“Sam!” “Shoemaker!” “Sam!” Shoemaker!” “Sam!”
The crowd’s cheers rang out through the room at Barboza in Seattle, Wa. The air was thick with electric energy. The lights flashed as Sam, and his crew jumped out from behind the stage. Sam’s words began to pour out of his mouth as if they had been trapped inside his mind for ages just waiting to be set free. The crowd cheered louder, and shivers ran up and down my spine. I shouted out his name and began thinking about the first day that I met Sam Shoemaker.
My ex-boyfriend had invited me to a meetup group that they named “church.” The vast majority of the people there were in 12 step recovery programs. They would go there to talk about life struggles and spirituality. It was less structured than a regular 12 step recovery program. People could just fellowship and speak as they needed to. I initially convinced myself to go by telling myself that it was a chance to hang out with my ex-boyfriend or to support him in his recovery process, but I knew that that was a lie. I was searching for something. I had been struggling with confidence and flailing that year spiritually and mentally. I just felt I was being led to go for some reason, so I went.
When we were on our way there, we picked up a guy named Sammy. He said hi to everyone in the car then quietly paged through a Bible. I was chatting with my ex when Sam chimed in and started debating about what he was reading. I remember feeling irritated and uncomfortable. I just wanted to go and be with a group of people, talk about life, and spirituality in peace. I didn’t want to debate. Why was he trying to question everything?! I went to a few meetings after that one, and at every meeting Sammy attended he challenged or questioned something. After a while, my irritation turned to intrigue and admiration. He showed no fear or insecurity in his thoughts. His inquisitive statements began to open my mind.
It reminded me of something I had read in a book once: “Sophie’s World” by Jostein Gaarder. It had said that a natural born philosopher never stops asking why. The book gives an example of an adult and a child that comes across a barking dog. The child asks why the dog is barking. The adult shrugs it off having heard many dogs bark before and didn’t care why. A natural born philosopher’s mind is that of a child’s mind. They never stop asking why. They are never satisfied with the statement “It just is.” Natural born philosophers challenge, probe, and question. They live their lives striving to understand the things of the world and covey their findings to others. They are the ones that force us to think outside the box. They are the ones that have given us the extra push to ask why and make changes in this world throughout history. The more I got to know Sam Shoemaker the more I knew that he was a true philosopher.
I began listening to his statements and challenges and found that I grew as a person because of them. His thirst for knowledge drove my own desire for it. I was no longer uncomfortable to challenge my own beliefs and actions. From that day forward I think of Sammy every time I challenge the status quo, an idea, the masses, or society in general. He gave me the push and courage I needed to open my eyes, to see the world for what it was, and speak my mind regardless of what others thought. As the lyrics say in one of his songs “I do it for me.”
Some of the guys in the group started rapping. They rapped about life and addiction. I had gone to their first show to support them all. Sammy was a guest rapper on the show yet he stole the stage. When he came out, it was like watching a lyrical master. I remember wondering if he even took a breath through the whole song. My rap knowledge is limited, I am more of a punk rock girl, but if I had to compare him to anyone from what I heard that night, I would have compared him to rap artists like Eminem, Mos Def, Tupac, or Nas. His speed, vocabulary, and unapologetic statements brought a new star into the light. Sammy was not a sheep, he was a leader. He was not rapping in the interest of media or fame. Sam was rapping truth, the truth that no one wants to talk about. He was spitting thoughts out that would not appease the masses but stir them up. He had a presence and the message of a revolutionary. I knew at that moment that Sammy was going places. He had a gift.
I left that night not knowing if he would pursue his talents and not sure about what would become of Sammy. Overtime Sam released song after song and video after video. Each song that was released blew me away. I would tell my friends and people I would meet on the road “You have to hear this guy! He is incredible!” Sam’s fame increasingly grew over the next year or so.
