(AllHipHop Features) In less than a decade, podcasting went from being viewed as an obscure “internet talk show thing” to being an empire-making medium that’s courted A-list anchors like Oprah Winfrey, Alec Baldwin, Shaquille O'Neal, and Snoop Dogg. Superstars have moved into the digital space, but some of the best conversations online are also being spearheaded by underground voices birthed from Hip Hop culture.
Christopher “Chris Stylez” Samuels is among the authentic, raw talents to use the podcast platform to extend his reach among the people. The unique approach of Stylez’s Trappin Anonymous accumulated hundreds of thousands of plays independently which eventually led to Tidal picking up the program for its On Airlineup.
Before launching Trappin Anonymous in 2016, the Brooklyn native served as the master of ceremonies for everything from backyard barbecues to fraternity functions. His Kappa Alpha Psi network helped Chris connect with the squad behind HennyPalooza (now known as Dussé Palooza), and the former SUNY College at Old Westbury media communications student was tapped to co-host the popular events held across the country.
Dussé Palooza ultimately partnered with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. The entertainment company’s SVP “Lenny S” Santiago was reportedly one of the biggest backers for Samuels, Kameron “Kam” McCullough, Nile “LowKey” Ivey, Kazeem “Kaz” Famuyide, Rory Farrell, Raven “Ravie B” Varona, and the rest of the crew to close the deal.
Chris Stylez is now associated with two Shawn Carter-fronted brands: Roc Nation and Tidal. With Trappin Anonymous joining Rap Radar, Coca Vision, In Real Life, 47 Minutes, and The Group Chat podcasts airing on the streaming service, the 28-year-old is bringing the underworld tales of drug dealers, sex workers, correctional officers, and more to the mainstream.
AllHipHop: At one point, you decided to start your own PR firm. Did you always have that entrepreneurial spirit even when you were younger?
Chris Stylez: I just wanted to party. I was in college and in a fraternity. We wanted to party and road trip. I saw that it could be a business. So I started a PR company. It just turned into this entrepreneurial thing. When I was growing up, I never really saw myself getting a city job, working for thirty years, and collecting a pension. I like to be outside and to travel. I realized that I had a gift because not everybody can walk into a room and everybody’s like, “Who’s that kid?” I had to monetize that and turned that into a career.
AllHipHop: Let’s fast forward to the podcast. What inspired you to startTrappin Anonymous?
Stylez: I was on vacation - not to sound like a douche - but I was getting a back massage. I literally thought, “I’ve always been interested in the underworld, scams, prostitution, and drugs.” It was intriguing to me that people made lifestyles off such negative things. I’m from Brooklyn, New York. My friends were scammers, so it was nothing for me. I was always interested in their way of life. I wanted a way to document it, but I didn’t know how.
Podcasting was getting really popular at the time. I remember watching Tax Season. I was like, “Wow, I think I can do that. I’m going to interview scammers, but I’m gonna do it anonymously because I don’t want to give them up. I’m going to distort their voice and call it Trappin Anonymously… No, that doesn’t have a ring to it. I’m gonna call it Trappin Anonymous.”
I had no idea how to podcast. I had a laptop that I bought five years ago. I went to Guitar Center with my friend, and I asked a clerk what I needed to start a podcast. He told me an interface, two mics stands, and an application on your computer. I said, “Cool, let me get all of that.” I bought it, sat in my kitchen, and I recorded the first episode of Trappin Anonymous.
AllHipHop: How do you connect with your guests in order to get them to come on your show and share their stories?
Stylez: I have a great imagination and I’m creative. So a lot of the topics come from my imagination. I would seek the people that are in these different fields. Then it became so popular that people would find me. I honestly feel like it’s good work. It’s really putting information out there and highlighting different topics that the world wants to consume.
When you're doing good work and positive things, these things will come to you. I believe in that. So these people would reach out to me. Look at “HIV Anonymous.” Look at “Addicted To Drugs Anonymous.” Look at “Drug Dealing Anonymous.” These people tell me, “I’d love to be on your show. I got a story.” Everybody has a story.
AllHipHop: Some of the topics are really personal like HIV, suicide, and sexual assault. You have people speaking about criminal activities. Are there any topics or professions you feel are too taboo to talk about publicly?
Stylez: Of course. You got topics that I wanted to touch - sexual assault, rape. Those kind of topics where you’re like, “Umm, I don’t know.” But then it’s anonymous. The person really has to understand that the work that they’re doing is for them. It’s therapeutic, one. And two, it’s for the thousands of listeners. They’re doing this work for thousands of people. I think that’s what makes it so great. You can get an honest conversation because the person knows their identity would never be revealed.
The only thing left is my integrity. So they have to trust me enough to tell me their story and trust that I will interpret it in a way that will not negatively impact them or expose them. When I do the treatments for every episode, I make sure there’s a message in it for someone to receive. It might deter you away from the lifestyle or it might welcome you into the lifestyle. Whichever way you go, you will be informed. That's the goal of Trappin Anonymous.
AllHipHop: You mentioned the word therapeutic. Obviously, the listeners are learning a lot. The guests are being able to share their story. Is there something you personally get out of being able to present this information to the world?
