Kamaiyah Kamaiyah
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Meet Kamaiyah: The Oakland Rookie Taking The Game By Storm

Kamaiyah opens up about growing up in the ghetto, making it big and having no plans to become a one-hit wonder.

Kamaiyah knew she was heading for something great. But even after the stellar reception to her mixtape, Good Night in the Ghetto, who knew it would reach these heights this soon? The Oakland-made rapper steps into the VIBE headquarters sporting a 90s-look inspired, equipped with the Jada Pinkett-Smith braided hair style from her role in Set It Off and an all-denim fit. At first glance, Kamaiyah is a laid-back, down to earth girl who knows her talent, but hasn't let it get to head. That definitely continues to shine through as she details her speedy rise to stardom.

The rapper has come a long way from the streets of the Bay. She went from growing up watching her childhood influences like Bow Wow, TLC and Missy Elliott command the channels from MTV Jams to BET, to soon becoming them.

In only a short period of time after dropping her 2016 single, "How Does It Feel," the rapper has already built up a following that's grabbed the attention of YG (who she now refers to as her big brother). "It’s like one of those feelings, when you hear it you knew this is going to be crazy," Kamaiyah says. "It was just a matter of time. I knew it was going to be one of the biggest records I ever dropped, but it just came so quick. 'How Does it Feel' set the tone, like this ain’t no regular sh**. She’s going to be here to stay. I felt like people thought she cool, but they thought I was going to be a one hit wonder type. But Good Night in the Ghetto solidified that; I ain’t going to be no one hit wonder."

Since dropping Good Night in the Ghetto, the rapper has proven that she's here for the long run. And in case you still weren't too sure, Kamaiyah has already collaborated with hip-hop royalty including Drake on her latest feature on YG's "Why You Always Hatin'." But this is really just the beginning for the 21-year-old. Here's what Kamaiyah had to say about about her upbringing, her creative process and what's next.

VIBE: Can tell you tell us about your upbringing in the Bay Area and how that may have been an influence in your music?
Kamaiyah: I grew up like a normal kid, typical ghetto story. My pops, he was in and out of jail and on drugs. My mom wasn’t around like that. So I grew up a foster kid and sh** like that. Then my granny got me out so I was with her for the duration.

How was your upbringing an influence in your music?
It helped me a lot with writing because I had so much time to think, so I wrote so I wouldn’t be in trouble. Eventually I did get in trouble, but that’s typical sh**. I was watching Bow Wow’s “What’s My Name” video with Snoop. And he was the same age as me. I was like I want to do this, and sat down and started writing. A lot of people didn’t know I could write for a long time until there was a talent show when I was 11 or 12 at the Boys and Girls Club, and from there I just started doing this.

Who are your musical influences?
MC Hammer. We’re from the same neighborhood. I feel like he’s the biggest icon from Oakland in history, so I always reference back to him. I feel like no one has done it as big as him on a hip-hop level.

What nuances did you take from MC Hammer?
His individuality. I’m really big on individuality. And at his time, I feel like he was the emblem of different. He was the first hip-hop artist to go pop besides LL Cool J. And I f**k with that because he wasn’t afraid of the criticism. He came out while everybody was doing gangsta rap and said he wanted to be this kind of guy and stuck to it.

What type of music would you be listening to any given day?
Probably a Total album. I only listen to 90s R&B, hip-hop or I listen to oldies like Earth, Wind & Fire. That’s why my music be having hella samples because I actually listen to the sh**. My music has a nostalgic feel because it’s the samples. The style I’m rapping is different, but I’m taking these old sh**s and flipping them and making them new again. It’s kind of why I like the 90s because Puffy was taking old sh** and flipping it, and making it new.

What’s your creative process?
It’s not really thought out. I hear the beat... in my head I hear harmonies, so if I don’t hear a harmony to that beat I won’t write to it. So people will start playing some sh** and within a five-minute ratio, the hook is done. After that, I just fit the verses in around the hook.

How would you categorize your music?
It’s just feel-good music. When you hear it, it just takes you to a different place. Most music now makes you turn up, I make you vibe and chill and feel good. I think that’s why people like it because it gives you a different essence than what people are doing today. You’re only going to turn up for so long, but then you want to chill. That’s what A Good Night in the Ghetto is.

How did A Good Night in the Ghetto come about?
It was time for it to happen. We threw the whole project together in two weeks. We took one to sit with producers and did that last part. And the last week, we was just recording and then sent it off to mix and dropped it. It was not a long process. That’s why I was shocked it was getting so much [attention] because it didn’t take no time to do it. I feel like that’s why it wasn’t forced; it was natural, which is why it was easy to receive.