Years later, I took a job in Seattle again and saw that he had a show coming up while I was in town. He was headlining! The guy that I had met four years prior in a car going to a meeting was headlining! I was ecstatic! I had to go see him! All I wanted to do was give him a hug and congratulate him on his success. I saddened as I thought to myself that it probably wouldn’t happen. Sam was a big deal now. He wouldn’t have time for me at his show he probably wouldn’t even remember me. I bought the tickets and brought a big group to the show. When we got there, he was standing outside greeting his fans. Fame did not go to his head, it didn’t change him at all. He stood there with open arms stretched out and gave me a huge bear hug. This was a game changer! Sure, Sam was fearless, gifted, and an incredible lyricist with his own headlining show, but still humble and connected to his friends and the people!?
Sam spent hours in front of Barboza thanking his fans for coming and making an appearance. If this proved anything, it was that he lived what he preached in his lyrics. Sam is putting material out there to reach the people, to wake them up. He is manifesting his true gift as a philosopher. His songs speak of greed, addiction, materialism, heartache, politics, racism, depression, and love for everyday people with a common purpose. (And More)
I watched Sam and his crew finish the show at Barboza that night with a screaming crowd jumping up and down. Hearing a lyric from one of his songs, “I sharpen my sword” made me smile and warmed my heart. I congratulated and complimented the crew after the show telling them all “To sharpen their swords.” I told them that there is so much in this world that is broken and swept under the rug especially of late. I told them to write, sing, rap, to use their gifts, to sharpen their swords and use them to make a difference in this world.
I am a true believer that it only takes one voice, one mind, one pen, one sword to make a difference. I know in my heart of hearts that this group will do just that.
Sam and his crew are going on a 40 city tour for the next few months. If you are in any of the cities where he is performing I highly recommend you check him out. You will not be disappointed. I have attached tour info and videos at the bottom.
This was my story of Sam shoemaker who I am honored to call a friend, but now I will let him tell his own story:
(Tour info. and music video links are listed after the interview)
Have you always lived in Washington?
Sam: Yes, I have always lived in Washington and was born in Edmonds, but my family is located around the country. Mostly in Southern California and specifically Los Angeles. Also from a very young age, I spent extensive time in New York City with my late grandfather, and frankly many of the experiences that were critical to my development as a human being took place in that city with that man.
What inspired you to start rapping?
Sam: I’ve loved and enjoyed the music of many genres as long as I can remember, and I’ve always loved to read and write. But actually rapping is a somewhat recent development. About four years ago I was sitting with a year sober (I am an alcoholic and an addict in recovery), and I realized I had an opportunity to do something different with my life. Something I had always wanted to do but was too afraid, high, or distracted to do. And so I meditated and started writing this poem that turned into a beast. The seed was planted, and I started moving from there.
What inspires your lyrics? Any stories or experiences you want to share here with the fans about any of the songs (history)?
Sam: A whole lot of everything inspires my lyrics. It just used to be whatever was going on in my life or things that I’ve experienced and had some personal investment in. In a way, all of that is still the starting point but as my world has changed and grown so have my lyrics. Sometimes I’m literally just writing to teach myself a different flow or cadence. Sometimes it’s to improve my skill sets. And sometimes there’s something that happened or that I observed and I go tell a producer about it, and we start cooking. I would say my songs lyrically fall into one of three categories: talking shit about being a good rapper, personal relationships, and lastly politics. Frankly, there’s no shortage of lyrics for those 3 categories.
“Harper’s Ferry”: is my attempt to tell the story about the abolitionist John Brown who many give credit with taking the first steps to start the civil war and forcefully eliminate slaver.
“Just Breathe”: is literally me challenging myself to be a better rapper and do more with flow, cadence and rhyme scheme.
“Not Another Love Song”: Obviously it’s about a failed love interest.
“Coded Language”: Combines my disdain for Trump as a viable political option with my disdain for a lot of contemporary popular rap as a viable artistic option
What do you hope for the future of your music career?
Sam: To go as big with it as I possibly can, and I don’t just mean financially (but I also don’t mean not financially lol). Continue to develop artistically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and overall as a human being. If that happens then, the impact will take care of itself, and the people that will be served by what I am doing in a positive way will be presented. I have faith in that. But it’s a different picture than I had in mind when I started really pursuing this. I don’t have to be platinum or be nominated for a Grammy (even though that would be dope) to be successful. I have to get my material in front of as many people as possible, and the process will move from there.
