An Interview With Seafood Sam

Will Hagle speaks to the Long Beach rapper about making his upcoming album on the shoulders of Bobby Brown, Miles Davis and James Brown, being a futuristic artifact and more.
By    February 28, 2024
Credit: Jack McKain

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Will Hagle is writing a screenplay about a guy who goes to the bank and takes out a $500K loan so that he can pay to have expensive features on his terrible rap album.

For a relatively small city, Long Beach is a familiar setting. Whether it’s Sublime, The Dove Shack, or Vince Staples singing about summertime, an eclectic slate of artists have depicted the LBC in hyper-specific detail. For Seafood Sam, his hometown’s unique blend of concrete grittiness and breezy seaside chill presented a blank canvas of infinite possibility. He could get into whatever he wanted. One of his brothers went the gangbanging route. The other was a nerd. Seafood Sam focused on music and creating something in between those two extremes.

The artistic legacy of Long Beach didn’t escape him. Tha Dogg Pound also came up around the Carmelitos, the north Long Beach housing project where Seafood Sam’s family lived. In the “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” video, with the LBC logo proudly displayed on his shirt, Snoop put the city on the map. Sam’s favorite singer of all time is Nate Dogg, and he will convincingly argue against any alternative.

Despite that lineage, Seafood Sam worshiped Lil Bow Wow the most as a kid. He was always drawn toward upbeat, fun pop music with mass appeal (and besides, Snoop did put on Shad Moss). In the house, his brothers and sisters exposed him to a wide variety of genres from Ciara to Nelly Furtado. When describing his artistic ambitions now, he mentions Bruno Mars and Adele. He doesn’t just want to be a Long Beach rapper; he wants to be a superstar.

It’s a lofty goal for a laid-back, subdued vocalist whose stylistic analogues are closer to underground legends like Larry June and Curren$y than the aforementioned megastars. In fact, he wants to be “the mainstream Curren$y.” So far, his growth has been explosive. In 2018, Sam offhandedly learned how to make beats during some studio downtime. Shortly thereafter he chopped up a soul sample and rapped over what became “Ramsey.” Despite dropping it without a second thought, it’s currently at 11 million streams on Spotify and counting. The song’s unexpected virality continues today, and led to Sam’s deal with drink sum wtr.

His forthcoming debut album for the label, Standing on Giant Shoulders, is the latest step in Seafood Sam’s quest for music immortality. Whereas Sam’s earlier projects favor traditionally-crafted beats from soul and funk samples, Standing on Giant Shoulders consists entirely of live instrumentation.

In the studio, Sam helped Tom Kendall from the band Soular System craft sweeping, orchestral and all-original arrangements. Drummers, bassists, guitarists, and even harpists from the Soular System roster performed the parts, and Sam and Tom shaped them into their final form. Compared to Sam’s earlier work, the songs are lush and full. Sam tells me that the most important aspect of artistry to him, is “the process of making.” The meticulous craftwork that went into making Standing on Giant Shoulders is evident. Sam isn’t rapping over loops, his voice is one of many instruments in the world’s smoothest, coolest ensemble.

Sam’s vocals tend toward the monotone. He raps like he’s playing bass, gliding along in the lower register, locked into the groove. What his voice lacks in melodic range, he makes up for with his ear. Almost every track on Standing on Giant Shoulders, and much of Sam’s previous work, features a sung hook. While other rappers of his ilk are eschewing drums and hooks in favor of barring out to exhaustion over soul loops, he’s barring out between choruses over original live soul and funk, full drum set and all. He constructs songs in a more conventional verse-chorus-verse-chorus style, as if he wants his music to get stuck in people’s heads the way John Mayer did his in middle school.

Seafood Sam craves pop superstardom, and he believes if it were 1994 he would have already ascended to those heights. He still dresses and raps like the hip-hop that raised him never went out of style, because he knows that music and fashion come in cycles. He calls himself a “futuristic artifact,” meaning he’s ahead of the curve for 90s trends to come back. If they don’t, he’ll maintain, and the world will catch back up to him, or not. As he puts it, Seafood Sam is like Ma$e or Curren$y or Nate Dogg: “Just cool.” Being cool never goes out of style.

Can you give me the brief overview of your childhood, growing up in Long Beach?

