Standing On Giant Shoulders

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Seafood Sam is a futuristic artifact. If that description might sound confusing at first, it matches the eclectic dualities found in true originals. With his effortless cool and timeless style, the North Long Beach native defies convention and exact comparison. He’s a virtuosic rapper and a symphonic producer. Welcome to the lavish life of a laid-back transcontinental man of mystery, rolling in old school Cadillacs, eating caviar with a blade in his pocket, and making plays in vintage Pelle Pelle gear. A blaxploitation icon for the Instagram age, blessed with the bars of a ‘90s legend and 23rd century swagger. Seafood Sam is a true hero of modernity. 

On his full-length album debut for up-and-coming label drink sum wtr (Kari Faux,Deem Spencer, Aja Monet), Standing on Giant Shoulders, Sam splits the difference between Snoop Dogg and D’ Angelo, Curren$y and David Ruffin. The songs reveal a forward-thinking sensibility rooted in ancestral soul. He creates spiritual hymns for the streets that tap into universal ideals and irrepressible groove. In an era plagued by short-term thinking, his ambitions reveal a crate-digging depth of music history and a meticulous ear for detail. 

The giant shoulders in the album’s title refer to James Brown, Bobby Brown, and Miles Davis – the holy trinity who inspired Sam’s process. From the Godfather of Soul, Sam took a perfectionist’s rigor and focus. The example of Bobby Brown lent an unshakeable confidence and self-belief. While the constant artistic left turns of the trumpeter that birthed Cool offered an aspirational archetype. 

The story starts in the glory days of Long Beach hip-hop. As a young child, the G-Funk era soundtracked rides in Sam’s father’s car. Some of his earliest memories are trying to memorize Snoop’s verse on “Nuthin’ But a “G” Thang.” Beyond gangsta rap, the LBC has historically doubled as a capital of lowrider soul and carwash oldies. At any intersection, you could hear Dogg Food or Brenton Wood, Warren G or Barbara Lynn. This too was absorbed via osmosis. It also just so happened that the art of performance was always in Sam’s blood. So at family functions, he and his sister supplied entertainment by singing karaoke renditions of The Isley Brothers. While his Harlem Shake remains a thing of local lore. 

Long Beach is a culturally diverse mecca of skate parks and gang life, street fashion and tricky dance moves. This is the place that raised Sam on a diet of Wu-Tang and Nelly Furtado, Lil Bow Wow and Allen Iverson. He was the middle ground between his two older brothers: one who gangbanged, the other who graduated with a master’s degree from UC-Santa Barbara.

But it wasn’t until the end of high school that Sam started to take rap seriously. Alongside long-time collaborators like Huey Briss and Reaper Mook, Sam’s name began to make waves on the northside of the city, but he was partially distracted by a modeling career that paid the bills and took him all to way to walk in Paris’ fashion week. The first turning point arrived with 2018’s “Ramsey,” a self-produced, slick-talk anthem with over 10,000,000 streams across all platforms. 

With each subsequent release, Sam showcased his peerless consistency, building buzz both online and in the city streets. Spin hailed his “smooth and unhurried cadences and understated lyricism…that sounds like nothing else in Long Beach.” Clash raved about Sam’s “evolution as an artist, cruising through nostalgic production with slick, witty rhymes.”

The culmination arrives with Standing on Giant Shoulders. It’s the evidence of a master, a young sensei in the model of Quincy Jones. All of the rhymes, singing, production, and arrangements envisioned by Sam were created in collaboration with his kinsman Tom Kendall from the Soular System group. It’s the rare modern hip-hop album that demands to be heard on vinyl, an arsenal of sample-free soul-funk without skips. It’s hard-edged and lyrical enough for disciples of Larry June and Roc Marciano, but orchestral and melodic enough for fans of Anderson .Paak and H.E.R. 

The album opens with the “Saylo,” a sunshine and palm trees Sunday cruise on the avenues. Sam crafts a temporary utopia of infectious rhythms and buttery cadences, casting himself in the role of the 2023 West Coast Mase: Harlem World harmoniously meeting the LBC. “Can’t Take The Hood To Heaven” is a spiritual drive-bye. A poignant remembrance of the times where Sam’s grandmother would call him to ask if he believed in God. Sink into this flashback of pre-adolescent memories when Sam’s parents bumped Kirk Franklin and gospel. But there are easter eggs embedded to satisfy those non-believers seeking terrestrial grounding. 

On “Cowboy Leather,” Sam teams with Pink Siifu to drop a modern hood western. A shootout in the desert, where the gunmen wear white tees, the beat sounds like Sergio Leone on Long Beach Blvd, and Sam moonwalks with a Berry Gordy smile. “Attack of the Dreadlocks” finds Sam in union with Rae Khalil, answering the question of what would the Fugees sound like if they emerged in 2023. “Bullets From a Butterfly” is a crushed velour two-step glide where Sam details his glow up from government cheese and welfare checks to three-course meals and designer fashion. 

These are uplifting tales of classic cars and eternal prayers for a better future, odes to gorgeous women with cinnamon complexion and the importance of listening to the wisdom of the elders. It reveals an artist dedicated to creating three-dimensional quality music in a microwave world. A gentleman and a scholar. A rebirth of cool from someone secure in their own skin. A student of the classics ready to stand shoulder-to-shoulder alongside giants. This is Seafood Sam’s time. We’re just living in it.


℗ + © 2024 drink sum wtr

Written and produced by Bryan Ramsey Jr. (Seafood Sam)

Music produced by Thomas Kendall Hughes

Additional production/vocals/instruments/etc by Anthony Michael Lynn, Andrei Taru Kvapil, Graciela Beverly Magwili Sprout, Jacob William Abernathie, Trevor J. Torres, Bryan Bradley Baker, Kelsey Miguel González, Jairus Lemuel-Jada Mozee, Eric Norman Hirschhorn, Thomas Patrick Terrell, Kevin Perez, Devin J. Morrison, Nichola Utupo, Kemari Duhon, Adam Edwards, Grandma Rose (R.I.P)

Mixed & Mastered by Thomas Kendall Hughes

Artwork by Esteban Samayao

Layout by Molly Smith

Artist Management Barrington Darius

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