The name Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo may not ring a bell for most mainstream hip-hop artists and fans, but the name is among New York’s underground luminaries. Better known by her stage name Sammus, this former teacher and current PhD student is also a record producer and a rapper. But her style is unlike anything you would hear on the radio these days. Previously featured as Artist of the Day on MySpace, Sammus breaks the stereotypes of nerd culture and demonstrates them through her music that being nerdy is cool.

Her nerdcore sound is reminiscent of an 8-bit video game soundtrack. In the world of video gaming, music plays a crucial role in player experience. In an interview with game designer Dan Lamond who has made his living through producing music for slots platform Spin Genie he stated, “[When the music is] done well, it can build anticipation and excitement and be a major factor in success” regardless of the platform. Sammus has drawn inspiration from the likes of Lamond and has used this to carve out a new musical niche. The familiarity of the sound and emotions incited from gameplay has opened up a new demographic of hip-hop lovers. And if you actually listen to her lyrics, she also raps about being a nerd—among other cultural subjects that affect her daily life.

Sammus’ love for video games is thanks to her older brother and Gym Class Heroes member Disashi. She was also inspired by the likes of Weezer, Nirvana and Kanye West – mashing them together to create something so unique and vastly different from the hip-hop most of us are familiar with. She first ventured into music back in her teaching days in 2009, creating mixtapes for her fellow students, according to Fuse. From there, she discovered a way to tap into the genre in a way that previous artists hadn’t, releasing her first EP Fly Nerd the following year.

A collaboration with Mega Ran and a Kickstarter campaign later, she released her fourth album this year titled Infusion. It contains six tracks that showcase her expertise in video games and cartoons, but also reflect a rather turbulent 2015. Having gone through a failed relationship, a loss of a child, and anxiety for her future, as iterated in an interview with Impose Magazine, her latest EP delves deeper into her personal life, beneath the surface of her nerdy persona.

Listen to Infusion now on iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud and YouTube.

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