I have heard the term “Triple Threat” used many times but I think we have just stumbled across one dude that takes the meaning to a different level. He just might redefine the term “Grind’n” while he’s at it. His name is Sam Rhansum and he’s holding down the ATL in a major way. He is a MC, producer, club DJ and aspiring actor. His music can be found burning up the internet and radio airwaves; video games; movies; TV dramas & reality shows; instructional videos and I can leave out your favorite ATL and Tennessee club spots. Some of the top producers in the biz have sought out his lyrical wizardry. And it is his wordplay that continues to fuel his ever expanding popularity. He is a humble guy when not shutting down a stage or DJ booth. And it’s quite refreshing to know that he has mad love for the foundation of the game. He says, “If you don’t know what he’s talking about…learn your history!” There’s absolutely no stopping someone with this much talent and desire. It is only a matter of time before the world truly knows Sam Rhansum, the “Multi-Threat”.
What’s good Rhansum? We have a lot to talk about but first, where did you come up?
SAM RHANSUM - All over the east coast. I was born in Florida, and moved a lot as a kid (i.e. Louisiana, Tennessee). I lived in Brooklyn, NY a minute… and now I’m in Atlanta, GA.
When did the hip hop bug bite you?
SAM RHANSUM - I got bit by the hip hop bug the second I heard it. I been writing songs and playing drums since I was real little. That drum-based music hit me hard. I was taught old school from the ground up… you know, the “four elements” and all that (so I definitely know my hip hop history). Then my role as a “triple threat” (MC, DJ, producer) began around age 12-13. I would bring a drum machine to school and make beats, battle cats in the hallways between classes, and rock parties on the weekends.
Let’s talk about your Dj background. What made you want to make crowds wave their hands in the air and where do you currently put it down?
SAM RHANSUM - DJing and all my love for music really started at the same time. They worked off each other. In junior high, my DJing outlets were house parties and school dances. I was all about cutting and scratching, before I caught on to the important concept of blending. But the transitions became natural once I learned my basics. I was also rappin’ back then and I eventually saw that a well-placed song as a DJ had the same power that a well-placed punch line as an MC had. That “OH” factor. For years, I was a DJ all around Nashville and the surrounding areas. I always approached my sets like an MC, as much as a DJ. I was known as that dude who would grab a cordless and run around the club, or jump on a bar top across the room. I’d get the crowd hype as hell. But once I started doing more and more shows as an MC, I had to quit the clubs. I couldn’t keep a steady schedule and the owners needed a “resident” DJ. Nothing beats being on stage as an MC, but I gotta say, I really miss DJing.
I imagine your experience DJing led you to become a producer…right?
SAM RHANSUM - Actually everything kind of sparked at the same time for me musically. They all fed off each other… and they still do. The tracks I come up with are influenced by what moves a dance floor. These tracks then influence and inspire my rhymes and flows. And the DJ in me just keeps everything in check.
At what age did you decide to become a MC?
SAM RHANSUM - The magic age was about 13. I got involved because I just couldn’t help it. It was both natural and necessary for me. When I write or get on stage, there is nothing in my way. I feel free. I think clear, I speak clear (and I get to be such a smart ass). I love makin’ the crowd gimme that “ Oh hell no!” look.
I know artists don’t like to be compared to anyone but I get an Eminem meets Luda vibe from your flow. How do you respond?
SAM RHANSUM - Damn. I respond with, thank you!!! You compare me with two of the best MCs in the game? I got no problem with that. People do hate comparisons, but I understand everybody needs a point of reference for new artists. And if your reference for me happens to be two multi-platinum, hip hop icons who get mad respect from fans and peers… I can’t hate on that. I will never be too big to stop being a fan of this music myself. And you just named two of my favorites. Em’s wordplay is amazing and Luda has mastered the art of being a complete MC. By complete I mean lyrics, style, and he has created an entire bigger than life character (for lack of a better word).
Talk to me about the EA Sports video game you have a track on.
SAM RHANSUM - My song “There Goes The Neighborhood” is on EA’s “NFL Street 3” game. That was a huge and exciting break for me that brought some great exposure. There is also nothing like getting ya game on and hearing ya own song while you play!
How did your music get picked up by MTV and what shows did they use your tracks for?
