Overview: Big Samir, the bilingual lyricist and emcee of The Reminders, grew up in Belgium and the Congo, and in a single-mother home with the images of MLK, Jr., Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X on the wall. We talk about his rising above the challenges of his youth, and the empowering and loving messages of The Reminders.
We talk about The Reminders sharing stages with some of Samir’s influences, like Snoop Dogg, Rakim, Lauryn Hill, Redman, Method Man and so many more. Even though the music he and his musical partner and wife, Aja Black, make is conscious and activist-energized — “the soundtrack to the protests” — Samir rejects wearing the “activist” label. He tells why. Along with a lot more of his story, including about his Muslim faith, his presence as a father, and the cheat codes to life.
EP 111 SHOW NOTES, LINKS & TRANSCRIPT
Connect with Big Samir:
Big Samir on Instagram: @bigsamir
The Reminders on Instagram: @thereminders
The Reminders on YouTube
The Reminders on Twitter: @TheReminders
The Reminders on Facebook: @TheReminders
The Reminders on Soundcloud
The Reminders on Spotify
Connect with Adam Williams / Humanitou:
Photographic portrait via Big Samir
Episode cover illustration: Adam Williams
“Tupac Lives” by John Bartmann | freemusicarchive.org
Hey! Welcome to Humanitou. I’m Adam Williams, creator and host of this podcast series that explores all the stuff of being human and creative.
Today, I’m talking with Big Samir, the bilingual lyricist and emcee of The Reminders. Along with fellow emcee and incredible singer Aja Black, The Reminders are a musical group that transcends hip-hop.
They bring an authentically personal international flavor to their work and to their lyrics of empowerment and love and resilience, and so many honest and uplifting elements of the human experience.
Samir and I talk about some of that journey, how they’ve shared stages and tours with so many likewise amazing and recognizable artists, and some of them being big influences on Samir’s life. Like Snoop Dogg, Rakim, Lauryn Hill, Nas, Mos Def, Big Boi … and on and on, too many to list here now.
We also dig into Samir’s extraordinary personal story. Like, his roots in Belgium and in the Congo. And how, having grown up primarily speaking French, he ended up learning English as a teenager, mashing up his Belgian-French and Congolese roots with a New Yorker’s accent while living in San Antonio, Texas.
With Samir and I both being fathers, naturally, we get into some of our perspectives there. And we talk about how Samir and Aja, pre-pandemic, toured with their three kids, and how as a family they share this musical, creative ride.
The Reminders’ music can fairly be described as conscious, aware of events in the world. And, on some level, as protest music, music with an activist energy. But Samir shares why, despite that power in their music, he doesn’t really claim the “activist” label.
OK, so, I feel like I so often say this, but it’s always true, that in an hour-plus-long conversation like this one, when we’re getting into the juice of life, the real human and creative heart of things, we cover a lot of ground.
The same is true with Samir. I didn’t mention half the topics we flow through in this intro. But I feel like it’s time to dig in and let you find out for yourself. Seventy-five minutes of such good conversation with Big Samir.
Adam: Hey, hey Samir. Welcome to Humanitou.
Big Samir: 00:02:26 Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.
Adam: Are you good? You healthy. It’s been a rough year. Are you hanging on?
Big Samir: I’m hanging in there, man. I actually feel better than better than I’ve ever felt.
Adam: Good, good. Family? Everybody good, everyone’s healthy?
Big Samir: Everyone’s alive and kicking. Good.
Adam: I want to start us off with asking you about a new song, your guys’ newest song. When I say you guys, what I’m referring to of course is The Reminders. That’s you, that’s your wife, Aja Black, partners in the music, partners in life.
And in that song, uh, Aja sings, “I’ve walked 10,000 miles. I can walk 10,000 miles more.” And the reason I kick us off with that is all we’ve gone through this year, and I’m just thinking, this might be kind of an anthem to say, you know what, we’ve gone through it, but I’m feeling pretty strong. I can do this.
Is that where you are right now? You feeling strong and optimistic for where we’re headed?
Big Samir: 00:03:20 Absolutely. I think within this time we’ve learned so much, uh, you know, we’ve had time to reflect and also time to recharge and say, Hey, I’ve gone through this. We’ve gone even through this period right now. And, uh, we can do so much better. We, we, you know, now we recharge and we’re ready to get out of it, you know, even more.
Adam: 00:03:40 That’s good, you know, and the reminders, your guys’ music, it’s so empowering. There’s so much strength. There’s resilience, there’s optimism, love. And I’m going to say strength again. You know, it’s a lot of strength and I’m just wondering if that’s a vibe that you grew up with. Was that something that you were shown as a child? This is how you approach life with this resilience and optimism. Definitely.
Big Samir: 00:04:02 You know, uh, I come from a single mother home and watching my mother work, however many jobs she had to, uh, at different times in her life and watching her raise three kids on her own and just always smiling through that process, you know, um, it’s, it’s something that I’ve applied in, everything that I had to do, whether it be, you know, if I’ve had to get a job, if I have to pass a test, if for whatever obstacle that I have in life, it’s like, okay, I can get through this.
Adam: 00:04:30 I mean, life can be challenging enough. Being a parent definitely is challenging to go through all that single mom and keep that smile. I can, I mean, I can’t even, I can only try to imagine how strong of a message that is to you,
Big Samir: 00:04:44 Uh, Ajan. And I’ve been married for 16 years and we have three children. And so we do it together, right? W w w we have a good partnership and we have, uh, we’re a solid team. Um, but I couldn’t imagine doing this by myself. You know what I mean? So, so when I think that, especially, you know, I, I remember my mom being the age that I am now. I remember my mom being, you know, uh, when I was in middle school. And so I watch my kids in middle school in trying to imagine, uh, doing that alone is I couldn’t even fathom, you know, that process, but, you know, so th those lessons that I learned are the same lessons that I’ve put down when I create. And, and when we share that in the music.
Adam: 00:05:26 Okay. Tell me about your background of where you grew up and what this was because you live in Colorado now, but I know that’s not where you were born. That’s not where you spent his childhood, you’re talking about. So tell me something about where, where you’re coming from and, uh, what that experience was other than such a strong mom.
Big Samir: 00:05:45 Yeah. So, um, I was, I was born in Brussels Belgium, which is the capital. And, uh, you know, for people who are not familiar with Belgium is right on top of France. So French speaking was in Belgium. They speak French and Dutch, the, you know, separate into two, two, um, section I’m from the French speaking part. Um, so I w w w I was born there once my younger sister was born. We moved to the Congo, which is my dad. My dad’s side of the family is there. So my dad is Congolese and my mom is half she’s, half Belgian and half Congolese. So we, we moved to Congo, which is in central Africa. Uh, we moved to Kinshasa and, uh, we lived with my grandparents there on my, on my father’s side. So my first memories of life are from the Congo. You know, my, uh, elementary school, you know, I remember wearing a uniform to go to international school in Kinshasa.
00:06:37 Um, I was there until 89, which I was roughly about eight years old. And that summer, we moved back to Belgium to be with my mom, because my parents had separated at the time. So I went from Belgium to Congo, Congo, back to Belgium. And then from there, my oldest sister got married and moved to Texas. So I moved with her after the wedding. I stayed with her and lived in Texas with her. So that’s where I went to high school, San Antonio, Texas. And, um, then from Texas, my mother got remarried and my stepfather was in the air force. He got stationed in Colorado. I graduated high school, came to Colorado Springs in 1998. And I’ve been here since.
Adam: 00:07:22 And so was your stepfather, or is he, American?
Big Samir: 00:07:25 Yeah, he was there, there’s a military base in Belgium and that’s where my mom and he met.
Adam: 00:07:31 Gotcha. And that might sound like a strange question to some people, but I actually served four years in the army myself, and that’s where I learned you don’t have to be American to be in our military services. So that’s why I asked, was to clarify, because I was curious about how they connected. That makes, that makes sense. So, all right, man, San Antonio, Texas, and that’s on the back end of Belgium, that Congo, this is quite a mix of experiences. And I’m wondering, I mean, I’m wondering a lot of things I’m sure, but the first thing is, all right, your first memories were in the Congo. Then you go back to Belgium. What is that sort of transition like from, you know, different cultures in that whole thing? What was that a shock?
Big Samir: 00:08:13 Yeah, it’s funny. That’s a great question because that’s something that I talk about a lot when we do residencies, you know, go. So my first memories of, or me, like I mentioned, my mom is mixed, so my mom is half black, half white, right. Her father is a Belgian man and her and her mother was from Congo. So she’s mixed.