How has YG you navigate the industry? Did he give you any advice?
As far as pushing the brand. He gives me knowledge, but for the most part everybody around me just let me do me because I got the vision by myself. I just need to get out there. We just be kicking like brother and sister, drinking, partying and sh**.

Where do you see yourself going from here?
Right now, the foundation is being set. So by next year, you’re really going to see. Right now we’re really putting the hard work in so I can be a household name that sustains for the next ten years.

Who would be your top features to collaborate with?
Missy. That would be number one. Creatively, I just want to see her whole process, just work with her from the beginning to the end of a record. I know the visual would be crazy. Her mind is crazy. Put two crazy motherf**kers together, you going to get some crazy a** sh** so why not?

Have you thought about working with E-40?
There’s a record I was thinking about putting him on. He was one of the first people that reached out to me when I dropped “How Does It Feel.” He was like, ‘Man I love everything you do. I can tell it came from heart. It came out natural like an afro. If you ever need anything, just holla at me. I got you. I wish you nothing but success.’

Did you expect the reception to be so great after “How Does It Feel?”
It’s like one of those feelings, when you hear it you knew this is going to be crazy. It was just a matter of time. I knew it was going to be one of the biggest records I ever dropped, but it just came so quick. I dropped that strategically. “How Does it Feel” set the tone, like this ain’t no regular sh**. She’s going to be here to stay. I felt like people thought she cool, but they thought I was going to be a one hit wonder type. But Good Night in the Ghetto solidified that; I ain’t going to be no one hit wonder. Don’t take nothing from me and discredit that. This is a great project from beginning to end, straight singles. You could damn near drop any one of these singles. And that’s what I wanted to do, let n***as know I’m here.

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These pillars and many more have allowed the next generation of emcees to be unapologetically brash, truthful and confident in their music. Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy and Nicki Minaj's Queen might've been the most mainstream albums by womxn in rap this year, but there was a long list of creatives who brought the noise like Rico Nasty, Tierra Whack, Noname and Bbymutha. Blame laziness or the heavy onslaught of music hitting streaming sites this year, but many of the artists on this list have hibernated under the radar for far too long.

VIBE decided to switch things up but also highlighting rap albums by womxn who came strong in their respectively debut albums, mixtapes, EPs. We also had to give props to those who dropped standout singles, leaving us wanting more.

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10 Most Important Hip-Hop Artists Of 2018

We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

While fans received a large dose of music from our favorite artists and celebrated some of the most iconic album anniversaries, there are a few names that stood out as the culture pushers, sh*t starters, and all-around most significant artists of the year.

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NEXT: Intent On Impact, Kiana Lede Is Ready To Leave Her Mark

After learning The Alphabet Song as a little girl, Kiana Lede would always “get in trouble” for singing during class. “My mom was like, ‘why can't you focus?’” she laughs while reminiscing on her career’s formative years. “I was like, ‘I don’t know! Songs are just playing in my head all the time!’”

Whilst sitting in a shoebox-sized room at Midtown Manhattan’s Moxy Hotel on a humid September day, the now- 21-year-old Arizona-bred R&B songbird, actress and pianist speculates that she “may have had ADD.” However, she settles down after taking off her white cowboy boots and flops down on the ivory-clothed bed, demonstrating that her fiery Aries energy can be contained. Cool as a cucumber, Lede shuffles between chewing on banana candies and blowing smoke rings after taking drags from a pen, all while musing about her journey to becoming a Republic Records signee.

“I just grew up singing and doing musical theater, and reading a lot of books, and playing piano way too much in my room by myself,” she says, pushing her big, curly brown hair out of her face. Her expressive green eyes widen as she grins. “It was my thing. Nobody in my family does music, just me.”

After winning Kidz Bop’s 2011 KIDZ Star USA talent contest at 14 (which her mother secretly entered her into), Lede was signed to RCA Records. She was released from her contract and dropped from the label three years later. However, thanks to guidance and friendship from the Grammy-winning production duo Rice N’ Peas, (who’ve worked with G-Eazy, Trevor Jackson, and Bazzi), she released covers of songs such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” while working to get her groove back. The latter rendition resulted in Republic Record’s Chairman and CEO Monte Lipman flying her out and signing her to his label.

“I got a second chance, which a lot of people don't get,” she reveals. “So I'm really happy that that all happened. I wouldn't be here right now in this room if that didn't happen.”

