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Listen to “Doomsday” once and it’s obvious that Milwaukee-based artist WebsterX—real name: Sam Ahmed—isn’t your typical rapper. “I started off with an Ethiopian/Muslim upbringing,” he explains. “Both of my parents are from there, and my dad was a famous musician over there, so I guess that’s where I could fall different.”

His African roots have a clear impact on some of his music, but other influences weave their way in and out of his recently released Desperate Youth project. “I grew up listening to psychedelic rock like Cat Stevens, Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane. Then I started listening to hip-hop. Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest was the first hip-hop album I delved into.”

Sam got into creating when he recognized that he was surrounded by friends who were into graphic design, videography, and other artistic endeavors. “My friends are so talented,” he realized. “How can we not be in the public eye with this? We could make a difference.”

But by making a difference, he doesn’t mean changing the direction of hip-hop. “I feel as if hip-hop is in a good place right now. It’s naturally evolving as any other genre would. We want to make a difference by pushing the creative envelop and the boundaries.”

Being in Milwaukee doesn’t make it easy. Sam explains that in his city, the people in power cater to industry expectations. While he’s more aligned with indie rockers, synth poppers, and jazz artists, the most popular rappers are those who sound more like the rap in the charts and on the radio. A renaissance may be on the horizon, though. “The hip-hop scene here is taking a cool turn… the music in general. We’re all starting to get looks left and right.”

That’s a good thing for Sam, but it’s about more than getting looks and being popular. “I want to be that guy who blended indie rock and hip-hop and it actually sounded like it was supposed to happen,” he says. “But my ultimate goal with music is to open the eyes of man. I want to be a component in the progression of hip-hop.”

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