So then when she has me and my younger sister, we’re, we’re fairly, light-skinned, we’re, you know, technically mixed as well. So my memories of school in, in Congo is I stand out because everyone is so dark in the class, you know what I mean? So when they see me, they’re like, Oh, that’s the kid whose mom is from Europe. You know what I mean? So they call him the kid of Europe. And so I always, I always like, was the outcast in the class, like, yeah, of course we play, but also, you know, they always point at me when it’s time for the jokes.
00:09:01 So when I, when I moved to Belgium to be with my mom, um, the African kid in the class, so that, that was really tricky dynamic to trying to navigate. And, uh, you know, obviously I’m, I’m the subject of jokes there too. And, um, and then I have a strong African accent at the time because I spoke French, but then there’s also a dialect that we spoke most of the time when I was in the Congo. So then when I, when I get to, when I get to Belgium, yeah, I may speak French, but it’s a French with an African accent. And so, you know, kids love to be in front of that. Um, and then, you know, then two years later when I finally get to Texas, now, I’m this kid who speaks French because I was still learning English at the time. I was, uh, I was about 15. I was still, still learning English at that time. So now I have a French accent, but then I love East coast rap music. You know, I could rap along to every Wu Tang, uh, lyrics and, and rock him. And so people were really confused. They were like, just do sir. He speaks English with an East coast accent, but also with a French accent. And, and this is in San Antonio, Texas, you know, so it was really, it was really interesting times,
Adam: 00:10:11 You know, that’s the kind of stuff that I can, uh, can think, okay, that’s, that’s painful possibly that, that can lead to some things, some fights, some whatever it might when you’re a kid, but now we’re both grown. And it’s like, man, that dad dude is fascinating because he has these experiences because he has the different things he’s learned and he’s seen in the world and you know, where are you now on that perspective, was that confusing? It, and it sounds difficult when you were a kid, like, how did you navigate that then? And now, how do you look back on having had to go through that?
Big Samir: 00:10:50 It wasn’t until I started performing a lot more, um, a matter of fact, in Texas, I recorded my first two songs I was in, I was in a group where my sister’s husband at the time, uh, we, we formed a group called acumen. And even when we moved to Colorado Springs, we released a couple of albums. And, um, and, uh, you know, w w we did, we did pretty good. We had a full band and everything, but at the time in Texas, when I recorded a couple songs, I would play the tapes for my friends. And they would say, Oh, I learned so much from you from listening to those songs, right. In which in those songs is just me basically journaling and expressing my feelings. And that’s when I realized that the more I did that, the more, the more I shared my story, I shared where I came from and the experiences that I’ve been through, the more people connected with me, and the more people would also, um, relate to some of these stories.
00:11:38 So I started to do that a lot more, obviously, with being a musician, um, is just opening up a lot more and it helped free something in me. And it helped also connect with more people. So that’s been, that’s been really incredible, you know, obviously at first your child, like, Oh, they’re going to make fun of me. So let me just not say as much, let me not speak. Cause then they’re going to make fun of the way that I speak. So, but the more I actually did it, the more I connected with people. So, and it’s something that’s great. Like now my goal now is to create more songs, sharing those experiences, because I realized that sometimes when we travel, when we go to these universities and, and, and, you know, a lot of, uh, refugees from Somalia in, in, in Congo, I remember one time we were performing in a, in Aurora.
00:12:20 So in, in Southeast Denver. And, uh, and I mentioned that, that, that I was raised in Congo in four kids, ran to me after the show and were like, I have never met somebody, you know, a performer here in America that came from Congo. So there was super proud, super excited, you know, took pictures and everything. And, and, and so, you know, I’m trying to show people that they’re not alone. You know what I mean? Like, there’s more of us out here. There’s more of us that have been, that have gone through these experiences. So, so, so growing into it, you know, I just share, I just share my story a lot more
Adam: 00:12:51 And it takes that, you know, that vulnerability and courage that goes together and be willing to do that, right? Like so many of us, if we’re afraid to share the story, then what we’re doing is missing out on the connection, which could help strengthen ourselves and our confidence in that story. But then of course, like you just said, and that’s why I do things with humanity, like I do. And having these conversations, because when we talk about it, there’s somebody listening right now, as we speak, as you speak and share that story, who’s like, there’s something that resonates with them, whether they’re from the Congo or it’s some other piece that you’re going to share today, you know, and that’s why it’s important to do that. And with music, right. Hip hop, um, it, that’s a category that gets put on some of your music, but there’s also African rhythms and there’s roots in there. There’s this. And in all of that though, is storytelling. It’s not just about a subject just to make music like you’re sharing your life.
Big Samir: 00:13:46 Right, right. Right. Yeah. And I think that’s part of the growth, you know, particularly in hip hop, when you first start, you trying to outwit everyone, you’re trying to show how great you are with, with metaphors and w w which are lyrics and what all you can do, which is great. And it’s impressive. You get people’s attention that way. However, the more you tell stories and the more you can convey a message, the more people connect to it. Um, and that’s, and that’s one thing, you know, the, the, where I, where I come from in my story is part of it. You know, the, the more I got into the more I grew as an artist, the more people will pick up on, um, how, how deeply spiritual I am. You know, not, not, not just particularly I followed this, this, this, um, specific spiritual path, but my journey through spirituality, people will connect to that.
00:14:37 And then my journey through, through my relationship with Aja, my journey through, um, my, my parenting, you know, people, people at this point, people have watched our children grow. You know, I have music videos where my son is, uh, is a baby in an infant carrier. And now they see him and he’s a musician. He’s a drummer. Now he’s 10 years old. You know what I mean? The same with my daughters, like there’s videos and songs where you can hear them, uh, their baby voices. And now you see them and they can sing, you know, they go to the conservatory and they have videos where they’re singing whole songs and write their own songs. So as people watch this, this, um, our path, they can relate to it. Some of them are like, Oh, I remember when my kid was, you know, this age, or I remember, you know, this time and in parenting. So yeah, it’s, it’s been great connecting with people and seeing what they gravitate towards from, you know, what we put out in the world.
Adam: 00:15:32 I want, I’m going to want to talk more with you about fatherhood, because we have that in common, but first I want to stick with some influences of your mom here, because I heard in another conversation that you had, where you talked about some of these influences that she had up on the walls with photos of iconic, strong leaders, like Malcolm X, uh, Elijah, Mohammad, MLK, uh, Marcus Garvey. And, and I’m curious the impact in, in what ages we’re talking about when you’re really starting to learn about these figures, who, you know, are, are historical and continue to, to have an effect in this world, even though, um, they’re not here anymore.
Big Samir: 00:16:12 Yeah, it’s interesting because it was really, it was really a casual thing. You know, it was a, it was a F it was a framed image, um, right by the TV. And, and these were, these were things that were just, it was just a part of, of, uh, of, uh, of our life, uh, you know, of the way she raised us. You know, I remember watching the movie, Malcolm X when I was, when I was pretty young and watching so many, so many conscious movies like that, you know, and, um, it was just part of history, which is interesting because at the time I lived in Belgium, you know, it’s not even like we were in America, living the American experience, the, the black American experience, you know what I mean? We were learning from the black American experience being there through the music, through, um, you know, even watching do the right thing.
00:16:56 When, when, um, public enemy released fight, fight the power. That was a huge song. It was like, Oh, okay, this is what’s happening over there. You know, that’s also my introduction to hip hop as well is, is wow. They’re able to convey everything. That’s things that are going on through the music and through movies and through, you know, and then, and that led me to study Malcolm X even further on my own, as I got older, you know, um, the deeper I got into those artists. So, so the groundwork that my the seeds that my mom planted by having those, those pictures and, and exposing me to these movies and exposing me to these types of literature are things that I, that I’ve always carried on with me. And that I’ve understood even more after high school, after high school was the time. And it’s actually, when I moved here, it’s interesting. Cause people always ask me, um, you know, when did you really start making, when did you get into Islam? When did you get into this and that? And a lot of it was here when I first moved to Colorado Springs, because I was fresh out of high school. I was away from all my friends and I had a lot of time, so I would, I would work. And if I, if I wasn’t at work, I’d be reading books and just really studying and, um, you know, grow my brain. Yeah.
Adam: 00:18:07 I mean, it is all a journey, right. Collecting the information, whether that’s people that we meet, whether it’s, Oh, Hey, somebody just introduced this idea to me or this book that I just read. It just blew my mind. Yeah. And then how we take it all in and use that. And, and it, and it shapes something about who we are.