SAM RHANSUM - I got music on “Real World vs. Road Rules: Gauntlet II”, “Real World: Denver”, and most recently “Real World: Sydney”. As to “how” I got on, my manager Donny Broadway hooked that up through his magic bag of connections. Seriously, Donny submitted some of my tracks to music supervisors for these shows and they liked the material. According to my manager, the most important thing to music supervisors (besides great music) is that the master recordings and the publishing are easy to clear. I own the masters and publishing (and we don’t submit anything with uncleared samples). So we’re “green light” all the way. Our teamwork formula is pretty simple. I just keep trying to make the hottest shit and he keeps trying to find new outlets where people can hear it. We’ve been real fortunate so far.
ATL’s super producer Billy Hume (produced songs with the likes of Ludacris, Nelly, Lil Jon, David Banner & the Shop Boyz) put you on what is said to be his hottest mixtape yet. What track did you remix for it and how did you and Hume hook up?
SAM RHANSUM - Man, that’s a trip. It was an underground remix of Flo-Rida’s “Low.” Billy actually did the whole track and then had me spit a verse on it. We was just doing it for kicks, while we workin’ on my original stuff. It got sent out to a few DJs and next thing it’s playing here on Atlanta’s #1 station and in the clubs. We got “shout out” requests from DJs all around the world by the weekend. We in like 15-16 countries and hopefully like every major US city by now. I been workin’ with The Zone Studios for a few months now. Man, not many people know, but The Zone is the birthplace of crunk music. Billy and Lil Jon started working together many years ago. So many hits have come out of that place. Billy is great! He’s so laid back about his success. If I was him, I’d be shouting that shit from the rooftops. When I first met Billy, I was still DJing and I was floored by his resume. He would tell me about recording “Bia Bia” with Jon and the Eastside Boys. (Again, I’ll never stop bein’ a fan.) So, I was like, “This cat is gonna work with ME!?!” Man, as a DJ, I played every song he worked on in the clubs night after night. Stuff like: “Put Ya Hood up,” “Bia Bia,” “I Smoke, I Drank,” “Tip Drill,” “Never Scared,” “I Yi Yi,” “Like A Pimp,” “Throw Some D’s,” “Party Like A Rockstar.” See what I mean? How the hell could I not be excited?
You also produced some tracks for various BET programming. Tell me about that.
SAM RHANSUM - Yeah, I got this chance to score two episodes of “American Gangster” for the second season. It was a whole different ball game than the MTV placements. Those songs for MTV were already done. For Gangster, I was scoring original music. I hadda do “period” music. Like, when they talking ‘bout the 70s, I hadda score funk. When they talking 80s, I got that old school, like that. So I really got to stretch as a musician and I loved it. I learned quite a bit about scoring while doin’ that. I got the season premier episode about the “Philly Black Mafia.” Then I guess they liked what they heard, ‘cause they asked me to do the “Felix Mitchell’ episode. I got my west coast old school on for that one.
And what’s this about you being an actor too? What films have you appeared in?
SAM RHANSUM - I got a few roles, but nothing big yet. They keep stereotyping the Caucasian thing. HA! I get these calls and they like, “We need a white boy with some swagger.” I’m like, “Bet, I’ll be there.” I show up and it’s always, “Okay, here’s your gun and your badge, you gonna be a cop.” DAMN! It’s all good though. You know that game “Six Degree’s of Kevin Bacon?” (Cause dude’s been in so many movies.) I got like 2 degrees now, ‘cause of this film I did with Isaac Hayes in it. I would love to do more, it’s just finding the time. Man, acting is such a waiting game… and I’m so damn impatient. You wait around 3 hours for just 3 minutes of scene. They gotta get the sound, lighting, all that right. I sit there thinking, “I wish I had my laptop to make some tracks”.
NIKE skills instructor Ganon Baker sought out your music as well… explain.
SAM RHANSUM - Again, my man Donny Broadway hooked that up. He sent the producer some of my tracks and they liked ‘em and used the music in the “Unstoppable Offensive Moves Vol. 1.” Then they came back to the well for Vol. 2. I think I did some “shout outs” on that as well.
How’s your hoop game? (Sidebar: Big up the Hawks for pushing the Celtics to seven in the playoffs.)
SAM RHANSUM - (Sidebar response: Yezzir!!! Hawks did they damn thang. But the Celts had a madd “D” game.) My hoops game is so damn rusty, but I can probably still hold my own. I got a 6’2 frame and I always had a mean “J”.
What’s the scoop on this motion picture coming out this summer that will feature one of your tracks?
