Have you ever met someone who even though you’ve only known them for a very short period of time, they have a lifelong impact on you? That person for me was a kid named Sam Love . The year was 1993, and I had just separated from the Air Force and was working at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, as an Air Force reservist . I got a job supporting a medical unit, and was assigned a mentor to show me the ropes, a kid from Florida named Sam Love . Sam was two years younger than me, but we immediately clicked and there was a bond .
Sam was a Christian kid, went to church on Sundays, and I could relate to that, because my mom Dorothy Emerson, a minister, kept us in the church . Sam didn’t curse, he didn’t drink or smoke, and I felt like he was a good balance to my life, which I will just say was a little hectic . Sam was a good-looking guy, and reminded me of Leroy Green from the movie The Last Dragon . Sam was also into karate and when we would go to the gym together, and I would lift weights and shoot hoops, Sam would be on the mat doing karate moves . He was in great shape .
Sam Love knew I could produce music, and he was always intrigued by that . He used to say, “Man, you should produce me .” I would say, “What do you do?” He would say, “Whatever,” and we would laugh . One day, we were in his room on base housing when the song “Poison” came on by Bell Biv DeVoe . This was still a huge record at the time . Sam said, “Let me show you something,” and somehow he was able to mute out most of the lyrics so that we could only hear the beat . Then he started rapping his own song over their beat .
We knew there would be a cost to record music, so Sam asked his mother back in Florida if she would invest in our first four-track studio . The next week, Sam headed to Florida, and picked up our new equipment . We were going to be officially in the game, Sam and I . He called me when he got to Florida and told me that he had picked up all the equipment, and that he was going to leave first thing in the morning . The next day came and I hadn’t heard anything from Sam, but I wasn’t worried because he was a good Christian kid; he was always good . When I hadn’t heard from Sam by 5:00 p .m ., I began to get nervous, so I went to work out . While at the gym, I was approached by a guy I knew asking me to join Primerica, a company that sells term life insurance . “Nah, man, I’m not interested in Primerica . One of my best friends is a Primerica agent, and he hasn’t been able to get me yet,” I said, and we both laughed . He asked, “Who’s your best friend?” I said, “Sam Love .”
Immediately, his face changed, and he looked down at the ground . He said, “Curt, I hate to tell you this, but Sam died earlier today .” I said, “No, not my guy Sam Love . I just talked to him last night . He’s only twenty, and he’s a good kid . He’s on his way back now .” I could tell by his look that he was being serious . I immediately left and placed a call, only to have it confirmed to me that Sam was gone . He had fallen asleep at the wheel in his Nissan 300Z and the car had ultimately crashed and burned .
The days after Sam’s death were very difficult . Sam was such a good spirit, a good energy; the way he handled his life, the way he loved God, mostly how he handled his temple . On this particular day, I was driving on the highway minding my own business, when something told me to turn to the left . When I turned to the left, I saw something that was unbelievable . I saw a smiling Sam Love in the same 300Z; it wasn’t burned, it was just the way I remembered it being when he left . My eyes started to tear up; I thought, How is this possible? He was two or three lanes over, and I couldn’t believe that I was seeing my old friend . I looked at him clearly through the tears, and he gave me the deuces, as if to say everything’s okay. I wiped my eyes and looked again, but the car was gone . I pulled over to the side of the road immediately, just to take in that experience .
How had I seen my dead friend Sam Love, how was that possible? I took it as a sign that he was still there with me and that he wanted me to continue on this journey . And ever since then, Sam has been by my side . As I’ve gone through this life journey, I’ve often wondered if I am living my truth . Am I living within my God-given talent?
I always had a taste for music, and I DJ’ed from the age of thirteen until about sixteen . One Christmas, my dad and my second mom Brenda bought me two turntables and a mixer; I was elated . My dad said, “Boy, don’t be in here scratching up all my records .” I have vivid memories of playing the Cold Crush Brothers, the Beastie Boys, and Egyptian Lover – those were the times . I was that guy tuned in to all the hot hip-hop stations, making all the hot hip-hop tapes . Even though I was from Oakland, once I tapped in to the East Coast sound it was over . I can vividly remember hearing Chubb Rock for the first time and turning my group of friends onto him . One day, an older DJ friend of mine asked me if I wanted to cover the first thirty minutes of his set at a college party in Berkeley . He was the warm-up DJ for a bigger show . I was only sixteen, so a college party was a big deal . I had the equipment and my skills were on point, plus Berkeley was popping . If you know Berkeley, you know Blondie’s Pizza . It turned out that the featured rapper was the biggest East Bay artist at the time . I had a blast .
Years later, I’m in LA with my business partner Jay Johnson doing some work . We’re staying at a pretty swanky hotel, and I hear a familiar voice . I look over and sure enough, it’s the same artist from back in the day . At this point, he is a legendary artist with many accolades . I look at Jay, who knew the story, and I said, “Should I go and say something to him?” He was having a problem with his room and it probably wasn’t the right time, but I went over anyway . I walked over and said, “Hey, what’s up? I’m from the town; I DJ’ed for you once .” He glanced over at me, shook my hand, and kept it moving .
Fast forward to 2018, and the team and I are recording a newly signed artist who is recording a few songs written by myself and a Warner Chappell, singer-songwriter we are working with . One of the songs I wrote, “Make Believe,” was dedicated to my experience with Sam Love . The question is, did I see Sam or was it make believe? There was a part in the demo, where I mentioned Sam’s name for the first time ever on record . When I had finished, I went back to listen to the song and I noticed something very strange . When I got to the part where I said Sam Love’s name, there was something underneath my vocal . Another sound, which sounded like another voice . I muted all the tracks so I could just hear that vocal track, and sure enough, under my vocal at the point when I said Sam Love’s name, I could hear something . Nowhere else on the record did I hear anything else, except on that specific part of the track . To this day, I don’t know if Sam was reaching out trying to make contact, but I am no longer questioning whether I am living in my truth .