I first heard of Sundula Amen, when I downloaded “The American Dream” released by local producer Sam I Am. I expected rap when I first clicked play but instead got a soulful sounding blues voice over Sam’s beats. I listened to the album on repeat four or five times straight through. I had to get the story behind the album.
After interview Sam I Am for the website I was able to get a hold of Sundula and meet up for an interview. He invited me to his house on Denver Street to talk about his new projects and group: The Vagabonds.
The Vagabonds don’t care about your crew or how big you think you are. They aren’t making music that fits a style or even that fits a specific genre. You won’t hear any auto tune in their work and there won’t be any gimmicks. They are the new hip hop anti group and they are about to show Rochester what we have been missing in a music scene.
The two artists making up the group, Sundula Amen and Tears, met up fifteen years ago in the spoken word scene. Their styles are drastically different; Sundula’s forte is more soulful, blues singing, while an aggressive spoken word style shows in Tears music. While their music sounds different they are both coming from the same place.
“I was supposed to move to New York City, but that fell through at the last minute” Sundula recalls “Tears told me about an apartment on Denver St he was living at that had an open room. I ended up moving there. We started writing about about being separated from our families, and struggling to survive, being outcasts, that’s where The Vagabonds started’
The mesh between soulful singing and aggressive verses melds into something that hasn’t been heard in this city. Its not rap, and The Vagabonds don’t try to be rap, it would come across fake if they did. Hip Hop in their mind is more than just hooks and bass. Jazz, blues, spoken word, poetry, all fit under a larger Hip Hop umbrella.
The two just finished up an EP with producer Sam I Am called “The Obsession”. It’s a four song concept project that follows a man as he falls in love with, stalks, and eventually kills, a girl that visits his work. With such a heavy theme for an EP that, for many, will be their first experience hearing The Vagabonds, I had to ask how they thought their EP will be received. Sundula simply shrugged it off.
“As artists we should be able to express what ever we want. Whether other people are scared of what you say or flock to it or doesn’t matter. Different people will react differently to art and music. You can’t worry about how people are going to react to your art.”
Their feature length album, which should be released this summer, will showcase what the group is about. Two artists who cut their teeth when the rap and spoken word scene in Rochester was different than what it is today.
“The rap scene was real cliquey when we were coming up” Tears explains “People were just about their crew. There was a bunch of talent in this city, but people were so self obsessed with their own projects of groups that no one would work together to create something better. For someone to come out and say what they were about, take it or leave it, was different than what people were used to”
That’s what they still represent to this day. They are the anti group, willing to collaborate with anyone, unafraid to speak their minds, and unapologetic when it comes to their own sound.