SAM RHANSUM - It’s called “Prisoner” (Arclight Films) and it stars Julian McMahon from that show “Nip/Tuck”. This was another creative stretch that I’m glad I did. They were looking for a song for the end of the movie, to kinda sum up the plot and what the character was realizing. I got to work with some songwriters in Nashville and we came up with this music bed and hook idea. I took that home, made a track around it, wrote my verses, and sent it back. They mixed it all together and submitted. Out of about 25 submissions, the studio picked ours and we got placed in for the end credit roll. The release date keeps getting bumped and moved, so I don’t really even know now when it’s comin’. I’m just like, “Let me know and I’ll be there for the red carpet.” LOL.
Man with all of this exposure you’ve received, why aren’t you signed to a major label yet?
SAM RHANSUM - I ask myself that every day. All I can think is that maybe they haven’t taken the time to actually listen and hear me. It don’t stop me though.
What do you have out now for the listeners to go cop?
SAM RHANSUM - Keep in mind, all we have accomplished so far has been done from my little home studio. They was tight as they were, but now that we in The Zone, everything is takin’ major steps forward sonically. As soon as this shit’s ready, EVERYBODY gonna know. For now, you can find some of my early stuff on iTunes.
Your word play is tight and the concepts are clever (especially the joint “All I Hear” that features the Charlie Brown theme sample). Does being a MC & Dj give you an edge on the competition?
SAM RHANSUM - Thank you so much man. I love wordplay! It’s the same as spittin’ game to me. You can talk to a girl bluntly and most times you get dissed. Or you can say the same thing in a clever way and take that home every time. YEZZIR! My goal is always to stay on subject. I hate when these cats got a hook about the club and then just rhyme words about their car and clothes on the verses. Once I know what I’m gonna talk about, it’s time to freak how I say it. Try and tell a story; take the listener on the journey with me. And then I hit ‘em with a few, “Damn, he said that?” moments. That “All I Hear” joint is a perfect example. I do think being well-rounded in all aspects of the game helps. Knowledge is the best secret weapon.
What do you have to say to any A&R that reads this interview?
SAM RHANSUM - My manager Donny Broadway’s number is 615-781-0986. But don’t even think about callin’ if you don’t grind as hard as we do. You want an artist who understands all aspects of the game? Hit up Broadway! You want someone who knows that the grind only begins when you sign? Hit up Broadway! Understand, we did all this independent and on our own. So if the only thing that you got is talk and the only proof of your grind & credentials is a Kinko’s made business card… you best move on. We just want people who gonna work as hard as we do. No room for weak links on this chain.
With a schedule and resume like yours, what else could you possibly have coming up for the rest of 2008?
SAM RHANSUM - No telling, we got a lotta irons in the fire. I’m in The Zone right now finishing one called, “Drummers In My Trunk.” Broadway’s leanin’ toward speaker company endorsements with that one. I got a big show with Keisha Cole and my “LA FAMIL” people in a few weeks. Then I’m looking at a trip to the Philippines with Chill. She’s the “Queen of Filipino Hip Hop” on Sony (Asia). I’m working with her on tracks for her next album. Oh, and I also got this reality show called, “Goin’ To Atlanta.” It’s about my move to the ATL and the grind to get discovered. And I’m sure Broadway’s gonna make some more rain with placements, etc… . Man it’s a non-stop blessing.
Dude, you are definitely on your GRIND! Just stay focused and remember, “Hard work pays off!” Let the readers know how they can get at you and feel free to drop some shout outs to your peeps.
SAM RHANSUM - Yezzir! Hit me up on MySpace: www.myspace.com/samrhansum . That site is on 24/7 in the studio. If you need tracks, holla. Get ‘em before Broadway raises my prices (LOL). You got a hot track and you wanna collab? Then holla. Just make sure you about your grind, too. On stage, I am one of the cockiest mufukas you will ever meet. But off the stage… man I believe in being humble and real. Hit me up. This game is all contacts and karma.
Big ups to my man Donny Broadway! We come a long way from when he literally found me working on a construction site across from his office. I was living in a storage room trying to stay on my grind. And to my girl “Chill.” If like almost 60% of the world’s population is Asian, we about to take‘em all! My man Latino Saint (La Famil) and all my Nashville fam. I came to Atlanta to expand my grind and take it back home. That’s still the plan and I’m well on my way. Finally, all my new ATL fam and all the DJs worldwide who support me. You have my back now and no matter how far this goes, I WILL ALWAYS SUPPORT YOU!!!!!!!!! YOU ARE THE BACKBONE OF THIS INDUSTRY!!!!
Special thanks to John A. Sepetys and everyone at Sepetys Entertainment Group, Inc. for making this interview possible. If you are looking for management, hit up SEG, Inc. at www.sepetys.com and get your career moving on the fast track.