Kam talks about his evolution, name change and depression, while LMNO recalls Ruthless days and waves off "underground."
When the rumor of Supastition's retirement hit the Internet, many simply wondered why. Was he tired of the music, tired of the industry, or tired of it all? There was a lot of speculation and of course more rumors stacked on rumors in the way that only the Internet can produce.
Then in 2008 he returns to the game. After putting the rumors to rest, he gave us the Self Centered EP, showing off his skill using his given name Kam Moye. Gone was the rapper who was ripping b-boy bravado on Chain Letters. He came across as an every man who takes a break from his grind to try to give you a piece of his soul.
This month’s Underground Report starts off with HipHopDX catching up with Kam Moye to talk about his latest full length project, Splitting Image as well as some of the changes the rapper has gone through since changing his perception. Like his music, Kam Moye sheds the shell and allows you to see just where his head is at. “Leave your expectations at the door,” and give sincerity a piece of your time.
HipHopDX: There has seemed to be a rumble in the underground with something your contemporary 9th Wonder has dubbed "Adult Contemporary Rap." Is Kam Moye apart of that movement?
Kam Moye: I don’t know if I can say I that I am a part of that movement. I just came to a certain age and point of my life where I felt like I need to make music that is reflective of my age. I don’t want to be a 30 year-old making music for a 15 year-old. I think a lot of guys are coming to that conclusion that it’s time to make music that is representative of us. In terms of Hip Hop, it’s like if you are 35, it’s almost like you are a dinosaur. It is a sign Hip Hop maturing and the art is maturing with it.
DX: There has been a wave of artists who share that same sentiment. This simply Hip Hop growing up, since the music is approaching its forties.
Kam Moye: I think so. It’s almost like with music and life, every generation rebels against the last generation of generation. If you look at the '80s and '90s and 2000s, a lot of people rebelled against the “golden age” of Hip Hop. It’s in 10 year increments almost. Now I think people are rebelling against the last few years that were really based on a lot of materialistic music, a lot of violent music and things like that. In a sense I feel like it's growing up but for some people; it’s really more of a trend. For me, it’s something I had to feel comfortable doing. I couldn’t make the same music I was making when I was 20 years old. I was still trying to figure out myself and get comfortable in my skin. I am at a point to where I am.
DX: Let’s talk about your first LP as Kam Moye, Splitting Image. How long have you been working on it, I remember interviews with you speaking on it over a year ago?
Kam Moye: I have been working on it for almost two years. The album that’s out now, there may be two songs on the actual release from that time period. A lot of those songs I released on the Self Centered EP. But Splitting Image [click to read] had been something I had been toying with around with for a couple of years. I had to figure out what direction I wanted to go. I was trying to bridge the gap between the Supastition phase and the Kam Moye phase, but this album is more of a powerful album and it’s the one where I wanted to get away from the Supastition thing. Supastition maybe represents about half of who I am, but the Kam Moye music is 100% me, my opinions and what I live. I just didn’t feel right using a name that didn’t represent 100% of me, so that’s why I went with Kam Moye, the government name.
DX: With this album you have left a lot on the table, dealing with many issues, many of them personal. This is something you tend not to see from most rappers. What made you decide to go in this direction?
Kam Moye: With me, even with my first Supastition album [7 Years Of Bad Luck], I came in the game talking about a lot of my personal issues and the things I have addressed so it’s really not anything new to me. The main difference is my perspective on things. Before, I was very pessimistic. I felt like it was just bad luck, the world was against me but now as you get older you realize you made a lot of mistakes and a lot of bad choices.
DX: For example, one of the songs that really stood out was “Give In Give Out.” You rap about depression, and how it is masked in the black community, using your own life as a back drop. These songs are rare, and it’s a wonder considering just how much this goes on in the black community. What was the background for you crafting this song?
Kam Moye: It's something that I wanted to speak on for a few years, as far as dealing with depression, there are a lot of people out there dealing with it. Myself, I have dealt with it for a while. I have friends [who have as well], but for the most part, people don’t speak up about it. Especially being black men, it’s swept under the table because we are always taught to suck it up and toughen up or just go to church and pray on it and everything will be fine. And in actuality, prayer is not always the answer to a chemical imbalance or a lot of life’s problems. Like when people say when you have money problems, "Pray on it," okay, that’s cool. But you actually need to work on how to spend your money. So I took that aspect with dealing with life issues. Sometimes you just have to make a personal change. I feel it’s something that most people out there can relate to. I don’t really see too many artists out there, maybe with the exception of Joe Budden [click to read] and a few other guys that really speak on it. I just wanted to go in depth about it and tell you my experience, why I felt like it happened, and how I am trying to improve and step out of it.
