Meet Mr. Sampson: An eclectic electro-hop stew from Drexel
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Mr. Sampson, a local instrumental electronic hip-hop group based at Drexel University. | Photo via facebook.com/mrsampsonofficial

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to travel all the way to Red Rocks Coliseum or Bass Lights at Madison Square Garden to find high-grade electronic music. In our own back yard, an instrumental electro-hop band called Mr. Sampson produces a unique blend of funk, soul, hip-hop, and electronic dance resulting in a catchy groove. Disregarding the accepted standard for (most) modern electronic artists – sit in front of a DAW and work through a piano roll for a few hours, pausing only to throw a repeated drum loop made of 808 samples onto a step sequencer – Mr. Sampson blends digital synthesis, acoustic instrumental composition, and live recording into a controlled cataclysm of funk and glitch, not even settling to stick with the 100bpm hip-hop feel through the entirety of a few of their tracks.

The group consists of producer Joe Haederle, a third-year music student in the Music Industry program at Drexel University, and his band mates, guitar player and beat-maker Rob Proto, heavy metal producer Andy Rote, and Aaron Harel, a drummer with experience in diverse styles ranging from pop-punk to reggae dub. It has performed at a variety of venues around Philadelphia like the XO Lounge, Flux, and Drexel’s Black Box Theater, and traveled as far as The Wonder Bar in Boston, and played numerous house shows in the Philadelphia and Boston areas.

Their first release, the Sound Travels EP, claims influence from classic hip-hop, funk, soul, rock, and electronic music. Each track in the EP is distinct: “On The Run” is a glitch-oriented hip-hop instrumental, “Never Will” has a more trip-hop feel with soulful trumpet and “What the Funk” is an upbeat electro-funk jam. And yet, while each track has its distinct personality, a sense of cohesiveness shines through the diversity, tapping into a different sort of emotion that most house-bangers released in the electronic scene nowadays seem to lack.

Since the release of Sound Travels, Mr. Sampson has published two more singles not appearing on the EP. The first, “Summer Soul”, has a laid back slow-hop groove and uses a perfect mix of alternating light synths and heavy glitch bass. The track evolves, though, incorporating a seated-back guitar lead and later drum beat reminiscent of the Atlanta trap sound. The track illustrates perfectly the chilled-out atmosphere, yet inherent raunchiness of a July backyard kegger.

Even more recently, the group has published their newest single “Momentum”, which was independently released on SoundCloud on last week. Opening with an almost twerk-beat drum pattern and showing off some complicated electro-bass sequencing, the track blends a down-low groove, an ambient breakdown and a driving bass-and-scratch beatdown.

Considering the varied musical palette of the band’s members, ranging from heavy metal to hip hop to pop punk and almost everything in between, it’s no wonder Mr. Sampson has such a unique sound. It’s also no wonder that such a diverse sound comes out in each track, considering their creative process. When asked about how the group goes about composing a song, Haederle said “It can vary. A typical format is me starting a beat in Ableton Live and fleshing out the structure of a song, basically getting the skeleton down. Sometimes I’ll go pretty far on my own, and have a near complete song, and sometimes the guys will jump in with ideas for different parts and it’s more collaborative.”

Even when sitting down to start writing a track, the process never stays the same: “I actually don’t listen to a ton of electronic music… I’m a hip hop head so often times I start by finding a sample as an initial creative spark, and I will build off that, but most often I begin with drums, because hip hop and electronic music are very beat driven types of music. Sometimes I do all the drums myself in Ableton, sometimes our drummer Aaron will play over a track live, and sometimes I will sample his recorded drums and chop those up too. The process really varies from song to song, and what I feel is appropriate for each track.”

There’s no doubt that this unique and fluid approach to production has yielded them a sound that is not easily imitated. If you’re interested in seeing Mr. Sampson perform live  -and aren’t content with crossing your fingers that they’ll be at the next house party you attend – you can see them at Drexel University’s Fall Fest where they’ll be opening for Big Sean and 2 Chainz on October 4th. They’ll also be playing a set at Indigo Bleu on October 30th as part of an Ownlife Art Gallery showcase.

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