A musical comeback after staying under the radar for a few years would typically be a nerve-wrecking experience for some artists, but for R&B singer Sammie — perhaps best known for hits like his 1999 breakout “I Like It” and 2006’s “You Should Be My Girl” — he’s “1000 percent confident” about his return to R&B.
After social media (specifically The Shade Room) posted a snippet of Sammie’s new track “I’m Him,” accumulating over three million views on Instagram, Sammie got back to work and headed to the studio. “It was the people that made ‘I’m Him’ the first single,” Sammie told Billboard. “It just really took a life of its own.”
Sammie rose to fame in the early 2000s as the pre-teen heartthrob with his certified gold debut album From the Bottom to the Top, led with the hit single “I Like It” — which climbed to No. 24 on the Hot 100. He took a break only to return a few short years later with the Jazze Pha-produced track “You Should Be My Girl” and even assisted Soulja Boy on the 2008 single “Kiss Me Thru The Phone.”
Despite embarking on a burgeoning path to commercial success, Sammie removed himself from music once again. After a catastrophic falling out with a former business manager, he launched his own imprint, Star Camp Entertainment, inspiring him to channel his energy back into music leading up to his latest release, I’m Him. The EP is a confluence of throwback R&B undertones — he salutes Ginuwine’s “Pony” on “Impatient” as well as Usher‘s “Nice and Slow” on “I’m Him” — and hard-hitting strokes of hip-hop.
Below, he discusses the inspiration behind the six-track EP and his mission to “save R&B.”
Despite your musical success at a young age, why was it important for you to walk away from the spotlight during that time?
I just really wanted to be a child and live a normal life. When you’re blessed with success at a young age, it was an exciting time for me and my family but at the same time it was kind of hard to juggle superstardom as well as having a sense of normalcy. My parents always instilled in me that no matter how much money you have, no matter how much fame you have, you can’t buy time back. So me going back to high school and just getting an education and meeting a lot of people, that was more important than just fame. I was blessed to have the best of both worlds.
Did you feel like going back to high school and leaving your musical career hurt your chances of making a strong comeback? Were you afraid people would sort of forget about Sammie?
It made the journey a little more difficult as far as rising back to the top but I believe wholeheartedly that if you’re great at what you do, you’ll always be able to create other opportunities for yourself. I knew I would be able to get back to the top, it was just gonna be a little bit more of a challenge because I took four years off.
You then came back with “You Should Be My Girl” and “Come With Me.” What motivated you to get back into the studio after being away for so long?
My passion. God gave me this gift. This is what I was put on Earth to do. Music is a universal language so to be able to go into the studio and create these ideas, make melodies and to touch millions of people on this Earth, that’s a powerful gift. As soon I graduated [high school], I knew college wasn’t in my near future. I didn’t like school. “You Should Be My Girl” came out and it was just the shock value of how much I had grown since [fans had] last seen me and I’m super happy that they embraced me back. It’s hard to go away for six months to a year let alone, four, but I knew that music is where my heart was.
You also released a few mixtapes and your full-length album Indigo dropped last year. What experiences were you going through at the time that contributed to the content you featured on your projects?
To be honest, after my sophomore album, I went through a terrible breakup with an ex-business partner of mine. I was in a dark place in 2009. This person that I trusted to handle my business took everything from me, from vehicles to credit cards to money. I had nothing. I wasn’t in a happy place so me doing mixtapes was me trying to not die, giving myself a reason to live and continue forward. I never wanted to do mixtapes or EPs because I love music so much but I feel like when you give it out for free, it becomes disposable.
That’s why music is so disposable to this day as we speak. That’s why when you drop an album in three months, in six months, they expect another one but I had to do mixtapes to stay sane. I just needed to do it to stay happy. So in that process, I was just living life, I was in a couple relationships — some were awesome, some were awful — there was times when I was a great boyfriend, and there were times where I was weak and did terrible things. That’s when I started to write about that. Last year, I decided to really open up and I released Indigo.
Given your evolution over the years and the experiences you’ve faced, how comfortable are you now with yourself and your sound?
Yeah, I’m 1000 percent confident in myself. I think that even the support that I’ve received from the EP I’m Him, which debuted in the Top 5 on iTunes and is currently in the Top 10 on Apple Music — proves that. Now that I’m back in the forefront, I’ve been prepping for this for the last eight years of my life so I’m totally comfortable.
You mentioned earlier that today’s music is “disposable.” What’s your take on the state of R&B today?
I think the “what” that changed R&B — there is a what, it’s not a who — is AutoTune. I made it my business to not use AutoTune and oversaturate my projects. I made it my business to write about transparency and honesty. It’s time to praise our queens and uplift them. What greater way to do that than through R&B music? I grew up on Case, Joe, Boyz II Men — real music. It’s kind of my mission to influence my peers to go back into the studio and reconsider the content that they’re singing about because it’s been too long of this hip-hop influenced R&B going on. It’s no shade to anyone who’s doing it, there’s just too much of it.
Describe your creative process behind I’m Him.
I’m 29 now so I’m young enough to still appeal to the newer generation but old enough to know what R&B used to be. My mission is to save R&B, I’m not trying to be the king or prince of it but I do want to be the R&B savior. But I have to really shout out The Shade Room because I had no plan for [my single] “I’m Him.” I leaked samples of my record and an hour later, Shade Room took my clip and they posted it on their own. Within like three days, it had three million views. The fans wanted a project so we kept the name simple, I’m Him, and I just started creating records that I knew would compliment that first single. I already had my middle — I just needed the beginning and the end.
Now that you’re back, are there any artists that you want to collaborate with for your future projects?
Yeah, there’s been a gap since we had a strong male-female collaborations so I would love to do something with Brandy. I think she’s amazing. If I could marry her vocal chords tomorrow, I would. I grew up listening to Usher — that’s like somebody I idolize so if I ever got a chance to collab with Usher, whether we do a record together or I pen something for him, that would be a dream come true. For the curve ball, if Stevie Wonder could play the keys and allow me to be a blessing on a record, I could pretty much die and go to heaven at that point.
If you could make the ultimate throwback R&B playlist, what songs would be featured on it?
“Stutter” by Joe, “Back At One” by Brian McKnight, Boyz II Men, “My Way” by Usher and “My Cherie Amour” by Stevie Wonder.
?What’s next for Sammie? No more hiatuses, right?
[Laughs] Nope, I’m not ever leaving, even when I’m 70 years old, wheelchair and all — they can’t stop me. Now that the music’s out, I’m just excited to start touring. I am finishing up a few tour dates with Eric Bellinger but 2017, I’m definitely trying to put together a tour so I can touch these people in an intimate way. I’m going straight into album mode next month. That will be my official third album. I want to create an everlasting, timeless project.
Listen to Sammie’s EP I’m Him below.