DX: Yeah, like you said in the song, some people think being saved and praying on things will solve all their problems.
Kam Moye: Yeah, and there is still a lot of people that believe that, like for me I grew up in a Christian home, my grandfather was a pastor/preacher. That was the mentality that my family took, so whenever you came to somebody… As a young black man you can’t go to your father crying because the first thing he is going to say is "wipe your tears away." He doesn’t want to hear that shit. I’m not going to say that every father is like that or every black household is like that, but for the most part, there is a lot of people dealing with situations like that, and people don’t understand how high suicide is or depression is in the African American community.
DX: It seems that a lot of emotions had to come out when crafting this album. Has this experience changed the way you are going to craft albums?
Kam Moye: For the most part, I recorded this album to help other people but also to a reminder to myself I wanted to have an album I could sit back and listen to. If I have a rough day, I could sit back and listen to “Give Out Give In” or the title song “Splitting Image” which is about overlooking the bad problems and just simply looking at the things you do have.
DX: This album sees you on a new label. How is it working with MYX?
Kam Moye: MYX is a dope label. They stepped to the table in the beginning and told me what they could do and what they couldn’t do. They were probably the only label I know that was really interested in listening to a Kam Moye album vs. a Supastition album. Everyone else just wanted to piggyback off of the buzz that I had with Supastition, and I felt like they weren’t really concerned with the artistic integrity. I can say with MYX, they looked at the album with an open ear and everything I told them that needed to be done for this album they did their best to come through and make it possible. I am very proud to be a part of the MYX music family and hopefully, we can continue to make music together.
DX: How would you compare them with Soulspazm or Rawkus?
Kam Moye: There is a big difference between MYX and Soulspazm and Rawkus situation. I am actually signed to MYX music as a recording artist, everything before that was a joint venture deal. I licensed my albums to Rawkus and Soulspazm or any other label I dealt with. I owned every part of it, from the masters to the publishing and everything, so I kind of just dictate what I wanted to happen. I always had a say in what I wanted from these things. With MYX, I am an artist on the label. With Soulspazm, it was more of a stepping-stone. I look at every deal and every album as a stepping-stone that takes me in a different direction and hopefully a step forward. With MYX, I think it is the biggest step forward I have taken in my career.
DX: With your name change, it seems like your material has turned over. In previous interviews, you have said the feeling with Supastition was a lyrical beast vs. Kam Moye’s more realistic interpretation of life. How has the response been now that you are a year in?
Kam Moye: The response has been incredible, I found a lot of people who that give me feedback now and it’s a little more genuine. Not to downplay anything I have done as Supastition, but a lot of the comments and feedback were “Yo, it's really dope,” or “I love that verse,” or this or that, now I am hearing songs like “Blue Sky” or “Let’s Be Honest” where people are telling me that the songs have really touched them. Like “Yo, this is the soundtrack to what I am going through right now.” To me, I feel like music will last a little bit longer, and is a little more timeless so I enjoy the response and the sincerity that I put into the music and the feedback that I am getting from people for the direction I am going continue to go on.
DX: Is Kam Moye here to stay? Is Supastition locked away or are we going to see him a little bit more?
Kam Moye: Well I still do collaborations as Supastition because there are still fans out there who want that raw and underground music from me, and that sound, so I still do collaborations on certain peoples projects. But as far as albums, I really don’t see another Supastition album. And that is something I have said even after I did Chain Letters. I guess people took it as I was retiring or whatever that means. As far as Supastition, like I said it will be on collaborations and different things like that. As far as right now, the point in life I am right now Kam Moye is what I am more focused on.
DX: If these two could be in a room alone, and listen to the others catalogue, what would you think they would be discussing about when they left. What would one think about the other?
Kam Moye: Well I think Supastition would be telling Kam Moye to put more rhyming words in his bars and use more patterns and techniques and Kam Moye would probably tell Supastition to put more emotion to it, more charisma, more personality into it. So with Supastition, it was straight raw emceeing. With Kam Moye, it is a little wisdom, a little humor, and a lot of sincerity. So I think they could definitely help each other in different ways and give each other pointers you know.
DX: Would they put the others album on their MP3 players?
