Samuel Oxymoron is a hip-hop artist in the Inland Empire, whose work spans over 20 years, a prolific artist with many projects under his belt. In 2019, he pushed himself to do a series titled Mental Floss Pencil Box, where he would write a new song every month, as well as create visuals that would complement each track; the last video, Episode 12, was even filmed at The Garcia Center for the Arts. Sam Ox has also hosted several open mics for the San Bernardino community under the name Break Bread Mic Sesh. Most recently, Samuel Oxymoron released his new album Residue Rejuvie, his most personal work yet. We sat down with Sam to learn more about all of his projects, and about him personally.
Well, my intro into hip-hop started as being a genuine fan of the music. When I was 13 years old, a friend gave me an audio cassette tape of Ice Cube’s Death Certificate. I immediately fell in love. I would listen to it in the 3 hours between after I got home from school and my mom got home from work.
It was exhilarating blasting music that was riddled with profanity, in a very God fearing home. But most of all, the rawness of the beats, the passion in his delivery, and the skill in his rhymes… I was HOOKED!
I became very good at reciting lyrics to these songs, right along with the rappers performing them. I never thought to one day become a rapper. That was the farthest thing from my mind.
It wasn’t until I was 16 years old in my sophomore English class, when I was introduced to what a simile and metaphor was. Our teacher would give us these writing exercises, where she would put up a simple sentence on the board at the beginning of class, and asked us to use similes and metaphors to expand it with more description. After that, I began writing short stories, joined the literary club. I fell in love with words. I would read dictionaries and the thesaurus for fun.
Listening to hip-hop and writing short stories were a therapy for me, during a time in my teens when I dealt with a great deal of depression. So one day, I don’t know what came over me, but I took my crack at writing a few rhymes. It ended up becoming my first song ever. It was about the mental turmoil I was dealing with at the time. That song is actually on the new project, Residue Rejuvie.
Residue Rejuvie. It’s the rejuvenation from the discarded pieces from what was broken, stolen and stained: so I speak on the silliness of my childhood with my sister (who’s my first ever best friend), the influence my mother (my hero) had in my life, the reality of being on the brink of divorce with my wife, processing being the product of divorce myself (the bitterness and anger of my dad being unfaithful to my mom), the reconciliation and mending of my dad and I’s relationship, being addicted to porn.
And on the flip side, there is an aggression throughout the project that acts as an overarching response to anyone who has judged me, looked down on me, and who’ve written me off.
My attempt is to showcase the gospel of Christ in the album. Not as a genre of music, but as a real narrative of hope, that God sent his son to save sinners, to redeem the unredeemable and heal the deepest of wounds.
In a nutshell, where we as humans tend to default to logical and pragmatic solutions and calculated formulas when seeing something that is broken… the problem with how we gauge something that needs fixing, there are times where something is unsalvageable, and sometimes we tend to view peoples’ situations in life through the same lens. Well, the gospel of Jesus Christ looks at the most depraved and irreparable situation and is able to bring new life in that situation.
This track acts as a thesis statement for RESIDUE REJUVIE
Track produced by Theory Hazit. Directed and edited by Angel “Mystroe” Roque
My grandfather, Natividad Montes, on my dad’s side, was a church planter and pastor in Mexico. But he also had a talent to sing and play guitar. So wherever he would travel as a church planter, he would perform.
One of the higher-ups at the church organization he was under, caught wind of his talent and signed him on to record an album. The album was called “Que Privilegio”. So that runs through my family.
But then my mother was also a singer and has had her own ministry now for the past 30 years, as a salsa singing evangelist. So I would travel with my mom everywhere she was invited to perform and preach. & I would help her sell her audio cassette tape and CDs. She’s still going strong now. Her name is Diana Valdepeña. She has a mini following in the Spanish-speaking church circles, and has about 10 albums under her belt.
A song by Naty Montes, Samuel Oxymoron’s grandfather, recorded during the early 70’s with Daniel Rios and Bobby Garcia on guitar
Inspirations and influences? Hands down, my mother for sure. As a musical performer, as a spiritual mentor, as a Christian, as someone who has modeled what it’s looked like to live out faith and passion in God. My mother has always instilled in me that the talent we have is a gift, and should be used to exalt, praise, and bring glory to God, and never to be used for our own vanity.
General musical influences? Tito Puente, The Fugees, Gloria Estefan, Project 86.
Diana Valdepeña, Samuel’s mother, gained a following through her evangelical salsa music
The gospel of Christ is a scandalous message.
A lot of people that are not of the faith, have this immediate impression of those who place their faith in Christ, or Christians. & that impression is that Christians are just people who are trying to be better, be more polished, and who are overall good people who do the right thing. And that is a grand misconception.
Romans 5:6-8. It doesn’t say that God’s acceptance and love applies to those who get their act together, but to those who are in utter rebellion against Him!
So the message on the shirt is to bring hope to those who have an overall, deep in the gutter sense of worth, and to humble those who think they are their righteousness, as if it’s something that they’ve attained on their own merit.
Everyone who comes to the cross, comes empty handed and in need. Therefore, there is no one, who has placed their faith in Christ, who is not a scumbag.
