Despite the 24-hour live feed that Twitter and Instagram have given us into many celebrities day-to-day, to meet an A-list musician, athlete or actor on the street is still a heart-pounding experience for most of us. “Starstruck” is a very real affliction and in many cases our words come out in jumbled, sloppy sentences.
Last week this very predicament fell upon emerging Los Angeles-based rapper Cameron Grey, who was standing outside of a packed Big Sean concert when Kanye West almost walked past, surrounded by a scrum of paparazzi photographers. “Almost” is the key word in this case, because rather than shout for the superstar’s attention or crowd close for a handshake, Grey kept his head and did what comes naturally to him–rapping. His freestyle stopped West in his tracks, and with lights and cameras circling the young MC earned the respect of the most famous rapper in the world.
After some heavy social media stalking, we had already generated a few opinions of our own about Grey. But shock still came when, upon visiting his Twitter page, there were few posts about the experience, other than a retweet from T.I. and Lil’ Wayne commenting on it, and maybe a few mentions of upcoming radio interviews. From an outsiders first glance, Grey seemed modest, and our 30-minute conversation confirmed that. Speaking in eloquent terms about his past and current projects and what he hopes to become as the years go by, Grey demonstrated just how seriously he takes his MCing craft, and how he’s not letting his fleeting Kanye co-sign go to his head. If you need a refresher, watch the video of their encounter below and read on for you in-depth interview with Grey.
Okayplayer: First off, how the hell did this happen? Was your mission for the evening to freestyle for Kanye West?
Cameron Grey: So, we were at this real shitty pre-Grammy party, we had already hit like 3 or 4 pre-Grammy parties before that, and at the final one we hit they ran out of food and they ran out of beer and I was just not trying to stay there. That Big Sean concert was going on so my friends and I decided to go up there. I checked Twitter on the way up there and saw that Kanye went out on stage.
Now, whenever I leave the house out here [in LA] – you never really know how your day is going to go especially when you’re doing music stuff and you never know who’s going to show up or who’s going to be around – so I always keep contact info. and a USB key with my music and everything on there just so I can hand it to [other artists]. That way there doesn’t need to be an interaction, I can just hand it to them and they can be on their way.
Anyway I waited outside for probably an hour and a half and there were a ton of people waiting and they just kept leaving. A group of people would leave here, a group of people would leave there, there was like ten camera guys and they all started dwindling down after Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown and Meek Mill left. But I was like, ‘Well Kanye hasn’t left yet [laughs]’, so basically the whole place is empty and I just walked back like I was going into the venue and when I was all the way at the back entrance there was security and a phantom and a Maserati or an Audi or something back there and I just posted up and waited.
I acted like I was talking on the phone for a minute when security came by and then all of a sudden here came more security guards and then Justin [Bieber] and Kanye came out. I didn’t even know Justin was there until he started yelling something, I didn’t even see that dude. So yeah, it was kind of planned. I knew he was there, I didn’t go out expecting that to happen but I knew he was in town and anything is possible in LA. It’s a crazy place.
OKP: What do you think it was that made him turn around and listen to you?
CG: This sounds really weird but I think he could probably hear it in my voice. I don’t know if you could hear it in the video but I was like, ‘Hey man I’ve been working my whole life towards this goal and I’d love to give you this music and let you hear it’, and he was kind of not paying attention so I was like, ‘Fuck it, I’ll rap for you right now’. And then that got his attention.
He’s one of the few people in that position that, since the beginning, has said that he’ll give anybody a chance who’s really hungry for it and really wants it and is really about this life and really putting time in, and I have been.
As soon as I got his attention, I knew that just 5 minutes with him would probably at least open the door and another 5 min. would probably get me deep inside that door.
OKP: Do you consider yourself a freestyle rapper? Were you ready to do that on the spot?
CG: Nah, not at all. I used to back in the day when I first got started rapping. I was always free styling because I didn’t have recording equipment or anything and it was just me and my friends. I would say between 16 and 22 years old I was freestyling. Then I started getting into the studio and really thinking about what I was saying and I got out of that lifestyle and I started to sit down and craft what I was going to say and thinking about the words that I was putting into the world.
At that moment too Kanye just told me to rap right now and I was like ‘Holy shit, he wants me to rap right now, there’s cameras here, who even knows who they are’. I had no idea those cameras were from TMZ. I knew as soon as I looked at the camera that I gotta be very careful about what I’m saying right here and that this could be very big if I say the right things and don’t say too much. So I tried to keep it short and sweet and it worked out well [laughs]. I’m glad the camera was there for it.
OKP: What was going through your mind while you were rapping in Kanye West’s face?
CG: I was as prepared for the moment as I could be. I had went over that scenario several times in my mind, as if that was a possibility that could happen. When [Kanye] was like “Do it, now!” the first thing that went through my mind was – and I can still feel the moment of him saying “rap right now” – I was like ‘Holy shit here we go’, like years have lead up to this moment and I’ve only been back in LA for 6 months trying to get this moment to happen so it was like, ‘Well don’t screw this one up too bad’.
Nothing was really going through my head other than just making sure to be myself and make sure that when he left this interaction that he knew how badly I wanted to work with him specifically. When you meet someone like Kanye West, who could make an overnight difference in your life artistically and creatively it’s just mind-blowing, really.
You know how you get around someone and you’re nervous and you’re like ‘Damn, I wish it would’ve went this way’? But I’m happy that it happened. Of course it could have went better, it could have been worse, I’m cool with how it went.
OKP: I’m sure you’ve read the comments? How did you feel about some of the things that people were saying about your raps?
CG: I know a lot of the feedback was like, “Yo, his raps were so whack, I wish I could rap for Kanye, this kid is so whack”, but I’m confident in my skills and my ability, and in the moment when there are camera and a bunch of body guards and Kanye and Justin Bieber, it was just a bit of a different scenario.
Yea, I wish I would have murdered it. You know, when I first started rapping I was like ‘Ah, I’m not going do something written’, and then he asked me to do something written so I gave him a short little something because he also kept saying that he had to go [which you can hear in the video]. And then I wanted to talk. I wanted to tell him,’ Man, I’m really good in the studio, I went to school for this, I’m a beast in the studio and when given time and preparation I can get a lot of stuff done and anywhere I go I know I add value to’ – I just wanted to tell him that. I wanted him to see that I was super passionate about working with him, not just about working with anybody. I’ve had a bunch of encounters like this but only that one where – I know this is cliche but – the fire, the passion, really lit inside of me. I want to work with Kanye.
OKP: So – the big question – did Yeezy hit you up yet?…