Kam Moye: [Laughs] I think so, Kam Moye isn’t so far left field or too mainstream so that the average Hip Hop head can’t listen to. Even when I was doing things as Supastition, I listened to Jay-Z [click to read] just as much as I would listen to J.Dilla. You know what I mean. It is about that balance so I think they would definitely listen to each other.
California has always been an interesting place. Hip Hop hasn’t done anything to change that, it simply has given it a little more flavor. With this side of the Underground Report we sit down with Long Beach-based rapper LMNO, who has seen a lot in his 20 years in the game. With a new album on the way Devilish Dandruff With Holy Shampoo, the rapper utilized the Internet to bring some of his own skill with international appeal, linking up with French producer Yann Kesz.
His story to this point has been quite interesting, being punctuated with having arguments with Eazy E in the Ruthless Ruthless CEO’s own living room to touring the world with his group The Visionaries. Sometimes there is just no way to leave his name out.
HipHopDX: You got to meet Eazy E and The D.O.C. when you were young, and they were near the height of their reign. What type of energy did you get from them and that experience?
LMNO: I was so young, that any type of energy I was looking for, I wasn’t looking for business-minded energy. If I met them now it would be a different story. Like what I would pick and pull from them, but they were in the zone and I was like a little fixture. I was around DJ Speed, who was D.O.C.’s deejay. I was just having a good time, just getting into things after baseball practice, it was just fun times man and got to be there. The people I was around most were MC Ren [click to read] and CPO [The Boss Hogg]…It was good times for sure.
DX: Once you figured out you wanted to be a rapper, did DJ Speed or Eazy E have have a hand in molding your career?
LMNO: Not necessarily. Eazy wanted to sign that whole New Kids In The Hood and he was really serious about it, and I was embarrassed about it, because low-key, I wanted to be a rapper. I was juvenile back then, and I was already to go. I was just like, "Nah you shouldn’t [say something], that’s not a good look." We would be at his house and I would be arguing with Eazy E about the group. In an indirect way, they did have a hand on. Eazy E just saw it from a commercial perspective. CPO was the most hands-on, like he was willing to write raps for me, that's just how it was back then. Nah, they didn’t have a direct hand, but they had an indirect one.
DX: That leads to my next question. You've spent a long time in and around the music as a whole. What have you seen in your 20 years to put it all in perspective?
LMNO: I’ve been blessed to see the world. I have been blessed to be on stage. I had been blessed to do it from a pure passion standpoint and worry about the money later because I was so young. Coming up financially wasn’t my main goal. I was able to focus on what I felt was quality music, sincere quality music that has been walking me through these years. I hope that will never change, just being concerned about putting out quality music. Because again, getting started at my age was really a blessing because I am 36 now, with a beautiful wife and children and I have a double digit amount of albums out, still considered underground and underrated, even overrated. I am just loving it, man. I am loving the comfortable contradictions.
DX: That’s a lot of time on the west coast underground scene. There are a lot of east coast people that don’t know too much about the west coast scene. What have you seen that has helped with the development of the sound?
LMNO: First and foremost, the first brother that comes to mind is Murs [click to read]. He really makes a conscious effort to make sure the rest of the world knows about what we are doing out here. Whereas a lot of us may be concerned about spreading a message, but don’t go to that length, so Murs really sticks out as far as a person who really provides a platform for the rest of the world to get to know what we are doing. Through Murs there comes Too $hort [click to read], there comes Snoop [Dogg] [click to read], you know all these other facets that have been channeling through his energy but there is so much out here. That is a blessing and a curse, because that is so many cooks in the kitchen; at a certain point you need to know when to fall back. In Cali you can just survive by just touring west coast alone, as far as just going up to Canada back down to Southern California. I’ve seen a lot of crews get complacent and comfortable with the west coasts, whereas The Visionaries [click to read], we were always blessed to go abroad. Just... see, that thing is huge. You really can’t call it underground once you put it on vinyl because it’s going to trickle overseas, so you're no longer under-exposed on any level, and now with the Interne, it’s even harder to call anything "underground" because of the exposure to the click of a button. I come from the era when "underground" meant you barely had a cassette tape, if you’re lucky, with your own beats. The west coast has just been a grind-heavy, a borderline drug dealer culture the way people move records and get it out to the public. The people have been really supportive and responsive. It is a strong circle as far as chain of command out here.
DX: Speaking of the Internet, its had an effect on a lot of peoples careers. How did it effect you and your career personally?
