Kamaiyah, a rising hip-hop star out of Oakland, CA, is making a name for herself as a female rapper and musician. This can be incredibly difficult, especially if your look is atypical to the standard for female performers. Kamaiyah's album "A Good Night in the Ghetto" dropped in March and has swept the scene with great vibes and hit song, "How Does It Feel." Kamaiyah is receiving attention from some big names—she was given “Best New Album” on Pitchfork, was featured with Drake on YG’s lead single, “Why You Always Hatin?”, listed on XXL’s “25 Best Projects of 2016 So Far” and has signed with the label, Interscope. Recently, BUST sat down with Kamaiyah after a performance at House of Vans, New York, here’s what we learned:
You have spoken about not wanting to use sex appeal to sell records or get love, do you feel that allows you to gain respect within an industry that tends to base a women’s worth on their appearance?
Kamaiyah: I definitely think I have a lot of respect, ‘cause you respect the fact that I'm a boss, more than my sexuality. You don't worry about the fact that I'm a woman, you respect the fact that I'm working hard. It’s some dope shit that’s coming out, and that’s what I want you to do. Don't look at me for the gender, look at me cause I'm dope and I'm raw and I'm about my business. Cause that's what matters, that’s what makes you stay here. It ain't about how you look, it’s about the business behind the look, I feel like it’s a brand and you build it, and I feel like I'm building a business.
You’re Oakland’s first big female rapper, (besides Conscious Daughters or Mystic) how do you deal with that pressure to be historic and make a name for female artists from Oakland?
Kamaiyah: I feel like it’s no pressure, because what I'm doing is unique. What they did was their legacy, what I'm doing is mine. So, it’s not pressure, I just work hard and try to be the best I can be. Fulfill my needs as a woman in the game and what I want to represent.
You weren’t one of the XXL Freshman this year, and will probably be too big next year to make the list. Are you upset by this or feel like they should have chosen at least one woman for the top ten?
Kamaiyah: I definitely feel like a woman should have been in there, but I knew I wouldn't be in there. I feel like I came too late, so I had just missed the window. But, I feel like they wanted me there like I got that feeling when I went up there. Like they wanted me on that cover. But, it just wasn't time, so they kinda let me just shoot by.
In an interview with MTV you said, “But I want to keep this positivity for women going — to make sure it’s OK for women to feel comfortable in their own skin, and to have the confidence to create their own lane. That’s what I’m here for, period—women. We can do whatever.” How do you think we can make this possible?
Kamaiyah: I just feel like me being me is making it easier for people to accept who they are. Cause I feel like it’s only two molds they can look to represent and I feel like you don't have to be those molds. Let them be them, and you be your own mold, and that’s going to represent who you are, let you reach the epitome of your superstar-ism. You don't have to be "her," you don't have to be "her". Be you! That’s what it should be about.
You wrote “How Does It Feel” in 15 minutes and said that the music video was also rushed, yet it’s probably the most popular song off “A Good Night in the Ghetto,” what do you think that says about process and creation?
Kamaiyah: I mean, I feel the record itself has a message, but the process and my creativity of the record was not that great, it was just one of things that just happened. Same with the visual. I was like, “Yo, I don't have time, what am I going to do, okay, come to my house, I got all these old ass outfits, we gonna figure it out.” It just happened, it was a thing, they loved it, it was nostalgicness, it catapulted to the top.
You take control of the production and really make cohesive finalized sounds. How do you take control in those heavily male atmospheres?
Kamaiyah: Well, I'm a part of everything in my process, from top to bottom—from production, videos, writing, everything, I have an influence on that, and that’s why we call it a collective. Cause I'm there and I’m avid about being there and making it make sense. So, I feel like I have to be a voice in my situation, to make it a popular demand. As far as men, I'm not very intimidated by men. What’s the difference between me and them? Our sexes, that’s it. Are you dope, am I dope? Ya. You think you better than me, I'm gonna show you're not. It is what it is, that’s how I feel.
You are a great lyricist, yet you kinda have to give that up to be more melodic these days. How do you feel about prioritizing melody over lyrics and what would you ideally do?
Kamaiyah: I feel like I balance it, for the most part. Because, I feel like every record shouldn't be lyrical because nowadays they don't wanna hear that, they just wanna *head bobs* you know what I'm saying, turn up. So I just try to balance it out with the feel good records, actually making it a story, so for the most part, most of my records have stories behind them. That's the lyrics, and then it'll be melodic because that's what you want to hear.
How do you take inspiration from the ‘90s: Missy Elliott, TLC, and Aaliyah?
Kamaiyah: Just the tomboy style, I'm a tomboy, ya know, I grew up with all brothers, so I take that aspect and the creativity that all those women have in their own ways, that’s what I take. Make my own move from those three, that’s what you got.
Your brother and best friend, James passed away a couple months ago, to cancer. How do you feel that writing “For my Dawg” and making the music video has helped you grieve and celebrate his life?
Kamaiyah: I just feel like people need to, especially in our communities, recognize that cancer is a serious disease and we need to take care of ourselves, as well as our bodies. So I just feel like I won't let him die in vain, I'm going to always preach that you know, this is somebody that I love, that I feel like should honor in his name, and his name should go and live on. And how I'll make it live on is through preaching about cancer and all these things. Like I'm going to work with foundations about these things, I feel like our community needs to know, "eat healthy," cause everything is not organic, there are pesticides and hormones and steroids, and it’s like, we 20-something years old and he died of cancer? That's not a disease a 20-year-old should be dying from. So, we gotta make this message and impact so they know, like yo, this is serious out here. Take care of your bodies, take care of your kid's bodies, you only get one temple and you don't get to live again, you know what I'm saying. With him dying so rapidly, it allowed us to manifest that, and we better all take care of ourselves. Like, right now I'm pescatarian, I don't eat meat anymore. That’s the type of shit that makes that happen, you gotta make what he died for matter. It matters to me, so I’m trying to change shit.
You were recently featured with Drake on YG’s song “Why You Always Hatin’,” that’s super dope, do you have any other big drops coming out this summer?
Kamaiyah: Definitely, I’m going to be dropping stuff, material, just working right now.
Be on the lookout for Kamaiyah as she rises to the top and awes us all with her feel-good jams.
Images courtesy of Kamaiyah's Twitter
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