Sahmbeau

The first time we caught wind of Houston based producer Sahmbeau was through the work of Javon Johnson when he handle the sound for “Flu” and “$/₵.” For a dude who’s still pretty young to the production business, there was an appreciation for classic beats and jazz usually reserved for more seasoned veterans. However, what really perked us up was when he heard his latest piece, There is a Sound to the Silence. It’s part EP, part long-form single that slides around different arrangements, and it’s got us feeling pretty stoked about where he’s heading.

After exchanging some messages on Twitter, we caught up with Sahmbeau over email to discuss where the music comes from, what it’s like to be young and managing life while producing, and his advice for anyone thinking about taking the leap into production.

Let’s start at the heart of it – your production has a striking maturity to it, like there’s a deep education to what you’re doing. Who were the artists that helped shape your sound?

My favorite artists have changed a lot over the course of the years I have been producing, and I’ve been at this for only three and a half years. I studied 90s rap and the LA beatscene, and right now it’s more so jazz artists in particular. But yeah, A Tribe Called Quest, Knxwledge, Ahmad Jamal, and Flying Lotus really inspired my growth as an artist.

Also – what’s the story behind your producer name?

‘Sahmbeau’ was a name I chose in reference to ‘sambo’, which is pretty much an outdated racial slur that caught my eye. Identity is very important, and I chose this to be used in a paradoxical way. To me, knowledge is power, and love is always the answer. ‘Sahmbeau’ represents the African American Intellectual striving to accumulate knowledge and spread love throughout the Earth, because the world ‘sho as hell needs it.

Jazz, funk, and soul are often complex in their arrangements and creation. What’s your background with those particular sounds, did you play or have you been mostly interested in production?

I played band for three years (trumpet), when I was in middle school, but that’s about it when it comes to instruments. I got into production because I started rapping, and I didn’t want to just jack instrumentals and shit off of YouTube like a lotta rappers like to do. It just so happened that around the time I started producing my own shit, I found out about the beatscene and beatmakers like Knx, Mndsgn, Ohbliv, Weirddough, and Straange (formerly known as KVZE). Their utilization of funk, soul, and jazz in their music inspired me to dig into those genres a bit more, and eventually it led to me crafting my own shit the way I do it. Now I love producing more than rapping.

At the same time, it seems like there’s a revival in interest of jazz and funk, especially in the hip-hop community. Do you think the younger generation has a certain connection to it, or where do you think it’s coming from?

I think the rappers that are starting to tap into that now have always known how beautiful and timeless jazz and funk is. But the younger generations don’t wanna fuck with it unless their favorite rapper wants to fuck with it. And sadly, you can’t be somebody’s favorite rapper unless you give them what they want these days, and ultimately, the younger generations want bullshit. That’s how I see it – I see little hope in them niggas, but I believe the beauty of jazz and funk will present itself more when artists start embracing it, similarly to how Kendrick Lamar did with To Pimp A Butterfly. Shit is a classic for that and its message.

There is a Sound to Silence is sort of an EP, but it also has specific sequences that move from one point to another as a long form single. Did you specifically create it that way, or did you ever think about breaking it up instead of doing one longer piece?

The idea of a longer piece came from the process I went through to create it. Instead of creating different tracks at different times separately, I had every sound laid out and sequenced from the beginning to the end of the EP… first time I ever did that, too. I put out the individual tracks on Bandcamp, but Soundcloud gets more traffic, so putting it out that way kinda ensured listeners got the gist of what I was attempting to accomplish with this piece.

How did you end up getting hooked up with Javon? Was that your first official credit as a producer?

I started working with Javon at the beginning of this year. I used to jam his Houston Museum Of Natural Science project back in my senior year of high school, and I was thinkin’, “We got dudes spittin’ like this in Houston?! Thank goodness! Fuck! Thank you!”, and that got me hyped! Never thought I’d be able to work with an artist of his caliber at my level of recognition, which is pretty much fuckin’ none. I sent him a joint last year, and we started connecting after that… found out we’re from the same side of Houston, East Houston – Channelview – and we even went to the same high school (at different times of course). I shot him a beat on New Year’s, sent him some more within the first two weeks of 2016, and one of those became “Flu.” He’s not the first artist I’ve produced for, but as ‘Sahmbeau’, very first.

We talked to him about Houston and the legendary scene there a little bit. What’s it like to have that as a backdrop, and how has it shaped you as an artist?

Houston rap hasn’t influenced me much. I was always more attracted to NY hip hop to be honest. But being in Houston and listening to the artists coming out, only few I can say I’m excited to see make an impact and keep the public eye on the city is Maxo Kream, Javon, Danny Watts, and my circle of homies currently tryna push they’re sounds at the University of Houston – shout out to Uncommon Colors! They the homies.

When it comes to being a young, up-and-coming producer, what kind of advice would you give to others thinking about testing the waters?

Now is better than any time to start looking into producing ‘cause I’ll tell you something – lotta dudes can’t rap for shit. Niggas could hardly freestyle or keep a rhythm on a beat. But that’s okay for a producer because if you want attention, and your beats are well crafted, niggas will pay you for those beats. Look at how Metro Boomin is catchin’ magazine covers. It’s a time where production value is starting to become more evident and lyrical ability is damn near becoming a lost art. Take advantage.

Where and how do you find your balance with everything going on? Right now I know you’re in school while also balancing your production work.

Finding balance right now is a bitch. I couldn’t even handle juggling my job and my summer courses, but it’s a process. It’s important to learn how to get there. I don’t think I’ve made any beats in over a week, but my mind is more focused on progressing as an individual. Hopefully that’ll be reflected in my art.

Is there anything currently in the works, or are you just playing it by ear/keeping it casual right now?

Collaborative pieces with Javon… There is a Sound to Silence is still kinda fresh. The homies got somethin’ goin’ on campus, and 9 times out of 10, I’ll have input in it. When the time comes, I’ll have another instrumental piece. And in due time, I’ll put my voice onto an album. But that’ll have to be when people will actually listen and take the time to comprehend the ideas, thoughts, and theories I have in my mind. Even I can barely interpret the shit that goes on up there.