Big Samir: 00:18:27 And also also, you know, artists, great artists who mentioned important topics in their songs, um, is something that right before this latest single we put out, you know, at, at the end, at the end of last year, we put out a single call to Moomba, um, named after Patrice Lumumba, who was a revolutionary from the Congo. And so many people, a lot of people know who he is, but so many people don’t, you know, and I was getting messages. Um, I remember a young man, uh, sent me a message and said, Hey, I had never heard of him before this song before you mentioned them in your freestyle, and now I’m looking him up. And I’m really impressed by that, by the story, you know, I’m really impressed by the things that he’s gone through and the things that he fought for. And it’s like, I feel like it, as an artist is our duty to do things like that, you know, to, to mention what you stand for and to mention the people that you’re inspired by so that it can further inspire more people.
Adam: 00:19:21 Right. And is that, that’s your son, who’s the cover art who is photographed, who’s representing for that song. Right, right, right. Yeah. And I’m going to throw out another.here we can connect. And his name is
Big Samir: 00:19:34 Malcolm. Yeah. So, and it’s interesting because, um, obviously he’s named for Malcolm X because that was a huge inspiration in my life, in, in the transformation of me becoming a man, but also Aja’s grandfather, his name was Donald Malcolm and he passed away right before we had the mock-up. Okay. So it was only right.
Adam: 00:19:57 Right. Yeah, man, there are just always so many things that we can go so many directions and it’s, it’s amazing. And we’re going to get to some more of those, but before we come out too far from your childhood and you described growing up in the projects in Brussels, um
Big Samir: 00:20:13 So my mom, when, uh, when, when we moved with my mom and, and, um, in 89 or my youngest sister and I moved with my mom and my oldest sister was already there, uh, cause three of us and my mom went from, no, she went from, from just raising one child to raising three. So we ended up in, in, in, in a small town called Mons, which is, uh, it’s a little bit it’s, uh, it’s about an hour from Brussels. So we moved from Brussels. We went to most and, um, and we were in a community that was mainly, uh, immigrants. So West Africa, central Africa, North Africa, a lot of Algerians, Moroccans. So I came from a neighborhood where it was, it was really loving. It was really, um, you know, a lot of it it’s interesting because the more I grew up with, the more I went to school, if I’m, if I mentioned to people, what, what neighborhood I lived in, they were looking at me like, Oh, wow, that’s the neighborhood that we just saw on the news where there was this murder, there was this and that.
00:21:09 But when you’re in the mix and you live there, you know, you see it from a different angle, you know what I mean? Right. Two things that was really great. Um, that I really appreciate from, from me growing up in that, in that neighborhood is that it was a village for us, meaning my mom could discipline my friends and my friend’s parents could discipline me if this, if they saw me acting up and you know, these are the things that I usually don’t. I usually don’t talk about it. I remember the first time I brought Aja to Belgium, uh, this was 2011. Uh, no was 2011. Yeah. Cause we had Malcolm already and all my friends were excited to see her and excited to see that I was a married man. You know what I mean? Like raising, raising a strong family. Cause they were like, well, this guy was a riot.
He was a live wire as a kid, you know? And I remember things like my mom bought me a BB gun cause that’s what I wanted. That’s what me and my, you know, we were young boys at the time, just running around, acting crazy. And, and I was just, you know, from watching movies and trying to act these things out. I remember someone’s dad conference confiscating my, my BB gun. And I was like, you can’t do that. You know? Cause I came from a household where I didn’t have, I didn’t have a dad, you know what I mean? So to have someone else’s dad, like these are things that, that happened to them probably regularly, but they didn’t have, you know what I mean? Like I didn’t have that kind of discipline in my house. Um, but understanding the love that came with it, you know, and also as we got older, our parents, my friends, parents put them in soccer.
So once you have something like that, that means you’re going to school. And then you’re going to practice after that. And on the weekends you have games or matches and it keeps you busy and well, my mom did for me, uh, with some of some of my older cousins, she put me in TaeKwonDo and that was huge for me because I really, I enjoyed martial arts and, and it kept me busy and it also kept me from fighting on the streets. You know what I mean? Cause you get disciplined and you’re not going to use the skill that you learn, which a sensei you’re not going to use that on the streets unless really someone is trying to harm you and you’re using it for self-defense. But definitely putting us in sports and putting us in martial arts is something that really, I think it saved us because we didn’t have that free time in our hands.
00:23:20 And even watching some of the kids from the other neighborhoods, from the other projects across from town, um, they didn’t have that. And so seeing the stuff that they would get into, you know, um, they, they grew up to be in and out of prison and grew up to, you know, robberies and all sorts of different things. But, and I attribute that to not having to have enough free time on your hands and you just thinking of different ways that you can make money. You’re thinking of different ways that you can get over on people. So I’m really thankful that, you know, my mom put me in TaeKwonDo and most of my friends, uh, had soccer and different things like that as an outlet. And, and to keep, you know, to keep you busy and to, to, to also learn a lot of discipline and great skills,
Adam: 00:23:56 The martial arts, I never did have those classes, but I do think that, uh, you know, the discipline aspect of that is huge and, and it might be overlooked by people who aren’t really sure what it’s about. Right. And the positives that, that teaches again, we’re both, we’re both dads. Yep. And you just mentioned that you didn’t really have a dad, at least for part of your childhood there and your mom was working so hard and all that. And I’m just wondering about that experience, the impact of that on you, maybe what you missed most or wished most that he would have been there to provide if it wasn’t discipline, maybe something else.
Big Samir: 00:24:32 Yeah. It’s something. And it’s something that I never, I never really thought about until I got older, you know, or one of the first time it hit me. One of the first time it hit me is, you know, we w me and my friends were walking around and we went to, there was this, uh, this American neighborhood, about 10 minutes from where we lived. So a lot of the people who live, who worked on the, on the military base on American military base, there was a, a neighborhood that they lived in that wasn’t too far from us. And I knew a lot of kids there cause I have, I had gone to that school before. So one day we were walking through their neighborhood. It was, it was like five, five or eight of us. And they, for some reason they thought we were disrespecting them or we wanted to fight them.
00:25:13 So they gathered like 20 of them and started following us. Right. It, and you, you know, you remember that age, do you remember being that age and being so young, that little things that would end up that would turn into a fight, but I remember, but I remember, um, right before, cause we used to go there a lot. So, so I have a lot of stories. Actually. I almost got two, two, two stories mixed up, but one time we were in that neighborhood and one kid got in a fight with another kid and I remember hearing him say, I’m going to go get my dad. And it was, I heard that. I was like, wow, that like, I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t, I couldn’t tell anybody I’m going to go get my dad because I’m going to go get, my mom just does not sound the same.
You know what I mean? And so it’s like, that’s the first time that it really hit me like, Oh wow. I can do it. I didn’t even have a big brother. You know what I mean? I had an older sister and a younger sister, so, so that was always like, wow, who would I get? You know what I mean? Like if you, if you get in that situation, it’s that, that, that, that’s something that made me even stronger. You know, if you have to get in an altercation, like you really have to handle it yourself because you have no one to go get, you know what I mean? But, but it’s not something that I thought about often, um, until, until I started getting older and started having questions about getting into manhood, you know, started having question about, you know, when you have a girlfriend or, you know, when you get a job, I think another time was I had to, I had to wear a suit.
00:26:38 I had to wear a suit to go to church and I had to tie a tie and I didn’t know how to tie a tie. You know, like little things like that will come up will come up. Or like the first time I had to change a tire, it was like, Oh, you know what I mean? Um, so those, those little, little moments that, you know, I’m going to make sure I teach my son how to tie a tie, make sure these are how to change a tire. And, um, you know, defend himself will come get me if you, if you need me.
Adam: 00:27:05 You know, I think the teaching thing I had, I look at that as the most critical aspect of what my role is as a father, I have sons, two of them, they are eight and 10. And you know, I, I just, I take that part really seriously that I feel like, you know, if I were to, you know, to not be able to be here anymore next week, next month, 10 years from now, whenever it is, I want them to have some idea of who I, who I was, who I was in their lives and what I thought was important in life. And yeah. And so how about you and what those values are of what an and maybe that ties to the fact that, Hey, this, my dad, wasn’t here to do this part for me. Like some of the stuff you were mentioning or maybe it just plain is what have you figured out about fatherhood and yeah, yeah, yeah. And what matters to you as a father?
Big Samir: 00:27:56 Yeah. You know, one thing that’s very, very important to me over all is being present for things, uh, which is something that was tough when the kids were a lot younger because we tried, we talked so much, you know, we would travel a lot and sometimes it would get to a point where it’s like, okay, you have to make a decision either. You’re going to accept this gig. That’s going to have you be out for a couple of days and then miss, maybe a school play, which unfortunately we haven’t had to miss too much. But, but that presence is huge. You know, and a friend of mine, a friend of mine posted a caption one day on a picture of him and his son. And it says presence over presence. So, you know, cause a lot of, a lot of parents are not able to be there so much.
