By Dakari Thomas
At first glance, Scott Samuels might not come off as a rapper. The 39-year-old who also goes by S-Class identifies as a socially-conscious MC whose lyrics discuss subject matter like environmental degradation, animal rights, gentrification and for-profit prisons. Samuels is both a musician and the head of his own recording label, Richland Records, which he runs primarily through a studio at City College where he first began recording and producing.
The Guardsman caught up with S-Class in the studio while he prepared for the release of his first solo album to understand his creative process and what he plans to bring to hip-hop.
Where and at what age did you get introduced to the genre of hip-hop and how did living in multiple places in the US impact what you do?
SS: I grew up in New York just north of the city and that’s where I got my introduction into hip-hop. I was in the birthplace of hip-hop. My close friend introduced me to A Tribe Called Quest with (their album) Check the Rhime and I was astonished. I’d never heard anything this creative. It blew my mind. That’s when I really wanted to learn more and fell in love with the genre.
Then I moved to Minnesota when I was 13 and was exposed to a lot of the Midwest and West Coast artists such as E-40, Spice 1, Pharcyde and Souls of Mischief. Most of the people at that time only listened to a couple of artists. There were no Internet or music-sharing devices…
I went to Philadelphia for college and I started a radio show with CDs I collected over the years. Then coming to San Francisco I learned even more about the West Coast and Bay Area rap scenes. It really has helped living in such diverse areas that are the same yet so different…
Would you have had the same conscious aspect recording at a younger age or did the maturation process elevate your subject matter?
SS: I think I would have had the same subject matter. I just wouldn’t be as polished. When I was in college I was also performing on campus and writing raps about very political and social takes. Someone I rapped with told me I wasn’t good and he was right, but it only made me want to go after it harder.
Do you feel at all self-conscious about being a white rapper in a predominantly black culture? Has it at all affected what your music is about?
SS: That’s the first time I’ve ever been asked that. I think aside from my race itself, being from a middle class background, I have dudes on my record label that grew up the exact opposite. Extreme poverty, things that could not be imagined, is what they’ve actually lived.
I didn’t have any major struggles until later on down in life. ; I didn’t grow up in the streets. So me talking about that in my music would be fake. What I am conscious is about is what’s going on in the world, and as a white middle-class guy who wants to promote positivity and growth, hip-hop is that outlet. It lets me promote change.
Do you feel like that conscious message is missing in the mainstream media?
SS: The media doesn’t want us to be conscious or enlightened individuals, whether that’s in music or out. The same companies that have their hands in private prison systems run it.
They don’t want us unified or in harmony. That’s why the entire mainstream rap is negative. They’re profiting off of us delivering hate. They don’t promote my type of music; that’s why my label is independent. I don’t care about what they will promote.
Their role in music today is close to irrelevant now. Streaming is the new age. The radio, as far as breaking out artists, is not what it used to be. To rely on them would be a fool’s errand. We can push our message without them.
What are the daily operations for running a label and supporting a family completely right now?
SS: That’s the goal. It’s easier said than done. At the start of most businesses, people invest more money than they get back. I had a stint in the corporate world for a few years, doing tech sales selling software. I saved money from that which I’m now investing into my business. This business isn’t putting money on the table yet, but I’m confident that it will. For the time being it’s solely on the passion.
How has City College helped you in your career and what specific classes have you taken?
SS: I’ve taken Broadcasting 120, 125, and 151. I never knew I would start recording or producing music at City…
I initially took classes here to start making music videos for me and my artists’ songs… I was pretty much self-taught, so these classes and people here have really filled in the gaps of my learning.
So when can we expect your debut album?
SS: The album’s coming out this fall, hopefully November. I’m not rushing anything and some videos are going to be up on my YouTube channel with videos shot by students at City College.
Contact the reporter
Send an email to: Dakari Thomas