The Bay Area badass Kamaiyah chopped it up with Okayplayer to talk about her dedication to her city, love for the Boys & Girls Club, and why she’s a force to be reckoned with.
The Bay Area’s own Kamaiyah exploded on the scene in 2015 with her debut single “How Does It Feel,” which had everybody from the East to the West tuning in. Laced with that signature club-driven Cali production, it was her debut mixtape, A Good Night in the Ghetto, later that year that secured her place in the rap game.
This wasn’t just a female MC, this was a strong, female powerhouse who could give a fuck less about conforming to the norm and what society thinks a female artist should be or look. Yaya (Kamaiyah’s nickname) is a walking testimony of someone who went after the dreams, worked their ass off, and used that as leverage to make it out of the streets. From her clothes to her music to her mannerisms, it’s her authenticity to herself that fans and listeners appreciate most.
With the release of her new single, “Addicted To Ballin,” featuring ScHoolboy Q being a contender for song of the summer, it was a give-in for the Oakland native to stop by Power 106 in Los Angeles to play the buzzing record for all the DJ’s and mixers. Decked out in all Oakland A’s gear, it was her manager Brandon that began with a moment of praise for the 26-year-old.
He recalls meeting her for the first time. He had went to the studio, and when he came back, Kamaiyah had complete seven records. One of those was “Why You Always Hatin?” featuring Drake and YG, which currently has over 73 million views on YouTube only. This was in a span of eight hours.
Kamaiyah’s success has everything to do with her unwavering work ethic and determination to give back to the city of Oakland in the same way the city has shown love to her.
Check out Okayplayer’s exclusive Q&A below.
Okayplayer: First off, congrats on your new record with ScHoolboy Q. Can you talk about the making of “Addicted To Ballin’” and working with Q who is a riot on and off camera?
Kamaiyah: Pretty much, I had sent [ScHoolboy] Q one record, and he wasn’t feeling it. Then he told me to book a studio session and he would come through. He came through, the drinks was flowing, we just all was vibing. It was like a big ass gangster party in the studio and that’s how we created “Addicted To Ballin.” He was originally on another song called “Mail,” then I played him “Addicted To Ballin,” and he was like, “Yo, what the fuck is this?” Then I walked out. Five minutes later, I come back in and this n***a’s verse is done already. Deadass. He was feeling it that much he got his verse done immediately.
OKP: I love that you went a unique approach and did a giveaway in the Bay to promote the single, what inspired this?
K: Well I’m always trying to be on my philanthropy tip. I’ve been up there for the past couple months doing different things. I took all the kids from Hayward High to see Black Panther, then I did Hayward High’s prom. Sprite sponsored it. So then I was like, ‘Yo, I still want to do something. Let’s do something dope for the city.’ So we came up with these ideas and installations we could do each day to give back to the city.
OKP: What does Boys and Girls Club mean to you?
K: They kind of saved my life. I used to go there when I was a kid. It kept me off the streets. I felt like if they didn’t do that for me, there’s no telling where I would’ve turned. Because me being on the streets having nothing else to do would’ve probably had me channeling my energy in a negative way versus a positive way, which helped me create my music by staying off the streets.
OKP: Speaking of the Sprite Commercial, can you tell us about the experience with LeBron James.
K: LeBron [James] was cool. I didn’t meet him too long. The brief second I did meet him, he was very nice and very respectful. He actually gave me gratitude and thanked me for being in the commercial. I was like, ‘No, thank you for having me in a commercial with you.’ He was cool, we took a flick, that was that. It was a long day, but who’s going to complain to Sprite? That’s a great opportunity. [Laughs] I did what I had to do, I just worked it out. It was hella hot. The commercial came out amazing. I’m forever indebted to LeBron for giving me that opportunity, it was great.
OKP: Speaking of ballin’, what did you do with your first advance?
K: Really, I just moved to my house, and took care of my family. I think the first big thing that would be a splurge was that I bought a Gucci backpack that I still use to this day. Like I didn’t go buy a car or do no crazy stuff like that, I just bought a Gucci backpack [laughs].
OKP:You mention going through it on the label side of things. What is your take on the music industry?
K: I just feel like you got to learn your formula. It will get frustrating if you don’t understand the paperwork behind the business and you’ll try to find someone to blame, but essentially my situation was more so sampling, so I figured out my formula with how to sample and get it done without having to hold up the record. Now I’m moving at a more rapid pace.
OKP: You surprised-dropped your Before I Wake mixtape at the end of last year after the loss of your brother. How has music been a form of therapy for you?
K: I mean that mixtape essentially was a form of therapy, like it wasn’t A Good Night in the Ghetto feel, it was more so me getting things that I had battling off my chest. Some people may not have took to it as much as they took to A Good Night in the Ghetto, but at least I got it out. That’s how I felt.
OKP: In light of the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, how do you feel about society’s stance on mental health? What needs to happen?
K: I think people should listen to their friends when they’re telling them things are bothering them, versus them saying “you gon’ be alright.” That’s the situation that a lot of people go through. People will tell them that they’re battling with some different situations — instead of people giving them help, they’ll tell them, “Oh, well you’re gonna be okay. You’re going to be alright. My friends went through this or I went through that.” It’s not about how you felt or how somebody else was affected, you don’t know how they’re going to deal with it. All it could take is a hug to keep them from killing themselves. People need to be more sensitive to that.
OKP: What are some of your self-care tips to maintain your mental headspace?
K: Space. I feel like if your energy is surrounded by so many different things pulling at you, it will take away from your recharge, and you got to recharge yourself sometimes. My thing is literally space. And then self-destructing, to build yourself back up by myself.
OKP: You were on XXL’s 2017 freshman list last year. How are you feeling about this year’s list?
K: I only looked at it for a brief second, but I feel like with those things, whoever is on there, more than likely they’re deserving of it. I can’t comment on someone else’s career or what they did. You don’t know their story or what it took for them to get to their success. So it’s like congratulations to all them, God bless them on all their careers. I wish them the best. Just stay humble. Stay positive. You gon’ get everything you want out this business.
OKP: Your story coming up in Oakland is an inspiration in itself. How has your life changed since dropping A Good Night in the Ghetto two years ago?
K: I’m still able to pay my bills off A Good Night In The Ghetto, so I guess it’s pretty great. [laughs]
OKP: As a female MC, where do you see yourself fit in the rap game in 2018?
K: I feel like I just do my own thing. Stay positive, stay happy, having fun. Don’t step on nobody else toes and just respect everything that’s happening.
OKP: I personally admire how real you are and how you don’t need to glam yourself to be heard or seen. In light of you’re recent song “Fashion,” are we getting a Kamaiyah fashion line any time soon?
K: Definitely. I definitely think I wanna start my own fashion line. I think that’d be dope.
Shirley Ju is a Los Angeles-based writer who grew up in the Bay Area. She lives, breathes, and sleeps hip-hop, and is literally on top of new music the moment it is released. If there’s a show in L.A., you can find her there. Follow the latest on her fomoblog.com and on Twitter @shirju.