00:28:40 So then they make it up by just saying, Hey, let me just, you know, take you out and buy you all this stuff. Or, you know, here’s a gift. I mean, every time I see you, but being there to experience and witness things is huge. You know, like being there to, to, to, to watch your kids lose loose teeth, you know what I mean, little, little things like that that are very important. Um, but another thing that’s very important too, is they, they watch, you know, our kids are watching us constantly and that means the way you do everything, the way you speak to people, the way you carry yourself, the way you, you, you, you work, uh, you know, you’d be surprised, man, how, how much they observe, but also the way you treat your spouse. You know, I know for my daughter that that sets the ground for what to expect in life. You know what I mean, a healthy relationship, you know, this is how a woman is supposed to be treated or, you know, this is how someone should be talking to you. If they don’t talk to you this way, you know, it may be unhealthy to be in that kind of even friendship, you know? Right.
Adam: 00:29:43 Any kind of relationship, right? Because it’s like, whether that’s a boss, a coworker, it’s like, these are the lines of how you can respect me, talk to me respectfully. And this is how you need to not act with me. And it doesn’t matter what the relationship is almost, but of course, some of those most important ones, friendships, and then partnerships with marriage or whatever kind it is.
Big Samir: 00:30:04 Absolutely. You got to set, you got to set firm and healthy boundaries too, you know, before people cross them. And you know, you start to have unhealthy relationships,
Adam: 00:30:14 Does a challenge for all of us, um, calling and trying to figure out, well, how do I set that back? How am I nice enough, but not too nice, but not too harsh and too quick to jump on it. And yeah. Um, you know, you mentioned touring. So as with the reminders and things, and that really, at some point here became a family of fared in it. I mean the kids started going on the road and do performances. Tell me about that. Because to me, that’s, that’s just such a, not unique necessarily in the sense of as if you were the only group on the planet and the only family on the planet that does this, but it still is pretty extraordinary.
Big Samir: 00:30:50 Yeah. And the thing is, you know, when the whole, our whole, the reminders was never, was never something that we planned like, Hey, you know what, we’re going to get together. And we’re going to be the super group. That’s actually, that’s also a family and it was never planned like that. You know, I, I happened to be an artist. Aja happened to be an artist. We got together as a couple first. And then once you start sharing so much space, you know, you’re you waking up in the same house and then you create, and you share, you share the things that you create. You know, we, we started collaborating a lot more and before you know it, we had 10 songs together. That’s how some of our first recordings came about. It was never, um, Hey, let’s put, let’s put this project out. You know, I was coming from being in a group called acumen.
00:31:35 I was, uh, about, I was recording a solo project and I was going to call it the reminder. And then I had Aja do a couple of hooks that we had a couple of songs together. Then I was like, maybe we’ll just make a group project. You know, it was like, eh, let’s just call it the reminders. That’s, that’s what we are. We’re reminders to people. If you know, what, what, what, what love is and what, what this kind of music still exists, you know? Cause a lot of times that will happen when we perform people say, Oh man, I remember I used to listen to this. Like Fuji’s, it reminds me of that. Or, and also, you know, as I was reading, I was reading the Holy Koran and it mentioned that believers are reminders to one another of what they should be doing.
00:32:12 You know what I mean? Like, almost like you, you, you, you remind your friends that you keep your friends in check, you know what I mean? And, and so everything about it just just felt right. And so th th that’s how that came about really naturally. It wasn’t, it wasn’t planned then as, as we became parents, things started moving really fast. Once we put out the first record and every chance we got to bring our children with us on the road or to a show like, Oh, not, you know what I mean? It’s not like it’s a place. They can’t be it’s, you know what I mean? We’re there. And they can be there. A lot of times we were performing an outdoor events at the park and, you know, then it grew into what it grew into, but, you know, we love, we love being together. We love, you know, we love our children being around. They love being around us. So yeah, it just feels great. You know, in, in, in, in, in, it keeps us saying too,
Adam: 00:33:04 You know, my sons are excited that I’m in here talking to you that I do this podcast. I mean, they love to be included. And if we stick with that fatherhood, dang, I mean, just because we are the fathers in, in the family, um, I think it’s important to let them see that we do have a life and we do create in the world. We’re not just this narrow lane of discipline or whatever they might otherwise end up thinking about a father. You know, um, you mentioned rock him a Wu Tang. Fuji’s, you know, Lauryn Hill, you guys have done work. You’ve played stages and performed with these people and a whole lot of others. I mean, Snoop Dogg, most dev there’s so many. And I’m wondering about the influence of that experience in your life and your families.
Big Samir: 00:33:52 Yeah. I mean, I’m really thankful, you know, I’m really blessed and thankful and appreciative of the things that we’ve been able to do. You know, a lot of it, a lot of it came with a lot of hard work, you know what I mean? Um, this whole time we’ve been able to manage all of this without, without a record label. We’ve never signed a deal with any label, any management or anything we’ve just been able to do. You know, I feel like part of my, part of my artistry suffered sometimes because of how much time I had to invest in the business side of it and in the management and all of that. But, but that’s, the reward is being able to, to perform an open for people like that. And it’s interesting that you mentioned all of those because I have a story with every single person you mentioned, reaffirming, everything we’ve been doing.
You know, there’s been times where you open for young, uh, for like underground artists. There are artists that are more independent and, and is not a pleasant experience because they put themselves on a pedestal and they’re really disrespectful. And then there’s times where you, Oh, you opened for somebody that’s so big that you think they’re going to act like that you think they’re going to be super, super disrespectful, but they’re not at all. And where every person, you know, I don’t know how much time we got, but I’m just going to be real brief, rock him. We opened for rock him at the bowl at the Fox theater in Boulder. And after the show we went backstage. And to me, I’m telling you, I was, I was 12 years old, rock him lyrics before I spoke English. You know how I used to rap along, even when I didn’t necessarily understand what he was saying.
00:35:30 And so fast forward now we’re opening for him and then we’re backstage and he’s just super welcoming. And his wife is there with, and one thing that was really amazing to find out is his wife was on tour with him. And they have been together since high school. It’s his high school sweetheart. And so to me, it was so fun. It was, it was mind blowing to hear these stories. And, and she was so excited because at the time Aja was pregnant with Malcolm and she was excited to meet me in Aja and it, and so that was really, it was really dope to be so welcomed by us somewhere like rockin. Um, you know, we opened for a method man and Redman a few times, and it’s really fun performing with those guys because they have so much energy, you know, and in the, after the second time that the man was like, I don’t tell people this often, but you guys put on a killer show.
And so that was like, Aw, man, to me, he’s one of my favorite performers. Um, uh, that was Method Man. Then Snoop Dogg. Snoop was one of the first times that we opened for someone of that magnitude. There’s been times where, you know, if I mentioned certain artists that we perform with, people are like, Oh cool. Like I don’t really listen to rap. So I really don’t know who that is. But if you say Snoop Dogg to anyone in the world, they’re going to know who it is. I had aunties in Africa take sending me messages, like, congratulations, this is amazing. You know what I mean? Like, so everyone in the world knows who he is. So by the time this was an Aspen at belly-up. So by the time we’re, we’re doing the show, um, his photographer, his photographer, my man, Gucci is an incredible human being.
00:36:57 He took pictures of us. And after the show, he was like, you guys had to meet the dog. And I was like, ah, I don’t know. You know, you hear these stories about Snoop. So I pictured his backstage being a certain way. So the photographer brought us back. And when we went back there, Aja’s dad was with us. And, uh, Aja’s mom was there as well as Snoop was just super excited. He had his camcorder and he was filming and he, and then he got to my DJ and he was like, yo, um, I’m filming a documentary. Can you give me a shout out? So then my DJ is like, yo Snoop was up. You didn’t call it that at all. And so then he’s like, can you give me a shout out? And Snoop was like, of course. So he said his camera, his camcorder off.
And then from there, he was just so, so accepting of us that he asked for a CD and he put it on right away. And, and, um, the photographer was telling him about the show. He was like, what? You know, he, he was, the photographer was like Dickie, they’re spiritual people. They’re a family. They can kill the stage. And Snoop was like, man, I want to hear this. You know, he, and then he started telling us at the time his daughter, I think, um, was diagnosed with lupus, but then, but then come to find out afterwards, like she didn’t really have it. Right. But he was doing a fundraiser. So he was, he was taking pictures with people and the money that he was making from the pictures were going to a lupus foundation from being exposed to that, you know, to that world. And, um, you know, he started talking to Aja’s dad and he was like, I really, I really admire the fact that you’re here with your daughter at this show, you got to keep family close and you know, his wife was there.
