WTFIRGO — Seafood Sam

Photography: Ian Flanigan & Nick Green (image no. 1, 15, 16)
Styling: Barrington Darius
Interview: Rich Thomas

We interrupt your regularly scheduled hyperbolic, Auto-Tune-coated rap programming to bring you this dose of real hip-hop. Let the saxophone blast, fill the air with herb smoke, and cruise down to 56 and Linden for a full serving of Seafood.

Repping Long Beach to the fullest, Seafood Sam recently dropped his debut full-length, Dior Velour, the follow-up to his 2018 EP Du-Rag Dreams. Featuring 12 tracks and clocking in at just under a half-hour, Dior paints a lush picture of a forward-thinking yet classically minded young man trying to tell new tales about an old hood with a checkered history.

You’re originally from Long Beach, right? How old are you?


Long Beach has such a strong identity for different generations of Californians. What defines the Long Beach that you grew up in versus the Long Beach that people have only seen on TV or heard about in rap songs?

Back in the day things were kinda boxed in. It was pushing the gang activity, which is still there. Long Beach looks like the suburbs but if you go down the wrong street…That’s why I say stay away from fruits and nuts in Long Beach: Cherry, Walnut. Those are the streets that something can pop off on. But that era is no longer there. It’s not low riders and stuff riding up and down the streets no more. That’s a cool video concept, but everything is expanding now. Different people that didn’t hang together then hang together now. It’s a melting pot. I feel like back in the day if Sublime and Snoop knew each other they wouldn’t put out there that they knew each other, but now that’s completely different.

 How do you think that has informed your art?

I kinda always walked that fine line. My two big brothers—I had one that was gangbanging and one that graduated with a master’s degree from Santa Barbara—so I’ve always been right in the middle trying to figure out everything. That's why my horizons already been expanded from the jump. I was raised off Wu-Tang and Kurupt and all that stuff and Maroon 5 and Nelly Furtado. Skateboarding and spitfire and all that but also what hood is here and what hood is there.

Do you think that mix of influences pushed you in one way or another? So much of today’s rap is about melody over lyrical substance, which to me is counter-intuitive to what rapping should be.

I stay focused on what I’m doing. I tell people all the time, everything is on a time clock. At one point I thought hyphy music was going to be the shit forever, then it went out—or jerk music, but then it went out. EDM was really popular when I was in high school and now it’s out. Right now I feel like we in this era of melody and it just all flooded in, but I stay true to my regular. I was born in ’91 so that’s the era I look up to, so I feel like I gotta do all these things to get respect from the big homies. But this era is like, “I don’t need the big homies. F them.”

It’s almost combative mindset.

With the passing of Nispey, RIP, now people don’t want to see the BS no more. “What are you really talking about?”

And that matches up with what’s happening socio-politically, both in the country and in Los Angeles. L.A. has always provided thought-provoking rap. Who are some of those SoCal MCs that you came up admiring?

It would probably be Tha Dogg Pound—Nate Dogg, Kurupt and them. Now Long Beach don’t get pushed right to me. It only shows gangbanging because that’s all we really had. I was in Switzerland and someone was like “You’re from Long Beach? Crip?” I said, “What?!” Nah!” All that era reported on was banging because that’s what they were.

Do you think that’s good or bad for you? To have that misconception—or at least an old preconception—that Long Beach is strictly gangsta rap?

It’s a double-edged sword. It’s cool but at the same time it hinders it. Sometime people be like, “Oh, you from Long Beach? I ain’t gonna fuck with him. Make sure his mic works. I don’t want him calling the people.” [Laughs] You know what I’m saying? You can be completely nice and they’ll still think that. But none of that affects my way of thinking and my way of moving ’cause I’ve always been focused on how I wanted to do it. I was raised off Lil’ Bow Wow and Iverson so I kinda already seen from the jump that I wanted to go a certain way. Even if the way of the world was going one way, I still gotta do me.

To me, hip-hop by nature has to be substantive. Freestyling, for example. Call me old fashioned, but if you can’t freestyle are you really an MC? You came up in that era where storytelling was an integral part of MCing. Do you think that art form is dead?

