Nate Wade and Kev Hannibal of the Hip-Hop duo GUMBO Music were raised in North Carolina and New York City, respectively, but didn’t even end up meeting until they were both on the other side of the world. Now based in Australia, the two men have forged a friendship rooted in fatherhood, expatriate experiences and Hip-Hop.
This ‘rap duo’ idea just happened to work out just as COVID-19 peaked worldwide and global shutdowns were already underway.
“With most ex-pats, you just sort of gravitate towards those you assimilate with,” Nate shares. “So it becomes a group of African Americans, a very small group, there aren’t a lot of us, but we’ve known each other for so long, just being homies. The music thing didn’t start for us until six months ago.”
Before they started working together, both Nate and Kev were doing their own writing, solo. But their debut EP, This Is GUMBO, fits like a glove, it’s a cohesive project that showcases Nate and Kev trading slick one-liners and sharp concepts on everything from the title track to songs like the blithe “You and Me,” a meticulous love story complete with a surprise ending. “It’s crazy how the music really just came together so easy. It was so organic,” Kev explains. “It was too smooth, too good to be true, to be honest. It was just, ‘I’ll see you on Tuesday so we can record.’ And we were writing up as we were together. There were barely any times that we wrote outside of being in the studio together.”
When the whole world was in the thick of the COVID pandemic, two American expats living in Australia, decided to join forces and call themselves GUMBO without even realizing that musically, they would end up being each other’s perfect ingredient.
Hip Hop Wired: What’s life like out there? How is it raising kids in Australia?
Nate: Life out here is… They like hanging out, taking days off and going to the beach. Their work ethic is very different, they lead a life of leisure as some would say.
Kev: Raising kids here, we just try and give them balance. I started taking my daughter home twice a year before COVID so she’s getting to understand and see, “Okay. This is my family here. This is American culture.” She’s still young so you know, you have to spoon feed them our culture, who we are, what we’re about and where we come from. She’s always like, “Daddy, I wanna go back to Grandma Sherry’s house.” She knows there’s a big difference between the two. She’s like, “There are so many buildings! So many lights in New York!”
And here there are just beaches and trees…
HHW: What’s it like creating an EP in the middle of a pandemic so far from home?
Nate: It’s kinda like a gift and a curse almost, because when acts were able to come here prior to COVID, you could access people a lot easier than we probably could back home because it’s a numbers game, all of Australia is Florida, population-wise, [but geographically] It’s as big as the States. It’s just that there’s nobody here and you can’t live in the middle, there’s no water. So everyone lives on the coastline. There’s only 25 million people in all of Australia, so imagine trying to subclass them into music, then trying to subclass those people into Hip-Hop, them numbers change. Drastically.
HHW: There’s some semblance of a Black Lives Matter movement going on down there, correct?
Nate: I think what they had going on in Australia at the same time, which didn’t get a lot of media attention, was that the Aboriginal people had been having a lot of deaths in custody, so they’ve been fighting their own fight where they kinda moved in unison together.
Kev: They kinda piggybacked off the movement because they consider themselves the original Black man as well.
Nate: The white people there, they stole the land of the Aboriginals and put their flag on it. The same thing that happened here, happened in the West Indies, happened in the States… The British moved around the world doing the same thing.
I believe in the 1970s they still had the White Australian Policy.
Kev: It was only 50 years ago, when the Aboriginal people were considered human beings.
HHW: What’s it like to be a Black man in Australia right now?
Nate: I feel like in the States we dealt with racism more directly because we’re grassroots Americans. Like, our grandparents went through what they went through so we’re only one or two generations removed from that. When most expats move to wherever they move to around the world, you see how powerful Black culture is around the world. Our friends back home? They don’t understand that until they leave. Black culture is the most duplicated thing you’ll ever see. Even here. There are white kids that would die to be a part of that culture. You realize how much of an impact it actually has, from music to fashion to everything. You realize the impact that it has on the rest of the world. And it’s huge.
HHW: It’s always interesting because no one has to be convinced that Black culture matters, but Black lives? It’s a whole issue.
Nate: It’s people’s interpretation of what Black Lives Matter means. We know where it stems from as in the core of police brutality and things like that, but it starts with us too and how we treat each other and how we… Some of these are vicious cycles that we’re not going to fix in a conversation or some years, it’s just what we have to constantly work on.
HHW: You talked about the group of African-American expats out there, how did you guys manage to strengthen your friendship beyond being from the same place?
Kev: It was more about us keeping our children together to see other beautiful little Black girls, because it’s so whitewashed here. So our main purpose was to keep our daughters together and continue building a family inside of this country and it was like, “Well, we both do music.” Then COVID hit and we were like, “Let’s just do music.”
HHW: And the music is legit. You two sound as if you’ve been working together for years.
Nate: I think what helped us is that we both grew up loving the same things. Loving the Lox and Mobb Deep, loving Little Brother and all the other Hip-Hop we fell in love with. So we figured we’d try and make that from a genuine place. We’re not doing it for the ‘likes.’ We don’t need the money, we have normal jobs. We just like doing that shit, that made it easy, It’s like a heavenly flow.
HHW: What are your favorite songs from the project?
Nate: I actually like “This is GUMBO” because it’s not a traditional song, it’s really just rapping for three minutes. Usually it’s like: Hook, Chorus, Hook, Chorus. Then “See ya later.” I just like the concept where it just flows.
Kev: For me, I think “Serious” is my favorite because my music has been changing over the last few years. People are always telling me, “Just rap. Rap like where you from…” But I’m into the storytelling thing because I wanna take it into other avenues, you know what I mean? So we just decided to rap so people know we have songs for the girls, songs with a little aggression from not being able to go home, missing family and things like that. Sometimes I wish I was back in my grandmother’s basement in Queens so I could get into that grimy energy: gunshots, people screaming outside, the cabs, etc. Doing those types of songs have me feeling like I went back home in my mind for a second.
HHW: The world seems to be watching the U.S. government and the man in the White House right now and although you two aren’t here, your families are. What are your thoughts on the space America’s in right now?
Nate: Everybody works for Fox News all of a sudden and everybody has a damn degree in Political Science. Man, I don’t know. What’s scary is that he still got 74 million votes. So I look at it like, Democrats have four years to get it together. If they fuck up in these next four years, you better believe he’s coming back with a vengeance. So I hope they do right. Because they’re glitter acting like gold too.
Kev: I just feel like, no matter who’s in office… At this point, so much has happened to us as a people, like, what else can happen? Even during the Obama administration, we had our Black man in there but more people were killed by the police. More has happened to us under their administration than anything else. So I just feel like it’s more about us, and what we’re gonna do for each other and with each other. Putting our money together, trying to stand together… All the president is, is a puppet anyway for the most part. They don’t really control anything. So again, I feel like they’re done so much already, what more can they do to us? Except for what they’re doing now, making us get vaccines, which, who knows what they’re putting in there… They took our banks, Black Wall Street, from chained slavery to the school to prison pipeline now. I just feel like it’s on us now.