Safaree Samuels wants a clean slate. For over a decade, the Brooklyn-born rapper has been most known as the ex-boyfriend of pop superstar Nicki Minaj. These days, though, the man they call Scaff Beezy is steadily finding his musical footing on his own merits with the release of his Real Yard Vibes Pt. 1 EP and loosies like “Can’t Lie” and “Panda Freestyle.”
Surprisingly, his sound is more reggae-leaning than the hit songs he’s contributed to. “It’s pretty much a mixture of rap and reggae but on some hip-hop beats and old-school reggae riddims,” the 34 year old tells Billboard.
Some artists have maintained a hands-off approach to working with him considering his public split, but his most notable co-sign occurred last month at Reggae Sumfest 2016. “Bounty Killer bringing me on stage at Reggae Sumfest? That’s huge,” he says of his “Bad Ting” cohort and the man he deems the greatest of all time. “What I did with Bounty Killer at Sumfest is equivalent to Jay Zperforming at the Yankee Stadium and he [brings me out].”
Though growing up in the home of Biggie, the MC keeps artists like Beenie Manand Ninjaman in heavy rotation, which directly informs his music. On his latest project, he covers reggae classics he once listened to as a young SB and even reached out to the original artists for features. “I got a song called ‘Garden 2016’ featuring Alozade and Chico,” he shares.
On the music front, he seems focused, and in an attempt to continue building his own buzz, the motorcycle junkie has joined VH1’s Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood. “[Being a part of] the Love & Hip Hop franchise is something I’ve had the opportunity to do for years, but I wanted to get myself established a little more as an artist,” he says. “Now I’m doing my own thing and just adding [Love & Hip-Hop] to my platform to help.”
Like it or not, reality TV is a genuine measure of star power (and likeability) in today’s world. Stepping into the critical reality TV spotlight can frighten any small screen rookie but when you’ve braved the e-torture of a million Barbz, you learn to handle backlash like a veteran. “I’ve already dealt with it on a level of a superstar, crazy people and fans that come at me talking crazy talk.” he says. “I’m pretty numb to that kinda stuff.”
Here, he spills about working with Ky-Mani Marley, Ray J’s helpful advice and his thoughts on West Indian sounds going mainstream. Love & Hip Hop Hollywood debuts Monday, Aug. 15 on VH1.
Talk about the new music.
I’m working on a new EP right now, and I recorded a song with Ky-Mani Marley. Super excited about that. I love Bob Marley, so being in the studio with Ky-Mani Marley [Bob Marley’s son] was insane. It was a surreal experience. My DJ was speaking to his people, and he wanted to chop it up with me. I couldn’t even believe I was on the phone with him. He was just giving me respect, saying he’s seeing how long I’ve been doing my thing. He’s into motorcycles, too and people who ride motorcycles is like a secret brotherhood. I would compare it to like rappers in the business, but there’s not unity in the music business.
To an extent of course. If someone can benefit from you, then there’s unity. If not, no. Everyone’s in their own circles.
Are you worried about the negative backlash from joining Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood?
No, because I don’t see it being any different from the things that I’ve had to deal with in the past two years as far as having to deal with negativity and hate that comes toward me. I hear it but I don’t let it affect me. In the beginning, that stuff used to bother me, I’m not gonna lie. It takes awhile to build up your immune system, I would say, for this type of backlash. Every single person has an opinion about you. But at the same time, if they ain’t talking about you, you’re not doing something right, so I must be doing something right. I feel like that set me up for this.
How did you decide to join the LHHH cast?
It’s a great platform when you use it the right way. I’m not gonna be on TV, arguing — none of that craziness. There’s some people who are on it and they don’t have an end goal. When this is said and done, I’m going to capitalize on it. I wanna push myself as a brand — modeling, acting, fitness, clothing. I have a coconut oil that’s made and produced in India. I’m waiting for the show to really start pushing that. Millions of people watch it a week, so why not? I really don’t regret the experience, so that’s definitely not something that I would be opposed to.
Ray J has a lot of experience in the reality TV space. Did he give you any advice about the show?
Ray J is definitely someone who I’ve been speaking to a lot throughout the experience because he grew up in this world of television and entertainment, so I take heed to what he says. He has given me great advice on how to carry myself and to make sure that whatever I do, when I watch it back, my stomach isn’t gonna turn.
