In 2017, Samsa was one of lo-fi hip hop’s biggest rising stars, then he vanished. What happened?

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Out of the ether, Samsa emerged. And that’s all we knew him as — from the beginning to the end of his brief career, his real name was never revealed. During 2017, he released about a dozen lo-fi hip hop songs to streaming platforms, all singles, and then retired before the year’s end. As of writing, nine of his songs are still available on Spotify, two having been struck down in the time since (likely due to sample clearance issues). All nine playable have over 1 million plays, with his most popular, the bubbly love rap “Butterflies” nearing 15 million. Some of his lo-fi collaborative partners like mxmtoon have risen above the Soundcloud subculture to become bonafide microcelebrities. So, what happened? Where did he go?

Yeah, I don’t know. Sorry for the clickbait! Thanks for reading!

Kidding. But unfortunately, he just decided enough was enough. On Dec. 17, 2017, he tweeted, “Thank you to everyone. If you hadn’t heard already from my family, @OffTheJump, I’m retiring! My heart hasn’t been in it for a while and I owe it to you to say goodbye.” And that was that, less than a year after his first published song. In the time since, lo-fi has continued its ascent into the mainstream, becoming the de facto genre of choice for TikTok, and catching on with teenagers across the world. It’s not hard to see why; by definition, lo-fi exists from a lack of access to professional recording equipment (or in some cases, deliberately choosing not to use them). The homemade element of the material creates this hard-to-describe element of well made DIY music (do it yourself, as the genre is sometimes referred to). In an era where trying too hard gets you called “extra” or the creative “tryhard,” playing it cool and stripping it back is the new way to create. 

This is fact now, but a few years ago it wouldn’t be hard to guess this ascent. Samsa seemed prime to explode onto the scene as one of its most prominent artists. Although anonymous by choice, through piecing together scant interviews and details from his rhymes, it’s apparent that he’s from Queens, New York, the birthplace of so many young rappers throughout the chapters of its evolution. Though simple in their production, his handful of songs had pointed and meticulous meanings. His song “Burfi,” featuring North Carolina rapper Thiago, was a pointed and fierce attack on President Trump, coming from the pens of two young rappers of color. “Fake news, false reporters, build a wall on the border / With caulk and mortar, not law and order,” Samsa spits in the third verse. Politics can be a sticky subject for any musician to tackle, but this song feels immensely personal.

At first, “Anthropocene” sounds like a cheery, major-keyed ballad, and it kind of is. It’s about spending time with the one you love as the planet dies from global warming, something all young people yearn for. “Yeah, our climate’s fucked / We might as well enjoy the weather / Our time is up / And I’d be satisfied if we died together,” he sings. It’s creative lyricism on a topic that everyone thinks about but no one would dare put pen to paper with, and that was what made him so special. 

Time is currency in the modern music world, and if someone doesn’t drop for a year, they are risking irrelevancy — see Desiigner. On the flip side, all it takes is one carefully constructed song, and even the most forgotten about artists can find themself winning awards and topping charts like they never left — see Billy Ray Cyrus. It would be great if Samsa resurfaced to stake his claim as one of America’s best young MCs. If not, he’ll remain one of modern music’s biggest teases.

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Daniel Cohn is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.cohn@uconn.edu.

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