Remember that "not #squad but gang" I rolled with to Humans? The majority of those crazy kids were all Texans who are part of a really beautiful magazine called Austere. They trekked out to Bushwick all the way from Dallas to throw a party for the 17th issue called URL/IRL, which HELLO is kind a little too fitting for yours truly to attend. In addition to various pieces curated together by Baby Art Gallery, one of my (now) new favorite experimental hip-hop artist, Sam Lao, also from Dallas, performed that evening.
Do you know Sam Lao? You should know Sam Lao. Especially if you're the type at person that feels you should never take shit from anyone who tries to discriminate against you for your race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. and that we all should be treated equally as humans.
I'd say she champions for equality, but really she's a feminist warrior. I was made known of this within the first 2 minutes of her set when she opened with the first track off her latest album, SPCTRM, "Reminder (Bitch I'm Me)", when she shouted the chorus, "Bitch I'm me! Bitch I'm me! Fuck what you want me to be!"
In addition to being a singer/rapper, Lao touts herself as an alchemist, artist, and an outlier. She started out doing slam poetry in high school, which soon ended after she started college for her BFA in Visual Communications. Unfortunately, during her last semester in college she was forced to drop out because she couldn't afford tuition. "I was a month into the semester," she recounted, "I had already done the first project and I was getting ready [to graduate] and they were like, 'Nope you gotta get out. You haven't paid for it.'" Frustrated by her financial situation, this setback would leave her depressed to the point that she removed herself from all of her creative outlets. "I was doing nothing creatively and it was just like soul wrenching and terrible".
It was through the help of her friends in the music community that Lao was able to pull herself out of her depression by turning to music. "I always had a love for music but I never felt like I was good enough to pursue it," she explained, "It was just one of those like, 'Oh I'll just keep this little hobby here for myself and it makes me happy." Through some persuasion, she agreed to start writing in the studio with her friends. "[My music] just sort of blossomed from there." she said. In 2013, she released her first EP, West Pantego, to further pull herself out of depression.
According to Lao, the city of Dallas really took to the EP. "Suddenly I was performing all the time, I had all these shows and people were stopping me at random places [while I was out] to tell me how much they loved my music," she recounted, "So when it was time to make [SPCTRM] there was suddenly pressure there that wasn't in the beginning. That was a process to overcome. There was a lot of perceived outside pressure."
Just as she was wrapping up SPCTRM last fall, an unfortunate event that happens all too often to musicians happened to her: she lost her entire album due to a hard drive crash. "We were in the final mixing and mastering stages when I lost all the tracks," she explained, "Everything was gone. All I had was my lyrics." Over the course of the next 4 months Lao would remake her album from the ground up, complete with new beats and new music.
While her music is deeply rooted in hip-hop, Lao experiments mixing in various genres of her choosing. She's sampled Carlos Santa, Coldplay, and other artists in her music. "I like to listen to all different genres of music, so experimental hip-hop is a good sphere/little bubble there [to create in]," she said. Lyrically, she writes mostly about the experiences of women and the situations that the majority of women frequently endure. Songs like, "Pineapple" defiantly remind men that women aren't entitled to womens' bodies with lyrics like, "Don't police my areolas!", while a track like "Gold Link" calls out the absurdity of how taboo it still is for a woman to hit on a man while out at a club. While the subject matter may be forcefully feminist, according to Lao, she typically receives an equal amount of praise from both men and women after her performances.
I'm not sure when Sam Lao will be back in New York City but you can be assured that when she's back that you will be the first to hear about it.
Have a listen to her latest album, SPCTRM, below.
You can have a look at the photos from my night out with the latest addition to the #SKOAfam, Sam Lao, below.