“Grind Till We Rich” is by far the most personal track on Young Sam’s new album “TRAPfornia.” It also happens to be the track that the LA-based rapper is most proud of. “’Grind Till We Rich’ is real motivational. It’s like letting people know like you got to do what you got to do to be successful,” Sam tells me during our interview in Los Angeles, California.
In a time when most hip-hop artists develop their cred through jewelry, cars and clothes, the grind is viewed in the past tense. Grinding was something Lil Wayne and Kanye West had to do before they were gold and platinum megastars. Here is Young Sam though, a 23-year-old rapper from South Central L.A, talking about being new to the game. “Grind Till We Rich” is his new album’s most intimate track, because it is honest.
Young Sam isn’t acting at being rich or a thug. “TRAPfornia” is an album about working hard for everything you have, something Young Sam knows all too well. Over two years’ time, Young Sam has racked up over 14 million views from a devoted digital fanbase he built via YouTube.
I caught up with Young Sam at the headquarters of creative network Fullscreen where we talked the state of modern hip hop, being a rapper on YouTube and his new album “TRAPfornia.”
Young Sam, how old are you exactly?
Young Sam: 23.
Why “Young Sam”? Why that name?
That’s me, man. Young Sam.
How long have you been rapping?
Man, so long. Since a young age, like 7th grade. Just recording, writing on like nothing. Like in a studio that was nothing. Rapping on the Windows computer microphone, just grinding.
Is that something you’ve always wanted to do as long as you can remember?
Yeah, always interested in music.
You’re 23 now. Say you don’t hit it super big — how long will you keep rapping?
Forever. Forever, because I feel like so many people are trying to be the next big thing, but this is something I love, so if I don’t be that next big thing tomorrow, I’m still going to do it next year because I’m just perfecting my craft.
Do you think you could stick it out to 35 like 2 Chainz if that happens?
Yeah, I believe I can.
2 Chainz is just coming up. He’s 35, and he’s been doing this for a long time. What do you think recently has made him become popular?
Sticking to his own style. Everybody sets trends, everybody looking for that new thing, so 2 Chainz had this style that wasn’t big before, but now people on it so that’s great. You gotta stick to your style.
A lot of up-and-coming rappers don’t go to YouTube. They’ll do mixtapes, be on SoundCloud or just sell it online. Why did you decide to go on YouTube?
Because it’s like a timeline of my life. Through YouTube, people can see how I progressed, and they can see like, “Oh, Young Sam, he’s no one-hit wonder; he’s been doing music for so long,” like they could build with me. People across the world can feel like they know me just through YouTube.
Do you remember the first thing you ever posted to YouTube?
I had a freestyle just rapping, but I didn’t like it [laughs]. So I deleted it, and I’m really sad about it to this day like, “Why did I delete that?”
When you first started posting to YouTube, did you expect that you would become such a hit on it?
Man, I didn’t. I just thought I was uploading videos to it like, “Okay, I want to keep track of what I been doing, so I’m just going to upload.” But little by little it began getting more views and people been following what I been doing.
Do you follow any other rappers on YouTube?
Yeah, I do follow some artists, yeah.
What do you think of their craft on YouTube? Do you like their stuff?
Yeah, I feel like it’s another style, like everybody doing their different style. I wanna be open to styles like that, so I follow a lot of different artists doing things.
You just released a freestyle over Trinidad James’ “All Gold Everything,” and he’s blowing up off that single.
It’s a new style, it’s a new style.
Do you think its blowing up because it’s a new style?
I feel like it’s because he’s from Atlanta and people supporting him, like other artists, big artists, they supporting him, and he’s always just grinding.
You’ve been doing this so long, and all of a sudden Trinidad James is everywhere. Is that ever frustrating to you that one person could release one song and all of a sudden they’re this huge deal doing interviews everywhere?
Nah, that don’t frustrate me because there are different ways to make it to the top, you know. Some people make it to the top like that, but some people stick on and be legendary. Like Tupac got so many songs, and Jay-Z got thousands of songs, you know. So it’s like the road to being legendary.
You mentioned Tupac, and it always go to Tupac being a West Coast legend and Biggie being an East Coast legend. I was talking to someone, and he said Tupac was good and had good beats but that pound for pound Biggie was a better rapper and had better flow. What do you think?
I’m West Coast. I’m always down with Tupac because the stories he tells is more related to what people are going through. Biggie is very lyrical and talented, and I respect that, but where I’m from, Tupac can tell a story, and you feel like he’s talking about someone in your family or you. It’s like “Dang, that’s I how feel” with Tupac.
And he could wear a nose ring and make it look really hard.
Yeah, he could make it look g [laughs].