Solo Sam Credit: Keeley Parenteau

Solo Sam started his rap career while playing NCAA Division 1 football for Valparaiso University, and the arts have long been in his DNA. His father, Ghanaian painter Samuel Akainyah, moved to Chicago in 1975 to attend the School of the Art Institute, and Sam has followed in his footsteps to become a multidisciplinary artist. He’s a glassblower by trade who specializes in cold working, a technique that involves shaping glass after it’s cooled; I’ve yet to see his glasswork, but if it’s anything like his music, it must be top-of-the-line. This summer he self-released Itis, an all-too-brief EP buoyed by his adroit rapping. On “Breezin & Coolin” he subtly shifts the swing in his rapid delivery from one cluster of verses to the next, and in the process he injects adrenaline into the song and alters the mood of the carefree instrumental. In the song’s video, Sam rides through Chicago’s residential streets on a moped, hits a battery of tennis balls served by something that looks like the ED-209 enforcement droid from the original Robocop universe, and takes the form of a centaur. Just like in the song, his expert touches and personable character make everything in the video make sense, no matter how surreal.   v