In Depth: Sumgii
“I think my beats ain’t typical for UK hip-hop but then again I’ve never seen myself as a UK hip-hop producer. I’ve probably made a handful of what I would call hip-hop / boom-bap. I just try and make music I wanna make without even thinking of who and where would want to play it. I’m lucky that the rappers I work with appreciate the idea of simply standing out and being different. I’d hate to sound like anyone else if I’m honest.”
For nearly 20 years, Sumgii has remained on the forefront of underground UK music culture. His roots stem from being a renowned Jungle & Garage DJ since the year 2000, gaining early publicity for performing at various pirate stations and raves. By 2003 Sumgii founded Potentfunk Records, notably signing Chase & Status who became involved with another of Sumgii’s earliest music groups called London Zoo aka LDZ. Around this time Sumgii began getting involved with music production and DJing more prominently. Not long afterwards, LDZ became signed to Foreign Beggars label, Dented Records. In the mid-2000’s, Sumgii became closely affiliated with a London Based music collective called Piff Gang, featuring the likes of Don Silk aka Milkavelli. Since then, Sumgii has mainly released music through his own labels. As Potentfunk remained a presence, through the label Sumgii began releasing music and touring with a homegrown, experimental hip-hop collective called Problem Child. As their debut Confessions Of A Normal Human Being dropped July 2014, the same year Sumgii also co-founded Cult Mountain, starting up another new label called 616/Dvlgng Records. Despite his ties to multiple musical unities, Sumgii also works heavily with independent emcee’s by providing mixing, mastering and producing duties for affiliated artists across the UK.
Despite being a recognisable face on the jungle and garage circuits, the start of Sumgii’s experimental hip-hop career began after he linked with long-term friends studying at university to kick-start events across Manchester. “Dabbla and Pierre Green started London Zoo in Manchester whilst at university,” said Sumgii, recalling how London Zoo came to fruition. “They started putting on club nights and invited me to play at them because all of us were already good childhood mates and I joined the Zoo.”
The story for how Sumgii became closely involved with Piff Gang ironically stemmed from shotting weed in his earlier days. “I used to sell a bit of weed now and then,” said Sumgii, reminiscing on how he became introduced to Piff Gang. “I met Super Dertie through a mutual mate as he wanted some high grade. After a few quick links and via the sometimes awkward dealer and punter one minute conversations, we discovered we both do music. Eventually he heard some beats, I heard his crew and I finally invited his crew aka Piff Gang to the studio and they never left.” [Laughs]
Despite working with the majority of successful underground hip-hop artists over the years, aside from LDZ who were signed to Dented Records, Sumgii mostly released music through his own labels. For example, Problem Child with Potentfunk, Cult Mountain through 616/Dvlgng. “My forthcoming solo releases will most likely be on one of these labels too depending on the sound,” Sumgii mused, “I might even shop around for a record deal so I don’t have to do any work.” [Laughs]
Sumgii’s affiliation to Problem Child was forged over a decade ago, as Sumgii and Dabbla who were both in LDZ together started worked closely with Dubbledge, who regularly featured on the first LDZ album, Living Long Ting. “We had made a few tracks with a whole new sound and we thought we should make an album as this new trio,” Sumgii explained, thinking back to the founding of Problem Child. “Not long after we put out the first Problem Child video, Illaman - who we knew from mutual friends and we had worked with a number of times on LDZ tracks - rang me one day after seeing the video and just asked me straight up if he could be in Problem Child. Of course I agreed as well as Dubbledge and Dabbla. Then we made Confessions Of A Normal Human Being and it worked out great. Working together, I’d say it’s just a different energy and vibe. But to be honest, there’s not much difference besides the sound. The work flow is the same and we have fun making music."
Only months after Problem Child’s first release, Sumgii emerged with a new four-piece outfit called Cult Mountain, dropping their infamous self-titled debut, Cult Mountain in December, 2014. “I was already working with Milkavelli aka Don Silk during the Piff Gang days,” Sumgii recalled, reminiscing how Cult Mountain came to be. “We were in the studio working on Milks solo music. One day Milk asked me if I could record his guest verse for a track Lee Scott had made which also featured Trellion. At the time I knew a little bit about Lee Scott and Blah Records. I knew very little about Trellion at the time. I only just heard Milks old alias Monster Under The Bed who was working with Lee before the Piff Gang wave, but this track was the first time those three had a track together. After the track was complete, Lee Scott rang me and asked me if I wanted to remix the track which technically became the first cult mountain track: Lee Scott ft. Milkavelli, Trellion & Sniff - PUTA. (Sumgii remix). Wasn’t long after that we arrange a session together to try recreate that same vibe and feeling that was captured in this remix. A few months later we had completed Cult Mountain 1 and started the new label together. Our objective was to simply make music no one was making and sell a lot of physical copies of it.”