Seafood Sam: Like I always say, Long Beach was a real cool place for me growing up. It was perfect. A lot of people throw that negative stuff around. Like “Oh, it’s full of this.” Or “You couldn’t go over here.” It wasn’t like that for me. It’s not like that for a lot of people. In Long Beach, whatever you decide to get into is what you’ll be surrounded by. If you get into the negativity stuff, then that’s what you’re gonna be surrounded by. If you’re into surfing, you’re just going to know of all the surfing stuff. So, I was always just into music and kicking it. I don’t have have none of the negative things that some people try to put on their city to make it sound tougher or nothing like that. It was beautiful. Beautiful childhood.

As an outsider, Long Beach feels like a bigger city. And it’s also in LA County. So you’ve got the mix of the city grittiness and then also the beach. So it makes sense you could get into whatever you want to.

Seafood Sam: Exactly. So I try to tell people that when they be like, “Oh was it hard growing up around here?” I’m like, Yo, literally if you want to get in a negative life you could, and then you would out of nowhere see it everywhere. Like “Oh dang, we can’t go here, we can’t do this.” But if you’re not worried about that, if you’re thinking about something else, then you would never even notice it was there. You could just be like, “I’m just going to the beach all the time. We eat right here all the time, I didn’t know it was a problem” Because you not worried about it. It’s really whatever you want, it’ll come.

Long Beach obviously has so many famous and popular artists who have come out of there. Were you aware of that music legacy growing up?

Seafood Sam: Oh yes. Yes. I stayed in this projects on the north side called the Carmelitos. Snoop and Daz and all Tha Dogg Pound, they used to be in there. In one of the lots. Lot 13. So everybody was following and watching the talent. Everybody somewhere got a cousin or auntie related to Snoop somehow. Everybody saw it. Everybody was like “Dang, look at that. That’s big Unc. Killin it.”

Were they the first people in terms of hip-hop to come out of Long Beach?

Seafood Sam: I want to say yeah. I’m pretty sure. I could be wrong. There could be somebody a little bit older or something like that. But I know for sure it was what for sure put it on the map. Once he said “Compton and Long Beach together now you know you’re in trouble,” stuff like that, it was just like… Boom. Made it a huge thing. And he got the LBC hat on in the videos and stuff. Him, Nate Dogg, Warren G, they just brought it way bigger.

I was gonna ask if you were a fan of Nate Dogg, because I feel like a lot of your songs have that kind of melody, sung hook, mixed in with the rapping.

Seafood Sam: Hell yeah. I got in trouble once with a couple of friends because we were debating our greatest singers of all time. Somebody was like “Michael Jackson.” Then I was like, “I got Nate Dogg.” They were so mad at me for picking Nate Dogg, but I’m like, “What?” Don’t get me wrong, Michael Jackson is the greatest entertainer of all times. But I just grew up on Nate Dogg. I love his music.

Then as a joke I was like, “And besides, picture Michael Jackson singing one of Nate Dogg’s songs. It probably wouldn’t be that good. I know he can make it good, but it’d probably be so different. But picture Nate Dogg singing ‘P.Y.T.’ or ‘Human Nature.’ It would have been perfect.

[singing like Nate Dogg: “I want to loooove you.”]

Like his voice is perfect. It was just a funny little dispute we had. They were like “I never realized, he is tight though.” And I’m like, “Yeah, he’s one of the best to me.”

That’s hilarious and very true. He is a good singer, but even if it’s not perfect singing, it’s his attitude that makes it better.

Seafood Sam: Exactly. You get it. That’s exactly what I was saying. It’s just something about him. It’s just cooler. He’s just… cool. I don’t know. But I love Nate Dogg. I got a tattoo of his character on my knee. On my leg.

I feel like too, talking about your music… The smoothness or the coolness, and how you definitely have production that’s groove-oriented. But I heard a reference to Joey Jordison from Slipknot on one song [“Can’t Take The Hood to Heaven”], and some other references to harder music. Were you listening to that stuff growing up? Or were you listening to everything?