00:38:29 Uh, his, you know, his cousin DAS from the dark path. It was just really amazing to be in this room again, soup as a person I listened to, you know, I remember that that was some of the lyrics that when I, when I sang along to my mom would look at me like, yeah, you can’t sing those lyrics. You know what I mean? Right. And then, and then here we are. Um, and then Laura Hill definitely is my top five artists of all time. And, and Aja as well, you know, Aja looks, looks up to Morgan Hill so much. So by the time we opened for her in Boulder, um, w we, we did, we ended up doing the Denver date and on the Denver date, she, she said, um, Hey, what are you guys doing in the next couple of weeks? I’d love to take you on tour with me.
And so, you know, that tour changed our life. And, and then, you know, now to the point where now we’re friends, you know, our kids are friends. Um, our daughter is the same age as one of her daughters in there, you know, FaceTime and they’re talking on the phone all the time and it’s, it’s just amazing. And I think it’s from the time we, we, we spent an Aspen, uh, we did two shows in Aspen. It was around Christmas two years ago. And then we got to spend a lot of time with Lauryn Hill, um, just hanging out in the hotel, lobby, talking all night, and then we all went tubing the next day. So just getting this connection and this relationship with artists that you really looked up to at one point, you know, that you still look up to, like, to me now it’s more than just a artistry, but it’s also just looking at them as mentors, you know, and, and as big brother and big sister, you know, so it’s a great, it’s a great feeling.
Adam: 00:39:57 I’m sure that that’s amazing. And, and yeah, there’s always that thing. It’s like, well, I want to meet my, my hero or whatever you might call them. This person that I respect so much from afar, but do I really want to, because I don’t want to bust the bubble on that. And so anytime they come through as being everything that you would hope is know, I feel good.
Big Samir: 00:40:20 It feels great because now you can, you listen to the music differently. You know what I mean? Or you watch the movies. You know, if, if they’re actors, you watch the movies differently, you just respect them and support them at night. You know, people have, uh, whenever people want to talk bad about those artists, I’m like, Nope, not around me. You can’t do that around me, you know, but again, then there are some artists that people love that are just not good people. You know, you’re a great artist. You’re a great musician, but as a person, I w I don’t want to be around you. Okay.
Adam: 00:40:51 You know, you mentioned Snoop’s reach. And, uh, you know, I, I came up in high school and stuff, listening to him too. And, um, and, and I mean, white kid in small town, rural vanilla Midwest, I mean, that’s a far reach from Compton and long beach and stuff like that, you know, where he’s, he’s rapping about. But to me, the biggest signal of how big his reach was, is in more recent years when he’s partnering with Martha Stewart, right, doing commercials.
Big Samir: 00:41:21 The only person that everybody loves him, he’s the only, Oh yeah. Only Snoop can do something like that successfully.
Adam: 00:41:34 Right. It’s, it’s funny. Um, all right. So let’s go back to the empowerment aspect of things and love of self and the strength and all this stuff in lyrics and in one song, and, and you and Aja performed this at TEDx, uh, in Denver by, uh, maybe five years ago or so. And it was, I remember, is that song right in, in, in that, toward the end, you’re engaging the crowd and you’re getting people to say, I love me. And man, that just sorted, that, that hits me in a different way and for better or worse it is because I don’t say that to myself, except in really rare situations where I’m trying to soften and be more human and be more gentle on myself instead of kind of all the negative self-talk. So one, that’s amazing. And that’s an example of what the two of you do as the reminders, but also I’m curious, what is your relationship with that phrase yourself, “I love me”?
Big Samir: 00:42:33 For me, is something that I do love myself. And I tell myself that from time to time, but not as much as I should like anybody. Um, if for me, it’s more of, because I’m so busy helping everyone else, you know what I mean? I’m a person who I want to see everybody be happy and I want to see everybody succeed. You know what I mean? If there’s anything in my power that I can do to make someone’s life better, I will do it. Um, so for me, it’s more of, you know, uh, um, keeping busy at all times that that phrase we’ve done, we’ve done that same performance for live concerts in front of thousands of people, small coffee shops, universities, high schools, middle schools, and elementary school. Now, middle schools, I think were the toughest to actually say, to say it back.
00:43:23 And I think that’s because it’s that pivotal age, even that pivotal age in which we’re talking about in that song. I remember, um, you know, in the song, I remember Aja talks about this, this car. I mean, this, uh, accident that she, she was running, she was running to go to the backyard and then see the glass door and ran through it. And so it almost severed her legs. So she had a bunch of scars on her legs, uh, stomach. And when she went back to school after the surgery, you know, kids were making fun of her. It was that age, that middle school, where kids are just, I mean, kids are ruthless, man. They do not hold that. They’ll make fun of you, uh, at all costs. And, um, but also at the time, as we were doing these performances, we were being that’s when we started doing more school performances.
00:44:10 Um, we did, we did a performance at our children’s elementary at the time. And then the district, uh, principal invited us to one of the middle school and one of the high schools because of the suicide rate in Colorado Springs. Um, and that was just heartbreaking is the more we went into these, these schools and we would hear these stories and, and it was just really heartbreaking. So we, we made it a point to, to speak up about it, to, to empower these kids because of what they deal with with one another, because of what they deal with when they go home. There’s just so many issues nowadays that, um, you know, if we can provide a little joy, a little, a little peace, a little, uh, upliftment, we’re going to do that. Uh, you know, as much as we could,
Adam: 00:44:55 I love it. I love it. And, you know, I think about those kids of course need that, but we all do right. That’s why it resonates. Oh, you all need to be in whatever form, if it’s not so direct as I love me. Yeah. I mean, we’ve got to find some way to show ourselves to say that to ourselves, because, you know, as I’ve had in a couple of conversations recently on the podcast, we’re talking about operating out of fear or love. And as one of my friends, uh, her name is Jessica Patterson. She’s a spiritual teacher, a writer teacher of yoga. And as she says, you’re either acting from a place of love or you’re acting out of a need for love, right. Fear and love. And we all need to be able to say, I love me and not be just afraid to say that because of all the things that we think are so wrong and broken, and then your all’s music, man, you’re speaking to all this stuff. I already mentioned how we’ve got the mix, like true international, authentic mix of you and hip hop and African rhythms and roots and all this stuff. And yeah, you know, maybe we’ve already hit on this, but my question at the end of this here is, is how did you come to this sense of yourself as an artist and musically, the two of you, you and Aja together, that this is how we’re going to put out this groove. And this is the type of strength we want to show and encourage.
Big Samir: 00:46:29 You know, I think part of it is just experiences. You know, the, the more, the more we traveled, the more we got exposed to, first of all, growing up, we were exposed to R and B classic rock. Um, hip hop, Ray gate are both, our household had all of those, you know, jazz. So it was, it w w musically we’re influenced by everything. And, but as we, as we traveled, you know, in 2010, we went to Morocco for the first time, uh, with the state department and got to perform at festivals and also collaborate with Moroccan musicians. And I had never heard of Ghanaian music before, you know, the, the time signature is completely different and so deep to get into, be exposed to that kind of music. And now, uh, there’s a band called to nary when, uh, that’s one of our favorite bands.
00:47:21 Like we go see them when they come to, when they come to Denver. Um, it’s like with our travels being exposed to new music, we incorporate that we learned from, you know what I mean? Um, we, we learned from Ragy. Okay, let’s incorporate some of that in the music. Even some of the way we we write is, is, is from, from the experiences that we’ve gained again. Um, these, these are things that just grew naturally in us from, from being exposed to it, from experiencing it. And, um, you know, even being in Jamaica, being in Jamaica, in, in, uh, in drumming drumming with Jamaican drummers is, uh, you know, learning from that as well. And incorporating that in how we share music too.
Adam: 00:48:00 You know, I’m thinking of, uh, George Harrison from the Beatles, right. And when, after they had gone to India and they spent their time on this sort of spiritual retreat thing, but then it also was stirring these creative juices and then Harrison in particular comes back and he’s playing, you know, the music that, that he brought back with him that got into him while they were there. And it’s just, we all are that mix of everything. And so that’s an encouragement, right. That people go out and have more experiences.