Thanks to the new opportunity she was given, Lede’s sound has evolved into something she’s proud of—equal parts soul, R&B and bohemian. As evidenced by the aforementioned ensemble, glimmers of each aesthetic can be found when observing her personal style as well. She released her seven-song EP Selfless in July, which features the bedroom-ready “Show Love” and “Fairplay,” which manages to fit in the mainstream R&B vein while also showcasing her goosebump-inducing vocals. The remix of the latter features MC A$AP Ferg. What pleases her most is that it not only garnered a favorable response from fans, but that those listeners found it so relatable.

“As an artist, it's really nerve-wracking for someone who writes about such personal things all the time,” she says. “Just the fact that it is my story… It's good to know that other people know that there's somebody on their side, and they're not the only ones going through it. A lot of people obviously feel this way, and have been through this same thing that I've been through. So I think that's cool.”

Although she moved to various places as a Navy serviceman’s daughter, Lede claims Phoenix as home. This means she hails from the same stomping grounds as rockers Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks and the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. However, growing up in a mixed race household gave way to tons of sonic exploration outside of the rock-heavy scene.

“My dad's black, and both of my parents are from the East Coast,” she says of her musical and ethnic upbringing (she’s black, Latina and Native American). “[My parents] listened to a lot of R&B. My mom listened to a lot of SWV, TLC, Boyz II Men. I didn't realize I knew the songs until I got older. I played a charity show with T-Boz, and I was like 'why do I know these songs?'” Lede also says her father was a fan of neo-soul and gangsta rap, but she personally believes the early-2000s was the best time for music.

“[That era] influences a lot of my music subconsciously, and also, singer-songwriter stuff,” she continues. “I listen to a lot of early-2000s music because I played piano most of my life. I listened to Sara Bareilles, John Mayer.”

An open book, Lede details some of her struggles with anxiety and depression with the utmost candor. After being dropped from RCA, her trust in people diminished, and she experienced long bouts of depression after being sexually assaulted by someone in the industry. The track that she feels most deeply about is “One Of Them Days,” which tackles these issues head-on.

“When I'm anxious and depressed, it's really hard to be happy,” Lede says. “Most of the time, I can do it, but there are just some days where I literally can't separate the anxiety, and I can't tell anybody why, because I don't really know why myself… I was feeling very odd that day, didn't even know if I could write a song. Hue [Strother], the guy who I wrote the song with, he was like 'I totally get you. Lots of people go through this.’’’

As we’ve observed in headlines recently, mental health and being honest about life’s trickier situations can help someone going through the same thing, and Lede hopes her music provides encouragement to those who are struggling. As for how she’s learning to push through her mental health roadblocks, she meditates, runs, and is an advocate for therapy, especially in Trump’s America, where harrowing news reports dominate the cycle.

Another hallmark of Kiana Lede’s personality is her bleeding heart for others. She cites women of color, sexual assault victims and the homeless youth specifically as individuals she feels most responsible to help, since she is personally connected to all three. While she’s aiming to create a project that helps homeless youth specifically, she’s working hard this holiday season to ensure that they have a place to stay “at least for the night” after horrific wildfires displaced many individuals in California.

“My passion is really people. Music is just a way that I can get to helping people,” she says with a grin. “Helping people emotionally and physically are both very important. I never want to stop helping people. I feel if other people can respect me, and I can respect myself, then I'll be happy. Happiness is all that we strive for.”

Recently, Lede played her first headlining solo show, a one-night event at The Mint in Los Angeles. While she was thrilled to see that the show sold-out, she was even happier to see the faces of her audience members, who she said ‘looked like [her].’ “Mixed girls, brown girls, black girls, gay boys,” she explains over-the-phone. Even though she wasn’t in person to discuss her latest huge accomplishment, you could hear the pride and joy through her voice.

As for the future of her career, she’s looking forward to more acting roles. You may recognize her from the first season of MTV’s Scream, and after her recent Netflix series All About The Washingtons with legendary MC Rev Run was cancelled, she has been “reading for auditions” and is “negotiating” for a role in a film set to shoot in NYC. While her time with the Run-DMC frontman was brief, she says he taught her about the importance of “not compromising your art for money.”

What Kiana Lede is most excited about, of course, is making music. She hopes to work on a new EP and then release an album after that. The ultimate goal is to fully realize the dreams in her personal and professional life, and she assures she’s just getting started.

“I want to be able to look back on my career and think 'man, I really poured my heart into this music, and made music that mattered, and made music that made people feel a certain way, whether it's bad, good, sad, anxious, whatever it may be.’”

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