Written by: Devin Tyler

In todays day and age, there is a vast difference between a rapper and a artist. A rapper is simply someone who uses clever wordplay to attract emotion and energy from listeners. In a rapper’s most simplest form respectfully. An artist does much more. The artist has not only excelled at the skill of rapping. He or she can also produce an experience that channels into their most creative abilities visually, sonically, and conceptually.

Maryland native and Brooklyn resident, KAMAU, is a true artist. His growth over the years is a testament to the passion and effort that goes into his work.

This Saturday, KAMAU will be bringing his warrior energy to the stage alongside Masego, Moods, and Fast4ward for the Red Bull Sound Select x SIA showcase. As the show nears, we took some time to get inside the mind of KAMAU and what fans can expect this weekend.

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Devin: There are so many aspects and layers to your music. Every single track is approached with its own special touch. How would you describe your sound for those who may be unfamiliar? 

KAMAU: That’s a hard question! I find it easier and more efficient and descriptive to identify the influences that helped create it. I was raised on a ton of African musicians, (from Hugh Masekela, to Vieux Diop, Vieux Farka Toure, Issa Bagayogo, etc.), Composers of Cinematic Scores, (Hans Zimmer, Two Steps From Hell, Ennio Morricone, etc), American Jazz, (Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Louise Armstrong, etc.),  Native Music of America, (Mystic Warriors), Soul, (Sam Cooke, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder), Hip Hop, (Heavy D, Arrested Developement, Digable Planets, A Tribe Called Quest, K-os, Lauryn Hill, Lupe Fiasco, Camp-Lo, etc.), and a bunch more. I believe most of those can be heard in the music I work on. Though I do rap and sing, the music sits in an audible “in between” amongst a bunch of things.

D: The African name/word Kamau means “silent/quiet warrior”. The heart of a warrior radiates in your music but, he isn’t always silent. What does KAMAU mean to you and how did the name come about?

K: My name was given to me by my family and village, Ujamaa Shule, in Washington D.C. “Kamau” reminds me to listen. It reminds me to pay attention to things between the things we notice. The ignored things and spaces. Those are the things that weigh. Those are the spaces where the true fights occur within the silent and isolated areas of ourselves.

D: When I listen to your music, I can’t help but notice the lyrical versatility in your flow. From your rhyme patterns to the emotion in every word you muster up, there is clearly a separation between your style and everyone else. What is the creation process like for you?

K: It varies, depending on many things. Whether I’m inspired by a premeditated idea or just inspired to make music, will usually dictate how seamless and quick the writing process is.

D: Who are some of your influences in music and in subject matter?

K: What and overwhelming question! It’s hard to choose. So many folk from Bobby Mcferrin, to Bob Marley, Tracey Chapman, and Peter Tosh influence both my sound and content. Louise Armstrong was a huge influence on how I treated my voice when I first really began to sing.  The subject matter is often inspired by inner and outer everyday experiences; both personal and communal.

D: In a recent interview with Essence Magazine, I read you attended Ujamaa Shule High School in D.C. One of the oldest completely independent Afrikan-centered private schools in the US. How did learning the raw and rich history of the Black culture shape your character early in life?

K: It enriched my soil. Everything we do, every action and thought, sprouts from the soil of self. We end up with the perception of a self conjured reality. A garden of conditions and states of being grown from our own actions and thoughts in collaboration with our larger universal body. To enrich this garden (this perceived life/reality) one must enrich her/his awareness of self. Better soil makes a better garden. This school enriched my sense and awareness of self. It made everything that comes after that a bit better. Music is one of those things. I can pull from, display, and express myself musically, better and more honestly. All with better information on myself and historical data on the body housing myself. My Afrikan history.


D: Your family has played a large role in your childhood and adult life. Growing up in an atmosphere full of music, culture, and family values, when did you first realize music was what you wanted to pursue?

K: I was kind of born into the deep love and appreciation of music, (shared by my entire family), and always, (at least in the back of my mind) had a desire to continue to move towards music. It was the bright light to my inner moth.

D: This year you had the opportunity to perform for the Pigeons and Planes SXSW showcase. How was that experience?

K: The Pigeons and Planes SXSW Showcase was a great experience. It was my first trip to SXSW in general, so most of my awareness was spent just taking it all in. I enjoyed performing there, it was a great crowd.

D: Your musical career has taken you places all across the world. What have you learned from performing overseas?

K: I’ve learned a lot about being concise in presentation. Which language barriers and differences in dialects, it’s important to pay attention to the efficiency of one’s communication, and not let an overabundance of words distraction from the energy, vibe, and experience that you wish to bring to the environment.

D: If you could pick one musician to collaborate with, who would it be?

K: Whales…and Dolphins

D: What does the next chapter consist of for KAMAU?

K: I’m not sure, but I surely am grateful that we’re in this one, this chapter. The goal is, mainly, to grow and get better in any and every way possible, and to continue to give my highest quality of self as possible along the way.

D: What can Denver expect when KAMAU hits the stage this weekend for RBSS?

K: Expect nothing, Enjoy everything. It will be a pleasure to share! A present to present!

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