The sound of trap music is not going anywhere soon, but do you remember what hip-hop used to sound like with the mix of drums and soul samples? Dallas recording artist Samsonyte is here to flip the script on the “Hip-Hop Is Dead” era.
The underground hip-hop and rap scene in Dallas exploded many years ago and continued flourishing with hardcore gangsta trap sounds from artists like Yella Beezy, who went double platinum with his record “That’s On Me” and peaked at No. 2 on Billboard.
Samsonyte, meanwhile, has accumulated more than 1.9 million streams on Spotify for his single “Lucy” that features Scotty May. He has over 2.8 million streams on his top 10 songs on Spotify, and he hasn’t even released a project since his debut collection, The Muse, in 2017.
“To be honest, it’s cool to get recognition for what we are doing, but I try not to let my emotions be tied to that kind of thing,” Samsonyte says of his success. “I’d rather just be focused on putting in the actual work rather than the results.”
The artist's humble take on his early success with music correlates to his general approach to life. He says he wrote a lot of the songs on The Muse in his car while driving, smoking and listening to beats.
“I couldn’t smoke at home so I would drive, smoke and freestyle to beats until they became songs in my head,” he remembers.
The rapper had aspirations that aren't atypical for young black kids growing up in America: to play professional sports. But since he first quit his day job working at a call center, Samsonyte hasn’t looked back. For the artist, the journey has been tough — but worth it.
“Definitely a lot of ups and downs,” Samsonyte says of his life before coming up in the music scene. “I’ve had so many times where I was like, ‘Man, I don’t know if I can do this shit anymore.’ The lows have been low, but the highs have been high.”
Sam formed a collective of creatives called Elevated with friends from high school. His camp consists of a loyal and hardworking bunch who share a common vision. Leroyce, a producer and recording artist in Elevated, has also seen early success, with two songs that have over 2.6 million streams. In November, when Leroyce performed at one of Las Vegas’ most premier hip-hop and rap festivals, Day N Vegas, he brought Samsonyte out onstage to perform some of the songs they'd created together.
During Samsonyte's time off from releasing music, he added the role of producer to his résumé. He says he started seriously making beats about a year and a half ago and has been learning through trial and error.
“I feel like I’m still cultivating my sound. I still feel like I don’t have it yet,” Samsonyte says. “Especially because I’m still learning how to produce, and I’m still learning music theory.”
One thing Samsonyte’s lyrics and beats don’t lack is soul. His music draws the listener in naturally, and that quality might be the result of the very personal nature of his work. Samsonyte doesn’t make any decisions based on what his fans will think or like — instead he focuses on formulating a sound that pleases him.
“I feel like I’m my own harshest critic,” Samsonyte says. “If I can get to a point where I’m creating to where I personally like it, and I’m able to continue to listen to it, and if that is the case that I like it, chances are other people will like it too.”
Samsonyte is planning for a monumental 2020. This year, he'll be releasing a solo project along with a collaboration with Leroyce. Fans on social media continue to express how eager they are for a new project they can ride and smoke weed to. And it's no surprise that this is how fans best enjoy their music: If you enjoy hip-hop, you will enjoy the soulful sounds that seep out of the speakers, just like weed smoke escaping from under a closed door.
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The next stop for Samsonyte is Los Angeles, whose residents make up the largest group of his monthly listeners. He will be back, though.
“We have an opportunity and it is based out there,” Samsonyte says of LA. “I really want to be there for a year a two and get all I can out of it by networking and building my resources and bring it back to Dallas. Ten years from now I want to be a mogul.”
Samsonyte, Leroyce and the Elevated collective are silently setting trends in the Dallas music scene. Both rappers have built a loyal following across the country and are in the early stages of plotting their first U.S. tour together. Samsonyte says that one thing he's focusing on this year is learning to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
“I’ve learned that success is really waiting for you outside of your comfort zone," Samsonyte says “Nothing good comes from your comfort zone, you have to get out of there. That is going to catapult you to the next level.”