Interview: Kemet High
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
Stunna Gambino is one of the young voices of the trenches right now. His music is compact with lyrics about turning his pain into progression. And to deliver them, Stunna uses an assortment of flows. His 2019 project, Underrated, loose records like “Heartless” and this year’s summer LP, Vultures Don’t Kry, serve as evidence of his talent. The 20-year-old from the upper Manhattan, N.Y. neighborhood of Washington Heights speaks on five songs that have made him one of the fresh voices to listen out for in a new generation of New York City hip-hop talent.
That’s probably my most personal song that’s out to the public. This is the song that got me back to making music. ’Cause at the time period, I wasn’t motivated. I want to be the person that talks about the shit that we have going on in our heads, but we be scared to talk about it. So, it’s a lot of that. And I threw a little segment of “Heartless” in there. I was just on some shit.
The production on that song is crazy. I feel like I took a lot of time with the ad-libs on that bridge. [I used] a hyper flow. Certain people don’t catch the bop to that song the way I do. When I listen to that song, I have a fast bop. I listen to that beat with a whole different perspective. So, it was just a lot of energy on that shit.
My boy Rico had pulled up on me. I was just going through tough times. I was telling him, “I can’t really write right now. I got other shit.” He was like, “Nigga, we all going through shit. I’m going through shit right now. You can talk about that.” I just started putting it into perspective and started taking everybody’s problems and then just made it like a general thing so everybody could relate to it.
This was two years ago when I recorded this song. I was probably still living at my sister’s house, writing this at her dinner table. Songs like “Konfident” remind me of Akon, Trey Songz and Sean Kingston growing up. I want niggas to feel that vibe again. It’s a dancehall vibe. It’s gonna be crazy in the club. It’s for the ladies.
“Self Worth” featuring Lil Perco
On that song, you can just hear the maturity. [Lil Perco] is my little brother. He the G.O.A.T. We was basically just talking about how shorties don’t be knowing their self-worth and they just be breaking they backs for a nigga. We were talking that grown man shit. It’s West Coast, Cali vibes. That heartbreak club music.
Read Stunna Gambino's interview in the 25th anniversary issue of XXL magazine, on newsstands now. Check out additional interviews in the magazine, including our cover story with Eminem, plus conversations with Bobby Shmurda, Yung Miami, JID, Yvngxchris, Sleazyworld Go, Jim Jones, Symba, Reason, GloRilla, Styles P, singer Jessie Reyez, actor Trevante Rhodes and music executive Katina Bynum. The issue also includes a deep dive into a narrative piece on the U.S. court systems' battle against rap lyrics, rappers’ longstanding connection to anime, the renewed interest music supervisors have in placing 1990’s hip-hop in today’s lauded TV series and the 254 past covers in XXL history.