The World According to Goya Gumbani
Goya Gumbani needs to exist. The climate of rap as it stands today is an ever-expanding spectrum of artists fueled by “the machine” and DIY artists using their own resources to cultivate and create art. The chasm between mainstream and underground has never been wider than it is now, with “underground” artists able to use tools like Instagram, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, and more to gain exposure and amass staunch support seemingly overnight with no major label backing. That is to say, however, within this densely-populated musical environment, the cream doesn’t necessarily rise to the top. Non-musical components such as “going viral,” “hive mentality,” and more have become the primary tools in the trajectory of a rapper’s career. In effect, this has moved many artists away from the art itself and toward the antics around it, and in many cases, the music suffers. This is where Goya Gumbani’s importance shines the most.
Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Goya currently resides in London, where he has lived since age 15. It was around this time that making music became an interest of his, but it didn’t truly become a creative outlet for him until around 2018, following the untimely passing of his sister who championed his pursuit of starting a career in music. It was around this time that Goya would drop his debut project ‘Morta & More’, a self-produced, five-track EP with a run-time of just under nine minutes that showcases the raw potential he possesses. From the beginning, his ear for curating a musical soundscape, as well as his mastery of how to best apply his monotone vocals and nonchalant delivery, are present and accounted for on the EP. Most prominently though, he showcases his ability to convey an array of emotions and illustrate the world as he sees it within the confines of a short runtime, which is an ongoing theme for him. To date, his projects rarely have more than 7 songs on them, upping the stakes for him to make an impression on the listener in a short amount of time in which he has mastered.
Goya has been able to carve his own path with an undiluted authenticity, awareness of self, and penchant for musicality that is evident through each of his projects, and keeps his calendar filled with gigs and appearances in cities across Europe, the United Kingdom, and America. His music is profoundly personal, almost as if he’s reading pages of his journal and revealing the litany of thoughts inhabiting corners of his mind. At the same time, he takes a “measure twice, cut once” approach, never getting caught up in overcomplicated bars and superfluous flows, but instead mastering brevity coupled with an ear for soulful jazz samples and instrumentation that envelops his message perfectly.
I was excited to speak to Goya as a fan of his craft, but also as a fellow born-Brooklynite who also currently resides in London. We discussed topics like his latest album ‘When The Past Bloomed’, our mutual love for Curren$y, his influences in and outside of music, and much more in between.
This Interview has been edited and condensed for conciseness.
Goya Gumbani: Yo, where you from?
I’m from Brooklyn.
Goya Gumbani: Oh, word?
Yeah, you too, right? Funny enough, lowkey, there's two times where I realized that you're from Brooklyn. The first time was when I was at your show out here [in London] with Pink Siifu and Fly Anakin, and the way you said “you heard?” like “ju heard?” I was like, “Goya might be a Brooklyn dude too.” It’s one of those things where you know it when you hear it.
Goya Gumbani: [Laughs]
And the second time I was at the Larry June and Alchemist concert in London. And so I'm in the crowd—
Goya Gumbani: Ohhhhh!
And someone is pushing through the crowd and passes by me and goes “Yo, I’m just trying to get to my girl!”as he passed his way to the front of the concert, and when I looked over it was you.
Goya Gumbani: [Laughing] Oh my God!
And I was like “Okay, he’s definitely from Brooklyn!”
Goya Gumbani: [Laughing] That’s crazy! That’s crazy! I really do remember that! I was really looking around like “Yo, we can't be in the back. We gotta go up there. We gotta light up. We gotta do it the right way.”
[Laughs] Yo, so I'm going to go a little bit Christopher Nolan-style and start at the end and then kind of work my way backwards. Let’s talk about your recent album, ‘When The Past Bloomed’ – what were you trying to accomplish with the album?
Goya Gumbani: With that I felt like the albums that I released or had released a little prior to that was a lot more jazz-y. So I wanted to kind of take it back to more sample-based, like boom-bappy rap. You know, that fundamental rap shit.
