By Corinne Osnos | September 17, 2022
New York-based artist Samuellimàta’s first show ever with a band was in front of 2,000 people, playing at global hip-hop festival Flight Night at Sony Hall. “There are people who have been playing for 10 years who haven’t been able to perform in front of a crowd that big,” he told the groovement.
We caught up with Sam in between soundchecks before a more intimate show at The Sultan Room in September. “A huge venue with a festival set up, you know the sound is going to be shit, so I just want to bring as much energy as I can.” So what was his approach to tonight’s show? “A small show like this, I want to focus on sounding the best I can. In a setting like this, you can actually have control of the crowd.”
Taking over as the show’s headliner after a last minute cancellation, Sam took the stage at The Sultan Room wearing blue and white checkered pants and a t-shirt featuring the cover art for his single “Spelled Backwards.”
Sam interspersed two covers, Steve Lacy’s “Bad Habit” and Kid Cudi’s “Erase Me” into his set. He wanted the crowd to sing along, and he wasn’t so sure they’d know his songs. And yet, the crowd at Sultan Room had plenty of fans present–fans who sang along to popular tracks like “BLOW” and “Sunrise, I Can Feel Your Eyes,” started a mini mosh pit midway through the set, and even joined him on stage to twerk. The crowd was given a taste of Sam’s new music, including the high energy track “Drunk, High, and Lonely.” The song and video, out soon, will be accompanied by a music video shot at Lower East Side hotspot, Ray’s.
A self-described huge Kid Cudi fan, Sam defines his music as genre-fluid, with a mix of indie rock, soul, hip-hop and a little taste of R&B. You may recognize Sam from his feature on Kota the friend’s single, “MEMO,” released earlier this year. Born and raised in Queens, you can feel the New York influence on his sound. He recalls attending shows all over the city from a young age, even hanging out backstage of Terminal 5 with Cold War Kids when he was just getting started and thinking, “One day I’ll play at T5.” (His brother, also a musician, toured with the group back in the 2010s.)
With a signed record deal for three songs (you heard it here first) and a Eurotour on the horizon, that day may be here sooner rather than later.
We caught up with Sam after soundcheck where he answered some questions for the groovement:
What was the first concert that you went to?
The first show I paid to go see was Kanye West’s Graduation tour with N.E.R.D. at Madison Square Garden was the first concert I ever went to. Huge Kanye fan.
How did you first get started?
I remember being super young, and my brother was in a hip-hop band. That inspired me. I also grew up super, super religious, and I played drums in the church youth band.
How would you describe your music, either by genre or general vibe?
A lot of stream of consciousness vibes, I wouldn’t put it in a singular genre. I produce most of my own music too and a lot of inspiration from hip-hop. But the more I progressed as an artist, I got interested in rock and instrumentation, and the more I worked with different producers, it really made me fall in love with the musical elements, more so than just singing melodies over a beat. So I’d say it’s a mix of indie rock, soul, hip-hop with a little taste of R&B. Genre-fluid for sure. My early stuff was definitely more hip-hop focused, and you know, you are what you eat or listen to. I’m blasting Kanye all day, Lupe Fiasco, A Tribe Called Quest, so of course the music I’m going to be vibing with and spinning out is going to be that.
How did Covid change your listening habits?
I listened to a lot of soul music during Covid. A lot of Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, I went on a little James Brown kick. A ton of Van Morrison too.
What’s your dream venue to perform at?
Terminal 5. Just because some of my best experiences with live music as a kid were at Terminal 5. My 3rd, 4th, and 5th shows were all this band called Cold War Kids. Because my brother was roommates with the drummer of Cold War Kids at the time, and my brother was touring and playing shows with them as a hip-hop act right before they got signed to Downtown Records. I remember going backstage and chilling with Cold War kids and thinking, “One day I’ll play at T5.” And I’m such a New Yorker, Terminal 5 growing up is like a classic venue.
What’s your favorite city to tour?
To be honest, I’ve only played in New York. But New York is the best city in the world. I’d love to tour in Europe, Amsterdam, Paris…my manager’s working on that right now.
Doing a whole lot of nothing. Acting like I have a million things to do, but I really don’t, and just a lot of pacing and making tentative plans like going to the gym, playing basketball, seeing a friend. And then I don’t do any of those things because of the excuse that I have a show.
Honestly getting a nice late night meal, some Chinese food at like 1 or 2 a.m. I don’t really drink too much so I’m not gonna get drunk, maybe I’ll take a little mushroom chocolate, smoke a little weed. And honestly just talk to the people who were there. I want to be the best I can be so asking people that I trust their opinion, “Hey what could I do better?”
Are there any fellow up and coming artists you want to shout out?
Ken Kash, Ernest Brockenberry, Simba … so many.
What’s next for you?
Low key, I just got a mini record deal for three songs. So the next song I’m releasing is called “Drunk, High, and Lonely.” I’ve never had support beyond friends and family, so I want to see what it’s like to have actual industry support. I’m going to release the song and the crazy video I made and just see what happens.
📸: shot by Kris Julien