Stylez: That’s the real reward. I love Tidal for giving me an even bigger platform to do this kind of material. I’ve been doing Trappin Anonymous for two years, over 300,000 listens worldwide. I now have a platform and home that will not compromise my creativity and allow me the space to do what I do. If no one ever wanted to do anything with Trappin Anonymous and never wanted to partner up with me, I would still do it. Twenty years from now, I would still upload new episodes. Just for the fact that it’s my life’s work.
When you get a gift or talent from God, it’s a sin to not be out in the world doing it. It’s a sin to not share that with the world. So I’ll be doing Trappin Anonymous because it gives me fulfillment. It’s things that I’m naturally interested in, and it’s a gift that I have. This is not just something anybody can do, or anybody would be doing it. I went to the worst high school in Brooklyn at the time. This is our lives. That makes it that much more compelling and real for the listeners. They have someone that can relate to many of these stories.
AllHipHop: You’ve made the jump to Tidal. Dussé Palooza has a connection with Roc Nation. It seems like you have a good relationship with that Tidal/Roc Nation brand. Could we see more partnerships coming between Chris Stylez and Tidal/Roc Nation?
Stylez: The amazing part is the deal with Dussé Palooza and the deal with Tidal have nothing to do with each other. The instrumental figures in both deals had no kind of connection. Again, when you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing in the world, everything will gravitate toward that commonality. When you talk about Roc Nation and Tidal, it’s literally because I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing in this world.
And they get the culture. It’s not many companies or platforms that you can go to that they align with what the culture aligns with. So when you’re pitching yourself in those meetings, they understand what it is. And they’re like, “This is what we need.” This is what I love about podcasting, it’s not reading from a script. It’s not sitting in an office and they’re like, “This is what you need to be doing.” Podcasting gave us an opportunity to put whatever we wanted to put out. There’s no censorship.
AllHipHop: So Tidal gave you complete creative control over your podcast?
Stylez: Complete creative control. We sit down and go over it. They say, “This is dope. This is fire.” I cannot be happier. They don’t compromise what Trappin Anonymous is which is why I know it will continue to get bigger, better, and reach the right people. That is the most rewarding part about it.
AllHipHop: Have you gotten responses from people in the culture?
Stylez: Oh my god. People email me all the time like, “Trappin Anonymous changed my life… You made me check my credit score… I’m trying to build my credit as we speak… I want to get into home ownership… I want to start my own company.” My DMs be flooded. I don’t even realize the power of the work until I have somebody tell me, “You made me stop credit card scamming. You literally got me out the trap.” They’re telling me this because of these people’s life experiences.
AllHipHop: So you’re starting to recognize the power of your voice?
Stylez: Absolutely, that’s how you know you're doing what you’re supposed to be doing and that you need to keep doing it. I’m literally in the back seat of all this. Yeah, I’ve worked my ass off to get everything, but at the end of the day, I’m riding in the back seat because this is where I belong and it will only continue to grow.
AllHipHop: You have the podcast, you’re doing your hostings, and I saw you do a freestyle on Shade 45. Are you interested in breaking out into other areas of entertainment like acting or recording music?
Stylez: What I try to preach to so many people is that nobody wants a jack of all trades and a master of none. Nobody wants that. I can act, dance, rap, all these things. I had to focus on one thing. I focused on the hosting, and the hosting gave me the platform to do my other creative things. I had to become the best.
I’m the best host because I’ve been doing this for seven and a half years. Most people haven’t even been at a job for that long. I was fortunate enough to understand what I wanted to do in this world at a younger age before most people get to experience that kind of fulfillment.
Once I noticed what it is: “I’m going to rap, sing, dance, and I’m going to do hosting.” No, I said, “I’m going to become the best host.” Once I mastered that, it filtered off into all these other sub-brands of my talent, and now I’m able to come up with Trappin Anonymous. Now I’m able to do The R&B Party. Now I’m able to do Dussé Palooza. Now I’m able to do all these other things within my one talent that will make me unstoppable.
AllHipHop: It’s really great to see how [Dussé Palooza] came up together. You, Low, Kaz, Rory, Kam, and everybody. I found it interesting that many of you moved into the podcast space. I know you see yourselves as a family, but is there a friendly rivalry like a steel-sharpens-steel mentality among the group?
Stylez: I think the best way to explain it is that once you’re equally yoked with the right people... like if it’s a room full of seven billionaires, you’ll be the eighth one. I created Trappin Anonymous because I had to. I didn’t want to just be the “Palooza host.” Everybody else is doing so many other things.
Ravie B is on tour [with Beyoncé & Jay-Z], Low is with Beats 1, you got Kaz with WWE, you got Rory doing [The Joe Budden Podcast], and you got Kam starting an empire. I had to create something. I had to do more than just host. That’s because I’m in the neighborhood with people that are all super, super talented. So it’s not even a matter of can I out beat the next person, it’s literally a matter of I am forced to do more.
You do not want to be the person that’s not doing anything while everybody else is doing maximum things. Part of the reason why they say, “The team is like The Avengers is because when they assemble it’s just crazy but individually they all do these super crazy things.” You want to be somebody that’s bringing to the table and not just taking away. That forces everyone to just keep going.
AllHipHop: When you said The Avengers it reminded me that I saw a comment on one of your IG pics [of the Dussé Palooza crew]. Somebody put, “Avengers Filter.”
Stylez: [laughs] Because it’s literally a hub of talent. It’s just talent on top of talent on top of talent. And when we come together you get Dussé Palooza.