When we think of being stuck in traffic, it doesn’t bring the most pleasant feelings to mind. Ironically, SoloSam’s song “Traffic Jam” is the opposite– full of sonic movement, the kind that helps us transcend and feel lifted. For the Chicago rapper, the song is both things in a way, acknowledging being stuck, then letting go of trying to control it. We got to chat with SoloSam about that freedom, along with how just being himself has helped him grow personally and musically (and, a little info on his new cooking show, Principles to Dine By).
SoloSam: Essentially growing up in a very diverse household, that changed my perspective on creativity. My mom’s Korean, my dad's from Ghana, [he’s] also an artist. Seeing the cultural takes both of them have really opened my mind from a young age. Through becoming an artist and growing up, I was always willing to have an open mind, whether it be my approach sonically, how I brand or market– I try not to be so one dimensional. In my household there was a universal understanding and that translates to music– when you speak to people, you wanna make sure that you can reach everybody on a base level.
Me, or the project?
I think for a while I felt in music in general people need to have identities. You go through stages where you separate yourself from the music as a superhero or something– ‘I put on the mask’– and I think my authentic self was removed from my music because of that concept. When I broke down that construct in how I approach art, I realized there is no, ‘I’m Sam and this is SoloSam,’ I am SoloSam, and in doing that I was able to have a level of honesty and authenticity I feel was missing from a lot of my music.
Through the pandemic what really helped me get through was to realize things are very situational moments in our life. It’s easy to be caught up in the idea that you’re so in control, so when something like this happens you’re like ‘oh my gosh, I can’t believe they’re shutting down everything!’ But in reality, that can happen to us, whether it be through a death experience, your own uphill battles– the pandemic was just one of those things. “Traffic Jam” was kind of a song admitting, ‘I'm stuck, but it’s out of my control, and all I have to do is wait until I’m unstuck and keep going.’ You can’t get upset about it, be defeated, you just have to acknowledge ‘I can’t control things I’m not in control of.’ Throughout the pandemic, dealing with everything, I’m just glad I made it through.
That was a concept [from] Peripheral Projects, they’re a shooting company. We wanted to approach the video without being too cliche. What is the best way to symbolize being stuck? Your car breaking down in the middle of nowhere and just having to wait. You got somewhere you have to be, you don’t just be like ‘I guess I die here in this field,’ you get to walking, and sooner or later you’re gonna get something that’s gonna help you get to where you need to go– that’s the red truck. At the end I wake up in a traffic jam, and that plays into the idea that it all seems so real but it can really be in our head. In that scene where I woke up it was like,‘huh, I’m the reason I’m in traffic.’ That’s what the video plays into.
I did one Sofar with LuluLemon at their temporary activation site. It was a great experience, it’s a great way for people to get genuine turnaround support. I think personally Sofar’s a very creative idea.
We’re in season 1. The first episode was poke bowls, second is kimchi fries. It’s been a super dope experience. Dark Matter– a lot of it wouldn’t have been possible without them. I just enjoy cooking and over time that’s something– this is what I’m saying in the sense of ‘stop trying to separate a person from an artist.’ At first I was like, ‘no I won’t do that, that’s my personal stuff.’ But in doing more and putting it out my story, people were ‘like this is awesome, we wanna see more of it.’ My last project, I actually dropped a cookbook and a drink with Dark Matter, that’s how the relationship started. This time around, releasing episodes of the show, I wanted to present it in a way that can highlight cooking, but also who I [am] as a person.
Photo credit: SoloSam, photo by Cooper Fox