Samiyam – Pizza Party

Sam Baker eschews samples but embraces sonic swagger...

Given its title, lesser magazines may refer to tracks from Samiyam’s new ‘Pizza Party’ album as ‘slices’. They might even say they’re being ‘served up’ by the LA beatmaker. But, to maintain the integrity of this particular publication, all temptation to do so has been avoided.

Sam Baker grew up in Michigan, where he began making music and playing sets around Detroit. The story goes that after one such set, as the producer was enjoying a platter of deep-fried beef taquitos and the company of a dancer who strangely resembled Burt Reynolds at Detroit strip club Platinum, a fan of his music talked him into taking his work more seriously.

Armed with an MPC and a 404, Baker got to work under the name Samiyam, crafting his sound and distributing beat tapes around Michigan and the web before moving to Los Angeles. There he became central to the thriving LA beat scene that developed around the now-legendary North Broadway club Low End Theory, which fostered the likes of Flying Lotus, Knxwledge, and Shlohmo.

Samiyam’s innovative stitching-together of woozy analog synth patchworks that lope alongside dusty samples demands a re-evaluation of hip-hop beats as being much more than a steady boom-bap playing second fiddle to an MC. His beats have a life all of their own; they tend to lurch and sputter to life in unexpected ways thanks to Samiyam’s superb grasp of timing, and his latest work is no exception.

‘Pizza Party’ is Samiyam’s sixth album proper, and brims with his characteristic sonic swagger. His label, Stones Throw, describe the album as “off-kilter mobster music”; an incredibly fitting description given the foreboding quality of so many of its synth melodies; the ominous, creeping bass sounds on ’Swamp People’ and title track ‘Pizza Party’, for example).

The album is also the first to eschew sampling entirely; off-the-grid drum patterns form the base of ‘Pizza Party’, and are topped with… Oh come on! Anyway, constructing songs from originally-played synthesiser and FX has clearly bred innovation; this is perhaps Samiyam at his most avant-garde. ‘Pizza Party’ is experimental right down to its snares, which vary from huge and expansive on lead single ‘The Boat Can Leave Now’ to doubled up and restrictive on ‘Dog Sweater’; often serving a dual purpose as Samiyam uses tone percussion to accent his melodies. There is, however, a certain warmth that comes with a traditional, dusty sample that’s undoubtedly been lost this time around.

‘Pizza Party’ is an excellent addition to the Samiyam canon. His work has always built on the foundations laid by hip-hip production forefathers like J Dilla; pushing the genre forward into something altogether different. Dilla beats are timeless classics, while Samiyam uses that same vehicle to explore new themes in new ways. You might think a Margherita vs Hawaiian comparison could be appropriate here. It isn’t. You’re better than that. ‘Pizza Party’ is better than that.


Words: Lewis Lister

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