“I’m not trying to be the king of R&B or the prince of it. I simply want to save the genre. I think I’m young enough but old enough to captivate both generations, old and new” – Sammie
The world watched Sammie grow up from a 12-year-old sensation into a record-breaking and multiplatinum-selling singer, songwriter, and performer. Now, they can hear him fully come of age in 2017. Sammie’s third record and first independent full-length LP, Coming of Age [Star Camp Music/EMPIRE], sees him confidently evolve into the artist he’s worked towards becoming for the past 18 years.
Coming Of Age sees Sammie firing on all creative cylinders. The collection’s rich and deep soundscapes provide the perfect platform for impressive vocal runs and timeless R&B swagger. The atmospheric nature and infectious tone give way to clever choruses and vivid storytelling, showcasing his undeniable growth, maturity, and progression. It’s everything he’s been working towards and more.
CTB got the chance to talk to Sammie about his breaks from the music industry, his new album and how important vulnerability is to not only R&B but music in general. Check out our talk below and be sure to listen to Coming of Age, out now.
ME: What was your life like when you became a star at the age of 13?
Sammie: Actually, I was 12. It was amazing. At the age of 8 was when I wanted to pursue music professionally. So for it to manifest so fast and to be so young was a dream come true. I remember doing the Apollo Kids in 1998 here in New York. I made it to the finals in 1999 and got discovered by Joyce Irby he took me to Dallas Austin and “I Like” was my first single and it shot up to the number one spot on the charts. It was just a blessing. A little kid from Boynton Beach, Florida living the dream. So I was very humble and grateful for it but often excited that my gift was resonating with millions of millions of people around the world.
ME: You went on two different hiatuses. What makes this comeback different than the others?
Sammie: The first hiatus so to speak was a concoction of me wanting to have a sense of normalcy, go to school, enjoy my education, enjoy being a kid, and enjoying my youth.
ME: That was a result of you starting your career at a young age?
Sammie: Yeah because although I was gaining all this fame and even making great money, I wasn’t able to have a peace of mind often times. So my mother understood the importance of understanding no matter how much fame and money you do make or accumulate you can’t buy time back. The second time I actually went through a terrible departure with a former business partner in 2009. This person had access to a lot of things, not just personally but, in the business aspect of things too. This person was really trying to stop me from ever flourishing again and spreading my wings. It took a lot of perseverance and a lot of prayers and hard work to get that up off me in its entirety and now here I am able to flourish again.
ME: Did you ever regret going on these hiatuses?
Sammie: No never. I’m just blessed with God’s grace and mercy and the most loyal fanbase you could ever ask for. It’s hard to take six months up to a year off let alone four years. Technically it’s been 11 years since I put out an album. I put out mixtapes and EP’s to keep the content going. But an official album it’s been 11 years. Every time I come back the Sammie lovers of the world embrace me and I’m so grateful and indebted to them for that. A thank you doesn’t even suffice but I’m thankful that I have that kind of love.
ME: Why is that?
Sammie: I think it’s because I impacted their lives at a young age. We, in essence, grew up together.
ME: What makes this time right for a comeback?
Sammie: It just feels right. There’s no legit one thing to say that made it feel right but the way it happened I’m at home on Instagram last year in June. I was singing around and messing around and The Shade Room takes it and it goes viral. It became the first single and I ended up getting an EP deal with Empire. That led to an album deal. It went really well over 25 million streams on that project. So I guess I didn’t plan it to happen is why it feels so right. The people chose me to be back.
ME: When you made your other comebacks, R&B was different each time. How do you feel about the current landscape of R&B? Do you feel its better or worse?
