In Memoriam of a Dream | Lord Sakima | For the Dreamers Series
In Memoriam of a Dream
An interview with Lord Sakima, rapper
by Austin Jordan
It was around 8:00 p.m. on a random Thursday night and the pilgrimage to every major grocery store chain ahead of Thanksgiving made the evening commute slightly more dreadful than usual. I had secured a phone interview with the inimitable Lord Sakima after rescheduling and many good intentions. But finally, we were here.
The first thing I remember about our conversation is that his voice sounded tired.
Not the kind of fatigue that comes from a long workweek or relationship drama. This is fatigue that comes from within. I recognized the tenor of his voice and perhaps it is only audible to those that have strived for something that requires only reckless faith.
As we began talking I expected the interview to go as most do: exchanging pleasantries, interviewer providing a prompt data point to show the interviewee that they're prepared, a passing comment about a current event, and finally a round of questions seeking compelling responses that will provide a palatable narrative for the future readers.
But, Sakima offered so much more than compelling sound bites. There was no pretense when he analyzed his latest body of work, Blood Moon EP, or when he praised the cadre of talented artists that he surrounds himself. He provided a perspective beyond the hyperbole of rap dreams and it was his vulnerability, not his musicality, that guided our conversation.
Over the last year, you seem to have a heightened sense of awareness. How has that translated to your creative approach when it comes to your music?
Um, I think it can be positive and negative at times. A few years ago, I had a general idea of where I wanted to go, but I didn’t have the knowledge it would take to get there and I didn’t really understand what it really meant to fail. Like what failure looks like and the many forms in which it can come. But, having that heightened awareness of not only can you fail, but it’s okay to fail in certain things and in certain ways and some of those ways are learning opportunities. So, I take a lot more time now in order to provide a higher quality work. Before, with the type of music I was making I would do away with it if I didn’t like it. I was shooting for 100% all the time and sometimes you may not hit that 100%, but you may hit a cool lil’ 75 and if you’re able to convey that to the right people you get feedback to help you inch up that remaining 25% on the next track. So, now it’s just a lot more preparation.
Hearing you talk about the methodology of preparation signals maturation. How did that maturation impact your last project, Blood Moon EP?
I went through this shift where I basically said: if I’m gonna do it, then I might as well do it correctly. There were a bunch of mixes and perfective touches that needed to be done and I just took my time with it. I felt something on the horizon leading to what I’m doing now. I could tell there was going to be a shift so if I was going to give [the fans] those tracks, that last body of work before I begin this shift then I wanted it to be done right. I wanted it to be done correctly.
What might fans not comprehend about this project that you would want to clarify?
The biggest thing is really just how good each individual song is. I did that purposefully. The EP could've been 10 good songs, but I literally cut it in half to make each song a 10/10. If you take each song off the EP and listen to it as a single...that shit is so hard. Every song is so meticulously and perfectly put together. So much effort was put into each song so that each song would be excellent.
Circling back to your comments on failure, specifically, how have you failed musically and how did you grow from that failure?
Man, I've failed in so many ways and I've learned from each of those. One area is work ethic. I feel like I work really hard, but at a point I was putting hard work into things that didn't really matter in the long run. I would focus on getting one song to sound perfect that I didn't even think about taking time to develop additional songs. I would also add that I ignored a lot of signs from my musical self which is one of the reasons I'm going to start doing the music I'm about to get into.
Sakima’s responses gave me pause. He alluded to a shift occurring that seemed to bear the gravity of a Kafka-like transformation. He spoke transparently yet deliberately and I could tell that this proverbial crossroads he appeared to be standing at was met with both pensiveness and great expectation.
Prior to our interview, Sakima had texted me three Soundcloud links. We had spoken in-person, previously, and he had hinted at new music that he wanted me to check out. I've always admired Sakima's charisma and the bravado that exuded during his live shows and in his recorded music. More importantly, he possesses an element that makes his artistry unforgettable--unpredictability.
I admitted to him during the interview that I didn't access the Soundcloud links for weeks because I wasn't sure if I was ready to listen to a new sound. I had grown fond of the energy and cadence he packed into his recent projects and features. For me, any delineation from what I had grown accustomed to would be met with resistance.
Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me and sure enough what I heard was unlike any sound that Sakima had ever created.
What can you tell us about the shift that you referenced and music that you're now endeavoring to make?
The next step that I'm going is R&B. The biggest reason I switched is that I was getting frustrated with rap and the culture that had been cultivated from it. I fell in love with rap when I was about 12. First off though, I started off singing. Let's start there. When I was a kid I was singing and I always could sing, but I fell in love with rap because of its competitive nature. It was crazy to remember how hard the bars were, how hard the beats were, and how crazy the verses were and it was entertaining the whole time. But, I had to come to terms with myself and realize that's not what rap was anymore. It wasn't in that space. It wasn't in that space from when I was 12 and 13. There's good and bad to that, but one of the bad things is that it's now so flooded with the same thing. We're so used to hearing the same thing now that if you sound to different from that sound then people are hesitant to listen to it.
Secondly, the other reason I switched to R&B was the creativity. There's so much room for creativity in R&B now especially with going back to that 70s and 80s sound. People don't know this but Babyface and L.A. Reid are from Cincinnati. My mom was best friend's with Babyface's sister. My mom's cousin played drums for them before they moved to L.A. So this shit really runs through my blood. I had just felt a real hunger and drive to get back [to that space]. I had been feeling it for awhile.
When did you know it was time to transition to R&B?
It's always been on my heart. I was in Ghana for my pops' funeral and one day I was just like let's see what this R&B shit do. My pops died, you feel me, and I thought...I'm the man now. As cliché as that sounds,
The interview went on for minutes more. I probed and inquired about the minutia of rebranding as an artist and the impact on his fanbase. He responded assuredly with the confidence from a lifetime ahead of his own. The interview closed and I looked at my notes. I sat silently obsessing over the one theme that seemed to press against my forehead: CHANGE.
Whether swiftly and overtaking or gradually and measured—it is life’s only compass. Perhaps Sakima knows this better than I do, maybe better than most of us. Because when the sands of time shift us and the demands of the here and now beckon us to respond we can only hope that our resolve doesn’t dampen—for destiny awaits somewhere in in the balance of change and the unknown.