Who Is Cameron Grey? Get To Know The Guy Who Blew Kanye's Mind w/ His Freestyle
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?...
CG: No, I have not heard anything back yet.
Right now, I’m continuing to work. As soon as that weekend was over I was booking studio sessions, I went right back to writing, I went right back to the same path that I was on because who knows if he is going to contact me. What I took from it - man to man, forget the cameras, forget everything else - it seems to me that he was at least going to give me an opportunity and just from our interaction and the way things ended I was just like ‘Cool, that’s all I wanted, all I wanted was just to get a foot in the door’.
I don’t think ‘No, he’s not calling me, he’s not contacting me’ or whatever but I also can’t just sit around and wait because if that doesn’t happen I still have goals and dreams that I want to achieve and the only way that that’s gonna happen is if I continue working. So I pretty much got right back to work, I took a bunch of meetings, I’m still taking meetings, I’ve been talking to a bunch of different producers and that’s been really huge
OKP: What’s biggest life change that you’ve experienced post Yeezus?
CG: This opportunity put my name into a lot of people’s ears and into a lot of conversations that I wasn’t in before, so right now I’m getting a lot of contacts from producers and beatmakers that I would love to work with. There are just so many doors opening. It’s exciting.
The most noticeable thing to me has been the support. It’s much easier to deal with things as a music artist when you post something [on Twitter] and tons of people are hitting you back like “so pumped for you”, “keep going” and “you’re the man”, that kind of encouragement is much appreciated.
And just the “shine” that Kanye and TMZ provided, that’s probably the biggest direct change that I’m seeing as of right now. And that’s only 7 days later. I don’t even know what the biggest change is. My manager calls, and people answer the phone…that’s a change [laughs]. Agents are calling us instead of us contacting them. My phones ringing. That’s huge [laughs].
OKP: Being on TMZ will definitely make shit happen, good or bad.
CG: I also don’t want to jump the gun. I’m being very careful about who I speak to interview wise and stuff. I really didn’t want to do the TMZ thing. Everybody was pushing me to do it because it’s a follow up and it’s exposure, when this opportunity comes you gotta get your name in front of as many people as you can if your goal is to make it in the music industry. It was a sticky situation [with TMZ] because I just want to work with Kanye, I didn’t want to be on TMZ, I wasn’t hoping for TMZ and I wasn’t hoping for [Ryan] Seacrest and I wasn’t hoping for international interviews on the radio or anything.
For me it’s just all of these things that I would never say no to in other circumstances but in this circumstance, this isn’t how I wanted to come across TMZ. It’s not the best way for me to be on TMZ, but fuck it, you only live once and that opportunity for me to be in front of that many people with my name in a lot of peoples’ mouths and in their households - it’s good that I took that opportunity to get in front of those people, the media can push you so far these days.
It’s a hectic, crazy scenario of I don’t want to piss off Kanye’s people by doing press because that’s not really Kanye’s thing usually. I just want to be careful about what I’m saying.
OKP: What’s your overall end goal?
CG: My whole goal for coming out here [to LA] was that I just want to make better music. I know I’m not the best producer or the best rapper, I’m not out here saying I’m the best but what I do know is that I’m capable of making much better music as long as I keep learning. My idea is if I want to make the best music I should go to someone who consistently makes the best music, and that’s Kanye. I’ve been a huge fan forever and if I can get in with him, then hands down, I’m going to be making the best music that Cameron Grey can make by the time I’m done on earth, and that’s all I care about doing. I just want to make the best music.
The inspiration that I gave to people through this encounter with Kanye is something that I hope to be able to repeat with music one day. Working with Kanye would definitely give me the tools and access to the knowledge needed to make those things happen. That’s really my goal out here.
A lot of close friends are wondering why I’m not retweeting all of the blogs and what not who have been posting about the video and it’s because I’m pumped to be in all of these incredible publications and media outlets, it’s awesome, but it’s not the reason I want to be in there. I want my music to be in there, I want people to know that I’m willing to work for that. I’m willing to do it more than anybody else out there, I really am. I’ve been doing some crazy shit for a long time to make this life possible for myself and I’m willing to do anything. I want people to see that. I don’t want people to see that like, Oh i was thirsty for attention and fucking got on TMZ and I hope people are seeing it the way you see it. That’s one of my biggest worries, is coming off as some dude who just wants to be on TV. I’ll trade in all of that TV shit for an assistant job cleaning out the coffee pot and trash can right now.
OKP: Finals words?
CG: The whole world saw me come as humble as I could to a man and basically ask him for a chance, for an opportunity. So, that alone, and being on TV, was one of the most humbling experiences of my life (being asked to be a godfather was up there with that), but other than that it’s like, everybody got to see me pretty vulnerable in a position where another person might be like “I’m the man, I’m that rapper” that’s just not usually who I am. I’m just trying to improve myself.
If [Kanye West] hits me, great - if not, I’m still grinding. I’ve still got tons of work to do, my world has not ended.