Black Excellence: How Kamaiyah Is Achieving Indie Success

“I have the liberty to drop music as frequently as I want, and that’s all I wanted to do when I was on a label.”
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Kamaiyah beat the odds—all the odds. Got It Made, her latest independent project release since parting ways with Interscope Records, takes everything wonderful about the Oakland rapper’s 2016 breakout mixtape A Good Night in the Ghetto and amplifies it. On “Pressure,” she raps with ferocity and the vocal fry of her saying “I don’t need nobody else” blares through speakers. Now working in partnership with her own GRND.WRK label and EMPIRE, Kamaiyah is back to being her own boss and sounding like it, too.

“Kamaiyah sounds newly refreshed and self-reliant,” goes the glowing Pitchfork review of Got It Made. Her latest release, a timely single entitled “Black Excellence,” keeps up the trend of self-reliance, self-love, and refinement. With each drop, Kamaiyah sharpens her pen. She makes life music in the key of the Bay Area’s signature swing, imbued with her own signature swagger.

Speaking with Kamaiyah, you hear the voice of a fighter who knows and loves themselves for all they’ve got. “I feel like if your energy is surrounded by so many different things pulling at you, it will take away from your recharge, and you got to recharge yourself sometimes,” Kamaiyah said of her self-care routine in 2018. “My thing is literally space.” Got It Made and her GRND.WRK venture feel like Kamaiyah taking the necessary space she needs from the ire of the music industry to be her best self.

The key takeaways from my conversation with Kamaiyah on a 90-degree day in June, lightly edited for content and clarity, follow below.

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