Gonjasufi: “I can’t allow any label to box me in.”
  • Gonjasufi: “I can’t allow any label to box me in.”
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Sumach Ecks, aka Gonjasufi, went from under-the-radar beat producer and rapper to a dreadlock-shrouded icon with the 2010 Warp Records A Sufi and a Killer, a collection of psychedelic hip-hop tracks featuring Ecks’s craggy, overdriven vocals and production by L.A. beat luminaries Flying Lotus, Gaslamp Killer, and Mainframe.

The Chula Vista native now calls Vegas home, but he recently released a four-song EP, The Ninth Inning, which boasts some strong San Diego shout-outs, most notably the Padres’ friar logo on the cover wearing Ecks’s signature dreads and beard.

Anticipating the January 23 release of his next Gonjasufi full-length, MU.ZZ.LE — he will play a record-release at the Casbah on January 22 — Ecks takes a moment to talk with the Reader about his San Diego roots, his ambitions as a musician, and the importance of teaching yoga.

What’s up with the Padres gear on the record and video?

Born and raised. A lot of heads don’t know their shit. They think I’m from L.A. because I was rolling with Flying Lotus. So that was my way of kind of letting motherfuckers know I’m from San Diego and, you know, that shit shaped me, so it was important for me to bang the SD on these motherfuckers a little bit, you know?

But, I don’t know, man, Daygo now, it’s just too small of a city. Like, I know too many people and I can’t get any work done. Everybody’s knocking on my door and knocking on my windows and wanting to smoke weed and I’m trying to work. So, I had to leave to focus, you know?

It’s crazy. I made five fucking records in SD when I was living there and, you know, I slang ’em on the streets hand to hand and, like, you know, I was just seen as one of those dudes. And I had to leave Daygo to get respect from Daygo.

What venues were you playing back then?

The Underground Improv on Imperial, this was, like, ’95, ’96. There was Rockers in Old Town. That was pretty much it, man, those one-off spots. Mesopotamia, shit like that. It was mostly, like, not necessarily venues but more like just cats meeting up downtown, man. We’d all take the trolley and meet downtown around, like, Pokez...and behind the post office, the Green Circle bar, around there, and on the street with a boombox just rappin’, man. That was the life, man.

Why did you decide to give out the EP for free download?

Well, I felt like there was a lot of attention going to a lot of other cats that are out that are just fuckin’ horrible.... I just kind of got frustrated because I’m signed to Warp, but they don’t want none of my rap shit, know what I’m saying? They want that singing shit, so I’m just sitting on all these songs and I got tired of sitting on ’em. I could put ’em for sale and sell ’em, but I just kind of wanted people to catch up with what I’m doing in real time so when I do shows they’re more in the know and not, like, What the fuck is this shit?

I got tired of touring and playing songs that a lot of people, because they hadn’t heard it, were confused and they had mixed feelings about my shows. You know, they’d be, like, this isn’t A Sufi and A Killer, and I’d be, like, yeah, but this is still me.... I want to kind of widen the spectrum and, like, let people hear the sound that I’m trying to carve in so I can have, like, more freedom in my shows.

Is MU.ZZ.LE following in that vein?

That one’s all singin’, you know. Anyone who follows my older shit, MU.ZZ.LE is more like Sumach than anything. I feel like this is my first record. I love this shit, man. I have my wife on two songs with me, and I’m working on her record right now [BlackHaleMary]. All the production on MU.ZZ.LE is me and Psychopop from Daygo. He’s part of a group called Skrapez.

But, essentially, at the end of the day what I want to be able to do is put out my own records the way I want to put ’em out without having to conform to anybody’s box. And in order to do that — and I love Warp, I nurture that relationship — but I can’t allow any label to box me in and suffocate my expression. Know what I’m saying? So as far as Warp putting out the record that I want, ultimately, the complete me, I don’t know... That’s what I’m working toward and I’m hoping that they’re open to that shit. I’ve turned in a lot of songs lately and they’ve shown interest toward piecing together another record to follow up after MU.ZZ.LE. So, we’ll see, man... I don’t want to have to make up an alias and shit, and this is this style and this style. I just want people to grab my record and know it’s all kinds of crazy, different shit, and that’s why they love buying the shit, because it’s just whatever the fuck.

