Female rapper Sammus recently finished up her “Rappers with Arm Cannons” tour, and spoke of the experience, as well as her progression as an artist. As an Ithaca native, and Cornell University graduate, her music has spread far beyond a local sphere of influence.
She performed in many different venues, as her tour included various stops in New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Kentucky, Arizona and Texas. RWAC was Sammus’ first tour, and she wasn’t really sure what to expect.
“I set the bar kind of low in terms of thinking nobody’s going to show up to any shows.”
She explained her tactic of imagining the worst-case scenario, in order to try to stay levelheaded, and psych herself out of getting too excited. However, Sammus’ tour outcome far superseded expectations. Her experience was filled with responsive audiences, and allowed Sammus to build up her fan base.
“Every place we went to, people were really receptive and bought a lot of merch(andise). The beautiful thing about the set up was being able to perform and then see and feel your passion, and even though they didn’t know you before, they’re now invested in what you have to say.”
Sammus’ stage name derives from video game character Samus, and their backstories exhibit striking similarities.
“When I was first making beats, a lot of people didn’t know it was me making the beats, so they would ask. Even after I said it was me, they still kind of didn’t believe me…anyone who knows the video game ‘Metroid’, knows that at the end of the game, the character running around in this armored suit (Samus) reveals herself to be a woman, and it’s sort of groundbreaking in pop culture and video game culture.”
The story really resonated with her because her situation caused people to be taken aback and acknowledge that a woman was making those beats, just as video gamers discovered Samus was a female character.
Sammus is continuing to grow as an artist, getting recognized for her unique style and lyrical abilities, but she began her career solely as a producer. Sammus decided to rap over her own beats after a beat of hers was experimented with by another artist.
“I remember sending a beat to a friend, and then that beat was sent to another person, and then that beat was sent to me with somebody else rapping over it, and I was really upset. I was like, if anyone’s gonna rap over my beats, it’s gonna be me.”
She also moved to Houston, Texas where she was teaching, and her time spent there led to her desire to be seriously devoted to rap music. Sammus felt crushed by the education system, and that she could not make the changes she desired to make. She needed a creative outlet to express what she was living through, and figured that putting words to her beats was a great way to do so.
Her progression as an artist is very similar to that of one of Kanye West, who is one of her biggest musical influences. Like Sammus, West also started as a producer first, who later decided to rap over his own beats.
“He really opened my mind to the power of creative expression through hip-hop.”
Sammus next brought up a point of how hip-hop music is seen differently than other genres by the public, but that it should be respected in its nature and ability to produce powerful messages and interpretations through music.
“I feel like hip-hop has gotten a bad rep in terms of not being seen as an art form in the same ranks as classical music, and rock music. We’re making music that’s incredible and powerful, and we should be seen as having creative output that’s just as worthy of recognition.”