Seafood Sam: My household growing up, we had so many people in there. It was five brothers and sisters. And with my mom, we could all take turns listening to what we have to clean up to or different things like that. My mom could be playing some oldies. Teena Marie. Then my sister’d play Ciara. “Goodies,” or something. Then my brother Marquis, he’s kinda the nerdier one, he’d play Nelly Furtado or Maroon 5 or something like that. Then my other brother, who’s more like the gangbanging brother, he would play Bone Thugs N Harmony. Then when it’s my turn, I get to play Lil Bow Wow or J-Kwon or something like that. Then baby sister, she can throw on whatever she like.

With hearing all this different music, after a while, I start thinking, “Damn, I like that! I like that.” I was going to middle school, or high school, I forgot which one, I was going there singing John Mayer. Knowing all the words. And people look at me: “How you know this?” I’m like, “I don’t know. My whole family bump this when we’re cleaning up.” We would just clean up to this on Sunday.

So music was an overload from everywhere. That’s why you hear Joey Jordison, Slipknot. I said “Devil trying to slip me the tool,” so I use Joey Jordison. But that’s where all my inspiration comes from. One day it could be Suga Free, the next day it could be Gwen Stefani. I’m everywhere. I’m everywhere with it. I listen to all music.

Where are you in the sequence of your brothers and sisters?

Seafood Sam: Smack dead in the middle. Two brothers above me, two sisters under me. I had a little brother but he passed away when he was 8 and I was like 12. That was way back in the day. So growing up, two and two. I’m in the middle.

That’s interesting you were in the middle. But got your music from all directions. Usually it’s the older siblings that tend to pass music down to the younger kids who then have a broader scope of what they listen to.

Seafood Sam: Exactly. With me it was fortunate… Or it was unfortunate he was in the streets and stuff, but that’s the thing with my brothers. I got one brother who’s literally in the streets and one brother who graduated from UC-Santa Barbara with a Master’s. Playing Rugby. Water Polo. So it’s two totally different spectrums. But they’re both my mom’s kids. Both my brothers. So it’s like, “You get to play something, you get to play something.” Everybody get respect on what they’re playing and we just gotta listen to it.

That goes back to what you were saying about Long Beach. You can go in whatever direction you want because there’s a lot of influences coming in.

Seafood Sam: That’s it, yep. My brother chose that route. My other brother, the nerdy one—or you know, the more class guy one—he was skateboarding before skateboarding was a thing in Long Beach. He used to skate with Terry Kennedy from Ice Cream. They used to push him around like “You doing that nerd stuff!” He had a Spitfire shirt on in his class picture. Before it was a thing. He just was on different stuff. But that allowed me to be like “Oh that’s cool,” and like what I like from there. Then my brother in the street’s stuff, I take what I like from there. Then I got Seafood Sam, and I just went my own direction.

Did you have a specific direction, like you say your brother was a nerd and your other brother was in the streets. How did you consider yourself? Just in the middle?

Seafood Sam: Yeah I’m literally in between them. My one brother’s too extra. What I mean by that is he’s so street that at some times he can’t even just enjoy a regular outing. He’s like “Who’s staring at me?” Or this or this or this. He kind of just on edge all the time. My other brother, he’s just out the way. He likes what he likes. He don’t care if the world likes what he likes. He walked around in his rugby shirt with his rugby shorts, looking crazy. But he don’t care what nobody says. He’d wear these little shorts from rugby but he’s hopping out of a Tesla. So he’s like, “I don’t care what nobody perceives of me. I got a three story house.”

So I just pick up little things from both of them. I can pick up from my brother not to be the nerdy one, but just take how he don’t care what nobody feel about him. He just cares about what he likes. Then I can take from my brother, just the persona of when you step in, this my room. I don’t care. This me. Kind of the take over edge, I just don’t do it in a negative way. Not negative, but you know what I’m saying? I just don’t do it like that. In rapping, I turn into my brother real quick. Rapping. On the mic, boom, what’s up? I can go. So all my family, I take a little bit from everybody.

Yeah, it sounds like everyone was true to themselves which comes across in your music as well. Your music is in between hip-hop, R&B, funk, and a lot of different genres. I’ve heard you use the term “futuristic artifact.” So I wanted to ask if you feel like there’s something nostalgic or throwback about you?

Seafood Sam: Yes. I feel like if this was 1994, I would have took over. I just feel like I’m cut from that era. Like Shyheim, Redman, Method Man. The whole Onyx, Naughty By Nature. That’s just where I come from.