What are you doing with yoga these days?

I teach. I taught today. I teach every day, man. You know, it’s crazy because I was into the yoga and then Warp hit me and I got to focus on the music so I kind of got out. I started touring, so...I just this year started teaching again, like, a month ago, man. I’ve just been hittin’ it hard as fuck, every school out there.

How does teaching yoga carry over into your music?

I think it’s more about a feeling, man. Like, the feeling that comes from teaching, the contentment and not needing and not wanting anything else because I feel fulfilled, that sound comes out when I record. You know, if I’m all, like, coked up and stressed out and shootin’ dope and I press record, you’re gonna hear that shit in the sound. You know, that desperation, that unclarity, that dark shit come out through the sound. But when I’m teaching and I’m clean and I’m, like, present and confident, then that sound is reflected when I record.

I started teaching again and now here I am recording again, and, shit, I’m fuckin’ recording now, I’m just, like, I’m happy because I’m, like, wait until the world hears this! ■

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Comments

Chad Deal Jan. 20, 2012 @ 12:30 p.m.

Gonjasufi has cancelled for January 22 at the Casbah.

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TheCardiffKook Jan. 22, 2012 @ 9:26 a.m.

This comment is on behalf of real native San Diegans that felt a disrespect from Chad Deal for his cover story this January 2012 on Gonjasufi. There is much talk in Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, San Diego, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Poway all over about this Chad Deal and his MISPELLING of "DAGO" it should never ever be spelled DAYGO as chad had mispelled. It's a "Dago" thing goes back in the day. We are surfers, skaters, snowboarders, Motocross, San Diego Chargers & Padres Fan! We understand a long term transplant from out of town needs to work here and such. But if you are going to try and hang with the natives please understand that by calling Dago - Daygo you just disrespected alot of people and we are want an apology! There are several different blogs in San Diego that are speaking on Chad Deal and his mispelling!

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NeonRon Jan. 28, 2012 @ 7:31 a.m.

@Kook - I read your post but all I saw was blah blah blah blah. Pull down your white tube socks and take of your locs for a minute to see the sun is shining man. LOL what you demanding an apology for? An article in the reader that didnt refer to san diego locals as surfers, skaters and blah blah blah. You can pull your socks back up now and put your locs back on. Have a beautiful day.

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TheCardiffKook Jan. 29, 2012 @ 12:04 p.m.

@ NeonRon - That is funny, reading your email which is very different than your post here. We do not appreciate the threats and cuss words directed to our website! We value your opiion and we always like to write about local stuff that steers up controversy!

That being said please leave comments, we encourage all to leave comments as everyone has an opinion but please do not disrespect, use profanity or racism. Like NeonRon any use of threats, profanity, racisim will be reported to authorites.

And P.S. NeonRon - the only time I have my socks pulled up and my locs on is when San Diegans dress me up! (I'm a statue in Cardiff if you don't know) And personally speaking we are in DAGO, aint nothin wrong with locs and pulled up socks, I do have a pair of SPY Optics that are pretty loc-d out! I think many do and SPY Optic corporate office is in Carlsbad!

Whites, Blacks, Mexicans, Asians, were all loc-d out & it does not matter if you have been laid off and you Occupy Wall Street or if you have a 6 digit salary & work at Qualcomm. We all live in this beautiful town San Diego which we all call home. Respect it.

And much respect to the people who call Dago home. And for those who want to learn more about the word "Dago"

Most will find in Wikipedia that Dago, a nickname for San Diego (major city located in Southern California) used by local residents

The Cardiff Kook

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NeonRon Jan. 31, 2012 @ 2:53 p.m.

Ohh Kook,

I'm starting to understand why you call yourself that. You lost me at threats and cuss words. And you lost yourself on spelling.

I smell hypocrisy - you talk about being offended by misspelling ... ohhh man ... you need to "steer up" a dictionary.

Nothing wrong with long socks and locs - never said there was. And wait a minute... you let other people dress you? Ahh nevermind, i don't have time for this.

And my man, I wouldn't waste my dirty words on you. Have a beautiful day.

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TheCardiffKook Jan. 31, 2012 @ 9:26 p.m.

@NeonRon

Obviously you are not from San Diego County.

