In a town known for introducing the music world to artists Z.Z. Top, Hip-Hop legends D.J. Screw, Paul Wall and Bun B., and of course the queen herself, Beyoncé, Andre Sam-Sin’s name might not automatically grab you.
For those in the know, Sam-Sin (better known as DJ Sun) is considered the patron saint of Houston’s downtempo music scene, drawing heavily on funk, acid jazz, progressive R&B, Caribbean grooves to create his own delectable musical gumbo.
A seven-time winner of Houston Press DJ of the Year award, his body of work is as eclectic as the city he represents and the musical journey he began back in the 1990s as a former host of the late-night program, "Soular Grooves" on KPFT Pacifica Radio.
Sam-Sin is also a music producer – his debut EP, "Monday Drive," and full-length albums, "One Hundred," "QINGXI," and his most recent offering, "Loveletter," — showcases music that is equally as comfortable on the dancefloor as it is in coffeehouses and weekend brunch dates. Its sounds, vibes and grooves represent him as a person, he said. It also helps to explain his longevity in an ever-changing game.
“I try to just remain consistent,” he said. “When you are starting and go, ‘Oh, there’s a pocket here,’ and you go into it and it grows, you just stary in it and know it’s going to be consistent and that it’ll carry on a legacy at some point.”
Sam-Sin was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands but spent his formative years in Suriname (located off the north coast of South America), a community he described as socially and politically rich and diverse. He then moved to Houston with his family during his teen years, where he attended the University of Houston and graduated with a degree in business.
A career in music, was always the goal. “That was always the intent,” Sam-Sin said. “I started DJ’ing because I always wanted to be in music. My parents don’t like telling the story, but they discouraged me from learning how to play an instrument. I really, really wanted to,” he said.
“Once that door was closed, I set out to get a college degree that would appease my parents and put me on a path to make a living and be independent, and then I was going to do my own thing. It was always about making music. And I just happen to be a decent DJ in the process,” he laughed.
After college, Sam-Sin opened a club in downtown Houston called Soulstice in 1994. While the club closed several months later, it led him to the KPFT-Pacifica Radio studios and an opportunity to host his very own late night music program, he called, “Soular Grooves.”
“That’s where I really was able to present this different style of music that had soul and jazz elements into it and was danceable,” Sam-Sin said. “Just enjoying different styles of music regardless of the tempo and having it be non-mainstream was a mission and objective that fit with me, but also fit with the radio station.”
Sam-Sin discovered Houston’s audience for his style of music was untapped. “The audience was here. It might not have been a large one, but it was great,” he said. “We grew it, maintained it and were able to be consistent about we presented it.”
The acid jazz music scene was happening during this period, and artists associated with it — Jamiroquai from the U.K., Groove Collective from New York City, the Black-Eyed Peas from San Francisco, and Thievery Corporation from Washington, D.C. — were the most well-known acts from the genre.
Sam-Sin planted the flag for Houston as part of the movement during that time, but said he hated the name. “Some people called it acid jazz, but I didn’t like it. It didn’t really stick either,” he said. But as the scene evolved through the years, those bands went into their varied lanes, and Sam-Sin found his as well.
“I go from truth base. And the base of my truth is the style of music that I like, will play and support and make,” Sam-sin explained. “If I’m sticking to that, that’s what I’m going to be representing and doing. There’s really no intent or need to go or be persuaded to appeal to a broader audience. That’s not what I’m cut out to do. Others can, and I don’t knock them for it.”
“You saw DJs jump from one genre to the next, going from something like Drum N Bass to Hip-Hop and living that avid Hip-Hop culture and ‘all four elements’ and stuff,” he said. “For me, within the style and the lane, if it had certain elements and met certain criteria, it didn’t matter about the tempo or the style. I just wanted to present specific lanes within those genres that I think fit well together.”
For Sam-Sin, it’s about evolving as an artist, and "Loveletter" represents another chapter in his evolution. He describes the album as a message to the world and his adopted hometown.
He produced the album in 2020 but elected not to put it out then. Instead, he went to Marfa and did a live performance with three other musicians and two drum machines.
But something was missing. “It was fun, and people liked it, but for me it couldn’t represent all the sounds that come through on the album,” he said.
He released the album in 2022, but Sam-Sin said he realized he needed more musicians to help refine the sound and actualize the message he wanted to convey to his audience.
He teamed up with Conductor Marlon Chen and his 25-piece orchestral ensemble, Apario: Music of the Americas, for another live performance of the album, this time at the Moores Opera House at the University of Houston.
“It was touted as ‘the Houston alum comes back home’,” he said. “They were proud to have that to be able to showcase the success of one of the alumni. We had a wonderful experience with the orchestra.”
The performance was so well received, Sam-Sin and Chen teamed up again recently to perform at Miller Outdoor Theater. Featured performers also included his daughter Khaili and adopted daughter Trinity on When asked if he ever thought his music career would continue as long as it has, Sam-Sin was not hesitant in his answer.
“I always think long term, so in my mind yes,” he said. “Every January I’d ask, ‘Man, is what you’re doing going to be relevant this year?’ Am I going to be relevant this year?’”
“It’s more than 30 years now,” he said with a smile.