Before the welcomed arrivals of Miguel, Frank Ocean and Chris Brown, there was Sammie- the R&B teen sensation with a Gold album and a 2x Platinum single to his fresh yet seasoned name.
Now, after shifting around over 3 million units in the US since hitting the scene back in 2000, last year saw the ‘Kiss Me Thru The Phone’ singer release ‘Insomnia‘, an EP which boasts his brand new single ‘Put It In’, due out for release this week.
So, ever eager to bring you up to date with the going ons of R&B’s brightest stars, we caught up the ‘I Like It’ star for a conversation that saw us discuss everything from his battle with anxiety to the plans he’s put in place to take his career to the next level. Meet us below…
‘It’s easy to get a deal but it’s hard to get a label to understand you’, he says of his time at Jimmy Iovine‘s Interscope, ‘I liked it there but I had to grow into my own musician, so in 2009 I set up the Starcamp music group which gave me the freedom to create my own sound.’
‘I was so blessed to have the success I had with ‘I Like It’ because prior to me there were no 12 year olds getting R&B #1s but in the last few years I’ve evolved into a better artist, and you hear that on ‘Insomnia’. A collection of 16 moody R&B numbers, ‘Insomnia’ has now scored over 700,000 downloads since its September 2012 arrival, hailed for its vocal driven production and a Brohemian honesty he revealed was difficult to share. “The EP came from the fact i was literally suffering from insomnia and what I now know was anxiety. I was battling myself to understand what I wanted from life- struggling with the idea of having a family or going out and partying, being with one girl…or another.” “I did it for myself for therapeutic reasons, which is why I think fans can appreciate it. I hope R&B stays in the personal direction that myself, Drake, Miguel and Elijah are going. I feel like, Hip Hop has Drake but we don’t have a R&B act that’s not afraid to be emotional to show a vulnerable side. I say everything males feel but not what we say.
Being cool and swagged out is a trend, but being cool and swagged out doesn’t last…being real does. You know, I did research on Sam Cooke and Stevie Wonder, and I learned that those dudes wrote sang from the heart so their songs lasted forever. There’s an emotional disconnect in R&B but i’m gonna fill that void.”
Our conversation soon turns to the success of Justin Timberlake‘s ‘The 20/20 Experience‘ and how its impact on the genre. He explains:
“Justin and Timbaland broke all the rules with that album and it’s really forced a lot of artists to go back in the studio and create honest music. I mean, one of my favorite albums is Usher’s ‘Confessions’ and that sold 10 million you know. Those are the albums I’m listening to to work on my new release. I’m excited to take ‘Insomnia’to take the next level.”
A next level, he shares he’d hope would see him find home at LA Reid’s EPIC, under the pupilage of ‘Vested In Culture’s Sylvia Rhone:
“Honestly, I really wanna be wherever they understand my vision, but I’d love to be over at EPIC because they understand R&B- I look at what they’re doing with Ciara and it makes me excited because it’s working. I mean, I’d be happy anywhere that really takes the time to support R&B music, because most labels don’t want put money into promoting ballads and only support songs made for the clubs.
That’s why I’ve got a lot of love for Miguel- that dude’s incapable of making bad music and RCA are really supporting him and in doing that they’re doing so much for R&B, so I’d love to be over there too”.
“I just feel so blessed to have achieved what I’ve done so far, but I wanna do so much more. This year I gave myself a mission to get four or five placements with other artists so I’m looking forward to achieving that and I’m telling you guys this first but…I’m writing a book. Yeah, it’s called ‘Good To Know’ but I’m still in the developing stages of that but I can’t wait to share on that, so there are a lot of things going on right now”.
“Right now though, I’m focused on ‘Put It In’ and really pushing ‘Insomnia’- I’ve put so much heart into it that I need to take it to the highest level possible and that’s what I’m prioritising right now…making sure the world hears it”.
Keep it locked on That Grape Juice for your first look at ‘Put It In’ this week!
•Interview by David Asante (That Grape Juice, London).