I actually seen an interview, and I believe it was Lyor Cohen, and he said “If you cut me, what do you think gonna happen?” I think he was talking to N.O.R.E. And N.O.R.E. was like, “You’ll bleed blood” and he was like “No. If you cut me, I’ll bleed KRS. I’ll bleed Rakim.” He was like, that’s how hip-hop he is. It’s kind of the same thing with me. You cut me, you gonna get old Wu Tang, old Snoop. You gonna get Al Green, Miles Davis. I’m everywhere with it.

That’s why I say the futuristic artifact. Because everything goes in a circle. And everything comes back. But I’m ahead of the curve because they’re not on it yet, but the old heads will be like “Hey man, he’s kinda doing what Special Ed did,” or “Hey that’s kind of something so and so did.” So they will be able to connect the dots. But to the new age, they’ll be like, “That’s kinda tight, he’s wearing his clothes backwards.” It’s like, I’m paying homage to Kriss Kross. But the new kids wouldn’t know that. So it’s like, “futuristic artifact.” I’ma never let go of hip-hop. I’ma never let them go. I may do a Big Pun like reference video, or I may do a Big Daddy Kane like reference video. I’ma always keep it there somehow some way. It’s gonna be some type of reference back or homage paid or something. That’s just me.

I like on “Saylo” how you call yourself the new Ma$e. That’s another underrated artist people don’t talk about as much anymore.

Seafood Sam: He’s smooth and cool. I tell my friends in my head there’s not a lot of just cool artists. Like people who just cool. No opps. No nothing. They just cool. They just make cool good music. That’s one of them. Miles Davis. LL Cool J. These are people that were just cool. They’re just… cool. That whole element is not here no more.

So it’s like, Seafood the new Ma$e. I’m just cool, man. If you go listen to any interview on Ma$e, they’ll be like, “Man he was just cool. He just came out so smooth and cool.” They have nothing else to say but cool and smooth. That’s it.

I don’t got no opps. I don’t got no jail stories. I don’t got none of that. I just got some cool smooth shit for you.

I don’t know if you’ve put any thought into this. But your delivery is cool and smooth. That’s the best way to describe it. When you were younger, did you ever make hyped up songs or anything like that? Did it take you a while to find that smooth coolness or is it just natural?

Seafood Sam: If we can go back to when I first started making music, like 2013 or something, or around there, you’ll see that I was trying to make songs that fit in whatever time it was. If I showed you the songs that I wasn’t putting out, it was what I’m on now. It was just the knowledge of not knowing at the time, just do you. Just do exactly what you want to do.

But at the time, let’s say Tyga was popping at the time. Then you may find a song of me trying to rap like [rapping like Tyga: “Uh, yeah”]

Not dissing him or nothing, but just saying I was trying to rap with his voice tone and how he say words because it was hot. It was catching. Lil Wayne’s fire then I’m like “Okay, this might be the way.” Then it’d be like, “Oh we on some jerkin music. We gotta make some jerkin music.” It’s like, “That’s the wave? Okay.” I got a jerk song out there where I’m like, “In the club and I’m turnt up, something something.” It was just that.

But I always had my stuff in the cut all the time. I’d play it for people and they’d be like “Nah this is it. This is hard.” Then after a while it’s just like, alright. Then that’s when I dropped “Ramsey.”

That song kind of blew up, right? What was that experience like?

Seafood Sam: It was cool. The homie Jay had just bought a studio near the Citadel out here. It was his first time getting in the studio, setting it up and stuff. We all used to record in his closet. In the room. He moved over there. We went, and they left to go do something and I just started learning from my homie [not sure what name he said] how to make beats. Not even make them, but just chop up samples and loops and stuff.

When they went out to go get food or whatever they did, I was just like, “Let me just chop up something real quick.” I just chopped it up, boom boom boom boom boom. I was like, “Dang, this one actually sounding good.” Then by the time they came back, one of my friends was like “This beat hard, you bout to rap on this?” I was like, “…Yeah. Yeah yeah yeah.” I told Jay to record me then I just rapped it and told him send it to me, and that was it.

I put it out and then the shit just did what it did. I had no clue or nothing. I just literally made it, recorded it and dropped it. I didn’t think nothing of it. People to this day still hit me like, “Yo I just came across Ramsey. Bro this is so good.” I’m like, “Whoa. That’s crazy.”