Sammie: I can’t say better or worse but I can say it’s not the same. It’s evolved tremendously in my personal opinion it has become to influenced by hip-hop. Somehow degrading women has been the thing to do as opposed to spreading love and that feel good vibe that R&B is derived from. So me being an eighties baby I was blessed to see the Tanks, the Joes, the Boyz II Men, Monica, Brandy, Whitney Houston. I watched them I studied them. My job or my duty is to say that. That’s why I’m not trying to be the king of R&B or the prince of it. I simply want to save the genre. I think I’m young enough but old enough to captivate both generations, old and new. But in a fly way and let it be known that you can talk about substance and passion and vulnerability. R&B has been in weird place in the last decade. I think auto-tune has a lot to do with it. Anyone can sing now. If rappers are singing then their content is staying the same and their R&B peers are duplicate whatever it is they’re doing and it’s just one long song of this, whatever it is. It’s time for it to switch back and go full circle.
ME: You say you want to save R&B. I’m sure with your comebacks you’re bringing things with you that you’ve learned or discovered while away. What are you bringing with you this time around?
Sammie: Experience and nostalgia because I’ve been around for so long. But it’s nothing better than to go through heartbreak and write about it or experience true love in its purest form and then be able to write about it. Everything you’re going to hear on Coming of Age is genuinely my life. The good, the bad, the ugly, the ups and downs. I’m letting it all out. This album is an honest open book to my life that I’ve gone through in my 30 years here.
ME: Now comparing to JAY-Z’s 4:44 and what it has done for hip-hop, do you want Coming of Age to do that for R&B?
Sammie: For sure. But I’m no JAY-Z. I don’t have that influence or appeal as far as what he’s accomplished in his career. But I just want it to influence not just the listeners to self-reflect but my peers when they hear my R&B project, a genuine R&B project, to go reconsider the content they create. I can’t do it by myself, I’m saying let’s save the genre. There is a leader but then we have to have an army of people that are advocating to create real art again in this music. So I definitely want it to, if I’m successful, do it the right way or the traditional way.
ME: When you look at the current generation taking in music now it’s very different than back in the early 2000s. How do you feel you’re going to lure those people in to listen to this album?
Sammie: Simply by being myself. When you talk about your flaws people gravitate towards that because we’re all flawed. When you talk about your insecurities people gravitate towards that because we all have insecurities. We just don’t profess them. I’ll be the voice for that. You can talk about being unsure, being uncertain, going through an identity crisis or trying to find yourself. These are things that make us beautiful. These are things that tap into your greatness that you didn’t know you had within.
ME: It seems you’re taking the lead in being honest amongst your peers.
Sammie: A lot of public figures, we sell this facade that we always have our s**t together. We’ve always had money or we’ve never been broke. That’s not real life, that’s smoke and mirrors. I’m not selling that, I’m selling Sammie. Some people will love it and some won’t but at the end of the day, I’m selling myself. I think people will gravitate to the rawness of that.
ME: What’s the overall theme of Coming of Age?
Sammie: I’m a walking contradiction. I’m part lover boy that just wants one girl and I’m a ladies man at the same time because I’ve lived the life. Now I’m at this crossroads at age 30 like one foot in one foot out. I don’t want to be stagnant or this same way for the rest of my life. I want to get married one day, have children. I want to be in a faithful, committed relationship on both ends. So the album is talking about a tug of war with one’s self. It’s something all men go through. Some of us get it early, some of us get it late, some of us never get it at all. But we’ve all gone through it.
ME: What was your approach to the album?
Sammie: I was riding the wave off of the success from the I’m Him EP while creating this album. I was trying to think of a way where I could be as honest as possible but as relatable as possible. Not everyone goes through what Sammie goes through. I was also trying to keep it fresh and innovative. It’s not an album of all slow records with no sauce or no swag. I wanted to put a concoction of everything. The lifestyle, the love, the hate, the regret. I wanted to make it this gumbo of all kinds of emotions that flow through track one to thirteen and I think I executed it.
ME: Were there any albums you drew inspiration from?
