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Since receiving her release from Interscope Records last year, Oakland rapper Kamaiyah‘s been on a tear. I need to specify that she’s from Oakland, not the Bay Area; it’s a distinction she makes clear to me as we discuss her new project, the collaborative album Oakland Nights with fellow Town native Capolow. The Bay Area and Oakland are separate entities in her mind and she doesn’t want people to get confused. She’s not from The Bay, she’s from Oakland.
“I tell people all the time,” she says. “That’s the way for people from those subsidiary towns to just be cool.” However, “Oakland is the Mecca, it’s like that’s the center, Oakland is the Mecca, it’s like that’s the center and everything around it rotates, like the planets and the sun.”
Certainly, the sound of the Bay Area is born of Oakland’s specific bounce and attitude. Fittingly, that sound permeates the new project, which Kamaiyah conceived as a way to put on for the city and share her platform with Capolow, a rising star she says sounds unlike anyone else from The Town. “I don’t know anybody else who has that sound,” she says of her collaborator. “I’m a firm believer in, if you got a platform and you can assist somebody, it don’t cost no money if you do that.”
The two rappers have easy working chemistry that shines through all over Oakland Nights. Over upbeat, house party-ready production, the duo glides on tracks like “Players Club,” “Digits,” and “So Much Money,” keeping the energy lighthearted at all times. The summery production makes it perfect for the warmer months, but as with so many other projects this year, Oakland Nights was delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak (which she jokingly refers to as “Covisha”), forcing it from an April release date to one in September.
However, in Kamaiyah’s eyes, that doesn’t undermine the project’s impact at all. “There’s no greater time than God’s time,” she explains. “So it happened when it was supposed to happen and we just going to rock with it how we rocking.”
What brought you and Capolow together and why was now the right time to make it happen?
It was just a natural thing that happened just because of our work ethic together and how it sounded. It just kept going and kept going until it became a project.
Was the intention to put this out in the summertime and catch the day party season?
It was supposed to come out in April, honestly. And then a record would peak by the summer. But you know, due to Covisha we had to pull back, so it is what it is. There’s no greater time than God’s time. So it happened when it was supposed to happen and we just going to rock with it how we rocking.
Do you have a favorite song of the project?
“Finer Things.” Which one you like?
You know me, I’m from Compton, so it’s gotta be “Gang, Gang” with RJ!
That’s accidentally slipped through the cracks too. That’s the crazy part. Technically, I was supposed to have another record on that project. We both submitted solo records. I was on there originally with one verse and at the last minute, RJ was like, “I want to get on this.” That verse came through.
I also really appreciate that you went out and got Keak Da Sneak.
My ex-boyfriend’s brother actually used to manage Keak, that’s how I originally met him. So we was long overdue for record and I just felt like he fit the sound of that. So I was like, “It’s only right.” It’s an Oakland record, so I can’t put E-40. I can’t put nobody but him and Too Short. So him, it was.
That brings me to a funny question because a lot of people equate the Bay and Oakland. Can you please set the record straight? What’s the difference?
Nah, I don’t do that, I don’t. I tell people all the time, that’s the way for people who from those subsidiary towns to just be cool. Oakland is the Mecca, it’s like the center and everything rotates around it like the planets and the sun. We are in the center. Everybody gets their game, their lingo, everything, from us. I might let people who not from there be like, “Oh, you’re from the Bay.” But a person from Oakland will never say they from the Bay, they’ll be like, “I’m from Oakland.” That’s how you know, for real. That’s how we talk. We ain’t going to never be like, “I’m from the Bay.” It’s going to always be “I’m from Oakland.”
Yes. there’s a strong connection between Oakland, The Bay, and the independent music scene. How the process of recording and releasing music changed for you since becoming independent?
When I was on a label, I couldn’t even produce music anymore because I was so stressed out because they were trying to make me into something that I wasn’t. We’ve got somebody that’s trying to make you overcompensate for what you’re already doing, it takes away from the fun of it. When I made “Out The Bottle” and “How Does It Feel” and “F*ck It Up,” it wasn’t me going into it to make a hit record. They were just good records and people liked them. Now I’m in the studio and you’re like, “Oh, this isn’t good enough. This isn’t good enough.” Now you’re making me question my art, first, and secondly, you making me feel like I got to do something that I’m not going in here to do. My intention is always just to make music that feels good to me.
