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Meet SUM

Today we’d like to introduce you to SUM.

SUM, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My professional life and my life as an artist began at roughly the same time. They have always run in tandem and hybridized each other. As a writer, I started out around 2001 as a freelance music journalist, which is right around the time I decided I wanted to dedicate my creative life to my songcrafting.

Since then, I’ve been carving out my own space as a writer and creative expert. This journey has taken me from magazine editorial and market research to ghostwriting, and digital persona crafting for some of entertainment’s biggest brands. I have been lead on branding and strategic partnerships for major music artists, and managed an online community for a few Fortune 500 companies. Projects I’m currently working on include fine-tuning the discovery algorithm for one of the big-boy streaming music services, and helping my friends at Cashmere Agency shape voice and strategy for some high-profile clients. Another project I have on the horizon will be to shape a definitive hip-hop taxonomy for another major digital music distributor. My life as a freelancer is exciting and weird.

As a hip-hop artist, I have a front facing persona and “shadow” work. Front facing, I am SUM who raps and fronts a band called The Milky Way. We were recently the first hip-hop act to be featured in a national LinkedIn billboard campaign and be inducted into PledgeMusic’s “Amplify” program. We just self-released our debut EP, Shiva The Destroyer. I’ve released a good handful of projects over the years, collaborated with some of the best and brightest and continue to enjoy the support of a modest but loyal fanbase. Behind the scenes, I continue to do a crazy amount of work as a writer and vocalist for hire. I’ve been commissioned to write catalogue pieces in other artists voices for over a decade now, and it’s informed my work as both a writer and songwriter.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
This has been far from a smooth road. Probably my biggest challenge is maneuvering around people’s perceptions of who I am. Because I wear a number of different hats, and I’m not so public about all of them, I’m often put into boxes I don’t necessarily fit into. The irony is that I hate being categorized by anyone, even myself.

Folks who know me only as an artist can only see me that way, and it limits the kinds of conversations I can have where people take me seriously. They see me as an indie artist “trying to make it happen,” as opposed to a creative seeking to reach my potential, which is infuriating.

Folks who only know me from a professional standpoint have no idea the dozens of things I am capable of outside of being a writer, and that puts me in a box too.

For someone like me who has to build his own bridges, forge his own paths and create his own conversations, it’s a hurdle to get past people’s limited perceptions of my talents and accomplishments. This affects opportunity and my access to it.

Lifelong challenge.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I am my own business/company. I specialize in exporting my creativity as the job requires. This could be as a writer, a music expert, a performer or a strategic specialist.

I’m most proud that I was able to nurture relationships with people who could see my potential and later open doors for me where I wouldn’t have been able to do it myself.

I’m just a guy who wants true autonomy and personal sovereignty. My goal is to design my own lifestyle, and I have visionary friends in influential places that get that about me. So they help put me in places custom fit for my expertise.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
All of it.

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Image Credit:

Marla Montgomery

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