All humans are made up of contradictions, and multimedia artist Dirty Bird is aware of this. He is a Famous on Twitter internet personality who doesn’t want to be known for his online persona. He’s a jazz-laden dance music producer who wouldn’t describe his own music as jazz. He is a capital-An artist who is frighteningly successful in every art form he gets his hands on, but he wouldn’t say he really loves do any of them.
Known to many as Gum – a nickname he uses to replace a government name and which also serves as a title for his animation workshop — the 25-year-old Virginia Beach beatmaker has ricocheted effortlessly from gig to gig in recent years, working as an illustrator, video collage artist, college teacher, music producer and DJ. Her charming unpredictability is part of her appeal. “I absolutely do!” he laughs when asked if he has commitment issues. “Don’t even get me started on that.”
As a musician, Dirty Bird’s afrofuturistic approach to dance music honors the vintage rhythms of jazz and funk through the lenses of house, jungle and garage. Sound 2020 Halcyon Palace EP and 2021 time traveler and N—- U 24 It’s time 4 Jazz albums are just a few of the projects that exemplify his idiosyncratic versatility. Dirty Bird’s method of using rare vocal samples to drive dance music melodies led to an output of evocative, introspective, yet thoroughly groove-inducing melodies. “I like to do some weird fucking drum-and-bass-jazz-fusion shit that absolutely won’t play on the radio,” he says. This makes his new project, Wagenmusic — an EP released on July 14 that deviates from its usually esoteric sound into more accessible dance music — all the more surprising.
For fans, the myriad mediums he dabbles in have all advanced his artistry in ways that validate his self-proclaimed god complex. “If there is someone who should having a God complex is him”, corroborates his frequent collaborator Swami Sound.
Twitter friend and event promoter Kiska Kasparov first discovered Dirty Bird in 2018 thanks to high fashion twitter, when he posted a since deleted photo of himself in a pristine white button-up red plaid schoolgirl skirt and chunky black leather ankle boots. Kasparov thought he had a good sense of style and noted that at the time he was only doing studio art as an undergraduate student at New York University. “I remember one day he tweeted, ‘I’m going to make music,’ and he did,” Kasparov recalled on Twitter DM. “You can tell his heart is in everything he does and that makes me want to support him.”
When Kasparov launched his first “cowgirl rave” on July 30 last year, Dirty Bird was the first person they wanted to book. People from across the country who had “met” Dirty Bird through Discord and Twitter flew to Austin just to watch him spin.
It seems to be a running theme that fan support for Dirty Bird doesn’t stop at the web. Everyone who engages with him wants to contribute to his success. Dillon Eldin went from sporadic direct messaging Dirty Bird to photographing him DJing at his media community’s Gumfest events around New York City. The photographer laughs as he admits he was first drawn to the Dirty Bird Twitter personality, knowing full well that’s the last thing the entertainer would want to hear.
What kept Eldin immersed in the community was Dirty Bird’s commitment to sharing knowledge. “Music is by nature educational, [and Dirty Bird is all] about this positive educational mentality,” says Eldin. “Because he was also a teacher, which is also really cool.”
Ironically, Dirty Bird’s artistic career would never have started had it not been for the rescinding of an acceptance letter from Stanford University after he tweeted something he remembers as being from like, “Yo. I just arrived at Stanford. Anyone can suck my dick from behind! I’m a fucking genius. (His old account was suspended after that, so the exact wording is lost to time.) After some scornful school assemblies and anger in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, his hometown, he accepted a NYU offer to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts. in the studio arts.
Dirty Bird learned to produce music during the summer between his junior and senior years in college, but after graduating in 2019 he moved back to Roanoke Rapids and became a civics and education teacher. economics at the local college. During his year-long stay there, he used Twitter to raise enough money to buy supplies and created the school’s first art class. He also served on the city’s arts board before realizing that he would have to sit on the board for three or four years before making any substantial changes.
As a Black Liberationist and ex-activist, Dirty Bird now sees his existence as a self-sufficient artist as a revolutionary act in itself. “I’m learning to achieve small daily victories with my current lifestyle, instead of looking for some sort of defining moment to mark my ‘you did a good thing’ [checkbox],” he says. “Now I do many little things that add up until I can say that I lived a life that was indicative of my beliefs.”
That he uses his platform to share documents on how to hack everything from design software to movies; educate people about dance music black history; Where uplift other black artists, Dirty Bird’s work isn’t just about himself, it’s also about the community around him. Companion Eldia The Dazegxd collective member recalls Dirty Bird sending him a DJ controller as a gift and giving them their first live DJ gig. “[Dirty Bird] is half mentor, half uncle to me,” the 20-year-old says.
While Dirty Bird says music isn’t his whole life, there are few topics that excite him more than when asked about Moodymann, the Detroit house legend Dirty Bird calls his musical hero. “Oh my God. Everything – EVERYTHING I know the music I learned from him,” he gushed. “It will be impossible for me to overstate the impact his work has had on me as a person, both spiritually and creatively.”
Dirty Bird is sitting on Zoom in front of his record player, which hosts a Moodymann vinyl record as we speak. “The most important part of the music listening experience is not when you’re sitting down with your headphones on, but [when] you just think about it,” he adds. “It’s the level of engagement that fascinates me the most, because my biggest revelations about music come when I’m not listening to any music at all.”
With an archival approach to art, a background in activism, and a degree in fine art, it’s no surprise that Dirty Bird believes critical thinking is the most important skill an artist can have. But he insists that you don’t need a degree in theory to practice critical thinking. “[What] I’m talking about is more of an organic thing,” he says. “Ask questions, evaluate answers as you receive them, hold them in conflict with your own lived experience, empathize with others, and consider multiple truths about what is presented to you.”
Dirty Bird is able to identify art in all aspects of life, whether it’s discovering a beat in the rhythm with which he washes the dishes or simple joy in a fortuitous moment. He finds cosmic beauty in the details of life the same way he stumbles upon samples from an old record of a high school jazz band. For him, sampling breathes new life into art. He notes that most of his collection consists of rare records from other countries that he found on eBay or on a website he prefers not to disclose. “You take on so much responsibility when you archive that person’s work,” he says. “It takes on a whole new philanthropic meaning when you consider the socio-economic status of this music and the possibility of digitizing the work or archiving it forever.”
Amplifying the recent buzz around the Swami Sound-led New York Garage stage, Wagenmusic is an accessible, blues-tinged take on garage house and -step. Like the luxury BMW he drives to the beach to escape the isolation of his apartment, Dirty Bird harnesses his relationships with his co-workers as a vehicle to create opportunity and find adventure. Just a few months ago, Dirty Bird and Swami Sound were plotting to secure international bookings, securing slots on the Montreal and Lisbon club stages.
He also sees this as part of his passion for education. “I love DJing with [Swami Sound and Dazegxd] because they know more about certain music than I do and I respect them for that,” says Dirty Bird. “It’s something that’s not common in my work experience. I heard many of my favorite songs because of them.