2018 has been a particularly busy year for Sumgii, not only for releasing projects but also regularly performing live. “We did a Cult Mountain show in February in a massive London club for foreign beggars album launch party,” Sumgii said, looking back on his highlights from touring over the year. “The line-up was sick and very different. At the time I didn’t really know what to expect because the line-up was so diverse and different to what we been been used to. But woah, that was a great show. I did loads of festivals in UK and a few abroad too, including Boomtown Fair, Nozstock, Nass. I also went to Switzerland, Belgrade, Amsterdam, Paris and few others I’ve forgot. But yeah, between my solo DJ sets and crew shows, it was a busy summer. I think a highlight of the summer was running our own Potentfunk parties in Amsterdam. We had 10 or so of us plus people staying in one massive house and partying every night for five days in Amsterdam. Good times.”
Since their emergence, Cult Mountain have achieved a strong worldwide fan-base. One of their releases over 2018 - 616sons on picture disc - sold 220 vinyls in less than six hours. Over Summer, Cult Mountain released a single called Spell It Out in June, which was dropped alongside long-sleeved t-shirts and thinking caps. The catch? The single initially costed £616, or came free with the purchase of either piece of clothing apparel. “We were just about to release our new line of 616 t-shirts and hoodies,” said Sumgii, explaining the decision to promote the Spell It Out single this way. “We had this track sitting there doing nothing as it was supposed to be a album contender, but decided we needed a new song out as soon as possible that would help promote the merch and vise versa. We just been all so busy with solo music to be honest. But we have been writing a lot of new Cult Mountain material as well as other 616 / dvlgng projects. We are sitting on a lot of music.”
“I think the biggest project I started the year with was Dabbla’s Death Moves album which came out on our own label Potentfunk,” said Sumgii, recalling one of his favourite projects released this year. “The whole release is quality. The beats, bars, videos and artwork is all levels above anything we had done. It features a lot of my most favourite productions I’ve done and the reactions and sales have been great. I guess my favourite beat is possibly Long Gone featuring Jam Baxter. Long gone has this chill vibe to start off, then an unexpected switch up when the face bleed bass drops halfway through the verse. I’ve had big DJ’s like Loefah dropping this one and even the instrumental at big raves, they send me videos of it turning the club upside down.”
As well as collaborations, Sumgii has also been compiling material for a long-anticipated solo release. “I’ve been stacking beats for a solo release,” Sumgii said, “And I’ve recently been signed by Loefah’s Swamp81 label with the plan to release a original instrumental vinyl EP. I also plan to have a beat tape type album release by end of next year. It will be my first, mainly because I don’t really make a lot of beats on the side and if I do someone always wants to rap on it. So it’s hard to stack them up because a lot of the time I custom make beats on the spot with the artist too. But now I’ve finally managed to hide a lot of beats from these hungry emcees.” [Laughs]
As with the majority of turntablists, Sumgii isn’t solely a hip-hop enthusiast. As a long-term vinyl collector, his collection contains a variety of musical taste. “Most of my vinyl collection is old garage, jungle, broken beat and dubstep,” said Sumgii, explaining what influences his passion for hip-hop. “I love instrumental music and listen to a lot of soul and jazz so I usually find inspiration in the sounds and textures used in these genres. I’d say at the moment, when just chilling at home I listen to Kamaal Williams album and also his other project, Yuseff Kamaal. They sound great on vinyl.”
“I’m always learning new things and I watch and read a lot of tutorials,” said Sumgii, answering how he improved on his techniques this year. “I actually get inspiration from learning or getting a new bit of kit. I bought an MPC Live a few months ago and I’d say it’s definitely a game-changer to my work flow.”
An exciting exclusive emerged when asking Sumgii which was the most recent project he’d been a part of. “I recently mixed and mastered a Jam Baxter & Lee Scott album,” said Sumgii, “Which I’m probably not supposed to mention or talk about, but I will because it’s next level sick. Amazing songs and productions including a couple from myself. I’m joining Jam Baxter on his touching scenes album tour for a few DJ sets. The London show is at Five Miles, 7th December, and the Brighton show is at Pattern, 8th December.”
Interview drawing to a close, I asked Sumgii if he has any more projects to drop over 2018, and if he could reveal any early insights into what may be in store over 2019. “Nothing left from myself to release this year,” said Sumgii, “But my label Potentfunk has a few releases to drop before the new year, including a Dabbla track featuring Rag N Bone Man. The video for it is probably the best video I’ve ever seen to be honest. In 2019 there’s the Cult Mountain album, Supergang (Lee Scott, Sniff, Milkavelli & Sumgii) album. Dream Mclean album produced by me. As well as various collaborations. A Jam Baxter and Sumgii project. Loads.”
Sumgii, thank you for your time. Any final shout outs?
“Shout out to my 616 / dvlgng and Potentfunk family. Shout out to all my children, my Mrs and my dogs. Peace and love.”
Words by Evo