Aside from that song, how much do you produce your own beats?

Seafood Sam: Honestly, that was the only one. Then I would try to work on little beats here and there. Just try to make some. But I don’t really make beats.

The most I did was on my album Standing on Giant Shoulders, I helped Tom arrange the beats. I’m more hands on with the whole process of how it was created on this album. I’m like, “Hey take this out. Can we put some hi-hats right here? This would be hard right here with some strings on this intro.” Then Tom just went “Yeah yeah yeah, that’s cool. Alright.” Then he’ll do it. And I’m like, “Yeah, that’s tight.” Then he’ll do it properly. Then it’s done.

But I will tell him my ideas. He’ll start on a foundation. Like boom clap, boom clap. And I’ll be like, “Okay, yeah, give me some strings around this part. And before the hook, can you make it grand and then have the beat stop? Then I’m gonna go right there.” And then we’ll just do it. Boop boop boop boop boop. And it’s done.

So technically, I didn’t make the beats. But I helped the beats come alive. I’m good at arranging beats, and how we should structure them. As far as playing the instruments and stuff, I can’t do that yet.

Are you going to at some point?

Seafood Sam: Definitely. I want to learn an instrument. I’m just debating which one. It’s in between bass and piano. I don’t know if I got the lungs for a saxophone. I don’t think I’d be good at that.

Bass would be crazy.

Seafood Sam: Yeah, you feel me? You get the stink face. I think I could do that. I’m already in that pocket too. My boy Tom told me, when I rap, I’m mainly competing with the bass line. I was like “What?” He was like, “You’re always battling the bass line.” I never noticed it. But he was like “You do.” You’re fighting the bass line.

That’s the style of Curren$y or someone like Roc Marciano who people will say has a monotone voice. But really what it is is like a bass. I didn’t even think about competing with the bass.

Seafood Sam: It’s crazy you just named two of my favorite artists. Curren$y is my all time favorite. I want to be the Curren$y on the radio. Mainstream Curren$y.

Another smooth cool guy.

Seafood Sam: Mmhmm. You hit it right on the head. That’s another cool smooth guy. He don’t got no opps. He don’t got no beefs. You don’t hear about none of that stuff. You just hear the cool stuff he like to do. Cars. Weed. Hanging out. Money. It’s the same thing, but he spit em so well in different ways. And he wasn’t tripping off going mainstream. He just was cool on his fan base and moving like he do. That’s why I’m like, I want to take that to the mainstream though. Like, an overall goal.

Is the new album all live instrumentation?

Seafood Sam: Yeah. All live instruments. No samples at all.

Wow. There’s a part where someone comes in asking “where’s the funk?” Which is a great little part. But I was thinking of James Brown, when you’re talking about directing the band. That’s what he used to do really well, leading the band in different directions. Then you’re doing that in the studio.

Seafood Sam: I just want to say, your ear and the way you connect things is perfect, bro. I just want to tell you that right now. You’re hitting things right on the head. Going into creating Standing on Giant Shoulders, I literally had three people in mind. That’s why it’s called Standing on Giant Shoulders. It was three people I had in mind. Bobby Brown. Miles Davis. James Brown.

That’s why it’s called Standing on Giant Shoulders, because I made this album on their shoulders. I was standing on their shoulders. Kind of like they were telling me, like, “Nah, do it like this. Do it like this.” It’s like, they were my spirit guides for it. Not even musically, but just off of how they control their setting.

Bobby Brown, when he came out: “It’s my time. It’s my prerogative. It’s me. I don’t even care about the whole group I was just with. It’s just me.” That was his thing.

Miles Davis: “I’m not even talking. When I come in, I’m just picking up, and I’m going.”

Then James Brown, I heard him have so much control of his settings. On top of it, he will fire you if you miss a hi-hat or snare. If you missed it during the second song, but ya’ll played an hour and forty five minutes, and you’re thinking everything good, and he’s like “Yo, what happened on song two, you missed that.” And you’re like “What? How did you? It was a hi-hat” “No. I know.” It’s like, I’m on it that much.

That’s literally where it came from. So when you just said James Brown, I’m like “Whoa, you’re good at this.” Because that’s literally who I was thinking about.

Are you that obsessive too in the recording process?

