Eighteen years ago, the world was introduced to a kid named Sammie. Although he was just 12 years old, he had a major hit under his belt — “I Like It.” The Dallas Austin-produced track reached No. 24 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was among the best-selling singles in 2000 with over 600,000 units sold. His debut album, From the Bottom Up, went on to reach No. 21 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart.
After the dust settled from his debut era, Sammie went on to being a normal kid again. In high school, he played basketball and even was crowned homecoming king. After graduating high school, Sammie went back to music. In 2006, he released his self-titled sophomore album that included his comeback hit “You Should Be My Girl” featuring Sean Paul of The YoungBloodZ. He also released the follow-up single, “Come to Me,” which was a ballad. Although both singles were solid, they didn’t receive the same recognition as “I Like It.”
By 2009, Sammie found himself in a legal battle with a former manager who was allegedly mishandling his money on the low. Naturally, Sammie developed trust issues and for the next seven years, he took it upon himself to handle all his business matters — his bookings, emails, etc. It wasn’t until a year ago that he finally found someone he could trust to be his manager.
Fast forward to now, the R&B heartthrob has released his third studio album, Coming of Age. The album is the follow-up to his I’m Him EP, which dropped last December.
Rated R&B caught up with Sammie at The Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C., as part of Tank’s Savage Tour. In our interview, Sammie opened up about regaining trust, lessons learned and, of course, his third studio album Coming of Age.
RATED R&B: You came into the industry at a very young age. What is something you wish you had known back when you started?
SAMMIE: Honestly — not to sound cliché — but with everything I’ve gone through (the hell and the good) was necessary for me to become the man that I am to day. I wouldn’t change anything. There’s of course some mistake I’ve made along the way and there’s some unfortunate mishaps and barricades that I went through but I technically wouldn’t change it because I wouldn’t be these alert and business-oriented had I not experienced the things I experienced.
RATED R&B: One mishap you experience was a legal issue with your former manager, who didn’t have the best intentions for you. When were you able to regain trust and get new management?
SAMMIE: I just got genuine management — paperwork signed — like a year ago. I would say it took me almost seven years to fully allow someone to come in and help me. I love him but I still make sure everything comes through me. I don’t trust anybody one hundred percent and that might sound cold and it’s not that, it’s just we all as humans have vices — it could be money, liquor, greed, fame, women. Since I understand humans are liable, I make sure I protect myself at all costs. It took about seven years to finally allow somebody to help me propel. I’m grateful. His name is Skino. He’s my brother, my business partner, we do everything together.
RATED R&B: What was the one thing that took you awhile to get used to when you were doing everything on your own?
SAMMIE: Doing everything on my own. I was so used to singing and being the performer. I was kind of bred to be like that since I was 12. I didn’t have to worry about the business because I always had people handling the business for me. I was handling the emails. I was literally saying, “Thank you for reaching out to Sammie. His booking is such and such.” I’m grateful for those days, though. It’s kind of beautiful how things are manifesting because I always saw this day — even seven years ago when I didn’t have anything.
RATED R&B: What made you decide to use a childhood photo for the cover art?
SAMMIE: Every time someone notices me as Sammie, they sing “I Like It.” With me being 30, I could easily just take my shirt off and show that I have tattoos and I’m older now, but instead let’s take them back to that moment. I have nostalgia on my side, I would say. I just thought it would be dope for them to see the same face they fell in love with back in 1999, in 2017.
RATED R&B: How did you creatively approach this album? Did you already have a concept in mind when you started or did it all come together organically?
SAMMIE: No, I knew. When “I’m Him” went viral, I knew I only had six songs, as far as the EP, that I could sonically create to match it. If you follow me on social media, you know I’m a very profound person. I like to talk about spirituality, peace, light and love. I keep my love life as private as I can. I’ll post my girlfriend if I’m in a relationship but I’m not trying to overdo that because I feel like that’s inviting negative energy. However, my music is my outlet to be as honest and transparent as possible. I just knew that I wanted to tell on myself — the good and the bad. I didn’t want people to think I’m perfect. I’ve made mistakes — that includes infidelity, some lies and some cheating.
RATED R&B: It’s been over 10 years since you released your last album. In between that time you’ve released a few mixtapes and an EP. Do you feel like this is a comeback or do you feel like you have to present yourself as a new artist?
SAMMIE: I’m first and foremost catering to my generation. I would be a fool to abandon those who made Sammie, Sammie. I’m doing and delivering what they know me for. I feel like it’s so honest and so pure that the new generation — who don’t know who Sammie is, never heard a record — would gravitate to it. My father said something that was kind of profound. It was real simple. He was like, “This is a come up.” I was able to get beat down by the world so I could have this moment of clarity. I never doubted myself. I’m just very grateful, humbled and ready. I approached the album as a defining moment to bring transparency, vulnerability and passion back to R&B.
RATED R&B: Speaking of transparency, which song on the album was the hardest for you to write?
SAMMIE: “Confessional.” It’s the last record on the album. Three years ago, I was in the most serious relationship in my life. I met this girl — who I believed was my soul mate — when I was 24. I’m 30 now. The childish, foolish guy in me was like, “Oh it can’t be over now. Playtime is over at 24? I gotta still have fun.” I hurt her terribly. To see someone cry the way she cried made me reevaluate myself. I had to look at myself and say “I’m not the guy who I want to be. I’m a piece of shit. I’m a dark person. I’m toxic for any woman in this stage of my life.” It was hard to write that record so much that in the second half I freestyled. I just had my engineer continue the loop and I just sung my heart out. I gave it my all and for the first time, I got emotional during the recording process. That record was hard simply because I had to address my flaws. I didn’t even know if I was going to put it on the album. I had this record for three years. It was the best way for me to have closure in this situation.
RATED R&B: What has been your experience touring with Tank? We know you worked with him in the past…
SAMMIE: Tank is really a big brother. I’m super comfortable around him. He’s so humble. He’s one of my idols and one of the greatest vocalists of my time that I ever witness. To be on tour with him and to just write a song for him a few years ago (“Next Breath”) was like a dream come true. It’s just me and him seriously out here rocking. He’s pushing me to be even better than what I am.
Stream Coming of Age below.
Watch the video for “Coming of Age” below.