Fetty’s on this season, too. Have you met him?
I never met him, but we’re not done filming so you never know.
Being that you’re Jamaican, what do you think about this wave of non-West Indian acts like Drake and Tory Lanez using the sound?
It’s like, I’m not Spanish, so I’m not gonna go and start doing reggaeton. It’s a bittersweet thing because these reggae and dancehall artists should be bigger than what they are. The dancehall artists, the people in Jamaica, just need to get more notoriety. [Reggae artists] should be doing features. And when [mainstream artists] shoot the video, they should shoot the video in Jamaica and have a Jamaican staff so that the people out there can make some money.
Now, you’ve been associated with ghostwriting. What are your thoughts on the songwriting process and your position on ghostwriting?
We’re in the era now where it doesn’t matter who writes your stuff because when you really think about it, people don’t even care what the artists is saying. The old school era cares about what people are writing but they’re not even the ones buying records. It’s these young people who are buying records, and they don’t care who’s writing the raps. But in the business, it’s more of a pride and ego thing, where people are like, “Ain’t nobody gonna say they write my raps.”
Then there’s some people who are like, “Yeah, write me a whole thing and I’ll take some lines from it.” It’s all about delivery and however you put it out there, and that’s what matters. [Fans] don’t care about a songwriter or a ghostwriter. When someone’s going to buy a song that they like, they’re not asking who wrote it, they just like the song. That’s all behind the scenes industry stuff.
You mean hip-hop purists and OGs are the only ones who care.
Yeah, that’s where they’re at mentally, but that’s not putting money in nobody’s pockets. All that is just for debates and arguments in a barbershop.
Which artists do you like right now?
I like Young Thug ‘cause he’s lyrical. I’m a lyrical guy, but outside of Young Thug and new people, I’m not gonna lie, no one has really caught my attention.
Seems like you got reggae artists covered as far as features. Will you be working with any non-reggae artists?
You know, I’d be open to whatever would make sense. If you’re an amazing artist like Drake, J. Cole, Kendrick [Lamar] and people like that then yeah. I kinda like doing stuff by myself because when it’s time to get stuff done, I don’t have to depend on other people’s schedule to get a video shot and all that type of stuff. Really and truly, I’d rather work with the artists that people don’t know yet. I like that. I’ve always known about Lil Herb. When “ChiRaq” was put together, that was all me. The whole concept, everything, because I always thought he was dope. Now I see this guy all over the place. It just feels good to me, because before anybody even knew this kid, I knew he was dope.
Do you want to groom young artists like Lil Wayne did YMCMB?
Yeah, that’s something I could do all day. It’s second nature to me since I’ve been around and seen so much. When new people who are trying to be in the business come around me, I’m dropping gems and don’t even realize it. I like being able to do that for people. Helping people reach their goals, that’s an amazing feeling.
I just started a charity called Stunt 4 Jamaica, where we supply computers for schools in Jamaica, uniforms, socks, t-shirts. I wanna get bikes for kids. My goal in all this is not to have a Lamborghini and a big house. If I have a three-bedroom apartment, I’m fine with that. I really want to do stuff to help Jamaica, help kids’ organizations and things that are going to help people. I went through the phase of spending a bunch of money on jewelry and cars. I experienced it and I realized it doesn’t make me. I don’t need it to be happy.
Speaking of happy, are you and Nicki in a better place? No more lawsuits and Twitter wars?
Yeah, we don’t have any relationship. We don’t speak. No lawsuits either. That whole court thing got blown out of proportion because people wanted to react. But if there was a court situation, you guys would’ve saw it. There’s no hiding.
It’s obvious you don’t wanna be considered as just Nicki’s ex, so what do you want to be known for moving forward?
A guy who overcame an extremely tough obstacle and still ended up doing his thing. A guy who was in the background but now is his own shining star on a major level. Two years ago, everyone thought that I would be dead gone and that’s it. Now if I do something, it still gets talked about in the media. I’m about to be on a new hit TV show. I just want to people to know to never doubt themselves or give up, no matter what. If you really keep on trying and be persistent, something good is gonna happen. I just wanna be a poster boy for that. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.