Big Samir: 00:48:28 Yeah. Yeah. And that’s what I think that’s why a lot of times people, people compare us to a lot of different, different bands and groups, but whenever they say we remind them of the Fuji’s, I think that’s why is their music embodied so much? It wasn’t just hip hop records. It was like, no, this is like hip hop mix with, with, um, reggae mix. And then, and then Lauryn Hill would just sing a whole song. You know what I mean? On some Aretha Franklin stuff, it’s like, this is a lot more than just hip hop. So when we come, come around, I mean, Aja to me is, is an incredible singer and an incredible writer, you know? So that in itself is going to bring more than just a hip hop record is going to bring so much more than just, um, one John rhe, you know what I mean? So we keep pushing the boundaries with each record, with each song we record and, and, uh, you know, just really excited for the new stuff we have coming up. I think that like these, these singles we’ve been putting out for are just teasers while we’re still, uh, you know, we’re not, the world is not open yet, so you still don’t have concerts and tours and things like that. So until, until that comes back, that’s when we really gonna start releasing music again,
Adam: 00:49:38 That you then have that to, to kind of fuel and the tour to fuel that and have it flow together.
Big Samir: 00:49:44 Yeah. I think w one, one of the things about this time is we, we haven’t had the pressure of touring for a year. We haven’t had the pressure of even having to perform, you know, we, we’ve done a few, um, live streams and things like that, but I mean, this is from the house, you know what I mean? Like, by the time you’re done you still in your home, so it’s been an incredible, it’s been an incredible time to actually catch up on a lot of reading and, and, and, and, and do things that we wouldn’t have done otherwise, you know, spend, spend so much time with our children spend, uh, we bought kayaks. We’ve been kayaking when the weather was good. You know what I mean? Like this, these are the things that I don’t know if we would have done that if we would have just been in this rigorous touring and you know what I mean, and navigating life type of schedule. But, um, but with that being said, I think we’ve been writing some of our best work, not just musically, but in general, you know, um, I’m not gonna speak for Aja too much, but, you know, Aja has been writing a ton, um, curriculums in, in, in, in songwriting, uh, curriculums and, and, you know, also working on books and things like that. So this time has been really incredible for us.
Adam: 00:50:52 It’s given us all a different perspective, um, for the various reasons, everybody, for their own reasons. But I think there is strength in being able to look at well, what can we take from this time? Not, not just sit in, what could make us angry or upset, or this is the way it should have been or whatever, but, um, and it’s also kind of tough to, to be super productive, be super creative and say what I should be doing all this stuff. Right. So how did you find that balance, man?
Big Samir: 00:51:20 That’s a great question. Um, the first, the first two months, I didn’t, I didn’t do any music at all. I was just, I was like, you know what? We still have to figure out what’s going on and what’s happening. Let’s just be in this house. We had, we were blessed enough to have food and have the things that we need. And we have worked so hard the year before that we were good in terms of, of, you know, getting our bills paid and things like that. Um, so it was like, you know what, let’s focus on time on our time, you know what I mean? And, and, um, matter of fact, uh, last year, shortly after the pandemic hit, it was Ramadan. So it was time to fast. And we were able to fast as a family in the house and not, you know, the kids didn’t have school, we didn’t have to go and travel and do all these different things.
00:52:08 So it was, it was really blessed. Normally it was the first time, all our kids faster with us, um, which I don’t think that would have happened any other way. Like even this year is coming up and they have schools that are like, eh, I don’t know if that’s going to work out. You know what I mean? Like my son is 10 years old, so it’s going to be a little challenging if he was to do that. But, um, it wasn’t until, you know, solid once the summer hit real. Okay. Let’s, let’s, let’s go down in the basement and start plugging things up and seeing what we come up with and just being able to come up with songs from scratch and producing things from, from just from nothing, you know what I mean? Not just, Hey, a producer sent me a beat, let me, let me write to that.
00:52:46 But let’s come up with songs that, that, that are just authentically a hundred percent us where it is something that we, you know, we, we dabbled in before, but now it’s like, now we really embodied that. And we were really able to do that at a hundred percent. And, um, and just growing that, like every time we do one, we’re like, okay, let’s do another one. Let’s do more. Let’s do more and challenging ourselves to, um, you know, like we come up with different challenges. Like, you know, no matter what you write daily, no matter what you create something daily. Um, even if it’s not the Mo the, the most incredible thing, you you’ve done something creative, right? Yeah. It’s
Adam: 00:53:26 A practice. Right. So the more consistent we are with it, you know, you might look at, if you’re watching for that water to boil, you know, it’s, it’s hard to see magic in every, every moment, every day’s practice, but over time you get someone. Yeah.
Big Samir: 00:53:41 And they say, you know, they say practice makes perfect. So it don’t feel like, like you, like you mentioned, like being in that place where you feel like, Oh, I should be doing something, but you also got to remember that there are times that you have to take for yourself, not worrying about, you know, being creative and not worry about, like, there, there are times where it’s okay. It’s okay to just kick back, you know what I mean? And go for a walk or ride your bike.
Adam: 00:54:06 Well, I think it’s even, yeah, it’s important to as well, right. And to get that space, to allow your body to move and see what, you know, breathe that air. And speaking of that, though, you know, you’re talking about going into the basement and not starting with somebody else’s beat maybe, or some nugget here or there, but you’re also not able to go out in the past year during the pandemic in the same way that you otherwise would have where, Oh, Hey, I just, I just had this conversation with that person and that triggered this thought, or I saw this over in the park. So what was it that the two of you were drawing from when really you’re closed in and not getting the same sort of interaction with life? You know, I can see that being a challenge. Yes.
Big Samir: 00:54:49 Part of it, part of it was after six months go by, you it’s, these are blessed moments that, that, you know, we couldn’t have, we couldn’t have worked for paid for, you know what I mean, in that we’ve been able to spend with our families. And, but within that, like you said, there are also challenges like you are in each other’s face all day long, you know what I mean? And, and, and, and the conversation, like no conversations, you can’t run away from conversations and in, uh, in different things like that. So we, we made a song out of fact call nowhere, nowhere to hide. Um, we, we put it on our Instagram and on YouTube, um, cause right. Cause we, we recorded it like a tiny desk type of a performance. And, uh, and that song talks about that about, you know, being fake, you have to, you’re faced with everything, you know, you can’t get away from, from, from anything. Everything is in your face, in this, in this time. Right. So yes, it’s challenging and blessed and blessed at the same time.
Adam: 00:55:45 I want to go back to the fasting as a family. Um, you know, I, I’m not familiar with that as a practice. So I don’t know if for your kids what the normal, um, I don’t want to use the word expectation, but that’s the word right there right now, uh, in terms of, at what age do you start this practice? And then as a family, I’m just curious to know what that experience was for all of you, because I’m thinking as kids, you start thinking, Oh, I’m hungry. You know, what’s the challenge there and what comes through that?
Big Samir: 00:56:20 Yeah. So, you know, I’ve been Muslims since, uh, it was about 19 and each year with the month of Ramadan, I learned more and more. I learned each year. I learned how to do it better. You know what I mean? Like, especially when you, when you’re younger and you’re the only person that in your family, that’s fasting. You’re not sure how to go about it. So basically from, from, um, uh, from Dawn to sunset is when you’re fasting from every Trump food drink, uh, you know, smoking for people who smoke or sexual relations and things like that. Um, so for, from those hours between those hours, but it’s because a lot of times people are like, how do you do it for 30 days or fast? It’s like, no, we still eat it. It’s not, you know, not within those times. So, um, and usually for our kids, they watch us do it.
00:57:09 Um, and, and the age, the age, uh, I think I said age of maturity, like when a girl gets her cycle and things like that around that age is when you start, um, fasting as well, or depending on how mature the kid is. Like, I’ve seen very young kids fast. And, um, last year, usually what our kids do is they’ll treat it almost like lint, right? Like I’m going to give up something I’m going to fast from my fault. You know what I mean? Um, you know, like they’ll, they’ll, they’ve tried different things over the years, just in solidarity with us or, you know, I’m just going to eat like breakfast, lunch, dinner, but not snack out of control throughout the day. Little things like that, just to understand the sacrifice and to feel what it feels like to be hungry, because part of it is you’re going to be hungry and the mind, the mind state that you’re in when you’re in that, in that place, you know what I mean?
00:57:58 Yeah. Um, what do you, what do you do with your time during Ramadan? We’re always focused because you’re not just going to walk around just eating and just doing whatever it is you want. So you really focused about how you spend your time. And last year they were like, well, we’re going to be home with you guys all day. So we don’t have the excuse of being in class or having PE because that’s usually the go-to. What about during PE? What about this? You know, what about lunch for my kids? Well, my friends are eating so, um, they all decided, they were like, well, we’re going to give it a shot. And, and so I, I taught, I told the girls who they’re a little bit older. Um, I said, well, if you, if you want to, but, you know, whenever you feel hungry, you do what you gotta do.
