Texas musician and visual artist Sam Lao made her debut in 2013. Influenced by late-'90s pop as well as Queen and Prince, the Dallas-based singer/rapper arrived with a full aesthetic vision, focusing on artwork and music videos to accompany her mix of atmospheric electronic, hip-hop, and R&B. Her first EP, West Pantego, was issued in the summer of 2013. A dizzying mix of sounds and ideas similar to work by M.I.A., Noname, SZA, and Iamsu!, West Pantego provided the springboard that landed Lao slots opening for Jessie Ware and performing at SXSW. Afterward, Lao began work on her official full-length debut, but the project would be lost after a disagreement with the album's producer. A local team -- including Blue, The Misfit and Picnictyme -- helped Lao start anew in 2015. The resulting work, SPCTRM, arrived in 2016, the same year she signed with London-based DefDisco. Led by the empowering single "Pineapple," SPCTRM would help Lao sweep that year's Dallas Observer Music Awards. In addition to winning Best Hip-Hop/Rap and Best Female Vocalist, SPCTRM won Best Album and "Pineapple" nabbed Best Music Video and Best Song. ~ Neil Z. Yeung
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