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Label: Street Knowledge/East West America/Atlantic Records
Killer Cuts: "Peace Treaty," "Still Got Love 4 'Um," "Watts Riot"
See Also: W.C. and the Maad Circle Ain't a Damn Thang Changed
If you think Kendrick Lamar invented conscientious rap about the streets, you don't know gangster rap. Kam never received the level of accolades directed at his cousin Ice Cube, but he did become a critical favorite for those in the know, sitting halfway between street rapper and political activist. Kam's best songs, like "Still Got Love 4 'Um," are powerful because of how effectively they communicate empathy. But Kam retains a righteous political aggression for the forces larger than him. In other words, he recognizes the difference between disease and symptom.
"Peace Treaty" was a song about the 1992 gang truce that had been four years in the making. It was that treaty that paved the way for L.A. hip-hop's cultural takeover, as areas of violent bloodshed were transformed into the spaces, at least temporarily, for barbecues (as in the "Nuthin' but a G Thang" video), parties, and music to flourish. In some kind of cosmic coincidence, the day after the treaty was signed, the Los Angeles riots broke out; Kam's record begins with "Peace Treaty" and ends with "Watts Riot," a document of an artist who dove into the political fray because of the tenor of his time. But his art was never overshadowed by ideology or agitprop. It is an album with an undeniable musical and creative heart energized by its politics.