Keeping Up With Kamaiyah: Oakland Rapper Returns to Bay Area

According to a profile from Pitchfork, Kamaiyah’s biggest music inspirations are Missy Elliott, TLC, and MC Lyte. Photo courtesy of Marquise/SF FOGHORN

The stage of the Great American Music Hall was transformed into a propped liquor storefront of the “Oak Town Market” — complete with a neon flashing “open” sign — for Kamaiyah’s hometown show of her “Another Summer Night” tour on Apr. 18.

The rapper presided over the crowd from the stage’s balcony as she performed her latest release “Can’t Lose.” Born and raised in East Oakland, Kamaiyah was recording her rhymes in the studio at age 11. Now platinum certified, she has more than established herself as one of the big names of the West Coast rap game. Kamaiyah’s debut album, “A Good Night in the Ghetto” made Rolling Stone’s and Pitchfork’s “Best Rap Album of 2016” lists. On top of that, she has collaborated with popular rappers, YG and Drake. She even founded two record labels, GRND.WRK, in 2020, and Keep it Lit Records under Empire, making her “one of few women in hip-hop, and perhaps the first from the West Coast, to run her own shop,” according to VIBE

Outfitted in a monochromatic white Supreme tracksuit with a manicure to match, Kamaiyah quickly established a rapport with the crowd, as beach balls and inflatable toys were tossed around on the floor below her. 

“Live music gives you a personal interaction and experience with an artist,” Kamaiyah said to the Foghorn, “It brings you into the world they build on that stage inside that venue.” She continued, “My music in that landscaping is an escape for people, the club or house party you’ve been dying to get to on your off-day.” 

Six artists took the floor before Kamaiyah — among them were female rappers Getitindy, Ally Cocaine and Cuhdeejah. The Vallejo-based Getitindy performedGas Me Up,” her latest release in collaboration with Kamaiyah. After the performance, she called a mega-fan onstage and presented her with flowers in thanks for her support. Following GetItIndy, Ally Cocaine, in a pink Y2K newsboy hat and sparkling knee-high boots, performed “Speak Up,” a song that invites critics to “say it with your chest.” 

In between artist performances, plenty of DJs kept the room’s energy up. Paying homage to Oakland’s hyphy legacy, Bay Area rap classics like Too $hort’s “Blow the Whistle” and Mac Dre’s “Feelin’ Myself” blasted from the speakers. “Hyphy”, meaning hyperactive, refers to a subgenre of hip-hop that found its roots in the Bay Area in the early 2000s.

Openers continued the communal house-party feel for more than two hours, and brought up audience members onstage to dance, blurring the barrier between audience and performers. 

“[The] openers all put on great shows, and I got excited once they started to set up for [Kamaiyah] to come out,” said attendee Maggie Mordecai, a junior politics major at USF. “They brought out props that resembled markets in Oakland and touched back to her roots where she began, which was cool to see…she made it special since she was back in the Bay.”

In an interview with Vice, Kamaiyah describes how although her sound contains the “essence of the Bay Area,” she doesn’t want to make hometown fame her goal. Rather, she wants to continue evolving her music and finding her niche, going above and beyond what’s trending, rather than settling into a stagnant style to fit in with the genre of today. 

Her latest album, “Another Summer Night” has been described by KQED as “full of player attitude and trunk-rattling bass.”Close listeners won’t miss lyrics that speak to dealing with greedy backstabbers, navigating the loss of loved ones and the struggles of establishing success within the entertainment industry, in songs like “Whole Lotta M’s,” “Going Thru S—t” and “Lamborghini Dreams.”  

“I hope the audience takes away love and empowerment when I get off the stage because all I’m doing is pushing happiness, fun, and peace,” Kamaiyah said. “We don’t condone violence and we always have fun and safe environments. My fans are my family, so I always want them to feel they’re loved as such.”

Other Goldenvoice-presented events can be found on the Goldenvoice website.

Editor-in-Chief: Megan Robertson, Chief Copy Editor: Sophia Siegel, Managing Editor: Jordan Premmer, Scene Editor: Inés Ventura

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