by Alex Shtaerman
Emerging out of the West Coast Hip-Hop revolution of the late ‘80’s, Kam first burst onto the scene as an affiliate of Da Lench Mob, a rap group mentored by Ice Cube following the rapper’s contentious departure from N.W.A. in 1990. After dropping his debut LP, Neva Again, in 1993, Kam quickly gained a reputation for his raw lyricism and vivid depictions of Los Angeles street life as well as, most notably, his no holds bared approach to issues dealing with politics and the social ills afflicting the Black community. While Neva Again never quite gained the recognition it truly deserved, today the album is widely considered to be a true Hip-Hop classic in a vein similar to LPs such as Cube’s Death Certificate.
In the years that followed Kam would go on to drop two more albums, Made In America and Kamnesia, released in 1995 and 2001 respectively. While never quite able to gain significant access to mainstream media channels and outlets, Kam has never faltered in maintaining the utmost respect among his peers in the rap game as well as legions Hip-Hop fans “in the know”. Most recently the outspoken MC has been tapped by Snoop Dogg along with acclaimed West Coast vets Goldie Loc and MC Eiht to form Warzone, a rap group that exemplifies not only the essence of hardcore lyricism but also the kind of artist unity that has all too often been absent across Hip-Hop’s West Coast contingent. Recently we got a chance to catch up with Kam to talk about everything from his early influences and the Warzone project to his views on Hip-Hop today and Barack Obama’s quest to become the America’s first Black President. Don’t sleep, read up!
RIOTSOUND.COM: Just to give the fans some background, you came up in Hip-Hop in late ’80’s and early ’90’s era; how did you initially get into rap music and start MCing?
KAM: I started rapping just for fun in my hood with a few of my homeboys back in the late ’80’s. Everybody in the ghetto at that time was listening to rap because it was “street music”. One of the reasons that we all could relate to it was because you didn’t have to know how to sing or play an instrument to do it. Once I heard and saw that people from my city, L.A, were doing it and speaking our language and telling our stories and making some real noise and money with it, that’s when I started to look at it more and more seriously.
“It made our music the most edgy, the most
rebellious, the most profane and in a lot of cases,
the most revolutionary! It made us the most
dissatisfied and the most desperate”
RIOTSOUND.COM: Being in Los Angeles during arguably some of the peak years of gang violence and also, of course, the riots, how did that reality impact you personally as well as in your music?
KAM: I think that the realities of living in L.A. during the peak years of gang violence and drug dealing influenced my [as well as my peers’] representation of Hip-Hop and rap music in the most extreme ways. It made our music the most edgy, the most rebellious, the most profane and in a lot of cases, the most revolutionary! It made us the most dissatisfied and the most desperate and of course that came across in our music. For the most part the music portrayed our feelings and experiences accurately in the beginning. But as the years went by and rap became a billion dollar industry, the “gangsta, killing, pimping and dope dealing” image got more and more exaggerated.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You recently teamed up with fellow West Coast Hip-Hop luminaries MC Eiht and Goldie Loc for a project called Warzone. Can you tell us a little more about that?
KAM: The Warzone record is just basically a statement of West Coast rap unity; that’s the basic theme behind us forming that group, just to show West Coast rap artists who are not from the same camp finally doing an album together.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Snoop is actually overseeing the project, was he the one you brought the three of you together?
KAM: Snoop was basically the one who had the idea of making us a group. It sounded like a good enough idea when he brought it to me, so I rolled with it.
RIOTSOUND.COM: At one point or another in your career you’ve either crossed paths or worked with nearly all of the most respected West Coast artists to ever do it. Having witnessed two decades of West Coast Hip-Hop firsthand, what would you say is the biggest difference between the way the West is today as opposed to the breakthrough era of the early ’90’s?