00:58:35 And the rule for my son was just fast, as long as you can, until you can’t anymore. Right. And then last year they woke up. So what we did is we woke up in the morning before Dawn, as a family cooked breakfast, we all ate. And from there, we, we hung out, talked for a little bit, and then, you know, throughout the day you’re going to take a nap at some point. And, and it worked out, you know, it was, it was really a blessing to watch them really make that effort, you know, like get up in the morning, super early eat and then spend some time and have great discussions and, and go throughout the day. And, you know, there was definitely tough days where they’re like, I’m really hungry today, you know, but, but, um, but it definitely, I think it changed them. It definitely, uh, it changed all of us, even what us watching them go through that process was really amazing.
Adam: 00:59:25 I think what you’re describing there a really critical piece of that is that you’re allowing them the experience you’re providing the structure and opportunity, but not trying to force something on them. Right. Because then it changes what that experience is for them. It changes what they think of it as they get older and then they reflect back and it’s like, you know, instead of getting the value of just try it in this way, try it in that way. See what you think in your own experience.
Big Samir: 00:59:52 Yeah. And, and, and I think for my son, one day he realized he was like, man, I haven’t been able to fast till this time. And then he pushed himself a little, you know, a little further. And then he realized he was like, man, I can really do it. You know? So, you know, sometimes now if we’re on a road trip or something, I’m like, he’s like, Oh, I’m hungry. I’m like, man, you gotta, you’ve done longer than this. You know, like you can eat in the next 30, 40 minutes. So I think it’s great lessons, but also like you said, um, it’s about not, you know, you don’t want to force people into something they don’t want to do, and it’s gonna, you know, it’s going to leave a bad taste in their mouth. And, and I, and I’ve met people who, who were forced to fast when they were younger and who want nothing to do with it as they get older, you know? So, absolutely.
Adam: 01:00:32 Yeah. Yeah. I want to ask you about protesting now. Okay. All right. Because I did hear another conversation where you’ve talked about this and for you at dates all the way back to nine 11, you’re talking about your, um, your practice, spirituality, faith, uh, in Islam. I don’t want to connect dots there that aren’t connected. Oh, I also should preface here. I was not in the country when nine 11 happened. I was in the army at that time and I was around the world in Korea. Yeah. So in my mind this event happened at night, not in the morning. I was not in the U S where I have still 20 years later. I don’t know what the experience was for you. I don’t know what the experience was for anybody in this country with media coverage, with protests. Like, so that’s another reason I’m intrigued by this because I heard you say to somebody else all the way back to nine 11, it’s like, well, I don’t have a memory of protest at that time for various reasons, but that’s key to me was I wasn’t even here. I wasn’t seeing the news.
Big Samir: 01:01:32 Right, right, right. Um, it’s interesting. Just in terms of protests, I’ve been to, I’ve been to police brutality protest way before, you know, George Floyd way before, uh, these, these, these recent years, uh, because it’s been an issue for that long, you know what I mean? Yeah. So, so it’s been more of a police brutality protest and also, um, uh, for Palestine, like w once you, once I got into Islam, I started learning more about the conflicts in Palestine, in, in, in, in realizing how, how, uh, how long that’s been going on. So some of my first protests, where were those as well, and it, and to tell you the truth, I was really there to learning, learning more than anything learning as I, as I go. Um, and nine 11 when nine 11 happened, it was a really interesting time because I was still pretty new to the faith,
01:02:32 Was getting a lot of, uh, you know, I was walking around where koofie and I had a beard. And, you know, I was, you could see that I was Muslim and the people I was around, like the women were, were the scarves, even, even, um, you know, when Aja and I first got together, um, she, she would wear the scarf as well. So just seeing how people react to that and seeing how people treat you or talk to you, um, um, from that was really, it was really interesting time. I think, I think nine 11 brought a lot of ugly out of people, um, in terms of, in terms of, uh, prejudice towards Muslims. Uh, but also just really at the time I worked on the military base, so the security went up 5000%, you know what I mean? My stepfather was in, was an air force.
01:03:20 So, so I had a military ID as a dependent, but at that time, my age, I think you, you age out of age, out of the dependent ID, right? So then I got an ID, like as a, as a contractor that worked at the BX. Now, the way I, the stuff that I had to go through just to get to work every day just got too crazy. And then one time I was at, I was at work and, uh, this MP, this military police came up to me and I guess he had just got a briefing that said, you know, if anybody looks suspicious or sound suspicious, whatever, um, you know, something like arrest them. So I’m at work, I’m selling sneakers at the BX and this guy, and I’ve known this guy a very long time because he knows my mom that he comes in and he he’s grabbing me and pretending to arrest me.
01:04:12 And I remember being like, well, what are you doing? He’s like, Oh, well, I was told that if anybody looks suspicious, da, and you over here with no mustache and a beard. And, uh, and, and the way that made me, I was like, yeah, I mean, I have customers, you know what I mean? I’m at work. And the way, the way that made me feel, I was like, I really didn’t like that feeling like everything about it was wrong. And I quit. I quit. I quit that job, like directly after that. Um, so, so not, not a level for me was really, it was really interesting, um, from our perspective, you know, from, from a, from a Muslim perspective.
Adam: 01:04:46 Yeah. Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing that. I mean, I feel, I feel pretty ignorant because of not being aware of so much, even, I mean, 20 years later, like I said, I’m still like, Oh, what, what was happening here? Because it was so different to me.
Big Samir: 01:05:02 Right, right, right, right. Right. And, and, and, and, and that’s just from that perspective, you know, but, but in terms of, you know, I’ve got, I’ve been in New York, Aja Aja’s uncle, um, worked, uh, I forgot what, what position he worked at the time, but he worked in Manhattan at time. You know what I mean? So feeling a certain way about that, you know what I mean? Like, is he okay? And then, and then now traveling to New York and, and going to visit ground zero. And all of, like, one of my, one of my, uh, one of my friends, uh, lost his brother in, in, in nine 11. And matter of fact, just last week we were talking about, he was, he was mentioning how it makes him feel when footage of nine 11 comes up. You know what I mean? Like it high affects his children, you know, they think of their uncle, uh, passing.
01:05:46 So it’s, it’s, it’s really tragic, man. And I think the response to it is tragic as well. You know, even, even looking at the most recent protest, I think being in this pandemic is, has brought a lot of light. Like a lot of people have had to sit at home and really face some of these, um, some of this violence and, and now they have no choice, but to react and say something and protest and stand up, uh, to the point where people are like, yo, we have to do something now. You know what I mean? Like, whatever it is that we have to do. Um, um, and it’s been, it’s been really interesting to see how people react to it positively and negatively, you know? And, and even now with social media, like I try to just use social media to stay, stay connected with my friends and to promote music.
01:06:33 And that’s it, I’m, I’m really not a person that, that engages in debates and this and that, but watching people express, again, like you were talking about earlier, express things out of love or hate, you know, like people that you thought you knew, and they’re just expressing hateful, hateful, sentiments on there. It’s been really, it’s been really a, a roller coaster ride. And I just watched from afar. I don’t, I don’t engage in any of that. I don’t engage in debates online. Um, and I don’t even engage in debates if it’s not going to be constructive.
Adam: 01:07:09 Yeah. Yeah. And will it just, it don’t feel good. No, not at all. And you know, so the thing with nine 11, right. Obviously I’ve seen things, I’ve heard things, I’ve read things. I can go pick up a book. I can go look up old magazine articles on what happened. But when I say that, I don’t really know what I’m talking about is I wasn’t surrounded by individuals in my community, in my city and knowing what their experience on that morning was, right. I wasn’t at the office gathered around a TV, you know, watching it happen. You at the time I was in Korea, I was in Korea. I was in the army. Um, you know, I was on a post there and, and we were shut down.
Big Samir: 01:07:53 Yeah. Okay. So, so that’s what it was. Cause you know, what’s interesting is I remember working, working the night before, so that morning I was beat and my family called from Belgium. They’re like, Hey, what’s going on? And I was like, I have no idea. I’m just waking up right in. And as they said that I go upstairs. I live in my mom’s house at the time, I’d go upstairs. And, and um, we turned the TV off. My mom already had the TV on and I was like, I hadn’t, I could not grasp what was happening. You know what I mean? I was like, wait, what is happening? And so, and then, and then immediately after that, like, like I mentioned, I worked on base. So the base called and said, we’re going to be closed today. And they were closed for a week. So again, you’re, you’re in this place where so many businesses were closed and it was, you know, the streets just fell quiet, you know, pre pandemic.