It is also to highlight the goodness and love of God in Christ, in spite of the brokenness in our hearts and our tendency to make selfish choices that can lead to self-destruction.
That is a very interesting take. If by subversive you mean that there is an underlying motive to dismantle preconceived notions and mindsets toward art and God. Then YES! The very nature of hip-hop and the Gospel have this commonality, where both are very anti-status quo.
Hip-hop was birthed from the unrest in the 70s, between rival gangs in New York and was used as a safe alternative for crews to express themselves. The Gospel constantly challenges our natural instincts to look out for ourselves above others: to harm others, to lie, to not be honest, and to try to keep performances before people.
Shadow of the Locust is a crew that I am a part of, but I used to be a fan of. My mother bought me that CD when I was younger. I was just a fan and then later on, I just happened to meet Jeremiah Dirt. I found out about Jeremiah Dirt living out in Hesperia through a mutual friend. I really didn’t know Dirt at all, I was just a really good fan of his music. They told me Dirt was going to be filming a video in San Diego. “You want to come meet him?” Cool. You know, this guy has impacted me for a long time. I would love to talk with him.
So we went out to that music video shoot. That day I was able to really talk with him, and then he held a Bible study in a park at midnight, I got his number and then we just kept conversing.
Shadow of the Locust is this notable hip-hop group in the Christian realm. People in the late nineties, early two thousands, know about this group, who dabbled into Christian hip hop.The name just sounds cool, it’s based on the Book of Joel, Chapter Two: the vision that Joel had of how God was going to bring just judgment and restoration through a plague of locusts.
People were all about the notoriety of being part of the group, but I just thought Dirt was a really cool guy and I just wanted to get to know him. We had a lot of things in common, our humor was the same, certain movies that we liked were the same, just came from the same place.
One day my wife was pregnant with our first kid and my wife wanted to go meet Dirt, so we went out to San Diego. We met his wife out there, and my wife was already overdue, she was supposed to be due like a week prior to this. So they said “You need to walk a lot, so you can get ready to give birth to this kid”, my first child. And so we walked all over San Diego and then we talked about just everything with them. And then, I remember Dirt goes, “Man, I want you to join the group, man. What do you think about this?” Ever since then, I’ve been part of the group since 2012, I’ve been sold on the vision of the group, which is Christ, Family, Hip Hop, in that order.
It’s extremely important, especially if I profess to be a man of faith, my faith isn’t meant to be lived out in a vacuum. The community is a group of people who create bonds and they relate to one another, and they grow with one another, and they help others in the community flourish as well. That is my whole purpose with Break Bread Mic Sesh.
Break Bread Mic Sesh was something that I started almost two years ago. It was just going to be a simple open mic in the city. And it was meant to highlight talents in the community, where people would jump on the mic and tell their story, display their talents, or tell some jokes, whatever it may be. It was mostly centered around hip-hop because, you know, that’s the community I come from.
The main purpose for me, because I know I have my faith and then I’m an artist, was to, number one, give an opportunity to anybody in the community to come in and have a voice. At the same time, I wanted to bridge the gap between the church and the community.
December 2018, I got ahold of DJ TWLV in Nevada. He’s the youngest one in our group and he was the newest one too. I didn’t think he was being utilized to the point he should have been. I just asked him “Do you have any beats?” He had about 20 beats and they were just different. He had this mellow vibe to him that was just real chill, it was chill hop. It wasn’t what I was used to but I liked it because it was challenging to me. ‘Okay, how can I write to this?’ So DJ TWLV was on board, he’s going to give me beats. I was only going to use his beats. Also, I thought to myself, 2020 is coming, let me call it ‘my road to 2020’, which is a play on 20/20 vision, road to clarity. I called it ‘Lyrical therapy towards spiritual clarity.’ Right, so I said, let me test myself.
The challenge is every month, every single month for the year of 2019, I am going to not only write a rap verse, I’m going to record that rap verse, but not only audio record that rap verse. I’m going to film a visual for that rap verse. But what more can I do? No. The visual is going to be me doing something, somewhere in the Inland Empire.
A lot of it, I outsourced. But I also did a lot of my editing. I shot and edited a lot of them. A lot of them, my boy ‘Mystroe’ did, Angel Roque. One of them, Christian Hendrickson did, he also did the puppet video for “Very Necessary”. TWLV actually did the last one.
The thing that I wanted to showcase, was not just that I was able to do it, but with the visuals, I wanted to showcase how beautiful our community is here in the Inland Empire. There’s spots where I’m filming the mountains, old businesses like the McDonald’s Museum, new businesses like Viva La Boba, Seccombe Lake on Fifth Street. I wanted to showcase, ‘This is where I’m from and I’m proud of it.’ Talent can come out of San Bernardino. I know I’ve seen the goodness in this county, in this city. I’ve seen the goodness in people trying to do good things.
The album is on Bandcamp. It is https://samueloxymoron.bandcamp.com/ Residue Rejuvie is the latest one. It’s up for sale. But all the other albums on there are for free. Search me on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or IG. It’s all under the same name: Samuel Oxymoron. Ultimately, what I really would love, is to engage with other artists in the community that are doing the same thing and connect with more people. Let’s connect.