KAM: The biggest difference to me between how the West is today and how it was in the early ’90’s is we used to have something to say besides just gang banging, killing each other, pimpin’ hoes and slagin’ dope! Yea, we used to put those subjects in our music, but the main theme of the songs would be “revolutionary” in their own “ghetto way”. [Back then] we spoke out against the system way more! Nowadays rappers are scared to say “fag” or “cracker” but we call our own people “bitch”, “hoe”, “nigga”, “hater”, “poor” and so on. It’s either that or the music is just all about sex-crazy bullshit. The shit is really sad. I don’t have a problem with dance songs but most of them are promoting sex-craziness too. Nobody is talking about real issues no more! Rap music has been dumbed all the way down.
“what Barack is doing is definitely helping to free
the minds of Black youth from the prison of mental
slavery in his own way. But in the bible, Moses
never tried to join and reform Pharaoh’s
government and have the children of Israel, the
slave people, integrated into Pharaoh’s system”
RIOTSOUND.COM: Being that you have often made political awareness a key element in your music, can you comment on Barack Obama’s candidacy for President and some of the things that you’ve observed either about the man himself, or perhaps the campaign, that you feel are important to note? And also, do you support Barack’s candidacy?
KAM: I support Barack Obama but I know the President does not run this country! The President is just a figurehead and a puppet for the real rulers of this country and this world. The real rulers of this country and the world are Satan, a small group of very powerful Caucasian families who own and control the international banks of the world and who know, keep and hide the secrets of the true identity of God and Satan in the flesh. Obama will never be able to change these Satans and their system. Only Allah will be able to remove them. But what Barack is doing is definitely helping to free the minds of Black youth from the prison of mental slavery in his own way. But in the bible, Moses never tried to join and reform Pharaoh’s government and have the children of Israel, the slave people, integrated into Pharaoh’s system. No, God told Moses to tell Pharaoh to “let me and my people go!” And to set up a government system in a land of our own, the promised land!
RIOTSOUND.COM: As far as your next solo project, what can the fans expect?
KAM: As far as a next Kam solo album is concerned, I intend to come more raw and militant with my lyrics than I ever have! Watch out [laughs].
RIOTSOUND.COM: As an MC, you’ve always been a lyricist. All too often, when people on the East Coast, for example, talk about West Coast lyricists, the conversation doesn’t get much past Rass Kass and a couple of other dudes. Why do you think the West has had to fight so hard to get across the point that there are a lot of lyrical MCs, such as yourself, who have been representing for the West for a long long time?
KAM: Well I think that it’s because we on the West Coast just like to get straight to the point when we talk. We ain’t too concerned with lyrical gymnastics. Our strength has always just been our boldness and bluntness. We always liked to just cut straight to the chase and call it like we see it. Sometimes that ain’t considered “lyrical”. But lately we have become a lot more witty and clever with our metaphors and punchlines.
RIOTSOUND.COM: As you’ve mentioned previously, in recent years we’ve seen rap music decline from the standpoint of substance and lyrical content. While the Hip-Hop industry is bigger than ever, the content of the music is arguably at its lowest point of all time. Do you think there is a way out of this downward spiral?
KAM: I think the way out of this downward spiral is to go back to the beginning of how we used to get our music out, independently, out of the trunk of our cars! Today we have the internet, YouTube, MySpace and all these resources at our disposal. We need to make that raw “say what you feel” music again and just push it through the internet and the underground just like Hip-Hop and rap started in the first place.
RIOTSOUND.COM: If there is one thing you want all the fans reading this to know about Kam, what would it be?
KAM: I want all the people who read this to know that I am a Muslim and not a racist or a terrorist. I am a member of the Nation of Islam under the leadership of Minister Louis Farrakhan and that [the people reading this] should never believe the media hype of this United Snakes government! Free your minds. YouTube “Farrakhan” and watch as many of those video clips as you can and you can judge for yourself who the real “haters” are. Peace, love and light.
For more news and info on Kam stay tuned to www.MySpace.com/WestCoastKam