It feels like you don't do a whole bunch of singles, right? It seems like you're more of a “project-focused” artist and you drop singles here and there, but those are usually a prelude to something bigger that you're going to drop.
Goya Gumbani: Yeah.
So then when it comes to your creative process – are you someone who has a concept in mind first? What's the creative space that you're in when you’re creating a project?
Goya Gumbani: Ah, the music is normally, like, vague. Like for this specific project, the music kinda made the project, more than I sat down and was like “I’m going to make a project”. It kind of formed itself and I was like “Oh shit, this is a project!”
Is that different from how you typically approach things creatively?
Goya Gumbani: Yeah, from how I was making music before, and how I'm making music now? Yeah, like everything’s a little bit more intentional.
So the way you rap, you have a flow that I don't hear a lot of other people have. It's almost like you’re asking a question every bar. And there’s a lot of rappers who kind of mimic each other's flow. But it feels like your approach is a little different in the way you rap, and flow-wise it’s very unique to you. Have you always had that style and what made you commit to sounding the way that you sound when you rap?
Goya Gumbani: Ooh, I like that question [laughs]. I feel like I take inspiration from people like Roc Marciano, and like there's certain rappers I feel inspired by. But I don't know, I feel like I'm just trying to get my story across. You feel me?
Goya Gumbani: So it's like me and the beat are in unison. So like the flow, it really depends on what the beat calls for. I feel like I don't even be trying to be witty—so to answer, it’s really just me and the beat dancing all the time. Half of the music, nine times out of 10– is a question to myself. It’s me and my mind talking, me and my subconscious talking. So I really feel you when you say it really comes across as like “questions” because a lot of the time it is really me talking to myself. It's just beautiful that people can resonate with that.
What made you feel comfortable being vulnerable on the mic? Was it a situation where you thought if you were going to be an artist, that you had no other choice but to be vulnerable in getting your art across?
Goya Gumbani: For real, I feel like music low-key helped me [be vulnerable]. The music really helps me, it's therapeutic. I feel like even just being [able to be] vulnerable in the songs, on the mic, on the pen, on the pad, on the laptop, on the phone, like that's really just the beauty of music.
Yeah for sure. Who's some of your who's some of your musical influences, people that you listen to that kind of shaped your ear. You mentioned Roc Marci, are there any other people?
Goya Gumbani: Miles Davis, Steve Spacek, Curren$y [laughs].
Yeah, I love Curren$y. I love asking fellow Curren$y fans this–what was your first Curren$y album? ‘Smokee Robinson’ was mine. That's when I was like, all right, “He's the guy”.
Goya Gumbani: The first one was that one with the orange [album cover]..
Goya Gumbani: Yeah, Verde Terrace! That was my first one that I was like “Nah, my son is really talking right now, who the fuck is talking like this right now?” I actually found one of his records the other day. ‘Stoned immaculate’?
Oh, yeah, that was like his first “album album”.
Goya Gumbani: That shit actually took me up. That shit changed everything for me. It's crazy, because shit like that really pushed me to start writing.
So speaking of writing - what year did you first start?
Goya Gumbani: I think I started writing in 2013 and then I really started releasing like 2018.
Wow, that's a long time to build up a cache before putting things out. What was the difference between you writing and keeping it to yourself, and then finally deciding to get your music out to people?
Goya Gumbani: Like for real, I was releasing like a small amount of shit. And then like 2018 like my sister passed away–
Damn, I’m sorry, bro.
Goya Gumbani: Nah it’s all good, family. Before she passed she was like “You should put out this shit, this shit is fire!” So after she passed I was like, “You know what, let me start releasing some shit.” Then everything started working how it was supposed to.
How soon after finally committing to the art and putting it out, did you actually start reaping the benefits of what you were doing?
Goya Gumbani: Like two years? By the middle of 2020 like just after the lockdown, shit went up. Because in 2020 I released mad projects, at least like six or seven projects.