Sammie: No I purposely shut my ears off just so I wouldn’t duplicate what’s already been done. I can’t create something that’s classic if I’m trying to duplicate a classic. I just need to let it out, I had a lot of music and experiences and stories to tell because I’ve gone through so much. I really just locked in on me, I looked myself in the mirror and asked if I was ok with the world knowing this side of me and if so let it all the way out.
ME: What was the most difficult part about making this project? Was it hard to go back and record after your break from the industry?
Sammie: No. Not at all. I’ve been singing since I was four years old. Professionally for over 14 years. That’s like riding a bike to me. That’s the fun, easy part. The hard part is the constant night in and night out of singing that I’m doing on this tour I’m on with Tank. It’s more work than going to the studio. The studio isn’t work to me.
ME: Who’s featured on the album?
Sammie: We got Rick Ross on the album. I was raised in Miami for six years of my life, so it was just really humbling and I was honored to be able to work with Rick Ross. My brother Eric Bellinger is on the album. Another great, underrated but super talented, humble king that I appreciate and have an admiration and respect for. The rest is just all me. I don’t like R&B projects that are filled with eight, nine, ten features. It’s a compilation album at that point or a mixtape.
ME: What producers worked on Coming of Age?
Sammie: Troy Taylor, my mentor, my industry pops of course. Doughboy, Major 88 Keys, Zarius, Sean Marshall just to name a few. It was like 10 guys I’ve known for some years now and outside of the creative chemistry we have, they actually have a passion for this comeback. That right there makes for great music.
ME: Was there one track that made you think that would be the record to stand out?
Sammie: The title track “Coa (Coming of Age)” is that. I call it my movie track. It sounds like it’s supposed to be in “The Notebook” type of film. That’s my Grammy moment or my Jimmy Kimmel moment wearing all white with an orchestra in the back. No tricks just me and vocals. The song has beautiful violins being played as well as the piano and other chords. It’s a very moving record.
ME: Is there another record that’s your favorite?
Sammie: The last record “Confessional” which pulls on the same type of emotion but I was in a relationship three years ago where I was the demise of it. In hindsight, I didn’t have my s**t together and she was perfect for me. I just wanted my ex to hear that record because it’s my closure to the relationship. I’ve said sorry a million times, I’ve sent flowers, taken her out on dates and none of that got through. Hopefully, through this record, she can hear the pain and the conviction. Also that I’m really apologetic and sincere about my wrongdoings.
ME: What’s your main goal for this album?
Sammie: To change R&B back into the way it’s supposed to go. But also remind the Sammie lovers of why they fell in love with me in the first place and why I’m still here. From 12 to 30 is not easy to do especially with the hand that I was dealt. I didn’t have it pretty but in a sense, I still turned out beautiful. So I just want to change R&B the right way and remind my listeners and captivate new listeners.
ME: You’re showing a very vulnerable side on this album. Is that important to music?
Sammie: Hell yeah. Especially for me. How I engage with my fans on social media I let it be known. Just a year ago I wasn’t where I was at now. I was in a terrible financial and mental situation. I was still uncertain, still trying to figure things out. With one Instagram post, my life changed. I’m on tour and I have an album out. I want to be the poster boy for the struggle. Not for the things that look like they were always together. You can be broken and rebuilt to be better. I think through music, vulnerability is my secret weapon.
ME: What do you have to say to those who believe that this comeback will lead to another hiatus?
Sammie: As soon as I get off tour I’m working on part two of Coming of Age. It may be out in December of this year. I’m here to stay and again the second hiatus was less of a hiatus and more me living my life and going through things and fighting former business partners trying to stop the growth. I had to control my own s**t and grab that s**t back. It takes time. The things I went through created a great person. I have no hate in my heart. I have no malice in my heart. I’m in the most peaceful, happiest place I’ve been in a long time. To watch my dreams manifest and things I prayed for seven years ago, I’m finally living it out every day and I embrace each moment. No hiatus will come. I got my foot on the gas full throttle.