Seafood Sam: No, but I want to be there. That’s why I made this album like this. I was trying to get more hands on. The next one, I’ll probably be more James Brown. Because now I know that my ideas is great. This was the first one. Now it’s like, now I am James Brown. Not in a disrespectful way. Just like, now I really feel like “Oh, yeah. Let’s go.”

Standing next to the giants rather than on their shoulders.

Seafood Sam: Exactly. But right now, I just need their help.

Did you grow up listening to The Roots or Black Thought at all? Just because of the live instrumentation stuff, and how they drew from all different sorts of inspiration and put it into a live hip-hop thing that was also something new.

Seafood Sam: Yeah, I’m gonna be real with you. I caught onto that a little bit later. I started to catch on to it. Whenever something get introduced to me, I don’t shun it or be like “Nah, that’s wack.” I’ll be like “What? Oh, what’s this?” And then I dig deeper.

With The Roots, I probably didn’t know I was listening to The Roots, but I was listening to everything The Roots probably produced or did something on. If they worked with Erykah Badu or D’Angelo or somebody. Whatever they was on, Questlove probably played on something. But I didn’t know that that was him. I wasn’t that deep into it.

When I first started this stuff, it was Lil Bow Wow or nothing. Lil Bow Wow. The little guy running through the school? If it wasn’t him, I didn’t care.

I think we’re around the same age, and I used to love Lil Bow Wow too. I had that CD playing non-stop.

Seafood Sam: That’s it, bro. He was the GOAT for me. That was the end all be all. Lil Bow Wow. Not when he became Bow Wow. I was already disconnected. But Like Mike and down, you can’t tell me nothing about that guy. At all. He was the best.

I’m watching everything, I’m mimicking. I’m trying to get braids. This the guy.

Sometimes I feel like people be lying, just to make their story sound more crazy. Like “Oh yeah, I was on J Dilla and f*cking MF DOOM as a kid.” It’s like, no you wasn’t bro. Some was. I can’t lie. Some people was, because they had that big brother or that sibling or that homie who shared it. Because that’s how I got put on to MF DOOM, through one of my homies who was in that world. His dad showed him. So it is possible. But I know some people try to alter their answers, just because it’s like, “I can’t say I was coming up listening to Lil Bow Wow. I gotta say I was coming up on Young Jeezy.” And it’s like, “Nah.” If it didn’t happen like that, don’t lie to kick it. Mine was Lil Bow Wow. Black Thought and The Roots? That was above my IQ at the time.

I just looked up Lil Bow Wow because I was trying to remember something. The Beware of Dog album has Jagged Edge, Jermaine Dupri. Were you into Jagged Edge? Because there was an era where R&B was super popular, and that’s faded away or changed.

Seafood Sam: I’m one of the biggest R&B consumers. Sometimes people ask me to curate playlists or different things like that. I be like dang, I feel bad, because when I started it’d be all R&B. Like I be saying “Dang, God knew not to let me know how to sing because it would have been over.” Because I’m really R&B. I’m not really R&B but I just love R&B so much. I love it. From Sammie to SWV, just all across the board. I love R&B. I play it out. Jodeci. I’m a big DeVante Swing fan. He wrote and produced everything for K-Ci and JoJo and Jodeci and them. Big fan of him. All the K-Ci and JoJo stuff you heard, that was Davante Swing.

He had a little bit of problem towards the end. He was a bit of a crazy guy, they say. But musical talent. He found Ginuwine. Missy Elliot. He found a bunch of people. He’s one of them.

But that just goes to show you how much I love R&B. I love the R&B Money Podcast which is a podcast between Tank and Jay Valentine. I watch every episode. I love R&B.

You do sing, too, right?

Seafood Sam: No, I do not sing. I write.

Okay because there’s a couple uncredited songs on the new album where people are singing hooks. So I was wondering if that was you or someone else?

Seafood Sam: Oh no no no no no. I’m glad you said that, too. Because previously some publications have accidentally put out there and made it seem like I was the one doing it all. But I do want to make it clear that no. Before creating this album, I linked up with my boy Tom Kendall. Tom Kendall has a band out here in Long Beach called Soular System. Super dope.

I was speaking with my boy D and we was chopping up and I’m like, “Damn, I gotta come up with something crazy.” I had worked with them previously, and the homie was like “You should work with Tom and them and do some crazy stuff, like some real music.” I’m like “Yeah, I’ma do that.”

