Front + Center is Rated R&B’s artist discovery series, putting new and emerging R&B singers at the center of your attention.
usic is part of Samaria’s DNA. “I grew up with two parents who were so infatuated and in love with music,” the Oakland, California, native tells Rated R&B. “My biological mom was an aspiring singer. She bounced around from city to city trying to make her dreams happen,” Samaria recalls. “I [went] to like 12 different schools in different cities while she chased her dreams.”
As for her father, he once had ambitions to become a rapper. “He started as a young and aspiring rapper in Oakland. But he didn’t chase his dream for as long. Once he got one foot in the business world, he was like, ‘I think this is more stable.’ Now he’s a businessman, father, and basketball coach.”
Samaria grew up listening to a range of artists such as Aaliyah, Justin Timberlake and Paramore, to name a few. She names Lauryn Hill as her number one. “I have her lyrics tatted on my arm. I’ve got a big old portrait of her in my apartment,” says Samaria. “I wish more people of this generation not just listened, but really digested her messages. She was so profound to be so young and to convey those messages so clearly to the point where people can still cry and relate 20-plus years later. She’s such a huge influence on just everything for me.”
Watching her parents take a leap of faith to pursue their dreams inspired Samaria to do the same thing. Her biggest cheerleader? Her grandmother. “She encouraged me the most,” says Samaria. “She one who was like, ‘If you do good in school, I’ll pay for guitar lessons [and] piano lessons.’ Even when I wasn’t doing the best in school, she would buy me those First Act Discovery guitars from Target. She would give me positive affirmations all the time — tell me how smart, beautiful and talented I was.”
When Samaria was 14, her grandmother passed away and it took a toll on the then-teenager. “She was my whole world [and] my best friend. I went through this whole spell of discouragement. I didn’t wanna do anything, honestly, including music,” she states.
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Samaria took time to allow herself to grieve. During that time of healing and seeking clarity, she realized that giving up on her dream would not be something her grandmother would have wanted. “I pushed myself to go hard in this industry because I promised her I would. I [want] to make her and everybody else proud, including myself.”
In December 2016, Samaria released her debut mixtape, The Story of Right Now, which chronicles a breakup. She was 19 years old and part of Kehlani’s Tsunami Mob collective. “It was such a pivotal moment in time for me. It was a couple of years after I graduated from high school and I was just like, ‘Okay, I really wanna do a body of work,’” she reflects.
In 2019, Samaria released her Adventures of Lovergirl EP, which she believes “is the least organized project I’ve ever put together.” While she admits she wasn’t overjoyed with how the project came out, she also doesn’t have any regrets about it. “I’m happy that it did because it kind of turned some people on to who I am as an artist,” she explains.
Now, Samaria has returned with her new EP, Didn’t Start With You, out now. The six-track project finds Samaria grappling with a breakup again. Sure, Samaria has made songs about the breakup process before. However, it feels more emotive and vulnerable this time than her previous works. It’s not long-winded, either. Running at 17 minutes, Samaria leaves no time for hiccups. The project smoothly flows as listeners are taken on Samaria’s bumpy journey through a love gone wrong.
“I was going through a crazy point in time in my life. Didn’t Start With You is an accumulation of emotions I went through towards the middle of 2020 and pretty much all of 2021. I went through a really weird and crazy breakup,” explains Samaria.
After her breakup, Samaria found herself glued to a self-help book titled It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle, written by Mark Wolynn.
“The book was about breaking generational curses and breaking cycles within yourself so that it doesn’t get passed down to the next generation,” Samaria recaps. “It was helpful and healing for me because I was just like, ‘Why am I handling this so bad?’ I was feeling crazy because I was very emotional about things that I’ve seen other people shrug off easily. I’m just like, ‘Damn, something’s wrong with me. I should be able to get over this.’”
Though the book helped Samaria in her healing journey, the EP’s title has a different meaning. It’s rooted in self-accountability. “I had to take so many moments to self-reflect, look in the mirror and just rebuild confidence,” she says. “A lot of the things that I was blaming on this person… I had to realize that it really didn’t start with them. It started with me. I was the problem in some of these scenarios. It started with so many other things that led up to this moment, and the songs kind of tell that story.”
In Rated R&B’s interview with Samaria, the promising R&B act breaks down every song on her new EP, Didn’t Start With You.
“Can’t Fix This”
When I was working on that song, I was coming to realize not only have I lost my lover, but I also lost my best friend. It was a double whammy. At this point, I was in the petty stage. It was kind of like, “Even if you were to come back into my life and try to fix it, you can’t” — even though deep down I wanted them to (laughs). I was definitely at that point where my friends were gassing me up. They were like, “Girl, you’re too good for him. Don’t worry about it anyway. You’re gonna find somebody better.” So, I’m internalizing all this and gassing myself up.
