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Meet the MC: SamRecks

Since his debut single ‘On Me’ in 2020, Nigeria-born, London-raised MC SamRecks has been evolving his own relaxed, lo-fi take on UK drill. He speaks to Robert Kazandijan about mastering mixtapes at school, Drake's 'Comeback Season', and breaking genre boundaries

“There’s one thing I really remember. It was when I was with my grandma,” says Nigeria-born, South London-raised rapper SamRecks, summoning hazy memories of his early childhood in the West African country before his family’s move to the UK. “We were all eating noodles, and my grandma was like, ‘Are you trying to feed me worms?’ It’s little things like that, that I remember,” he laughs. “I actually haven’t been back since we left, but I’m planning to. Maybe next year.” 

It’s 5PM on a rainy Monday evening when we speak on Zoom, and already dark, but Sam has just woken up. If you’re a fan of his music, you might assume he’s been sleeping off a rap star hangover, after spending the weekend partying with the beautiful women he alludes to encountering in his lyrics. The reality is way more humble; he works nights, operating a forklift in a huge warehouse, in order to stack the funds required to continue his emerging career in music. 

Since breaking through in 2020 with ‘On Me’ — a frosty drill cut with a catchy, chantable hook — his releases have become progressively warmer. He’s leant his laidback flow to bright, colourful productions on singles like ‘Don’t Tell No One’, ‘Love & Attention’ and ‘Suns Out Buns Out’. Latest offering ‘Would You Let Me’ continues that trajectory, and is full of the breezy playfulness that has become his calling card. SamReck’s music sounds like summer on the block, with a plastic cup full of Henny in your hand and a sweet one by your side.  

Growing up, the family home was filled with the sounds of classic Afrobeat, his mum’s chosen soundtrack to hours spent cooking in the kitchen. He found he was naturally artistic, spending time drawing and listening to a lot of music. His manager is on our call, and she tells us he used to write poetry and break dance too. And she would know — she’s his big sister. Sam’s operation is very much family-centred. “I’ve been managing him since birth, he just didn’t know it,” she jokes. 

“Yeah, I was Jerkin’. Me and my friends even had a dance crew! But that one didn’t stick. It was seeing rappers do their thing with words that made me fall in love with music,” says Sam. “Like the actual bars, the lyricism.” He cites Drake’s legendary ‘Comeback Season’ mixtape as an early inspiration, and perhaps the romantic subject-matter of his own songs speaks to Drizzy’s influence. But it was the likes of Chip, Skepta and Wretch 32 that lit up the path for Sam to follow. “It was only when I started listening to more UK music that I started to think I could actually do this myself.”

Meet the MC SamRecks

“I started to realise that just being myself, and embracing the little things that make me different is what’s gonna make me great one day.” 

Sam began recording his own music while he was still in primary school, using a laptop, a webcam and Audacity. “I didn’t even have any headphones in. I’d just play the beat out loud, and rap on top of it, and record myself. All in one take,” he says. “Obviously the music was bad, but it was actually exciting! I was mixing and mastering everything. I just wanted my own mixtape, because everything was about mixtapes back then. So I even uploaded a mixtape to DatPiff. It was just me rapping out loud over beats for like 10 songs... I deleted it because I realised it was terrible,” he admits, smiling. “I just loved everything about music and was writing all the time. When I was in secondary school, any bit of money I got, I spent on making a music video. I was in Year 7 [11-12 years old] when I dropped my first video.” 

So while he might seem like a relative newcomer, Sam has spent his adolescence grafting, learning and shaping his talent. In the last couple of years, he has been able to grow his boundless, raw passion for all things music into the beginnings of something that could transform his life. “I can’t see myself doing anything else now. I need to make this something,” he says. His parents, however, have needed some convincing that their son is making the right decision. “Initially, they didn’t understand it. They’re African parents innit! So they just wanted me to go to school, and then go to university.” But then his mum heard one of his songs drifting through the speakers at her workplace. She took it as a sign that things would work out. “Little things like that make them realise this is what I’m gonna do. There’s no changing it.” 

UK drill’s transformation from gritty, uncompromising underground sound to chart-topping phenomenon has meant the landscape for upcoming artists is now increasingly crowded. Yet Sam has made a distinct space for himself, ditching the darker sonics of his earlier releases for something way more chilled. Ski-mask wearing South Londoner SL did something similar in late 2017, letting his street tales unfurl over ‘tropical drill’ beats. But Sam eschews the tropes of the genre for subjects he feels we can all relate to. “I just wanna connect with people through my music and speak about things that everyone goes through,” he explains. “Like on ‘Love & Attention’ I’m talking about juggling music and work and a relationship, and not knowing what the other person wants. People will understand that situation. I’m not talking about street stuff. There’s so much more happening. And I’m touching on these things over a drill beat. These are lo-fi, relaxed drill beats.” 

Leaving “street stuff” out of his lyrics reflects a period of personal growth that Sam went through in his life, coming to the understanding that the people he might’ve once looked up to didn’t really have life patterned in the way it seemed. “Those older guys dressing up nice and making all the money, they were the ones doing all that stuff, innit. So it seems kinda cool, in your head,” he says. “But as you get older, you realise they’re not as cool as you thought. They’re actually quite behind compared to their peers. I started to realise that just being myself, and embracing the little things that make me different is what’s gonna make me great one day. Rather than just trying to be like everyone else so I would fit in, I started following what I naturally think.” 

The liberation that comes with being yourself shines through in Sam’s self-directed visuals. The colour schemes in ‘Don’t Tell No One’, ‘Love & Attention’ and ‘Suns Out Buns Out’ pop with a cartoonish glow, maybe tapping into the hours he spent drawing as a child. Add that vibrancy to the lush soundscapes and his smooth finesse on the mic, and the vibe is pure youthful joy. “Everything can seem dark and moody, especially with drill. So I want to go for things that are gonna stand out and catch your attention. I want to break boundaries,” he explains. “Because my music’s about peace.”

Robert Kazandijan is a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter here

Want more? Check our DJ Mag's recent Meet the MC with British-Ghanaian MC and Dave collaborator, ShaSimone