So that’s when I called him in. Then we started working on the album. I’m like, “Well basically it could be a collaboratory album between me and your band.” It’s only like two or three outside instruments. But other than that, the whole band that’s playing is from Soular System. The singer’s from Soular System. Tom’s from Soular System. But there’s like two or three other pieces that came in. Like Kelsey from Free Nationals, he’s on the bass on a couple of songs. J Mo, who toured with Prince and did a lot of big stuff, he played guitar on two tracks. Those are the two extras that got called in. But other than that, the heart is Gracie from Soular System. Brian’s on the flute from Soular System. We literally used everybody in Tom’s group.

But me and him worked on producing it. Then we called them in to play the strings to make it real.

That’s what I was going to ask — did they give you beats? Or did you build it up from a structure in the studio with Tom?

Seafood Sam: Me and Tom will build it up. But it’s like, we will build it digitally. Like from the MPC. He knows how to play every instrument, but he’s a God on the drums. He could play the other instruments okay, so he could at least give a reference. So then when he called in his band members to play what we came up with, they can do it. Either some of them had did just exactly what we said, or some of them—like Gracie, who played a harp—we kind of just were like, “We want harp. We need harp on this one.” And she kind of just did her thing. We didnt’ really tell her what to do or how to do it.

But like on a different song, the bass line is already there, but we got the bass playing from the computer. So we just got a bass player to add a little stank on it. But it’s the same thing.

So it’s literally me and Tom building it, and [not sure what name he said] was there, too on some of them. But we’re building it, and then Soular System play it, and then that’s it.

Do you think you’ll keep going in that direction or switch it up next project? Or is it up in the air?

Seafood Sam: It’s really up in the air. I’m just going wherever the music pulls me. I get a lot of Curren$y, Alchemist, Larry June. I get a lot of people telling me I belong perfectly over there. Like, “That’s your world over there. You’ll kill it over there. That’s your lane.”

It’s trying to make something where I still represent that, but I can be in a whole nother lane. I’m trying to be on a Bruno Mars, Adele, Anderson .Paak lane. Where it’s like, “Whoa. Dang. He over there?”

For the next sound, I don’t know. I might go back to just rapping over a couple little sample beats. Some real cool, smooth, like Roc Marciano spit it. Just glide over it. It might be on that. Or I might go crazy. I might drop a house record. Album, actually. Who knows. My mind’s so everywhere that I could watch a Sid Vicious documentary tomorrow and then that changes the whole game.

It sounds like you have big ambition to be one of the greats.

Seafood Sam: Yes. I just want to get everybody back into caring about the process of making. Making. I think that’s the only way you can become a great, is if you care about how you make your art. Just really putting care into it. That’s what’s gonna last. I always question myself, like, “How is this old Al Green stuff still lasting?” It’s because they put a lot into that. It wasn’t just a quick 15 minute cut. None of those songs was quick. It was days of working. Weeks. That’s why we know it and love it, forever. This project, I was done with the lyrics a year and some change ago. All lyrics was done. Then after that it’s just building everything and making sure it sound right. Making sure it transition right. The order. Everything. Doing all that. That’s what I mean by putting more care into it. That’s why I’m anxious to drop it.

A lot of the songs have melodic sung hooks. In terms of creating a song, what appeals to you about that — going from a rap verse into a melody as a hook?

Seafood Sam: Somebody once told me. Actually I have a homie who has a girlfriend, and she’s like a dancer, and be dancing in clubs and stuff like that. She said that her and all her homegirls be listening to my music after their club. Because it’s still cool, but they in there all night listening to “boom boom boom boom boom.” Whenever I come on, it’s smooth and cool and they can count their money, do whatever they gotta do, get some food. I’ve always been into making music that you can cruise to. Something you can cruise to. Something you can just drive and put on. You can talk over it, if you want to. Or you can just sit there and listen. Let it play. You can bang it if you want to. Turn it super loud. Or it can just be background music. But it’s gonna match all those. It’s gonna be little elements of everything.

Like we said earlier, I think it’s just from me having a wide range of music influences, that I try to make sure I put a little something on everything. Like, “Oooh this got a good hook, this that smooth stuff, so my mom’s gonna like this, I can tell.” You know what I’m saying? Because my mom likes Al Green. So if I throw this hook on it, boom boom boom, that’s it.