Yeah you had like ‘Truth Be Sold’, ‘Lesser Known’..
Goya Gumbani: Yeah, all of them joints came out. That was the consistency, that was me on my Curren$y shit [laughs]. You see, that's how the influence kinda works.
So you’re close with Pink Siifu right? How’d you connect with him?
Goya Gumbani: Yo that’s funny, he just texted me. That’s actually great timing, I hope he getting money right now somewhere [laughs].
Goya Gumbani: But damn, how’d I link Liv (Pink Siifu’s nickname)? I actually met him in New York like we were both just making music around the same the same n*****s. But I had been hip to his shit anyway, because I had been listening to ‘Ensley’. But I had just I never really watched the videos, I just listen to that shit. And then I was just around the him one day and I just put two and two together, I'm like, “Oh shit, you Pink Siifu,” and then we just been tight ever since. It just so happens to work out that wherever he at in the world, I happen to be there, too. So especially touring, I don’t know how it happened last year but we was literally in the same place, like maybe eight times, like all around Europe and in America too.
Wow, I thought it was a lot more intentional. It’s crazy how things keep aligning for you two. Is there an album or anything collaborative in the works?
Goya Gumbani: Nah, honestly, not yet. I mean we both just work. Because you know Pink got like fucking 60 projects on the go, 60 on tuck, and he working on another 60, so he just stays working. But nah, we haven’t spoken about any of that yet to be honest, but that's definitely a dream of mine. So I’m sure we’ll definitely do that when the time is right.
Who were some other people collaboration-wise that you would love to work with?
Hmm, that I would love to work with?-–I got some shit coming out with me and Loji, so that in the works. Um, I really want to make a project, with like Alchemist. That's like the obvious… [laughs]. Oh, I really want to make a project with Robert Glasper.
I can see that, that’s like two years from happening, if that [laughs].
Goya Gumbani: Yeah, because the album I'm making is kinda, a little bit more on some jazz shit, so I feel like those paths are gonna align soon. Um, I’ve got some shit coming with Adé Hakim, me and YUNGMORPHEUS got a tape in the works. I got mad little things in the works right now.
What about people you don't have anything in the works with? So just “dream collab” like you got a joint album with this person and you feel like “Yo, honestly if I never get a Grammy or anything else, this collab right here was the one for me.”
Goya G: For real, it'd probably be someone like a BADBADNOTGOOD or like someone like Ezra Collective. Like one of those jazz bands that's already got they shit together, like a Coco Loco. Or somebody like Yussef Dayes, I would love to work with someone like him.
What about outside of music? What kind of things are inspiring to you right now?
Goya Gumbani: Clothes. I'm loving this shit right now. Just making clothes.
Word, your style is very specific. How did you commit to how you present yourself stylistically?
Goya Gumbani: Honestly, I really just be on my own shit. Like I used to love sneakers—don't get me wrong—I still do love sneakers, but this sneaker culture just got a little bit too crazy. So that's how I ended up moving into the loafers and just the shoes in general. And then just based off of that just digging and doing more and more homework and you just develop your own shit. When you're not dressing like every n**** next to you, you really got to find your own inspiration, material, style, you know? I feel like part of it is age too, you kind of get to this to the point in life where you’re like, “I'm trying to buy shit that's gonna last me forever.” So I'm kind of at that point, you know, where like my taste levels, it can only go up.
It sounds like your approach to style is kinda similar to how you point out your music, where it's like 20 years from now, 30 years from now, it still sounds like a classic album. It maintains the feelings that you had when you made it.
Goya Gumbani: Yeah, that’s it. That’s exactly it.
Join us on November 25th at Amsterdam's Skatecafe for an unforgettable night of musical exploration with Goya Gumbani. Be prepared to immerse yourself in a world of sound that transcends boundaries, redefines genres, and offers a fresh perspective on his extraordinary musical artistry. This is an event you won't want to miss. Get your tickets here.