Words by Michellee Nelson, Photo and Video by Kevin Ornelas—
She might prefer to be at home in Ocho Rios, indulging in some of her mother’s jerk pasta, but Jamaican singer/songwriter Samantha J has been hard at work out on the road since her debut single “Tight Skirt” became an instant hit earlier this fall. LargeUp recently caught up with the 17-year-old as she stopped into Vanity Projects in New York City’s Chinatown to get her nails tun up during her stateside promo tour with YouTube star Andrea Russett.
Clad in a black leather vest with matching boots, the seemingly reserved teenager discussed everything from her personal style to how she balances her school work with recording, as nail artist Raquel Nevarez embellished her fingernails with the Jamaican flag, the title to her hit (and, thus far, only) song, and other designs. Her initial sweet and soft-spoken demeanor was soon discarded, as she opened up and performed “Tight Skirt” and upcoming single, “Run Come,” accompanied by guitarist Ranoy Gordon. Watching her command the attention of the entire room, you would never suspect that this multi-talented highschooler (she paints, too!) had performed in front of her first live audience just a few shorts weeks ago.
Our camera caught her unplugged performance of “Tight Skirt” and, if you were skeptical of her singing abilities, this clip will definitely change your tune. Watch the video here, and read our full Q+A with Samantha J below:
LargeUp: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Samantha J: My name is Samantha J, and I’m a 17-year-old singer/songwriter from Jamaica. I just released my first single about a month ago called “Tight Skirt,” [sampling] Red Rat’s “Tight Up Skirt” from the 1990s. My song is really a reply to his song where he’s like [singing] “Ay you gyal inna di tight up skirt.” I’m the one who comes and says, [singing] “Mi a di girl inna di tight up skirt.”
LU: Red Rat’s “Tight Up Skirt” is about as old as you are. Had you known that song for a while?
SJ: Yeah, since I was growing up. It plays all the time so it’s almost part of our culture.
LU: Tell us what you’re getting on your nails…
SJ: I just told her to do whatever she feels like except I want two nails to have a Jamaican flag and I wanted to have [one with] “Tight Skirt.” And then a bunch of gems and colors and stuff.
LU: How do you normally maintain your nails?
SJ: I usually go to the nail salon in Jamaica maybe once a week. I usually keep it simple. even if I do acrylic, I’ll usually just do one color. I just had white [nails] before I came here. But right now I’m getting some crazy stuff. She’s going to put some crazy colors on it and some crazy gems, and put “Tight Skirt” on it.