UMI is Listening to Erykah Badu, Billie Holiday, and Herself

Photos by Eddie Mandell.

This is “Add to Queue,” our attempt to sort through the cacophony of music floating in the algorithmic atmosphere by consulting the experts themselves. Our favorite musicians tell us about their favorite music—the sad, the happy, the dinner party-y, the songs they want played at their funeral. In this edition, we speak with UMI, who recently released her latest project Introspection Reimagined. From Erykah Badu to Beyoncé, UMI shares what’s on her playlist. 


UMI: Hi, Juliana. This is UMI.


UMI: Good. I love spring. It was just the spring equinox, which is astrologically a new year. So I feel like I’ve been going through a whole new blossoming in my life recently.

UKIOMOGBE: Oh, totally. I feel the same way.

UMI: Congratulations to us!

UKIOMOGBE: Absolutely! So to start off, tell me about your latest project.

UMI: This next project is called Introspection Reimagined and it is a reimagined interpretation of my last EP Introspection. With this project, I really wanted to explore the malleability of music. One thing I noticed in the industry is that there’s a quick turnover in terms of “make a project, drop another project, drop another project.” Personally, I felt like I didn’t get to sit with my last EP long enough. I didn’t get to tour with it and see it in a new light.

So this reimagined project is recorded top to bottom live. It’s inspired by artists like D’Angelo and Erykah Badu in terms of its arrangement and instrumentation. My overarching intention for this is for it to be something that can bring a lot of peace and healing for people.

UKIOMOGBE: Speaking about D’Angelo and Badu, did you listen to any other artists while making this project?

UMI: Yes, there’s so many. I would say I was really inspired by D’Angelo’s Voodoo album, especially “Feel Like Makin’ Love.” I listen to a lot of Erykah Badu, especially “Green Eyes” and “Orange Moon.” My song “Pretty Girl hi!” was inspired by the arrangements for those. And then there’s this group called SAULT that is so soulful. There’s this song called “Masterpiece” that was really inspiring. Also, “Rose in the Dark” and “When I’m in Your Arms” by Cleo Sol were two songs that I was really inspired by when creating.

UKIOMOGBE: What was the last song you listened to?

UMI: Ooh, let’s think. Last night I was painting with my friends, so I was listening to lots of music. I was listening to Lauryn Hill’s MTV Unplugged album and the songs called “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind” and “Just Like Water.”

UKIOMOGBE: Who was the earliest musician to influence you?

UMI: In my childhood, my dad listened to a lot of Sade. I was really inspired by her. I listened to her projects so much. “By Your Side.” My dad would play that on repeat while we would do barbecues and stuff. The simplicity in her arrangements has always inspired me. [pause] Oh, it’s 11:11 over here.

UKIOMOGBE: Oh, is it?

UMI: Wishing for abundance. Wishing for ease. Wishing for joy this week.

UKIOMOGBE: Yes. Always.

UMI: Always for the both of us.

UKIOMOGBE: Thank you! Do you have a favorite movie soundtrack?

UMI: Off the top of my head, I really like the Roll Bounce soundtrack. It’s just fun. My favorite song off of that is “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers.

UKIOMOGBE: Do you have an artist that you listen to that people would be surprised to know about?

UMI: Well, there is this artist. She doesn’t have a name. Her name is (((0))) and I love her music. Her whole approach to music is so unique. The fact that she doesn’t have an artist’s name, and her whole intention for that is “I just want to be a sound. I just want to be a spirit, not a person.” It’s really powerful. She has a song called “Nature’s Joint” that is magical. I wish for more people to hear her music. It’s very ambient R&B.

UKIOMOGBE: Do you have a song that always puts you in a good mood without fail?

UMI: “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers. It’s such a great song.

UKIOMOGBE: Do you remember what your first favorite song was?

UMI: “We Belong Together” by Mariah Carey. She does this high part at the end and I was just in love with that section of the song. Also, “Stand By Me” and “Lean On Me” because those are the first two songs I learned on the guitar.

UKIOMOGBE: Do you have a favorite music video of all time?

UMI: “Can’t Believe the Way We Flow” by James Blake. The music video is crazy. It’s a trip when you watch it.

UKIOMOGBE: If you were to have dinner with four artists, who would they be?

UMI: Beyoncé, Erykah Badu, Andre 3000, and Frank Ocean.

UKIOMOGBE: That would be a very deep conversation.

UMI: Exactly. I want to ask them so many questions.

UKIOMOGBE: What would you put on your dinner party playlist?

UMI: Oh my gosh. That is a good question because I actually have an eating playlist and it’s all jazz music. Something about jazz music makes the food hit different. There’d be some Billie Holiday on there. There’s a song called “Open the Door” by Betty Carter that’s so good.

UKIOMOGBE: What’s your go-to breakup song?

UMI: I say this with no ego, but my own song “Remember Me” has helped me through my own breakup. So I always go back to that and I recommend it to friends.

UKIOMOGBE: What would you put on your high playlist?

UMI: That’s a good question. I would actually put the (((0))) person on my playlist. I love Steve Lacy and Raveena.

UKIOMOGBE: What song would you use to describe your aura?

UMI: That’s a great question. “Eternal Sunshine” by Jhene Aiko. The energy and peace in that song is definitely my energy.

UKIOMOGBE: Do you have any songs that keep you centered?

UMI: Frequency music can be really peaceful for me. There’s this one song called “Peaceful Garden” by Annie Jameson. It’s sound bowls and nature sounds. I always put that on.

UKIOMOGBE: As you mentioned earlier, we’ve just begun a new astrological year. If you could make a playlist for Aries season, what would you put on there?

UMI: Ooh, you know what’s crazy? I actually have an Aries playlist, so I’m going to pull it up. There’s a song called “Forfeit” by Kiana Ledé that just has bad girl energy. I feel like my own song “Bet” has that Aries energy. “Tryna Smoke” by Jhene Aiko and “Nakamarra” by Hiatus Kaiyote.

UKIOMOGBE: Amazing playlist for Aries season! Do you have a favorite karaoke song?

UMI: Oh yeah. “Love” by Keyshia Cole.

UKIOMOGBE: I can belt that song like nobody’s business.

UMI: Oh my gosh, you have to belt it, and the little run at the end is so fun.


UMI: So good.

UKIOMOGBE: What song would you use to describe 2021?

UMI: “Party” by Beyoncé. I’m calling in so much fun this year. Fun is my mantra, so that song feels like that.


Listen to UMI’s “Add To Queue” playlist below, and follow Interview on Spotify for more.