Nah, I just don’t it’s time has come around. It’s more like weekend music turned to weekday music. Back in the day, you could bump some Sade and clean the house and just relax and chill. Then on the weekend you could put on some Mystikal and let’s go up! Nowadays it’s completely different. I had a homie that was chilling with a girl and he was trying to be on some smooth player shit and she was like  “Can we play Lil Uzi?” And he was like, “It’s just us two and it’s 2 o’clock in the morning!” It somehow flipped, but I think everything is monkey see, monkey do. I feel like when I reach a certain level, everybody then will try and mimic what I do and at least that’ll give us that era back of that real shit. I wanna get it to where little kids is like opening doors for they moms and it’d like “Oh, that’s some Seafood shit. Seafood would do this. ‘After you, ma’am.’” Even if they was being fake about it, at least it’s fake about being real.

What do you think defines you as a man and as an MC?

I think it’s my character and my way of understanding. I don’t judge nobody, I don't got no ego. We all gotta win and figure out a way to survive. I’m just clean cut. No hiding behind bushes. No fronts. I don’t be extra in my rap or nothing. Me and [Huey] Briss, we got two sayings we live by. One, you can never lie on yourself. If you was with a girl and you just kissed, say you just kissed. Ain’t got nothing to lie about. Never do that and never do nothing you can’t tell your dad you did.

What about moms?

Moms is OG but pops...he’s the foundation.

What does he do?

Right now he works for the water department, cooling out somewhere stationed in the Valley. He was so popular in the city that he had to duck off and be an OG and chill. He would come back to Long Beach and everywhere he went they’d be like, “Sarge! Sarge!” I’ve seen him have full conversations with people and he’ll turn around and be like, “I do not know his name!” He came here from Chicago straight from the Marines, so all the gangbanging wasn’t that tough to him. I seen him get banged on by some dudes once.

He was standing by someone else outside of a liquor store and a group of dudes came up and they asked the guy he was with, “Yo, where your guy from?” and he was like “Ask me, I’m right here.” They’re like “Where you from, homie?” And he was like “I’m from whatever enemy hood you beefin’ with.”

Do you think your father’s mindset contributed to you wanting to propagate that realness in your raps?

Yeah, that’s it. I mean, if my dad heard me talking about flipping bricks and cuttin’ throats he gonna be like, “Yo, you ain’t never done none of that, man!”

What’s happening for you musically? Got big plans for 2020?

I just released Dior Velour a couple of weeks ago and that’s doing really well. For the next year I’ve got a project I’m working on called Attack of the Dreadlocks and that’s just like full on hip-hop. That’s me not even trying to give the new age a little bit. I want Dilla, RIP, to open up the gates and be like, “Yo, what’s going on down there?!” That one is coming straight for the throats.

Tell me about the name, Seafood Sam. How did that come about?

It’s two stories that came together. It was originally Shifu Sam, shifu meaning “master,” like in Kung Fu Panda. My little brother, his name is Master. He passed away from a brain tumor when he was 8 and I was 12. So my name was Master Sam, Shifu Sam, because that was his name. But I was thinking people might not get the whole shifu thing and I didn’t want to appropriate cultures or nothing, but the seafood part…I can’t even front. I was high as hell watching Edward Scissorhands with the homie and he said it and I thought it was funny. You know how it goes.

So you were…

...trying to combine both of us. Honestly, he was the one into everything. I was just more so his big brother. He was into rapping and basketball and we’d be out hanging in the front yard and the older boys would come by like “What up, Chuckie?!” That was his nickname. I’d be like, “Do you be sneaking out at night? How do you know the whole block?!”

Was his passing out of the blue or did he have a condition?

No. We was outside playing football in the yard and you know how it’s a patch of grass, another patch of grass, and that strip of concrete up the middle? We were playing football and he got tackled, but he hit his head on the concrete part. Night by night by night he kept talking about how his head hurt and he’d be having nose bleeds and other random stuff. At one point he was like, “This hurts real bad” so I went and told my mom, “Can you get Chuckie to the hospital?” They went to the doctors and they said he had 8 months to live. He was gone February 19.

When Chuckie passed away that’s when I took on that vibe. Ain’t shit really hard. I already lost my shadow so ain’t nothing else can hurt me. I told someone this the other day—I feel like I’m living his life. He was supposed to be dong this. He had the long hair. I stayed with a bald fade. He talked about tattoos and rapping and the life. So I even feel like how cool and smooth I am…weirdly, that’s him. I feel like I would have been more like his bodyguard. Like don’t fuck with him or I’m coming! But it didn’t happen like that.


Listen on Spotify & Apple Music:

Seafood Sam – Dior Velour (Spotify) Seafood Sam – Dior Velour (Apple Music)

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