The negative, obviously — as you said — is that I get pigeonholed into this whole college rap-frat rap category. And that’s also a positive at the same time because it really has brought a whole new audience to hip-hop that wasn’t there before. People are always gonna wanna listen to what they can relate to and what they’re interested in.
So because I am a suburban kid, all these new suburban kids listening to music and starting blogs and downloading music and paying for shows, that’s definitely given me an audience that I probably wouldn’t have had five or 10 years ago. At the same time, it’s very frustrating because, for example, when I do shows down in New Orleans, a lot of people don’t give me the respect I feel I deserve when I get on the stage because of my skin color. Once they hear what I have to say, I definitely can convince people that I’m more than just a kid rapping about Solo cups, with Auto-Tune in my hook, singing about college life. If I have to say where I fit in, I’d definitely say I put myself more in the category with someone like a Mac Miller or an Asher Roth or even an Eminem — not saying I’m on Eminem’s level, but those are people who yes, they are white, but they’re hip-hop artists first, and it’s not really like they’re in that frat rap college scene. Killer Mike recently said that hip-hop has become much less black and much less masculine. I actually really parallel the rise of hip-hop in America to the rise of rock-and-roll in America. Originally, it was an all-black music and it wasn’t really accepted in the white communities, and about 20 or 30 years after rock was really getting into it, it did become accepted in mainstream, white America. So that’s when you have the advent of what people call bubble gum rock, and that was all the music that was very accessible, very easy to listen to all for all the white people, with very simple chord progressions and very easily relatable choruses and words. And I really see a lot of parallels between that and the state of hip-hop in America because originally, it was an all-black art form, and then now, about 20, 30 years after the real birth of it, it has spread out into mainstream America, and get this bubble gum rap that all these frat rappers are doing.
And I’m not saying it’s a good or a bad thing, it’s just the development of music. If you look at someone like Eminem, he’s someone who stuck to the true format of what hip-hop is, and I see parallels between that and what Elvis Presley did, or what Buddy Holly did. So there definitely are people who stick to the true art form, and that’s what I try to do, and if it develops as a subgenre, that’s what happens, just like you have punk rock, for example. But then again, Elvis is credited as the king of rock, overshadowing all of the hundreds and hundreds of black musicians who literally created the genre. How would you respond to people saying that you are reappropriating black culture to your own purpose? I think that throughout history, every culture has borrowed from other cultures, whether it’s the Greeks and the Romans learning from each other, or the Huns learning when they took over China. And I agree with you that it’s all originally a black culture, it’s a black art form. One of the differences between rock-and-roll and hip-hop is that rock-and-roll’s never really about, me, me, me. And even if you’re singing a song about you, it’s more about your emotions and some girl that broke your heart. It’s not about bragging about where you’re from and what you do and what you and your friends do. So I think that’s why it’s easier for people to give Elvis or a similar artist more credit than they deserve because he’s singing about topics in general. It’s easy to forget who originated those topics, whereas in hip-hop, if Biggie is shouting out Bed-Stuy, you know he’s from Bed-Stuy, and no matter who, you’re not gonna be from Bed-Stuy if you’re not from Bed-Stuy. So lyrically, since hip-hop is such an esoteric genre, it’s easier to point fingers. And of course, it’s true — you always have these accusations of authenticity. You’re aiming for radio, you’re aiming for mass appeal, like you were saying earlier, right? When I was coming up in middle school and high school I always was friends with every different group of kids. I could really walk into any clique and be cool with all those kids. So if I put limitations on myself, that limits how far I can go. I feel like I have a lot of relatable content, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or if you’re white, or if you’re from the hood or if you’re from the suburbs. If you can relate to what I’m saying, you’re gonna like it. All the negative things that people say about him aside, this is a half-Jewish, half-white, half-black kid from Canada who’s arguably the biggest rap star in the world right now because no matter where you’re from, you can always relate to something that he’s saying. So how have you seen your lyrical maturity — the content, the flow — how is that evolving ever since you pinpointed the direction you wanted to go in?
The first thing is I’m always really struggling — not struggling, I’m always really working on developing my own sound as an artist. And now with these new tracks that I’m working on — Vindicated to an extent, but this new unreleased mixtape that I’ve got — if you hear that, within a second people say “Oh yeah, that’s that Kam flow. Oh yeah, that’s Kam doing him.” So I really struggle to make it so that my voice is almost like another instrument on the beat. So that way, even if you’re not listening to the words, it’s still enjoyable to listen to. And lyrically, I’m always listening to rappers and trying to see ways that I can be more and more lyrical, because I feel like a lot of people limit themselves by being over-lyrical. It gets to the point where listening to the music is a chore. There’s a very distinct difference between dumbing your music down and saying complex things very simply.
I think my lyricism on these new songs is really on a completely different level. And also, I’m working on doing some more concept songs. If you look at the progression from my first mixtape, Business as Usual , to my second mixtape, Vindicated , there were a lot more complete, coherent thoughts that I had in songs. Whether it was the song like “Mary Jane”, it’s all about marijuana, or a song like “I Don’t Know”, which is discussing both sides of relationships, I’m always working to have more complex thoughts and say more profound things in a new and different way with my lyrics. Something that really, really caught my attention was “Dude.” I thought you did a great job with the hook, the flow was sounding on point — it really did sound like a new Kam.