So here is a refresher, I even had to make an Avatar on here so you can see what, "The Cardiff Kook" is, it is a statue in Cardiff that looks is depicted as a kook the way he standing on his board. Many around town dress him up to make all kinds of political, religious, or just darn funny statements with the many outrageous costumes. The community of Cardiff and surrounding cities now embrace it as kind of a staple to the community. A must see in Cardiff as the Kooks Cafe is across the street as well as many other really cool shops and boutiques and restaurants. Basically a hometown feel tourasit trap and photo area as the statue is oh Old Highway 101. And we dig it... you pickin up what I'm puttin down.

The Cardiff Kook

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TheCardiffKook Jan. 31, 2012 @ 10:07 p.m.

@NeonRon

Instead of bickering on here with me you might actually enjoy the website if you drive, surf, like music, art, skating.

And having 2 different opinions from the same town and the ability to express ourselves freely is gold in my book and that is what makes me proud to be an American.

Even though we have our differences I see many similarites or however you spell it...hahaha! We both are obviously are very passionate of how we feel about our views. We both are proactive and share ideas with the world. So at the end of the day.... we are all not that different, it is what is in our hearts and soul that makes us unique and defines us all.

I hope you can check the site out, and you too my friend have a beautiful day.

Cheers!

The Cardiff Kook www.TheCardiffKook.info

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Jay Allen Sanford Jan. 22, 2012 @ 1:58 p.m.

What kind of yoga instructor speaks publicly with such foul expletive-laden language? And what kind of (former) local claims a desire to "bang the SD" by showing off Padres gear, shortly after telling an out-of-town newspaper "San Diego was a racist motherf#cker back then," going on to badmouth everything about growing up in Dago.

And then the doofus cancels his big return to SD for a record release gig?! Right after the biggest paper in SD does a big cover feature on him, mentioning the gig?

Methinks Mr. Gonjasufi probably realized how Chad Deal's article exposed his doofusness for the whole city to laugh at, and thus changed his mind about inflicting his "music" on us once again.

I've not seen much online chatter about Chad's choice of colloquial spelling, but I HAVE seen much bitching about Gonjasufi badmouthing San Diego. And putting out crappy songs.

There SO MUCH great hip-hop in and from San Diego! Vokab Kompany, Mass, Blame One, Clay Pigeons, Miki Vale, Black Mikey, Defamation League...and then there's THIS guy...

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Twister Jan. 22, 2012 @ 4:31 p.m.

Post a comment We prohibit profanity, libel, spam, racial epithets, and the harassment and abuse of others. Any off-topic comments stand a chance of being removed. In other words: talk about the site content, not each other.

But we'll pay to publish any kinda sh!t we want, see?

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Chad Deal Jan. 23, 2012 @ 2 p.m.

The show was cancelled just before the issue was distributed.

I saw plenty of racism growing up in East County and would be very interested to meet a San Diegan who hasn't.

As for the idea that yoga teachers should somehow be held to the same standard as, say, suburban youth group leaders - I've been pleasantly surprised to meet the acquaintance of a number of yoga teachers who aren't the one dimensional Nag Champanicks that some would like them to be, and that includes Sumach Ecks.

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YellowOne Jan. 25, 2012 @ 1:21 p.m.

Its crazy because back then, the older heads spelled it DAGO but the new youngsters changed it to DAYGO. Theres NO disrespect in that and it does not make us sound illiterate by spelling it DAYGO to outsiders. As long as people get the POINT that this is DAYGO or DAGO or SAN DIEGO then thats all we need. And COME ON we cannot lie to ourselves like SD does NOT have areas with racist people in it. There are PLENTY of areas where racism exist. EAST COUNTY, FALLBROOK to name a few. But why are people hating on the guy when he left to go fulfill his dream on music. He had to do what he had to do. Thats ONE thing he did correct compared to other Daygo hiphop artist, he WENT OUT TO GET IT he did NOT WAIT FOR IT TO COME TO HIM. The reality is, SD does not have a BIG hiphop market like WE think it is. Doing music within the city will not go anywhere because as small as the hiphop market is out here, the music industry out here is small so imagine what percentage of that small margin is for just rap/hiphop. So to Gonjasufi keep doin' ya thing, let the haters hate, as long as you put the city on in your own way and I do not think calling a small margin of SD that are racist is a bad thing because it is true.

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