Rapper and producer Sam Turpin performed at our first ever Young African Creatives Conference in June 2017, we caught up with him about his latest neon city lit video Lunar Vibes and his creative process.
CN: Please introduce yourself and tell us what you do.
Sam Turpin: I am Sam Turpin, I rap and produce hip-hop music! Not trap though haha..
What does a normal day look like for you?
Sam: First thing I do is shower, drink a glass of water and then check my emails..if my laundry and all my household work is finished then I'll start to work on some beats. Either I'll look for a record to sample or mess around with my synthesiser.. or if I already have some beats I'll get to work on writing some lyrics and if I have those then I'll start recording! Sometimes I'll record just in my room or go out to a studio.
CN: What made you want to become a rapper?
Sam: I grew up on hip-hop. I was born in '95 so by the time I was 6 years old it was at its peak around the world. All my friends in primary school would bring Kwaito and Hip Hop magazines and instead of playing we'd page through them. One of the first albums I memorised was OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Big Boi's verse on "Ghettomusick" was just so crazy I had to learn how to rhyme. I started to mess around with a few of my friends when I started highschool but I never got serious until after my mother passed away in 2011. I remember for about a year afterwards I would open my VSTs every now and then when I would be feeling depressed and would just mess around.. one day I made this loop and thought to myself "look I know its going to be hard but you'd be crazy not to put that out somehow".. we made a video for it and it became "Cranes" on my first EP!
CN: How have you been received by the public/your audience?
Sam: To be honest I'm not where I'd quite like to be yet, but I'd also be lying if I said things haven't been going well for me, relatively speaking. As of August 2017 I've performed at 6 festivals and if you said that to 2013 Sam he'd think you were lying haha. I would love to do more and engage more people, but I'm very grateful for everybody who has already shown love and supported me this far! They know who they are..
CN: What is your creative process, talk us through it?
Sam: Ooh that's a difficult one haha! My music is all feelings. I have to be emotionally moved or inspired to make a track. All the pain I've been through and all the joy as well, I process those emotions through music. It's how I get things off my chest to speak, but it means that at 4am I could get an idea and then have to get up and start work on it before I forget it. Sometimes if things are smooth emotionally I could produce maybe one or two tracks, but I work off of my empathy, so either empathy for society or for my personal like love or death etc. I can go months without making anything or do a whole project in one month. When I get a feeling that I need to express I convert it in my mind and heart and try record it as a beat, or I convert it to poetry and write it down as some lyrics.. but its all a very personal process.
CN: Talk us about your project ‘’Lunar Vibe’’, who worked on it and what do you hope people take out of the project.
Sam: Lunar Vibe was conceived after I moved closer to the city center in Johannesburg from the suburb Greenside where I grew up. Greenside is central too but it's entirely different from the inner city and its a very different vibe at night, Johannesburg is kinky like that haha. Both the track and the visuals were inspired by times when I've had to walk alone through the neon-lit city yet instead of enjoying its beauty worried about just getting back to my place. Its not a place you can clear your head and most people need to have their guard up a lot of the time. So it's about that disconnect between what the city is trying to be and what it is. The visuals were shot by videographer and producer Sims Phakisi and edited by Xolelwa Nhlabatsi. They both produce top quality work and so I enlisted them to make it happen! I can only hope that people who see it relate to it because it's that disconnect that a lot of South Africa's urban citizens confront on the daily and instead of seeing idealised TV commercials of the city at night, here is instead somebody who feels the same way as you and is scared too. It's okay to be scared, whether you're a student, a banker or a street sweeper. Its just an expression of anxiety and I hope that my cathartic release can help others find their own, also shout out to the Wits cats who've started to safely escort female students back who have to walk home at night!
Most of your projects you speak a lot about anxiety the youth is going through, why?
Sam: Well I can only speak from my personal experience. It's tough to be young, especially in a country where you're kind of just expected to get on with your life.There is a lot of pressure here when as a nation we still have a lot of baggage to sort out, yet most young people don't get that time to breath. Anxiety is something myself and my friends have had to deal with, like things might be tough at home and then when you leave you find that things are tough on the street too. I have my own background of depression but I know others who have been through it and are going through it now. Anxiety is outchea! But if we support each other and stay strong we can defeat it and art is a very powerful way to do that. Someone might relate and feel better in knowing that someone was able to create something beautiful out of something painful. It's almost like a bat signal or sonar haha.
CN: Which African creative’s work have you been looking at lately?
Sam: DJ Steloo from Accra. I got to meet him last year. He's been killing it!
CN: What advice do you have for creatives?
Sam: Just be yourself! It sounds cliche but it's actually true. It might seem like you have to conform to what radio or TV wants or to adjust your stuff to fit better, a lot of young artists get told things like that..but it's just a smokescreen. You can do whatever you want to do and make a living from it. Once you find yourself its about hard work and dedication on a personal level, the other stuff will come later. There really are no gatekeepers, do you!
What does creativity mean to you?
Sam: Creativity means being able to innovate, be it personally or otherwise, in a way that allows you to be your fullest and truest self without compromise.. and hopefully to change some lives along the way!
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