LMNO: Basically, I am a late bloomer with the computer, as soon as I logged on I saw the effects of having international communication. Talking in different languages, you got people from other countries reaching out looking for features and they are speaking proper English. I hit them back asking where they are from, and they say places like Switzerland and I’m blown away, just humbled at what little I know. There are people talking in different languages. The Internet has been very educational for me. Growing up, I was more of a writer than a reader, and I wasn’t reading very much. Now if I want to find something, I can just get on and get it. As far as my career goes, I just saw that my worth increased heavily and being on the road increased heavily. I would never give out my phone number, so it's been extremely helpful and I am all for it.
DX: Let’s go a little into your album right now, Devilish Dandruff With Holy Shampoo. Interesting title, where did you come up with its concept?
LMNO: The concept is reflective where I am from, not too far from Tijuana border, between Mexico and the US. My tattoo artist told me about this experience he had down there where the border patrol hit him up in Spanish about obtaining devilish dandruff a/k/a cocaine. When I heard that, I just got out the studio over this Yann Kesz beat called "Cocaine." And when he told me that, things got into balance mode…Devilish Dandruff, Holy Shampoo and I was like "so." That’s how my brain works, I see something and I connect it to something else. Devilish Dandruff With Holy Shampoo is the title. Let me back-track a little about the Internet question, this whole project came about through the Internet. I never sat down with Yann Kesz; I never actually talked to Yann Kesz. It has been like a pure, sponsored by the Internet affair. So the Internet has a lot to do with that album now that I think about it.
DX: How did you and Yann Kesz hook up?
LMNO: Initially, over MySpace. He sent me a song to be a featured on. Basically, when I got the beat and sent back the verse, he got it he sent back a second beat and I asked what was the possibility of doing a full length. He was all excited, and we put it out on Up Above [Records] and all this stuff, it was cool, man. Again, that’s why I have no problems with the Internet right now. It’s pretty good.
DX: How is that different than working with someone like Kev Brown.
LMNO: With Kev Brown, that’s "Uncle Kev" to my daughter, and is a friend of my wife and of my deejay. There is like a whole different connection, so when we get in there and get the crackin' off, it's all human experience that didn’t experience with this Yann Kesz project, which puts some more fierceness into it because since we are so digitized now. For me, it’s like Kev is a true friend. Not to say Yann Kesz isn’t, but we haven’t had a chance to go there yet. With Kev, it’s a more organic approach, pulling out the pad, getting the beats and writing right there. Actually, we are going to be doing that soon. He is coming out here on November 12th and trying to finish off this project called James Brown that we are doing.
DX: That’s interesting. Tell me a little more about the James Brown project?
LMNO: Well the James Brown project it is funny. Right when we were turning in the masters to Up Above, [they were] like, "Have y'all ever thought about James Brown?" And we were disappointed and excited due to the timing issue. I talked to Kev and he was excited and then that’s why we right away did that song “James Brown” and from that point on, we were like we got to do a project that is pure James Brown samples. Our intentions are once we get the profit back, we channel it to the James Brown Foundation instead of being hounded by the sample clearance and all that. We have the intention on finishing the project. Its actually pretty dope to, we got Kenn Starr. It’s a slower project because if it was pure Internet, it would be done by now, because I have access to a studio around the clock.
DX: So this going through the James Brown Foundation?
LMNO: I’m saying that was our intentions because it was like, "Wow, clearance, clearance, talking all that jive." I was like, “Isn’t there a foundation we can give to, if we make five dollars, where do we channel $2.50 to?” That’s the type of guy I am. I like to think about stuff like that.
DX: Combining all your group work, you have a lot of material under your belt. How do you keep fresh with your narrative?
LMNO: It’s one of those things that I can’t pinpoint. I could be real shallow and say something like it’s the coffee or the trees or the sunshine. I don’t know, it could be everything combined. I guess deep down, I have a lot more to say than I thought that I did initially, earlier in life, so I don’t know, man. As long as there are dope beats, it's part of my job, I guess. No matter what I do, I am going to put everything in to it. If I was going to be a professional baseball player, I would be that dude that went to practice before everybody else. I would also be the person that left after everyone else. Back to the whole family issue, I am grateful that I have a family that understands this is my sanity. This is my peace. This is my war. And this is everything. I feel like as long as I am on earth, I serve up pieces of controversy. There are some that say I am the best, and some that think I am the wackest. I think that’s dope. I am just getting started in my eyes. I feel it is my advantage. That has a lot to do my creative process, to stay open and try not to become bitter. Like the kids who get cosigns from cool rappers, that doesn’t get me bunched up and pissed at the world. I know people who get bummed out on the game, and I don’t want to be there.