So if you’re telling me that, “Oh, this is not a hit,” well, that’s your perspective, because that’s your perception on it. To me, it may be a hit. That’s why I don’t suggest anyone sign to an artist’s label because their vision of you was always what they determined their career based upon.
It was an uphill battle for sure, just being over there because I felt like it was no longer about me and my artistry, it was more so about people’s egos and what they wanted. I don’t think that’s good business because when you sign an artist, it’s never about you. It’s about, what’s the best thing for that artist?
So when it comes to Oakland Nights, obviously, COVID has delayed plans. But what is a successful version of this album for you? What would be the ideal outcome a year later?
Ideally, the whole project was just to do something for the city. For so long, I haven’t been able to do that. They’d be expecting certain things from me and I’m just like, “Alright, let me this off to let the audience that I’ve obtained see a new artist from my city.”
Yeah, I was excited to see you put Capolow on. I’ve been aware of him for a bit but hadn’t been able to cover him as much as I wanted because of timing so you gave me a redo. What is it about him as an artist that draws you to him and what makes him the ideal “Oakland” artist?
He’s easy to work with, one. Two, he’s talented. Three, I’m a firm believer in, if you got a platform and you can assist somebody, it don’t cost no money if you do that. I’ve always wanted to do a collab project with somebody from my city. We both been knowing each other before he became successful. I knew who he was when he was in his group because I had respect for the group and I always showed them love back before I was who I am now. It came natural. It was just like, “Alright, we know the same people, we f*ck with each other, let’s do a record.” We did it and then that turned into an “Alright, I f*ck with you. Let’s do a project.”
I respect his hustle because he was in the group and left. I always respect anybody who is hungry enough to step away from that and not let that deter them from their dreams. Because typically when you leave a group, they always tell you, “Ah, the reality of you actually haveing success after a move is not high.” Anybody who does that and they actually have some type of retention from that, I think that’s dope. You took that hustle and you didn’t stop your career.
Do you see any other artists who are really just representing the city to the fullest who could potentially be like a Detroit Nights 2?
I like this cat named AFlacko. He’s really, really good. He’s actually from my neighborhood. I think he’s dope. It’s not a lot of people that I listen to because after a while it all sounds the same, so anybody who has individuality that still stands out to me, that’s the person that grabs my attention. How many people in Oakland sound like f*cking Capolow? It’s only one Capolow. I don’t know anybody else who has that sound. Just like ALLBLACK. Not going to hear a lot of people who sound like ALLBLACK, so it makes you pay attention a little.
So what’s next after Oakland Nights?
Sh*t, I got a project dropping next month.
You got another one? Okay, you know what? Look, please give me a break. You know how much of a struggle it is for me to keep up?
Nah, see, I’m indie now so it ain’t no holds barred. Then, the top of the quarter next year, I’m already working on that project. It’s going to be done and coming out next year. We not stopping. There’s not a lot of female rappers that do that around. I don’t know too many female rappers making quality music at a rapid rate. They put out music, but is it at a rapid rate and is it quality?
There are a lot of female rappers coming out now and getting a lot of attention and what I like is that there’s so much support among you. You were one of like five people that Cardi B shouted out last year in defense of female rappers after JD made his comments and you’re the last one I’m getting a chance to ask about it.
I feel like that speaks volumes of her security in her own lane, the art. That’s what it starts with, your security within yourself, so that just speaks volumes to her integrity as an artist.
Did that create a noticeable difference in attention on your projects for you?
I don’t get too consumed in that type of stuff. I just take it like, “Alright, she a real ass bitch because she did that.” I felt like I’ve always been genuine with her, so that’s why I felt like it was natural for her to do that. I met Cardi on the set of the “No Limit” video. I introduced myself because G-Eazy was like, “Have you ever met her?” I was like, “No.” And she tried to shake my hand. I was like, “No, I give hugs.” I gave her a hug.
That’s why it was normal. The shoutout came right after I sat behind her at the BET Awards and I was like, “You my new best friend. I’m going to talk to you, bitch. What’s up?” So we got a conversation at the BET Awards. So, I think she gets that I’m a genuine bitch and I ain’t on no weirdo sh*t. So it was like, “Alright, I can f*ck with you.”
I feel like that’s the part where people don’t get. I’m really thorough. I’m really real. It’s no fraudness. This no fakeness. It’s none of that sh*t.
Oakland Nights is out now via Grnd.Wrk, Inc. Get it here.