Gucci Mane blaring through his headphones, a young football star sings along as he prepares for the Friday night lights in Gainesville, Florida. Jauntily navigating the football field and poetic free-styling on the sidewalks, a young Leon Cummings embraces the connection through music he will present to the world ten years later as the one and only, Gucci Primetime.
The self-taught Cummings fell in love with music as a teenager being a freestyle poet among his friends, carrying a pen and pad in hand for whenever inspiration struck. After a peer entertained the idea of original music, Cummings took advantage of a free production program, Mix Craft, and produced 30 different beats and eight songs in just 14 days.
“Those 14 days were a chance for me to be free, to not be judged, and to have something with my name on it...It was amazing.”
This sentiment of freedom drew Cummings in as he garnered deep passion through this creative outlet. The young singer, song-writer, and producer quickly learned the ins and outs of music production growing storage of beats and tunes. Then, by setting his poems to beats, Cummings created a song.
"I slowly started to learn about music production -- digging into the craft through mixing beats and breaking down the structure of the song. As I became more involved, I began to connect with so many different artists. It truly doesn't feel like a job; I love what I do -- I am putting my energy into my passion."
In the studio, Cummings places his focus on the listener experience with the mindset of 'it starts from within' stemming from his goal of staying true to his experiences in love and life...
"It is all about listener experience...My songs are about feeling...You haven't captured the listener if you don't capture a certain vibe or feeling."
Leon Cummings honors the glory of having a creative and supportive environment where he now resides in San Francisco, California by releasing music under the stage name Gucci Primetime. The singer pays homage to the role models who 'raised' him: acquiring “Gucci” from rapper Gucci Mane, who headlines the southern hip-hop scene, and tributing “Primetime” to Cummings’ football career and the record-breaking player Deion Sanders. Cummings draws inspiration and parallels to the house-hold names for their versatility and undeniable excellence in their craft.
The sense of excellence and connectivity to an audience is a feeling all artists, like Cummings, strive to create through their work.
“Music is very subjective but very open to creativity...Writing tracks is no easy task. It is a trial and error process that takes a great deal of patience, perseverance, and practice. Artists break down sound and structure, mixing melodies and pulling apart beats until they capture a distinct sound and mood.”
Cummings focuses on pinpointing a connective listener experience. Gucci Primetime targets a global audience considering their point-of-view from the lyrics, beats, and cover art. Each aspect of audio and visual interpretation comes together like puzzle pieces to complete the link between Cummings and his listeners.
“I want the music to be true to my experience, but I also want to relay a message everyone can understand.”
Working with graphic designers in the Bay Area to conceptualize the cover art for his new releases, Cummings targets artists who can hone in on the overall emotion his music exudes. The combination of pristine audio and visual representation allows him to cast a clearer and long-lasting impression on his listeners.
You don’t need to speak the language to feel the beat -- music and art connect from within, and Cummings affirms this level of creativity. His music, the product of constructive criticism and critique, leaves room for personal interpretation while still offering clarity. A respectable artist does not need to run solo.
“Any artist who has a passion for what they do wants to put their best foot forward, so you have to be open to criticism to capture the listener experience.”
Careful critique leads to positive change and a greater platform for social impact.
Cummings uses art to honor the role models and cultures that paved the way for his generation, drawing inspiration from the West African-American jazz blend known as “afrobeat”. An uplifting dance with movement throughout its chords, afrobeat draws in listeners from all walks of life regardless of age, race, or culture.
Working with others to create dynamic art is the premise of Cummings’ creative process.
“Now, we learn as we go,” says Cummings, honoring the art of genuine criticism. Art and life parallel the importance of teamwork. By working together, artists and individuals can share experiences and educate one another across a grander platform.
As we celebrate Black History Month, Cummings emphasizes the importance of recognizing the impact of those who came before us. Honoring the significant figures who paved the way for our generation through collaboration, conversation, and critique.
"It is about paying homage to those before us to inspire the generation we are in and the generations to come."
If anyone embodies this concept, it is Leon Cummings....