Samantha Duenas lives to innovate. As SoSuperSam, the Los Angeles-based DJ and member of worldwide label/collective Soulection, boldly blends her unique variety of hip hop, R&B, electronica, and indie music into a sonic experience that has charmed the likes of top-tier rappers to Hollywood A-listers to media giants. Her unique approach to the turntables and amalgamation of a charismatic performance background soon became potent ingredients for a stacked portfolio, as a coveted slot supporting Childish Gambino’s US Camp tour and an invitation to be Vanity Fair Magazine’s DJ of choice for many of their high profile photoshoots, only scratch the surface of what the compelling DJ has accomplished. Not one to remain stagnant, the young innovator has some surprises in the works to round off the year, which may come sooner than you might think. – Interview by: Samantha O’Connor | @samomaryleona
What are you looking forward to most about playing in Toronto at this year’s Manifesto Festival?
I haven’t been to Toronto in a few years and the last time that I was there, I had a really good time. So, I’m just looking forward to being in Toronto. I’m going straight to the OVO store, because I want to get some Hotline Bling merchandise if it’s not sold out.
You’ve worked with one or two artist on the bill that you will be sharing the night with on Friday at Manifesto. What can you tell me about that?
I’m a big fan of Birthday Boy and I’ve used his songs on my mixtapes before. I really want to meet him and I’m really stoked to be on the same bill as him.
How did you come across his music?
Just Soundcloud digging, when you fall into that hole of clicking and clicking and I stumbled upon him and downloaded his entire EP. It’s all really good stuff. Sort of jazzy house remixes.
The event you’ll be headlining at Manifesto is all about sonic innovators of future soul and hip-hop, so in your own words, how does that describe your vision as a DJ?
I think I really fit in the bill in terms of sonic innovation, because my sort of signature stamp as a DJ has always been to sort of blend songs that you would never think of doing. So, a very recent example is, I was playing a party and I mixed Riff Raff with Tame Impala. I let it mix for a good two minutes. Just listening to those two artists mashed over each other, it stunned a lot of people in the crowd, because they didn’t really know what they were listening to. I thought it was a nice crossover and sort of an innovative way to share new music among different types of listeners.
Your resume is stacked. You’ve DJed many types of different events from the HBO Girl’s wrap-up party to a tour with Childish Gambino. So, what does a perfect DJ set look like to someone with a palate so versatile?
For me, a perfect DJ set goes back to sonic innovation, where I’m playing a little bit of everything. My favourite DJ sets are when I’m mixing it all up and the audience starts to really gravitate towards my every transition and what’s coming up next. There’s an anticipation while I’m playing for what’s going to happen next. That’s when I feel like I’m doing a really good job, is when I’m playing things that are unpredictable that still work together.
Any DJ rituals that you have that are important to you?
I’m a very nervous person. I thought that at the beginning, it was just a rookie thing, but I’m just a nervous person in general. The nerves and the anxiety I feel before a DJ set hasn’t really faded overtime. In terms of rituals, I’m usually very quiet and I don’t talk to anyone, which I guess is anti-ritualistic. I try to mentally focus on doing the best job as possible. But I get animated and dance around. I try to give a really good performance, not just blending music but giving as much energy as I can.
And that comes with you being a performer as well. I know before you became a DJ, you were a dancer. So, in an alternate universe where you were on the dancefloor instead of the DJ booth, what song would you be dancing to the hardest?
My all-time favourite would be, Ciara “Ride” but probably anything from the <em>Dirty Sprite 2</em> album, I would probably lose it.
What are your current sonic obsessions this fall?
I’m still on <em>DS2</em>, so that’s in heavy rotation. My label-mate Sango just released some tracks that he had from three years ago. I’ve been listening to that on the plane and it’s been my travel soundtrack. And Makonnen is really finding his way into my life. I have The Internet’s album in rotation a lot. But I’ve been working on my own music.
New stuff, what do you have in the works?
Some production stuff and some vocal stuff. I’ll be putting some of it out next week and throughout the end of the year. It’s scary but it’s time. It’s happening. In addition to dancing, I always sang way before I started DJing. After I finished school, I wanted to be a professional dancer, then I always had a dream of being a corporate power house executive with the corner office and power suits and the heels. Then, I was going to DJ on the side while being a working professional as a boss, because I never thought DJing would actually be my career. The irony is that, what I really thought my hobby was going to be, it turned into my career. I’m stoked on it. So now, I’m just circling back to dancing and singing and all the things I used to do and finding ways to incorporate it into what I’m doing now. It’s been a really fun and interesting process to find ways to do it all at the same time.
So in that regard, you’re still a boss. You’re just doing it all at once.
It works out.