For over a decade now, rap artist Kam has produced conscious lyrics, beats, and hard rhythms accenting the weight of self love, freedom, justice, equality, the ills of Black-on-Black crime, police brutality, poverty, and the struggles of Black and oppressed men and women throughout the world and in America’s penal institutions. But he’s paid a price.
Kam says he was “white listed” with little or no airplay from stations owned and operated by mainstream industry execs, and pushed further underground because of his stance on wars he deems unjust, his outspokenness on his love for Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan, and his affiliation with the F.O.I. (Fruit Of Islam)–men of the Nation of Islam.
Nevertheless, the hip hop lyricist stated that his aim is to remain a freedom fighter whose key tools are his ability to pair good beats with conscious lyrics. He is long past his days of shopping rhymes in junior high and on the streets of Compton, Calif., in hopes of his big break, which was delivered when Ice Cube invited him to participate on his new label at the time, Street Knowledge Productions.
At 30-years-old, he is set to launch Sept. 11, 2002 his own label, Hereafter Records, which will headline rap artists like Young Bruh (YB) and The US (Universal Soldiers), who project the style and finesse necessary to survive on today’s hip hop scene without sacrificing thought-provoking and conscious-raising songs. During a recent phone interview with The Final Call, Kam spoke out on rapping for a cause rather than just for dollars, the need for independent labels, his latest projects, and where he believes hip hop artists factor in the current war on terrorism.
FCN: What is your current project and what issues do you tackle with it?
Kam: My next album, coming off my last, “Kamnesia”, is titled “Self ” and is due out in September. One or two songs on the project touch on thought-provoking questions being raised based on the history of the American government, and questions, basically, who is the real terrorist? We list and provide and present an argument that lets the listeners judge for themselves based on America’s history–not only Black, Native American, but also people around the planet–with [America’s] foreign policies and weapons of war.
FCN: How do your fans and others relate to you and your lyrical writing style?
Kam: For my first two albums, which came out right after the gang truce (signed by L.A. street gangs after the 1992 L.A. riots), I let everyone know what my affiliation was, with the F.O.I. and the Nation being my number one influence and inspiration. It was largely accepted in the streets and penitentiaries, but the industry, the people who run the industry, didn’t accept it well. I was already underground, but it forced me further underground and made me realize that in order to be successful I would have to be independent.
I’m not in the rap game for the same reason that most of these other rappers are. My aim is to try to wake my people up, but not in a corny way. I’ve still got to be an artist, but be 10 times as good as the average rapper because of what I know I have. They put millions and millions behind others because those that run the industry want young Black and Brown youth to pattern their lives after them.
FCN: What about other Blacks in the industry?
Kam: These artists and entertainers will let you know in private that they’re with you, but in public, they don’t want to have anything to do with you, because they’re scared to have anything taken from them.
FCN: Do you regret your artistic stance?
Kam: No! I’d do it again and again. I had to ask myself what I was really in it for. If it was for the money, I would have been gone a long time ago. Compared to what I should have been making, I ended up owing thousands in tax debt, because before they knew who I was and what I was about, I made a nice amount of change, but when they found out who I was representing, they left not a stone unturned trying to block and shut me down. After my first album, I experienced radio white-outs, giving excuses on why they couldn’t play my record, being denied performance access in certain clubs, and accused of being anti-White or racist. But the people on the streets, poor White, Red, Black and Brown, they were loving it.
FCN: What specifically do you attribute this to?
Kam: I’m assuming the excuse they used on my first album is that I referred to some wicked White people as the enemy, or devil, or cracker. The way I look at it is every rapper who says nigger 100 times needs to be pulled off the shelf. We can call each other nigger and go platinum, but if we say cracker, we’re racist.
FCN: What’s your take on the need and methods for reversing the distribution or flow of negative images of Blacks in music, films, and video, an issue being addressed by some in the Black community?
Kam: Change will take the pressure of the masses, dissatisfied, more than words, because words will not do it. I cannot say anything better or stronger than the Minister’s been saying for years. It’s going to take some (Divine) chastisement, some spanking, and that’s going to get you moving in the right direction. Consumers are starving to hear something positive, but not corny.
If the beat is banging, and the hook is right, they want to hear it, and that’s why I was able to stay in the game as long as I have. I have only had 3 CDs out, and I’m more respected, by God’s grace, than whoever’s on top of the game right now. They’re popular, but not respected for their art form. It’s like bubblegum and potato chips, entertainment but no nutrition or substance. It’s junk food, tastes good but gets you sick.
FCN: What message do you want to relay with “Self”?
Kam: That self is really the base. I‘m trying to let the listener know about the most important subject that exists. The knowledge of self is the knowledge of God and the devil. The real devil or the real God is in the self. That’s the answer to all of our problems, self, [not] pointing the finger or laying the blame somewhere else. You’ve got to pick the mirror up and examine, study, dissect, and basically improve thy self. That’s the real war, Armageddon in self.
FCN: Is it difficult to reach those outside of your typical fan base without doling out the ordinary songs and videos pushed by major record labels and music T.V. programs?
Kam: It’s not difficult to write a song, but it’s difficult once you have the product done to get through personalities and institutions. If you’re not independent, it’s almost impossible. You might have a masterpiece album that can save the world, but if it goes against the plans and designs of those who seek to keep us ignorant so they can continue to rob us and live in luxury, it’ll never reach its intended destination.
FCN: What is the key to survival in the rap game?
Kam: Without foundation, it will crack you, absolutely drive you insane to a degree. That’s why these artists are turning to drugs, homosexuality, it damages you and wounds you so deep. A true artist’s art form comes from the essence of their being, and if they’re digging that deep for the purpose of trying to save their people, and that’s rejected or turned on by the industry, and you’re locked into that because they own your albums, you feel like you don’t have any purpose and can’t express yourself. It’s mental slavery.
FCN: How can aspiring young rappers and artists avoid the pitfalls that have dealt a blow to many successful careers?
KAM: Try not to get into the trend thing. Don’t try to do somebody else. You have your own fingerprint, so whatever your expression is and whatever is on your heart, stay sincere and true to yourself, regardless of who thinks it shouldn’t be put out that way. Just be as sincere as you can with yourself and make the kind of music that you would honestly want to listen to. [The people] can tell by the type of music you put out if you’re doing it just for the money, are you concerned about them and trying to wake them up, or just making club music they can shake their booty to.
The time we’re living in isn’t the love time, or peace time, and if you believe in any kind of scriptures, God is telling you what time of season it is. You don’t have to recite scriptures, but just put it in your words and stay in tune with the time and the God of the time, and you will absolutely be successful. Fly by nights and superstars will fall, but there’s another percentage that the enemy will not be able to corrupt. Don’t be afraid to face the reality, the truth, to hear the truth, to speak the truth, to think the truth, to live, fight, work and die for the truth. We can’t be afraid. We’ll see some things coming whether we like it or not, so, we might as well get on the side of truth, whether you’re gang banging, a doctor, or a healer. And don’t fear.
FCN: Thank you.