Stay open-minded – learn everything about something, because every experience informs the next.
Taking us back to the era of slow jams and high school romance, LA native and DJ, SOSUPERSAM (aka. Samantha Duenas) shares the story of her love affair with the sound of the 90’s. Known on the circuit for her genre-bending antics behind the decks, Sam is no stranger to mixing a classic J Dilla track with 70’s soft rock classic. Choosing not to play it safe, her style has seen her share the stage with for R’n’B legends Boys II Men, Erykah Badu and Childish Gambino. Days before the release of her music video ‘A Little Wrong’ from the Garden EP, we speak to Sam about love and finding her sound.
Throwing it Back TO THE 90’s
TBE : Your music looks back to the 90’s a lot, what did this time mean to you?
A lot of what I do now is inspired by sentiments that I held when I was a kid growing up in the 90’s. It was all about making mixtapes for people, paging your highschool boyfriend ‘I love you’ and doodling lyrics. That just ruled my whole life at that time. I love the way people used to communicate, the style of music and the way they wrote. A lot of my music taste stems from that.
TBE : There was a lot of romantic sentiment back then with acts like Boys II Men, they had a lot of poetry.
Yeah, everything was so urgent, so dire. You know you don’t get that feeling any more. Back then when you listen to a lot of R’n’B it was like ‘I can’t breathe without you, you are everything, I miss you forever’. It was a lot more vulnerable, it was warmer and, for me, emotions were a lot more present. I miss that. I think that’s what I always look for when I turn onto a playlist. I think it is very specific to that era.
TBE : Whilst it started in the 90’s, sampling seems predominant in music these days. How do you feel about musicians reaching back into the archives to create something new?
Yeah I think that’s typical of music, fashion and art. I think it’s important to continue to reinterpret and be inspired by the past and the things that you grew up with. You have to work to redefine it, contextualise it for today’s society. I don’t think that there is any problem with it at all, I think there is an original sound, I just think sometimes it’s more of a homage. You probably won’t think of something as being original until in 20 years later someone borrows it and redefines it. I think it’s all about context and perspective, and how you define original versus sampled. As long as people are still making things that’s what’s important.
…as long as people are still making things that’s what’s important.
If you wanted to hear a new song on the radio you had to be in front of a radio, to record it, to keep it.
TBE : Do you think that the current generation are missing out on what was going on the 90’s music wise?
Today we have access to everything. And, there is a lot of beauty in that, people have a much broader palette but you miss that exclusivity or that moment of discovery. You miss that time to really cherish an album and really sit with it, without being mentally bombarded with 7 new releases, 8 new mixtapes, 5 singles and 17 new remixes. Sitting at your computer consuming so much music, it’s kind of isolating. I think that that’s what I think it’s lost.
When I was growing up we only had access to whatever was regional, there were maybe 4 or 5 albums each summer that everyone listened to. If you wanted to hear a new song on the radio you had to be in front of a radio, to record it, to keep it. There was that physical need to move your body and go to the record store else you wouldn’t find any new music. And if you wanted to learn the words to a song you had to just play it over, and over.
In the mix
TBE : So how do you go about putting a mix together?
Usually there is some kind of theme to start with. There is a starting concept, maybe I need something to really zone out to on an aeroplane or maybe it begins with just one song. It could be that within that song there is a really interesting bass line and I can think of seven other songs that share that bassline, that could work together in a mix.
The other thing I like to do is call on a mix of different genres, and sequence songs in an interesting way. So maybe it is mixing Steely Dan with Jay Dilla, or playing Sade after Fetty Wap. I don’t even like that (Sade) song but if you mix it that way it becomes more appealing, a little head scratch moment. A mix tape is a great landscape for those moments.
TBE : And where do you discover new music?
I have some go-to’s, on a weekly basis I listen to Lefto, a DJ from Belgium. His weekly show really spans the spectrum and listening to that will usually lead me down a rabbit hole of discovery. I also listen to my friends’ station, Soulection Radio. Other than that I think it’s about travelling, going down to shows and talking to friends. It’s so important to always have that dialogue with friends and to keep sending each other music.
It’s so important to always have that dialogue with friends and to keep sending each other music.
TBE : What are your favourite mixes at the moment?
I really like this 3 Hour Rinse FM mix by Doorly. It’s a mish-mash or disco, techno, house, headnod. I really like the Fact mag mixes. Brodinski had a mix on Fact that I really, really liked, particularly because he mixes minimal techno with rap. And my friend Sasha Marie who’s on Soulection, she’s just so vibey. I really like her mixes because she’ll add in scores from movie soundtracks, really old jazz records, Elvis, the new Bad Bad Not Good, some new R’n’B artists but it sounds really good because it all has the same kind of energy.
SONGS THAT EVERYONE WHO DIDN’T GROW UP
IN THE 90′ NEEDS TO LISTEN TO
TBE : You’ve been a DJ for eight years now, what are the lessons you have learnt through your career so far?
I think the first lesson is to ‘Be good at your job’ – that really applies to everything. Then, ‘Stay open-minded’ – learn everything about something, because every experience informs the next. I played in Berlin basements, weddings, art galleries and corporate events. Staying open-minded keeps my job really interesting. I think your palette gets really diverse that way and your ear changes.
At one point I just decided, ‘fuck this’ I want to play Portishead at a Hip Hop club, and then I want to play the Cardigans and the original Santana track, you know what I mean?
When I started learning it was all very purist, you know turntables and only playing the classics. If you played Prince and MJ, it was an unwritten rule you should never play Nelly and stuff that isn’t considered “good music.” At one point I just decided, ‘fuck this’ I want to play Portishead at a Hip Hop club, and then I want to play the Cardigans and the original Santana track, you know what I mean? When I opened that box it’s when I really started to have fun and I started to get a response from the modern listener who appreciates Kanye, but also appreciates Ariel Pink. Crossing genres was a really important lesson for me to learn, it was how I created a lane for myself.
TBE : So its important not to take yourself too seriously?
Yeah that’s a good lesson too, don’t be too serious. And don’t do whatever everyone else is doing, do it different…do you. As you progress and as your hobby turns into your livelihood it’s important to always remind yourself why you started doing it in the first place. It kinda fucks you up when you think too industriously, you have to revisit questions like ‘why did I make my first mix?’ When you create that way you will get the most authentic and sincere response, whether it’s good or bad.
TBE : And finally, do you have a philosophy for life?
You can always look at all the things you have accomplished, but then you can always look at all the things you haven’t and all the things you are scared of. So, I think it just depends what day it is, sometimes I am really comfortable and sometimes I am scared of everything. I just try to have a good sense of humour. I think my philosophy is that life isn’t always fun but it’s always funny… you just have to laugh.
…it’s important to always remind yourself why you started doing it in the first place
SOSUPERSAM SS17 HIGHLIGHTS
SOSUPERSAM, born Samantha Duenas, is a native Los Angeles DJ, vocalist, and performing artist, highly sought after for her talents behind the turntables and her style in front of them. Seamlessly bridging new underground sounds with rap, classic hip hop, R&B, future bass, and indie favorites, she has created a unique lane for herself as a multi-hyphenate performer, personality, and style ambassador. She is in constant demand from music heads, A-list celebrities, and lifestyle brands alike. As a DJ, SOSUPERSAM is a familiar name in the international music circles. She hosts and DJs “143,” a popular R’n’B party that she co-founded. At present, SOSUPERSAM is a member of Soulection, the worldwide record label and collective. Through these various avenues, Sam regularly tours through Europe, Asia, and Australia.