“Still Got 4ever”
It’s one of my favorites. When the producer [Neenyo] first sent me that beat, I immediately had to get in the studio. I had all these melodies in my head. Lyrically, this is at the point in the grieving process where I felt there were so many things I wish I would have said to this person and things that I wish I would have done differently. During that time, I just kept thinking, “Man, this is worse than somebody you love passing away.” In my opinion, when somebody passes away, there’s really nothing you can do. But when somebody is capable of answering the phone but doesn’t wanna talk to you, it cuts deeper. I was just pleading through this song to this guy that I care deeply for. I was just telling him, ‘We still got forever, at the end of the day. Don’t go nowhere. We gonna figure it out.”
“Out the Way”
I had so much to get off my chest at the time. Originally, when I wrote it I had something completely different. I left it alone for a minute and came back to it when I felt more in my feelings. The whole song is just a back-and-forth between perspectives. I remember the way I came up with the first couple of lines, “Nothing I can do will bring the peace back / Break my neck to try and make you see that,” I was writing from his perspective.
I was really emotional when I made “Shady Hills.” This was the point in the grieving process where I probably felt the most out of my spirit. At the time, I kept texting this person without getting a response. In my mind, I’m like, “Damn, am I a stalker?” I couldn’t tell if I was just being passionate or annoying. I was so in my head about everything. I was like, “What if he’s with somebody else and I’m just blowing his phone up?” Like, “Damn, this girl’s crazy.” I was just like, “Oh man, I’m one of those. I never saw this for myself (laughs).” The engineer who originally recorded me, after I did it, was like, “Yo, are you okay?” Mind you, I’ve known this engineer since I was like 17. He’s not a talkative guy. He actually paused it and was like, “You need a break?” And I was, “Nah. I’m good. Let’s run it while the emotions are active.” Yeah, “Shady Hills” is amazing. It’s a very important song on the project to me.
I did “Temptations” with Rodney Jerkins, who needs no introduction. He’s the G.O.A.T. I love him. I was so nervous to work with him. We were on this drive to Orlando from Miami. This was my first time in Florida. I was just like, “Yo, what if I can’t come up with anything? I wanna impress Rodney. He’s done all my favorite Brandy records.” I was like, “There’s gotta be something in my voice memos where if I can’t come up with something on the spot, I can rely on that.”
For “Temptations,” there were some melodies that I came up with the month before at my homie’s studio session. The lyrics came just in time because I made “Temptations” on my birthday. This was during that period when ole boy was not talking to me. I was like, “Even if he doesn’t wanna talk to me for the rest of the year, he’s gonna tell me happy birthday. He’s never not told me happy birthday as long as we’ve been friends before the relationship.”
Well, he didn’t tell me happy birthday. I was so hurt. I remember being in the booth and trying not to be distracted that day. I just kept checking my phone — nothing. I was like, “Well, maybe he will try to email me or something.” So I’m checking everything — nothing. And I was just like, “You know what? There’s a lot of temptations out here. Don’t make me act of fool…maybe act up” (laughs).”
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“Insanity” feat. Tone Stith
I made “Insanity” around the time I made “Shady Hills.” Tone Stith actually didn’t get on it until recently. I had bounced to Maui [Hawaii] mainly to get over the [breakup]. It felt like so much time had gone by and I wasn’t getting any better. I realized a lot of it was because I was still living in the same environment that him and I would do everything at.
I’ve been going to Maui at least once a year for the last five or six years. So, I bought a ticket and left the next day. Me and my cousin spent a couple of weeks out there. When I got back, it was the first time that I finally felt like things were gonna start looking up, and I was gonna get over the situation.
As soon as I got back home, I checked my Instagram and had a DM from this girl. She basically was asking if him and I were still a thing. I had no idea that he was seeing anybody else. I was distraught all over again. I was so upset that when we [got] back from Maui, I took my butt to the studio and made “Insanity.” It’s probably the fastest song I’ve ever made (laughs). I felt so much better after making it.
Tone jumping on it was the icing on the cake. I’ve been a big Tone fan for a minute. I ended up pulling up to his session, where he was cutting it. He was more than halfway done with his verse. It’s like he had to have had a similar experience, the way he slid on it. I gave him no direction at all (laughs). We had fun towards the end of [the song] with the riffing and running together. I haven’t really collabed with many people, so this was fun for me because I got to watch somebody else’s process.
Stream Samaria’s new EP Didn’t Start With You below.