If there is one musician, you would love to work with one day who would it be? (I know I secretly want you to do a song with Angel Haze- She is a fave of mine LOL) ?
Sam: People are always surprised when I say this, but I don’t hesitate to say Kanye West. Setting the public persona garbage aside, Kanye is one of, if not the most, influential figures in music in the last 20 years, and that reputation is based on the reality that he knows how to create sound, mood, and a vibe, unlike anyone I’ve ever personally experienced. Doing something on a track produced by Kanye would be lifetime achievement stuff for me.
What rap artists or musicians are some of your strongest influences?
Sam: It depends on the song really. Eminem will come up because of the aggressiveness and cadence/flow. I can tell you the rappers I listen to most frequently are Kendrick, Cole, Jay-z, and Drake. Inevitably I’ve learned from them, but honestly, my sound is nothing like there’s.
What subjects or topics do you want to address in future songs?
Sam: You, me, us, them, politics, history…being someone always interested in my world means there will never be a shortage of topics to address. It’s not the specificity of the subject that I’m so concerned with anymore as it is becoming more artistically sophisticated in how that product is presented, i.e., the sound. The sound must always improve and adapt.
Is there anyone or anything that helps you get through the rough days?
Sam: It sounds corny but the rough days don’t get to me too much anymore, and I’m pretty blessed to see it all as a learning experience. That said, I’m sure shit will hit the fan and get rough at some point, and then again at another point, it always does. And when it does I will do what I do on the good days: pray to a God that I don’t define or understand, get quiet while I seek the lesson, and call up one of the invaluable members of my inner circle and bawl like a baby.
Is there anyone you would like to talk about that has held you up or pushed you further in life?
Sam: I’ve had a lot of teachers and will always be presented with more. A lot of people I won’t name from 12 step recovery programs have been instrumental. My grandfather was definitely one of my most prominent teachers. My love for art, intellect, cities, reading, writing, and a whole lot else that’s important to me was passed on from him. My relationship with my girlfriend is the most excellent teacher that I have on a daily basis and what a gift that is. Two people who continuously strive to better themselves and then make each other better in the process, that’s rare. Musically, D-Sane, Luke Rain, Bobby, my manager Jordan Cantu and now my guy Overtime (who I am currently touring with) have all shown me A LOT, and for that I’m grateful.
Since I only know a little bit about your crew could you help the fans get to know them? (vocals, sound, video, etc. )
Sam: The consistent crew is actually much smaller than you would expect. Truth is there are no contracts in play, so everyone is independently working on a choice by choice basis. Consistently though I collaborate with Bobby Watkins on vocals, Luke Rain aka Trap Jesus is my most consistent collaborator at producing and creating the sounds and has changed my entire paradigm artistically. Jay Battle is the engineer I work most with. Jordan Cantu is my manager and covers all of my blind spots and tells me how to dress. I recently did a song with a wonderful singer by the name of Serena Jo. I’ve also worked with some big talents around the scene with the likes of Chris Pack, D-Sane, Jacob Hill, Nobi, Zac Lauer, the team at Tekraknot, as well as countless others.
Do you have a favorite quote?
Sam: “We submit to the peaceful production of the means of destruction, to the perfection of waste, and to being educated for a defense that deforms the defenders and that which they defend…” Herbert Marcuse
If you had to pick a favorite song from all of your songs which would it be and why?
Sam: Probably one that I haven’t released yet…but of those that I have released, it would be “Coded Language.” I think it all around demonstrates what I’m going for in making music: bars, Melody, message, flow, a simple bridge… It marked a new level of creativity for me.
Thank you Sam for giving me the opportunity to write about you.
Thank you all for reading my piece on Sam Shoemaker. I hope his words and lyrics open your mind as they have mine.
Sending you all love and light,
Tour info. :
(Permission for photo and video share by Sam Shoemaker)
Music video links below: