mendes and the first song I found of him was "Look Of Love." I'd consider this as my first real encounter with Brazilian music. So i dug a little deeper after hearing it and was suddenly exposed to his massive discography -- he started like doing music in the '50s. I actually also have to blame my grandfather for that (laughs) -- well, at least partially. He's into martial arts, he has a black belt in Karate and he was also into capoeira (Brazilian martial art) and he showed us tons of videos and movies of it. One of the movies had Sergio Mendes's "Magdalena" and at that point, the connection and my love for it was real to me.
How did you start incorporate it for your own music?
My friend Allison Lopes, whom I met on Twitter, lives in Brazil and he sent me a whole bunch of sounds to use for my music. He helped me getting into that scene. It is funny though because we never collaborated on a song before but I think this should be up next on my agenda. There's this thing called language barrier between us (laughs). It's one thing communicating within social media but speaking in real life proved to be a bit more difficult. But a collabo between us is coming. No doubt.
Do you plan to keep the Brazilian sound attached to your sonic signature? As an American, are your intentions to put the Brazilian music on a global map? Or maybe even develop certain sounds in general?
My own sound is constantly developing, but speaking of having a Brazilian component in my music, I really don't want to force it and feel like I "have to make another one." I've been loving it for many years now and Brazilian music is so vast that there's still so much material to explore. What is interesting though is that Baile Funk is similar to Reggeaton because they use the same beatbox loop for a lot of their song. When you hear the beatbox you know it's Baile Funk. It's kind of hard to revolutionize that type of sound where you have to stick to something so consistent. That's why I love that style of music because it forces me to take a medium that sounds so similar but use it in a different way. And that's how I want to develop my future sound and add to that genre of music. I really don't want to disrespect that type of music and take it somewhere where it doesn't need to be taken to. I also have to say I'm not too fond of the lyrics as they are way too vulgar for my taste -- it's like listening to a Juicy J song (laughs). But I do like the rhythm.
The last year there has been a certain rise of new beat makers/producers like Stwo, Kaytranada, Beats by Esta, IAMNOBODi, Pomo and yourself. Do you see that there's something special coming up?
I definitely see it. I see it in the same way when I saw Flying Lotus, TOKiMONSTA, Star Slinger first coming up. It's not a generational thing but it's a certain group of people that set bars and take the music somewhere. All the people you named and some others are helping out music in a positive way (laughs). When you look at FlyLo and TOKiMONSTA and their sound when they first started up, you can say that it was their take on music. Everyone that I know that is making music has drawn inspiration from FlyLo to some extent at least. I'm not referring to his own sound but taking his direction and purpose of making music and stimulate it and translate it into your own words. For instance, back in 2012, I used to do instrumental tapes and I got that idea from Flying Lotus.
What I think is remarkable between you guys is that there's no competition. Everyone seems to be cool with one another and just chilling, doing their own stuff and support each other. No one's being territorial about it. And on top of that, everyone's from different areas, countries, continents even. How do you explain that?
Yeah, it's all love really. We all learn from each other and it's definitely a blessing to be a part of that. I wouldn't say we move as a new genre but rather represent a whole with each of one us filling out different parts. If you look at me, I do the Brazilian vibe, which is kind of left side. Then you have Esta and what he does is more hip-hop. You have IAMNOBODI whose stuff sounds like Timbaland if Timbaland would re-create himself (laughs). So you have all these people taking their music and creating another platform, making up the next generation of producers. It's art.
The Come Up is our new series where we speak to some of the music industry's most amazing and promising rising new talents.