By : Alula Hunsen
10 min read
Recently, I got the chance to sit down with a young label executive and golden-fro’d man-about-town, Sam Haber, at Knight Moves Café. Over a London fog tea latte, we chatted about his many roles at Heartbreak Records (a record label he co-founded and co-runs). Unfortunately, the audio recording for that conversation was corrupted to all hell, so we had to reconvene over Zoom to get his story on the record. Our (lightly edited) conversation follows:
AH: Your birthday was recently, yeah?
SH: Yeah, 10 days ago.
AH: Happy belated birthday! Blessings, my guy. I wanted to start by asking you how you would describe yourself as a person.
SH: I’d describe myself as driven. Also particular, because I'm always trying to find the most efficient way to do things. I hate wasting my own time. I have so much to do on a daily basis, wasting time is not an option.
AH: Where would you say that your drive comes from?
SH: I want to leave a mark on the world. I don't wanna die and have not done anything; I want to leave the world a better place than when I was born, you know?
AH: I hear that. That's a heavy statement for a young person, but it's an important way to move through the world. Why did you decide to start your own company?
SH: Me and [co-founder + co-CEO] Mocha were both making music in the sixth grade together. And we were looking at our inspirations and trying to figure out how we were gonna get bigger; what we discovered is that there's nobody really from Boston that Boston artists can look up to who has really done that, who has really gotten super big and then continued to rep Boston. So if we're gonna elevate ourselves and elevate people like us, we have to elevate the entire scene. We formed Heartbreak Records to bring Boston up as a community.
AH: What do you do at Heartbreak Records?
SH: I don't have one particular job; I help with all the different branches. I'm in the studio a lot with artists. I do a lot of distribution. Anything that needs to be done, I'm helping with.
AH: What are the different branches?
SH: I like to think of the company as an octopus. The main head of Heartbreak Records is the recording label; we bring artists into the studio, we help them make their music, and we distribute it. We have the Heartbreak News, which is a monthly printed publication that we deliver all over Boston and we feature news about the Boston hip-hop scene. We have a podcast called “From the Heart,” where we review new local artists every week, and it airs on New England Mic Check Radio and Spotify. And we have Hindsight Productions, which is the film branch, and they do in-house filming for Heartbreak Records—music videos, short films, all that.
AH: How do you manage the different legs that come out of the octopus’ head?
SH: Currently, I'm trying to get one official manager for each branch; right now we have a few people in each branch who have been around since their founding and are able to run them. So I just help out with the technical stuff and I manage all the finances.
AH: Have you had any mentors along the way as you've started to build Heartbreak with Mocha?
SH: Yeah. Wes Kaplan, he used to run the music studio at the Brookline Teen Center where we do a lot of our recording. He works at Brookline Interactive Group now where we get a lot of equipment for Hindsight Productions. He's been around for a long time; he helped us book our shows and introduced us to the studio. He's sort of been a guiding force to me, helping us stay true to ourselves and our mission.
AH: What music are you looking to support?
SH: We’re a hip hop record label. We welcome all different kinds… we tend to be a bit more biased towards more experimental stuff, people willing to take risks in their music. We like lyrical content; non-lyrical is welcome too, but that's just my preference.
AH: Who are some artists on Heartbreak right now?
SH: We have Will Abad, Kay Wattz. We have a producer named Rhythm. And I'm an artist on the label myself.
AH: What are you looking to build or accomplish in the next year, and in the next five years?
SH: We want to start signing more artists. We want to do bigger, more frequent shows, get Heartbreak News in more places, get more people listening to the podcast, and do as much as we can to get people to know about and appreciate the Boston hip-hop scene. And then within the next five years, hopefully we'll be a big enough and strong enough presence in Boston that we can start to expand out of the city. We should hopefully get our own studio, and then start working networking with other labels in other cities.
AH: I hope those plans come to fruition. Do you feel like Heartbreak will be a lifelong project for you?
SH: I always think I'll be part of Heartbreak Records. But a goal I've had for a long time is like, ‘what if I just didn't do this?’ Would Heartbreak Records be able to run without me? Currently I don't think that's true, but that's the goal: if something happened to me, the label would be able to continue its mission.
Originally published in-print in Boston Compass Newspaper #159 July 2023
Check out all the art and columns of July's Boston Compass at www.issuu.com/bostoncccompass