On his debut album, the Soweto-born Sam Deep lets his luxurious and kwaito-inflected iteration of amapiano speak on his behalf. “I lean more to the soulful side of the music,” he tells Apple Music. “I’m a strong believer that music is a feeling. It’s where I express my emotions and each and every element is my therapy.”
Inviting renowned amapiano vocalists to interpret his instrumentation, the producer-DJ, born Samukelo Rorisang Mavuso, lays lush foundations for explorations of fun, romance, aspiration and spirituality across iMALI YE NTWANA. “It’s basically a mix,” he says. “It’s different feelings and different messages with all the songs.” Below, he talks us through the album’s underlying themes.
“The motive since the beginning has always been to give the people long-lasting music; music they’ll still love five, 10 years from now. I’ve been releasing singles and EPs but I feel like this is gonna be the breakthrough. This album is gonna open the most doors for me and I’m gonna get my biggest bag—that’s why it’s called iMALI YE NTWANA. I felt like I needed to show people what I’m capable of and give them something bigger. When people listen to my music they should feel like there’s hope—so the aim is healing people as well.”
“If you look at the features—MaWhoo, Azana, De Mthuda, Murumba [Pitch], Daliwonga, Professor—those are big guns in the industry, so doing this album was a whole different chapter. It’s a different sound from what I was doing and I wanted people to be able to differentiate every single song. Some songs are single-pack and some are loops, so it was all about combining those things. I was levelling myself up with a new style…you can call it luxury.”
“It all starts with the drum, ’cause if the beat is great the vocalist will definitely feel something! I’m an introvert, so my beats are my way of communicating. The beat is what gets the message across to the artist I’m working with. I don’t know what the vocalists will feel and just let them come up with their own ideas. It was something different with every vocalist. We all have different feelings, so they all have different messages.
“I didn’t plan some of the features and some of the artists approached me, but the majority of features are people I’m used to working with. Ever since  began, my aim was to do an album. Since then I’ve been working on this project, trying to get vocalists on and changing songs, so anytime was teatime—if someone came to the studio and heard a song, they could just add to it. I’m truly grateful to everyone who contributed towards this project.”
The Sides of Love
“I played the ‘Lalala’ beat for Sino [Msolo] and he approached the song how he felt. It’s a song you play for your crush or the person you’ve always been wanting, telling them, ‘If you stay over tonight you’ll get it all’. ‘Thando Lwethu’ is from my debut EP [2021’s Genesis]. It’s a song about the bond between two people—for the lovers out there to feel the presence of the person they’re with. I thought it deserved a second chance, for people to really receive the message of me believing in love.
“It’s difficult to be in love in this day and age, so ‘iNdaba Yo Thando’ is the different side. Eemoh is basically saying he’s given it his all and he’s tired, then MaWhoo says, ‘Ubuhle bendoda zinkomo zayo’. Like, ‘Who’s gonna get romantically involved with you if you aren’t out there grinding?’. It makes sense too, ’cause we’re growing up and some things are gonna require us to be financially comfortable. It’s all about that reassurance, ’cause securing the bag is securing the future. We’ll all get to a point where we’re looking for someone to build with.”
“I’m still at a stage in my life where I’m just having fun and enjoying myself. You know how happy money can make you, so ‘iMALI YE NTWANA’ is us enjoying life. When we—me and Eemoh—started working and recording together, things weren’t the same as they are now. Things have changed, you know? That’s the message we’re trying to communicate on ‘iMpumelelo’—‘I don’t want much, I just want success. I’m not fighting with anyone and I don’t want anyone to fight with me, but my goal is to take the next step and achieve.’ It’s about making things happen, but you also need to be patient. The song with Azana [‘Patience’] gives you hope and the strength for you to believe that whatever you’re fighting for will come together, and it doesn’t have to be now or tomorrow. We don’t know when our things are going to align, so just focus and everything will fall into place.”
“‘Moya’ is more of a prayer song where Eemoh is saying all his enemies are fighting him spiritually. Professor came to the studio, found the verses already done and really liked it. He’s someone who’s been in the industry and experienced a lot, so he’s saying just relax, have faith and don’t lose hope. Daliwonga is a feature people wouldn’t expect, and ‘BraMfana’ is so gangster! He’s reminding us to stand our ground, don’t get scared by people, do our thing and not lose that spirit. It’s got a bit of a kwaito vibe, just like ‘Moya’ and ‘M’use’—that attitude of kwaito and ’90s groove. A lot of our amapiano songs use old rhythms, like Sino did on ‘Lalala’ [with Lira’s ‘Feel Good’]. It’s something to spice up the song, give it that va-va-voom and also, to remember.”
The Old School
“When I did ‘Isgubhu’ I was like, ‘OK, let me try something different’ and played the song for Njelic. He got this old-school feel from it, which was something I was feeling too. He laid down something that reminds him of his parents who’ve passed on, especially his mum. It’s been a while but it’s still something new, so the aim