Even with “Saylo,” my mom keep calling me like, “I love this song! This song is good, it’s really good!” I get what she’s saying. She’s like, “I like all of them, but this one is like… even if it wasn’t yours, I would love this song. It’s that good.” So I’m like dang, that’s what’s up.

It’s just trying to do different things, and make it sound different. A certain sound that West Coast have, or a certain sound they try to put on us, if it’s not going nowhere, why try to keep doing it? Even if it gets you poppin in LA, or on the West Coast. It’s not cracking through regions, it’s not going all over the world. I can’t do that. I gotta go against it. I gotta do my own thing. Because I’m trying to go all over the world with it.

I feel like some of the stuff from LA that has really gone all over the world, like on the next level, is obviously Kendrick and TDE. I don’t know if you see any parallels between those artists, but I definitely heard that while listening to your music.

Seafood Sam: Oh, yeah, I rock with it. At the end of this album, after making it, I literally was like, in my head, “I can go on tour with anybody.” Anybody. I could open up for Solange, I could open up for Snoh Aelegra, I could open for Bruno Mars, I could open up for Kendrick, I could open up for Post Malone. This album can go anywhere. I could do an overseas album, without even releasing it, and I could just perform it the first time and I know they’re gonna love it. That’s how confident I am. I just know it’s good music. Good music wins all the time, there’s nothing you can say about it.

You mentioned earlier that everything is cyclical, and you’re ahead of the curve of the style that you’re in coming back. Do you think it is coming back?

Seafood Sam: Yes, definitely. Once I start seeing everybody in baggy jeans, I know it’s coming back. It’s coming back. I’m not trying to say I’m the first or nothing like that, but I never let it go. You can find old pictures of me, I’m in Platinum FUBU, I’m thrifting old Red Monkey jeans and wearing old Ice Cream jackets. I never let go of the late 90s, early 2000ish vibe. I stayed with that.

When people send me clothes, it’s always an XL, XXL. It’s baggy. I’ve always been into that just because I’ve been into that era. Wu-Tang, Naughty by Nature, I love how that all looked. Just how it looked. The whole Arsenio Hall era. If you go look at Arsenio Hall, the last show when all the people rapped. Just look at the style of everybody. I love that. So that’s how I’ve always been.

So once I started seeing the fashion world, that’s not even connected to music, they starting to dress like that too and catch on to that. Kind of mimicking how Wu Tang and them dressed. I’m like, okay, so now that sound’s about to follow and hit with it. It only has to come right after that. If you was on it, it’s gonna be easy for you. If you’re gonna try to transition, if you’re a turnt up rapper trying to talk about this, then you try to switch over to some 90s boom bap beats, it probably could work for you but it’s probably gonna look weird.

I’m just glad I stuck. I just was on this. So if it do come back around, or when it do, I’ma just be ready. It might just be a fashion thing and not musically, but I’m gonna keep going. I’m gonna keep pushing through it.

I always look at it like Joey Bada$$, in a sense. I feel like he was real early with it. He was sticking to this hip-hop era. But he did it in the pre-turnt up era. He did before. He did it before Uzi was popping. I don’t know. He probably did it after. But you get what I’m saying? He did it before we got the whole Lil Peep era, the whole Lil so and so, the whole Lil era, he was trying to do that, but this hadn’t even came out yet. So it was like, dang, he was able to get in there, but all this was coming after.

Hopefully, if it do change, and a whole 90s wave come in, then I’ma win. I’ma be in there with it. But then if not, I’ma just be on some Joey Bada$$ shit where I’m just gonna try to push it through, as whatever wave comes. I’ma just be in there, holding it down for hip-hop.

Joey Bada$$ was just bringing back that 90s, that real, you kinda felt like it was damn near early Nas. It was in the midst of [raps gibberish in triplets]. So it was like, two totally opposite things. Now, it’s a totally different time of music. People kind of want more. People don’t want to just be jumping up and down at shows. They want, “What you talking about? What’s this?” So that’s why I say, hopefully what I’m on will crack through and everybody’s on that and I’m ahead of the curve. But if not, I’m just gonna try to push through whatever wave that’s currently moving.

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