01:08:49 It was almost like, okay, here we are, everybody’s home. Most people are home because they don’t have to go to work, but you’re just sitting here watching what is happening, you know, and, and gathering your emotions, you know, depending on who you are. And if you have family in New York or, you know what I mean, if you have a firefighter, uh, relatives and things like that, you know? Um, so around that time I used that time. Cause I was in the process of moving into my first apartment. So I was like, Oh wow, I’ll have to go to work for a week. Let me use that to just move in. So that kind of worked out for me,
Adam: 01:09:26 You know? So this all came up because of the idea of protesting. And I know that you have this, this history, I don’t know that I’ve heard you use the word activist or activism, but I mean, is that if that’s,
Big Samir: 01:09:36 I’m going to tell you what yeah. And there’s a, there’s a lot, a lot, a lot of themes in, in, in our music that we’ll consider that will make us conscious artists and activists. Like the reason I never used that term is because I’ve seen what an activist does. It’s a full-time thing. It’s not a part. And I see artists who are part-time activists, as part-time like, I can play, I do play the part of an activist from time to time. It’s just not what I do full time. So I don’t feel, I never feel right. Calling myself that some of my really close friends do that full time in a seat. And I see the impact they have. And, and, and I don’t, I don’t, I don’t feel right. Uh, putting that next to my title. It’s a respect thing. It’s a respect thing. Yeah. And also, you know, and I check in with them all the time, but you know, before I do certain things before I see certain things and sometimes I’m like, you know, I want to do more in this realm. And they always remind me, they’re like, no, you, you are doing enough as you are in the music realm. You know, even, you know, playing some of these protests, playing music, providing the soundtrack to it. You know, we provide the soundtrack to the protest,
Adam: 01:10:46 Talking about that kind of music with those kinds of lyrics, with that kind of power, right. There is a history of quote, protest music, um, of music that is aligned with that kind of activism standing up against government against power, against wrongs, bad systems, whatever it might be.
Big Samir: 01:11:06 And, you know, what’s really interesting,
Adam: 01:11:08 You know, when I was kind of thinking through some of this stuff before we talked is that it’s almost like protest or activism is in the eye of the beholder, the listener, the viewer, or whatever, because your words are uplifting and strengthening to, you know, your audience and then somebody else might listen to it and say, well, that makes me mad because this is what I think you’re saying, you know, it gets political.
Big Samir: 01:11:32 Right, right. For sure. For sure. And yeah. And it’s all, again, it’s all on the interpretation, you know, when people get out of it. Um, and that’s when that’s, when you just focus on your intention, you know, what I, what I meant by saying this or what I, what I meant by doing this. Um, and, and just playing your position. Yeah. This may be in a public figure is tricky, man. Cause people are gonna have their opinions on, on the things that you do and the things that you say
Adam: 01:12:02 Well, and you can, again, going back to the intentions, right? You can have the best of intentions, but if somebody, some troll wants to start up something because they interpret the way they want to because it fits their narrative–
Big Samir: 01:12:13 For sure. And, and to the, to the point where there are people, I know, I know artists who refuse to do interviews and who refuse to do certain things or who refuse to look online, period, because they don’t want to see those comments and things like that. Um, you know, somebody may listen to this interview in this podcast to say, Oh, that’s how he feels that that’s what he used to do. You know what I mean? It just take something like out of this whole hour plus conversation, you’re going to take the one thing you disagree with to, you know, to blow it out of proportion. And there are some people who live for that.
Adam: 01:12:44 Yup. Yeah. So, Hey, we’re going to head toward winding down, but before we get there, man, I know you got a 40th birthday coming up in a few days and one, congratulations, it’s a milestone. It’s a big one. I’m wondering what the view is from there. Now I’ll have to say, I mean, I am a few years older than you. I’ve already crossed this milestone, but I want your take on, on just what you’re seeing about your life and how far you’ve come from. All these things we’ve talked about and what you’re doing in the world in Manhattan, 40, what does it feel like to you?
Big Samir: 01:13:16 Yeah, man, I feel great to tell you the truth, man. I feel, I feel physically great. I feel, uh, mentally and spiritually. Great. And I have a great, I’m thankful for the relationship I have with my mother, you know, uh, w w w we’re doing great. We, you know, we’re communicating regularly. Uh, what I mean by that is, you know, there’s times as a man where you go through where you not, maybe not everyone, but, you know, I’ve gone through times where I would just kind of, Oh, I have this and that going on. I’ll get to it. I’ll call mom when I, you know, I’ll call mom tomorrow or, but, you know, I, I’m making that a point to communicate regularly and to see her as much as I can, she has a great relationship with my children. Um, Aja and I are in a really great place.
01:14:03 Uh, which when, when you in tune with your spouse, it makes life so much better, you know, in terms of the, you navigate through this journey, that’s what, that’s, that’s what the partnership is. You know what I mean? So, so w w I think w there’s been a lot of growth in these 40 years, you know, and I feel like now I’m just starting to understand what life is about, you know, starting to appreciate more things, starting to even take part in, you know, like I have, I have, I have more hobbies now, you know, which is something that, that I couldn’t have said before, you know, like, um, I made it a point to, to pick up hobbies and to do things on my time that are, that are things that I want to do. And not necessarily just driving the kids around or, you know, doing something that’s musical, you know what I mean? That has to do with what music it’s like. There, there are so many things outside of that, that I enjoy now, and it feels great. You know, I have a great group of friends, man. I think in the past, in the past five to 10 years, I met some of my, some of my best friends that, you know, uh, we’re going to be friends forever that have changed my life. I changed theirs and, and it just feels, it feels wonderful. I’m really thankful.
Adam: 01:15:11 That’s awesome. I’m glad to hear it. Congratulations on, um, not necessarily hitting the age. Right. We, we hit ages, but on the perspective and on the growth, because I, I agree with what you’re saying is like, it’s almost like, um, I’m just kind of learning how much there is to learn in a way, you know, even though we’ve already walked this much of a road, um, and it factors into success, and I want to ask you about success because I think it takes a balance of not only the hard work that you’ve mentioned, it takes discipline, we’ve mentioned, but also some amount of luck. Right. And I’m curious if you have given thought to that balance of luck and yeah.
Big Samir: 01:15:54 Yeah. I feel like a lot of it has been hard work for me so far. I don’t know. I’m still waiting to see the love, but, um, you know, just like we were mentioning at 20, I thought I had it figured out, you know what I mean? That’s 16. I thought I had it figured out, you know, and it’s just, it’s just, now that I’m like, Oh, I look, I look at 16 year olds. And I’m like, that’s how I looked when I thought, I thought I was grown because I could drive. You know, when I thought I was, I was wrong. Cause I, you know, I could, uh, I had a job so I could pay for my own stuff. And uh, but now, you know, now definitely there are cheat codes to this thing, you know, is one thing that I learned, uh, that I learned on this journey is there are definitely cheat codes. It’s about knowing the right people in, in, in, in, in having the right conversations. And that’s how you’re going. You’re going to move past where you are. You know what I mean? You could keep working hard, but if you’re not working smart and if you’re not around the right people, you’re not going to go pass where you, are you just going to keep repeating the same thing
Adam: 01:17:04 Along with that? I think maybe comes figuring out when to say yes. And when to say to no to something.
Big Samir: 01:17:10 Yup. Yup, yup. Yup. Yeah. This is very important. I just, I just had to say no this morning and it’s, and it, it is freeing because you know, you’re doing the right thing. You know what I mean? The other, again, the other person may feel a certain way about it, but that’s just what it has to be. You know, you have to know when to say no and do it confidently and just press on, go on about your day. Yeah. Onto the next thing.
Adam: 01:17:34 Right. Samir, I appreciate everything that you’ve shared, man. Thanks for joining me here. It took us a year because of the pandemic and stuff.
Big Samir: 01:17:42 I was just going to say that, you know, thanks for your patience and I’m glad it worked out because we have so much more to talk about.
Adam: 01:17:48 It’s awesome. Yeah. This was perfect timing. I love it. Thanks for being here. Thanks for joining humanity, man.
Big Samir: 01:17:53 Absolutely. Man. Thank you so much for having me. And, uh, I’m excited to hear it back.
Adam: 01:18:06 That was my conversation with emcee and one-half of the duo, The Reminders, Big Samir.
You can learn more about Big Samir and references made throughout this conversation in the show notes published with relevant links and an episode transcript on the website, at humanitou.com.
You also can connect with Samir and his work at theremindersmusic.com and on the usual social media channels. It’s @thereminders on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. And you can easily find The Reminders on YouTube, Soundcloud and Spotify, too.
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I’m Adam Williams, creator and host of the Humanitou Podcast.
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